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How To Edit Product Photos in Lightroom To Minimize Returns

If you want to minimize product returns, you need to color correct (a.k.a. “color grade”) your product images to accurately represent your product. No one wants to buy a blue sweater and get a green one instead.

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

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

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, Adobe Photoshop is 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.

Adobe Lightroom is a photo editing software for DIY (do it yourself), budget-conscious product photographers. It can be used to both streamline your workflow during the shoot and to edit images in bulk afterward.

Adobe Lightroom’s multiple features and post-production editing tools

It comes with some powerful post-production features:

  • Nondestructive editing. Every image edit Lightroom makes can be reversed. It 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 for peace of mind and a key difference from Photoshop.
  • Strong adjustment tools. Enhance your photos with the Adjustment Brush (make changes to a specific area of a photo), the Graduated Filter (make changes across an even gradient, like the sky), and the Radial Filter (adjust areas outside the selected section).
  • Optimized image organization. Store and manage your photos from your dashboard—you can even tether your laptop to your camera during a photoshoot and share images with other devices and accounts.
  • Batch edits. Make the same batch edits to a collection of photos to keep your store cohesive.

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

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 edit images in Lightroom

To batch process your product images in Lightroom for product photography, follow these steps.

  1. Organize your images
  2. Import your images
  3. Adjust an image
  4. Sync adjustments to all
  5. Select your favorites
  6. Export final images

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.

Organize by shoot, because lighting conditions will be similar, if not identical. That means the adjustments you’ll 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 this video 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.
    How to import photos and videos into Lightroom.
  2. Use the Source panel to find the image folder.
    How to select images and files to upload into Lightroom.
  3. Make sure the Add button is selected.
  4. Press the Select All button.
    Select all images to import multiple photos at once.
  5. Click Import.

Once all your images are imported into the catalog, you 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.

You’ll be in the library after importing. Select an image from the library. Use this single image to perform adjustments, and then apply those adjustments to all other images.

After selecting an image, click over to Develop to make your adjustments. You should see a panel on the right side with a bunch of tabs. Each of those is a toolbox you can use to make edits. The primary tab, and the one used here, is named Basics.

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

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 gray. 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

Batch processing images means you can apply the same preset across all images from your 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 pop-up window, select the adjustments (typically all of them) you want to apply to the rest of your images.
  4. Click Synchronize.

How to sync preset across all images in a collection or catalog.

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

5. Select your favorites

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.

How to add a star rating to images in Lightroom.

6. Export final images

You’ll want to separate your selections from the rest of the crowd and get them into a format that’s closer to web-ready. To do this, you’ll need 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 pay close attention to a few of them: 

The export images screen in Lightroom.

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

Export location, file name, and file settings are important to an organized photography 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 stay 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 a 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. It’s optimal for ecommerce product photos.

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

    How to tether, capture, and edit images with Lightroom

    Tethering allows you to take a photo and edit it right away. You can see your photo immediately on screen, but you can also create a preset that will perform adjustments in real time as you shoot.

    Here’s how to take advantage of this time-saving Lightroom feature:

    1. Open Lightroom and Catalog. Open an existing Lightroom catalog or create a new one from inside the app.
    2. Tether your camera and computer. Connect your camera to your computer with a USB cord. Once it’s connected, go to File > Tethered Capture > Start Tethered Capture. You can create a new folder for these images.
    3. Shoot. You’ll see a capture strip in your new catalog library which is where you can see all your camera’s settings. When you’re happy with your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, you can take photos directly from your computer to avoid camera shake.
      The camera strip in Lightroom when you tether your camera to your computer.
    4. Create and use a preset. Take a few shots until you have one you’re happy with. Open the Develop tab and make and save your desired adjustments as a “preset” that you can apply to future photos in your shoot.
    5. Export your chosen photos. In the library, review and rate your images before selecting your final batch. Click Export in either the file dropdown menu or by right-clicking anywhere on the image.

    How to export images you’ve taken while tethering your camera to your computer.

    Best product photography editing tips for Adobe Lightroom

    Ready to get started with Lightroom for product photography? Use our photo editing tips to make the most of the tool.

    1. Use the Histogram to adjust exposure and tones

    The Histogram will show you the exposure of your image through a density in pixels. One end of the axis shows white and the other shows black—shades of gray are in between.

    If there is a high density of pixels at one end, it means your image is either very dark or very light. This could indicate over- or under-exposure that you can edit out in post production or change the settings on your camera. You can experiment with the density of pixels in the Histogram by clicking around, which will automatically adjust the exposure of your pics.

    How the Histogram works in Lightroom.

    2. Take photos through your computer

    Lightroom’s Tethering feature lets you avoid the dreaded camera shake by taking photos directly through your computer. You can choose your camera settings on your device before you begin, but snap your shots straight from your desktop. Not only does this eliminate any shaking, but it also lets you see what your images will look like on a screen.

    3. Use a predesigned preset

    If you’re adept at photography, you can cheat a bit by using premade presets that you can download. You might have to pay $30 or so, but once you have the preset saved in your Lightroom dashboard, you can apply it to all future photographs you take. This means you don’t have to fiddle around with any settings in post production and ensures all your product photos have a cohesive feel.

    How to edit product photos in Lightroom: Go to another level

    Editing your photos post-production is critical if you want all your product pics to have the same feel and ensure customers know exactly what they’re getting.

    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, incorporating natural light, cropping, and alignment are all post-production musts. You can DIY your editing, or you may want to consider using a post-production service.

    Product photography for Lightroom FAQ

    How do you edit pictures for product photography?

    To edit product photos, change exposure, check the color balance and correct if needed, add contrast and shadows, and create post-production presets you can apply to all your product photos.

    Is Lightroom good for product photography?

    Adobe Lightroom Classic CC is a great tool for product photography. You can take photos with your computer, batch edit images from your shoot, and create post-production presets to make sure your images all have a cohesive look and feel.

    How do I edit photos in Lightroom to look professional?

    Import and organize your images. Adjust the white balance, exposure, and contrast on your image. Sync the adjustments across the rest of the photos from your shoot. Rate and select your favorite photos. Export your final image.

    How do I take product photos in Lightroom?

    Tether your camera to your computer with a USB and select your camera settings in the camera strip. Take photos directly from your computer and edit them in Adobe Lightroom.

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