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How to Make a Bad Picture Look Good in Adobe Lightroom

Images © Jack (Wei Xi) Luo | Photograph IO. All rights reserved. For more Lightroom editing workflows like this one, click here. Disclaimer/warming : you can’t actually turn a 100% crappy shot into an 100% amazing one. While Lightroom and digital darkroom these days can overcome most technical shortcomings with relative ease; talk about noise reduction, […]

Final Image

Images © Jack (Wei Xi) Luo | Photograph IO. All rights reserved.

For more Lightroom editing workflows like this one, click here. Disclaimer/warming : you can’t actually turn a 100% crappy shot into an 100% amazing one. While Lightroom and digital darkroom these days can overcome most technical shortcomings with relative ease; talk about noise reduction, tonal editing to modify the sensor feel, or even shake reduction as of Photoshop CC, NOTHING will fix bad composition and plain simple laziness. Sorry. 

What happens when you take a bad (ok, ordinary) point and shoot picture and try to make it into something good?

In this fourth of the Lightroom Editing Series, we’ll turn an bad (ordinary?) picture of a Chinese highway (it’s in Shenyang if I recall correctly) taken using a 2008 compact, the Sony DSC-H50, into a great looking shot using modern Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. And it’s a video this time 🙂

I’m speeding through the process ticking at less than 5 minutes; so be sure to pause and rewatch if you missed any part. I’m covering everything from straightening all the way up to tone curves, in order to create the whole look.

Before/After
Before/After result

As always, RAW files are available upon request. This camera is so crappy there is of course no RAW file. Download the full-res JPEG here 🙂 Feel free to contact me if you wish to learn more about post-processing in Adobe Lightroom!

UPDATE : Many people have pointed out that the final shot looks way too blue. Although taste is subjective, I’ll admit that my edit was definitely heavy-handed. I was definitely influenced by the VSCO shot (Kodak Ultramar 800 Cool ++ from Pack 05) next to it, so I went a bit too much in the curves for many. However, the point here was to rather make a point about the (main) use of color in a photograph : it is used in a dominant tone (blue, in this case) to make the viewer feel a particular mood, otherwise, why not just keep a picture black and white if your primary focus is on composition? Ming Thein talks about it on his blog in a lot more detail here and here 🙂

Also, the perception of how heavy an image was edited is relative only if you know the original shot; what if I told you that my WB was initially set to 15000K, or that I was shooting tungsten (as opposed to daylight) film? I’ll let you think about that 🙂


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One reply on “How to Make a Bad Picture Look Good in Adobe Lightroom”

The RGB individual curves is definitely the most underlooked thing in Lightroom, and you have a nice editing style 🙂

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