How to Color Correct Product Images in Adobe Lightroom (and Minimize Returns)

How to Color Correct Product Images in Adobe Lightroom (and Minimize Returns)
Hands using smartphone to take photos of fashion model.

If you want to create repeat business and minimize returns, you need to color correct (aka “color grade”) your product images to represent your product as accurately as possible.

There are steps you can take during your photoshoot, like using a grey card to set white balance, to help capture accurate color. But no matter how careful you are or how beautiful your shot, there are still improvements that can be made in post-production.

Color correcting isn’t a complex task. It can be done fairly easily provided you have the right software—like Adobe Lightroom—and you integrate it into your product photography workflow.

What is Adobe Lightroom?

Product photography begins under the camera, but it’s finished in post-production. Everyone’s heard of Adobe Photoshop, but it’s not the be-all and end-all when it comes to processing product images.

For some jobs, Photoshop is simply overpowered and unnecessarily complex: using Photoshop to bulk color correct images from a shoot is like programming a supercomputer to split a restaurant check when your phone’s calculator (Lightroom) is already on hand.

Screenshot of working in Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom makes batch color correction for product images quick and easy.

Adobe Lightroom is the DIY or budget-conscious product photographer’s best friend. It can be used to both streamline your workflow during the shoot, and to quickly edit images in bulk afterwards.

Lightroom has awesome image organization qualities, and will tether your laptop to your camera during a photoshoot. 

After the shoot (or during, if you’re a preset user), one of Lightroom’s most useful tools is the ability to perform batch edits. It’s simple, powerful, and non-destructive.

Camera, product on table, and laptop for color correction

Adobe Lightroom has tethering for photoshoots and batch processing for post-production.

By “non-destructive,” I mean that every image edit Lightroom makes can be reversed. In essence, Lightroom retains your original images and keeps a record of your edits, then applies them when you export your images. You can come back minutes, hours, days, months, or years later and reverse the edits. That’s valuable peace-of-mind and a key difference from Photoshop.

Photoshop and Lightroom are complementary programs so they're available as a bundle for $9.99 a month in the Creative Cloud Photography plan.

6 Steps to Batch Process and Color Correct Images in Lightroom

To batch process your product images in Lightroom as part of your overall studio-to-web workflow, take the six following steps: organize your images, import them, adjust one, sync adjustments to all, select favorites, and export.

1. Organize Your Images

Lightroom can work with RAW images straight from your camera. Organize your images by shoot and put all your RAW files from a shoot into a single folder on your computer.

We organize by shoot because lighting conditions will be similar, if not identical. That means the adjustments we need to make will be similar, too, allowing batch processing.

2. Import Your Images

Import all your images from a folder into a session. Watch the video below to see how, or follow the step-by-step instructions underneath.

Import your image folder into Adobe Lightroom for batch processing.

Step-by-step instructions:

1. Choose “File” > “Import Photos And Video”

2. Use the “Source” panel to find the image folder

3. Make sure the “Add” button is selected

4. Press the “Select All” button

5. Click “Import”

Once all your images are imported into the catalog, we can begin adjusting.

3. Adjust An Image

At the top right of the frame, you will see a row of buttons: “Library,” “Develop,” “Map,” “Book,” “Slideshow,” “Print,” and “Web.”

Use “Develop” in Adobe Lightroom to color correct a single image.

We’re in “Library” after importing. Select an image from the library. We’ll use this single image to perform adjustments, and then we’ll apply those adjustments to all other images.

After selecting an image, click over to “Develop” so we can make our adjustments. You should see a panel on the right side with a bunch of tabs. Each of those is a toolbox we can use to make edits. The primary tab, and the one we’ll be using here, is named “Basics.”

Color correction uses the “White Balance,” “Exposure,” and “Contrast” tools.

Screenshot of color correction in Adobe Lightroom

White Balance (“WB”), Exposure, and Contrast are the most important color correction tools.

White Balance

Click the dropper tool up in the top left of the “Basics” tab, and drag it over the image to a spot that should be grey. Click that spot and Lightroom will automatically white balance your image. If you’re still not quite happy, play with the “Temp” and “Tint” options until you find the sweet spot.

Exposure

You can use this tool to brighten or darken your image. Don’t feel obligated to use it just because it’s there; if your shoot went well, you may not need any adjusting.

Contrast

Contrast is the go-to tool for making details stand out. Adjust it to accentuate light and dark.

4. Sync Adjustments to All

After you’ve adjusted your first image, it’s time to apply those adjustments to all of your other images from the shoot:

1. Select the rest of your images from the film strip at the bottom of the screen.

2. Click the “sync” button at the bottom right of the “tools” panel.

3. From the popup window, select the adjustments (typically all of them) you want to apply to the rest of your images.

4. Click “synchronize”

Watch as Lightroom moves through your images, performing adjustments on each image as it goes.

5. Select Your Favorites

We’ve finished the color correction portion of our how-to guide, but we’ve still got a couple tasks to accomplish while we’re in Lightroom as part of an efficient workflow.

Use Adobe Lightroom’s five star rating system to select the best product images.

Lightroom has a star rating system that allows you to assign a score from one to five with a click.

Go through your images and mark your favorites with a five star rating by clicking the fifth star beneath each image. When you’ve rated the batch, sort your catalog by selecting “View” > “Sort” > “Rating.”  

6. Export Final Images

We want to separate our selections from the rest of the crowd and get them into a format that’s closer to web ready. To do this, we’re going to export them into their own folder.

Export select processed images from Lightroom into a new folder.

Select all the five star images, and from the top menu navigate to “File” > “Export.” A window will open with further options. For the most part you can stick with the defaults, but you should pay close attention to a few of them:

Screenshot of exporting in Adobe Lightroom

Export location, file name, and file settings are important to an organized workflow.

1. “Export To” - Create a new folder within the same folder that contains your RAW images and name it something descriptive, like “Color Corrected” or “Final.”

2. “File Naming” - Create a naming scheme for your image files that will help you organize them in the future, like style numbers. Lightroom allows you to customize file names in a variety of ways.

3. “File Settings”  

  • “Image Format” You’re almost certainly not going to want to say in RAW format, but this depends a bit on your workflow. If you plan to perform further individual edits in Photoshop, you may want to export your images as PSD or TIFF. To save disk space, particularly if you’re headed to the web soon, it’s JPEG time.
  • “Color Space” - Stick with sRGB for the web. Learn more about the zen of sRGB color space, and why it’s optimal for ecommerce.

Make your settings selections and press the “Export” button. Voila! Your images have been color corrected.

Go To Another Level

Color correction is vital, but it’s not the only post-production processing you can perform on your product images to increase their value.

Different versions of the same grey shirt

A consistent presentation creates a smooth shopping experience for visitors. Editing or removing image backgrounds and maintaining consistent margins, cropping, and alignment are all post-production musts. You can follow this guide to DIY Photoshop edits, or you may want to consider using a post-production service.

Do you have any color correction tips or challenges? Do you use different software to perform batch processing and color grading? Let us know in the comments below!


shopify-author Thomas Kragelund

About The Author

Thomas Kragelund is the CEO and founder of Pixelz, a leading product image solutions partner for internet retailers, bloggers, designers, photographers and webmasters worldwide. He has been working in ecommerce for the last 15 years. Sign up today and get 3 product images edited for free.

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