Sadly, this post isn’t going to provide you with a silver bullet shortcut to elite Lightroom and Photoshop editing
Neither is it going to provide you with “27 Professional Lightroom and Photoshop Presets” to make your images so beautiful they will melt angel hearts. Not going to happen. It will, however, reward you with something you’ll love.
So, if you’re chasing a shortcut, skip this post. Seriously. Don’t read on. Instead, put the next five minutes towards something a little more entertaining. Perhaps a funny cat video or a compilation of ‘epic failures’.
Speaking of epic failures, I was one. Let’s face it, we all were, some of us still are and we most definitely will be again. The bizarre part? I look forward to my next failure.
It’s not as if Adobe makes it easy for us either.
A keen beginner at the time, I was clueless, not knowing what to do or where to start. I just wanted my images to look better and I was ready to take my photos and editing to the next level. The $10 Lightroom and Photoshop package was too good to be true. Super excited by the endless possibilities and beautiful images it promised to effortlessly enrich. It was a no brainer, I signed up.
Anticipation formed as I watched the Adobe Photoshop download bar fill up. I began to visualise my ideas and aspirations as Lightroom and Photoshop prepared to launch… Even the little Lightroom loading picture teased me with yet another example of what’s possible… I put the kettle on to make a triumphant cup of tea. 92%…96%…100%… Launch!… Photoshop’s window was first to spring open… I waited for it to be filled with creative goodness… I waited some more… Still, my Photoshop window remained rather empty and, well, uninspiring… Was that it?
It’s a moment I can only liken to the feeling you experience when opening a birthday present in front of the entire family, all excited, only to discover you already own two copies of that recipe book.
Prepared for inspiring material, processing tips, instructional guides, interactive walkthroughs and editing know-how, I instead found myself back where I started… Clueless, not knowing what to do or where to even start. I was staring at a couple of new blank screens, with a million new buttons I couldn’t click, nursing a lukewarm cup of tea. Not very triumphant.
Where was the missing material, tips and walkthroughs that would inspire and help me create incredible work? I gathered together the fragments of my diminishing enthusiasm and did what any creative would do in such a situation. I opened YouTube. Searched for ‘Lightroom & Photoshop tutorials for beginners’ and scrolled through the first page of “About 441,000 results”.
I watched a few, my eyes started to glaze over and I was left in a bit of a daze with even more unanswered questions.
- “How do I adapt this technique to my photo?”
- “Why should I click on that?”
- “Where do I edit my RAW files?”
- “What is the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop?”
- “It doesn’t seem to work for me… My images are different?”
- “How did you know you needed to do that first?”
- “You suggest I click that button to achieve XYZ, cool… Wait… Why?!? What does that button even do!?”
- “How do I just do a basic edit?”
- “WTF DO I DO FIRST!?!”
My clueless state evolved into one where I learned just enough to be dangerous. I was progressively becoming more and more confused. My frustration increased as I was unable to navigate Lightroom or Photoshop well enough to reproduce the ideas I had in mind for my photographs.
Google pointed me towards ‘Presets’ and ‘Actions’.
I was led to believe that acquiring these shortcuts would lead to photographic editing greatness in a single click!! A silver bullet that takes all my confusion and frustration away? SOLD! SIGN ME UP!
One ‘professional suite’ of actions later….
- “How do you use them?”
- “Why don’t they work very well on my images?”
- “It looks like my family has radioactive poisoning…”
- “Why don’t they look as good as they did on the websites photographs?”
- “Why is her face green and his yellow?”
- “Can I edit the Presets?”
- “How do I edit the Presets?”
- “Why did I even buy these Presets?”
I remained unsatisfied. Clearly, I was missing something… It had to be my gear. Yes! My gear wasn’t good enough.
- “I need to upgrade my DSLR so I can take better quality photos.”
- “Got to upgrade to a full frame camera”
- “I should look at getting a new laptop, maybe a MacBook pro”
- “They seem to suggest I use a high quality prime lens”
I did all those things. Guess what? It didn’t take long for me to return full circle, to right back where I started. Yet, instead of feeling excited and eager to learn, I was now confused, frustrated and completely overwhelmed. I had zero enthusiasm, it wasn’t fun anymore and I wanted to give up completely.
But WHY the overwhelming confusion? Why did it have to be like this?
We know that to improve in any discipline, be it photography, editing or knitting cute Christmas cardigans takes a significant investment of our time. To improve we need to be brave, step outside of our comfort zone, and challenge ourselves to try new things. This is a endless and, at times, uncomfortable cycle.
“So, it’s not as simple as buying a bunch of Presets?” Pffft! Get out of town!
We know that to improve our photography and editing craft we need to do these things. So why on earth don’t we!?
If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.
– Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM
In my case, it was simple. Fear.
