Click here to sign up for my Lightroom workshop if you’d like more info like this.

Continuing the theme of selecting and editing isolated objects this week at Texas Chicks, today’s tutorial is about how to edit locally in Lightroom.

In Lightroom, we edit locally (meaning editing in a specific area rather than the entire photo) by using the adjustment brush, the graduated filter and the radial filter. (The radial filter is available in Lightroom 5 only.). You use any of those tools to make your selection. After selecting, tweak the adjustments until you’re happy.

Because these Lightroom tools actually create a selection, you can go back and modify the selected area at any point in the future. You can add to or take away from the selection, and you can adjust the edits you made to it. Sounds a lot like an adjustment layer in Elements, right?

So how can you edit an area once you’ve selected it in Lightroom? Lightroom 5 gives you the most options: lightroom selection2

No matter which tool you use (brush, graduated or radial), you can apply any of the adjustments in the screen shot above.

If you have LR 4 or prior, your adjustment options will look more like this.

lightroom 4 selectionI have talked a lot about these adjustment tools in Lightroom on this blog – today I want to focus on how to get the most precise selections when adjusting locally. These are my top tips:

  • To have the best view of the area you have selected, type the letter O. This displays a red overlay over the area you are painting. Type O again to turn this overlay off.
  • Each time you create a new selection, it will be marked by a pin. If you need more than one local adjustment area per photo, hit the new button to tell Lightroom you want to start editing a different area. Note that you can add as many types of edits as you want to any one adjustment pin.  And you can go back and edit any selection by clicking on its pin to activate it, as indicated by the black dot in the center of the pin.lr adj pin
  • However, if you want to double up on a given adjustment, you can layer 2 or more pins on top of each other. For instance, if you want to really pop colors, select the adjustment brush, move the saturation slider to 100 and brush on your adjustment. Then click the New button and repeat the process.
  • The Auto Mask option is awesome. Turn on this box before painting your selection and Lightroom will do a good job of reading the edges of that area and constraining the selection to the place where you want it.
  • Beware. Sometimes Auto Mask works too well.  People might think they have painted noise onto this area. Not a desirable look, right? You can see this as pits or “paint holidays” in the red overlay. To avoid it, turn off Auto Mask when painting the interior of your selection.lr adjustment mask
  • Do you need to undo or erase some of your selection? Click the erase button to go into erase mode. Even better, hold down alt/option to keep your brush in erase mode while you are holding the key. To reduce the strength or opacity of a given area, use the density slider. Reducing the density to 60%, for example, ensures that no area that you brush over will be more than 60% strength.
  • Use feathering well intentionally. A higher feathering number makes for softer edges with gradual transitions between selected and unselected areas. A lower number makes crisper, more precise edges. I generally use a higher feather when editing portraits and a lower feather for man-made objects.
  • Use the A and B options to memorize brushes. To memorize feathering, size, etc, click on the A button and dial in the first settings you want to memorize.  Then, click on the B button and dial in the next settings to memorize.  Next time you click on either A or B, the settings you dialed in will return. I find that this is a great way to switch between 0 feathering and 100, and don’t worry too much about the other settings.
  • Change the size of your brush to suit the area you are painting. The shortcut
    [ makes your brush smaller and ] makes it larger.

This wraps it up for this tutorial on making selections and spot editing in Lightroom.  Have a good weekend everyone, and have fun with your photo editing!