It’s not because I was using a ‘beginner DSLR’ and needed to upgrade it to take better quality photos. It wasn’t because my laptop wasn’t fast enough to use Lightroom and Photoshop. Neither was it because my lens wasn’t a high-quality f/2.8. In fact, some of my best photos were taken with my entry level Canon 1100D, using a kit lens and processed on an 8 year old laptop.
It soon became clear that I was trying to justify my lack of photography and editing progress on anything I could to prevent me from being brave and acknowledging my fears.
I convinced myself that buying ‘Presets’ and ‘Actions’ would allow me to save time, become more efficient and take my overwhelming sense of frustration with Lightroom and Photoshop away. When in truth, I was afraid of failure.
I was petrified that I wasn’t going to be able to learn, and put into practice, the in-camera or editing skills to give my images the lick of polish they desperately needed. I was afraid I was going to fail in developing my own style and decided the answer was to purchase a ‘Preset’ of someone else’s.
Not only was I fearful of failure but I also suffered from a huge fear of embarrassment. I was worried what friends, family and clients would think and say about my work, the thought of negative comments and feedback was paralyzing. I would convince myself they would hate it. So much so, I didn’t want to share my work with paying clients! I was afraid of putting myself out there for fear of being judged, mocked and rejected.
Never one to be 100% completely happy with my own work I labelled myself as a perfectionist to help justify these feelings. “Of course they won’t like my work, it’s not perfect yet.” I proudly wore my perfectionism like an elite badge of honour, I believed it was a virtue. In truth, my perfectionism was fear in disguise. Concealed by fancy laptops, high end DSLR’s and quality lenses my inner angst was saying “I don’t think I am good enough and I don’t think I will ever be good enough”.
I was starting to recognise that I was responsible for holding myself back. I challenged myself to face my fears by publishing client work that I would have previously continued to edit endlessly. Guess what? Nothing terrible happened!
Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him.
– Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM
I am blessed to be married to an incredibly gorgeous woman (+1 Husband Point) who one day, fed up with my vocalised Lightroom and Photoshop frustration and insincere threats of giving up, asked, “I don’t get it. Seriously! What’s the worst that could happen?”
In the next 12 seconds, whilst my wife waited patiently for my response, several fears flashed through my head. I picked the worst one I could think of.
“Well… You know…. I could mess it up and have to restart…”
That was it. That was all I had.
My wife’s silent reaction and the raise of her well-manicured eyebrows said enough. It was precisely this moment that my fears were put into perspective.
Yes, I could mess it up and start again. Let’s face it, I probably will.
Maybe I’ll commit a couple hours into editing a collection developing a new Lightroom or Photoshop technique, get to the end, realise it looks terrible and redo it. Yes, I won’t get those hours back… But thank goodness – consequently I now know how not to do it! I won’t be doing that next time! I’ll just hit delete and swiftly try again.
Messing up is inevitable.
It’s part of the learning process. I encourage you to embrace it the next time it happens. In fact, try adopting a child’s mind-set the next time you tackle a photography project. Think about it…
When a kid falls over whilst learning to walk, are they afraid of failure? Are they embarrassed? Are they worried what people are thinking? Do they turn around and say “You know what? This is too hard. There is no instructional video. I’m giving up. I’ll take the shortcut option and you can just push me around in the stroller for the rest of my life.” No! Of course not! Besides, the parents wouldn’t let them. Just like I won’t let you! They get up, perhaps have a little cry, brush themselves down and try again and again until boom! Before long they are up. They are walking. They are running and they are creating all sorts of mischief.
For me, that simple shift in mind-set made all the difference.
No longer do I allow my failures to make me feel frustrated, overwhelmed and confused. Yes, I might have a little tantrum at the time and throw my toys out the pram, but I recognise it’s all part of the process and it’s helped me feel accomplished, empowered and enthusiastic! I’m now able to use Photoshop and Lightroom to help create beautiful work. Work I am proud of, that my clients love and the best part? I am having so much fun along the way!
I guarantee you will fail, whether it be in camera, in Lightroom or using Photoshop. When you do, be proud and acknowledge the lessons you’re learning along the way. Write them down, be honest, make a triumphant cup of tea and share your insights with others.
Inspired by my epic failures I’ve created a course that teaches photography beginners how to use Lightroom and Photoshop without feeling like your head will explode. I will walk you through the creation of a super cool magazine cover. Starting with a raw file, straight out of the camera, I will show you how to import and edit the photograph using a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. We will then learn how to export our beautiful work and optimise it for print or use with social media.
Finally, if you are:
- A beginner, enthusiast or aspiring photographer,
- overwhelmed with confusion,
- intimidated by blank screens with millions of buttons,
- desperate to understand what to even do in Lightroom and Photoshop or,
- scrolling through 500px thinking “how did they even…!?”
This Lightroom and Photoshop course will sweep you up off your feet. Dust you down. Fill you with encouragement, understanding and concise information so you can go forth to create amazing things, inspire others, and have fun doing so.
Oh, one more thing.
You can claim free access to this course, just click the button.
Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?
PS. It’s fun!