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Culled Edits in Lightroom

Lesson 38 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Culled Edits in Lightroom

Lesson 38 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

38. Culled Edits in Lightroom

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

In this lesson, the instructor discusses the importance of shooting traditional, straight-on shots in engagement photography to please clients and avoid future complaints. The instructor then demonstrates editing techniques in Lightroom, including adjusting exposure, highlights, whites, shadows, and clarity. They also show how to use the tone curve, sharpening, and split toning to enhance the photos. The instructor emphasizes the importance of not overdoing vignetting and maintaining a balanced composition. They also provide tips on synchronizing settings and using shortcuts in Lightroom. The lesson concludes with a reminder to keep settings consistent throughout a scene to streamline the editing process.


  1. Why should engagement photographers include traditional, straight-on shots?

    Including traditional shots helps avoid complaints from clients and ensures that important people, like parents and grandparents, are pleased with the photos.

  2. How can adjustments to highlights and whites affect skin tones?

    Brightening highlights while pulling down whites can brighten skin tones while reducing the brightness of highlights, resulting in a more pleasing look.

  3. What is the recommended setting for clarity in engagement photography?

    The further the subject is from the camera, the less clarity should be dropped. As subjects get closer, more clarity can be reduced to achieve a soft look.

  4. How can blown-out highlights be fixed in Lightroom?

    By using the adjustment brush with highlight settings, the blown-out areas can be painted over to recover detail.

  5. How can photographers determine if they have gone too far with vignetting?

    By looking at the thumbnail view or bird's eye view of the photo, photographers can assess if the vignetting is too strong. The goal is to have a subtle, natural-looking vignette that doesn't draw attention.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Culled Edits in Lightroom

So let's go ahead and pick out a couple of these images. Let's do this one. Why do we should these images, guys? Do you guys know why we shoot this traditional, looking straight at the camera shot? Mom and Grandma? Mom and Grandma, exactly. We've gotten so many clients that have, in the past, like five years ago, we'd get so many clients that they would love their photos, and the clients would be like, these are amazing, we love all the images, and that's that. And then Mom and Dad would call us and be like, why didn't you get this and why didn't you get that? So we're like, you know what, we need to make some of these traditional shots part of just what we're doing. It takes a couple of seconds, we just need to make it part. Let's actually work on one that would offer a little bit more post-production variety. So this is done, I'm gonna go ahead and reset this out. I processed these just for the class, itself, so. Let's go ahead and reset it so we can start from our basics and fro...

m what we did in that foundational piece, we're gonna build onto that, okay? So I'm gonna pump up my exposure a bit. I'm gonna do something a little bit different, here. Watch this. We're gonna tweak this a bit. I'm gonna brighten my highlights and pull down my whites. Okay? We talked about a couple different ways of smoothing skin, right? Part of your skin register is gonna be in your highlights so if we just brighten the highlights, while pulling down the whites, or the whiter parts of those skin tones, then haven't we kind of brightened skin tones while pulling down the bright highlights? We kind of did the same thing. It's gonna depend on the image. So tweak it a little bit. If you find that pulling down highlights is adjusting your skin tone too much, take it up instead. Take it up and then bring your whites down a little bit. Okay, we're gonna add back our shadows, I'll press J so I can see my highlight and clipping alert. Notice how, by the way, notice how that tone curve, remember we talked about the dynamic range push? Watch this, I'm gonna reset this for one quick second. Look at this. If I press J, there's no shadows clipped. Remember the rule, ETTR, exposed to the right? We say, error to the right? So, if you have to make a choice, let a little bit of the highlights blow out to preserve the shadows. So I let the highlights blow a tiny bit on these columns to preserve shadow detail in the pants and the legs and so forth. But we can do so much with this now. I'm gonna undo what just did by pressing command Z. I'm gonna turn off the highlight by pressing J. So, now what we're going to do is just go ahead and drop the clarity a tiny, tiny bit, to negative 10. The rule of thumb for clarity for us is the further the subject is away, the less we're dropping clarity, the closer they are to the camera, the more we drop clarity. So as they get closer and there's more detail and more things we need to soften, we drop clarity more. As they get further away, so like if I wanted to I could leave clarity at plus on this image, it'd look totally fine. But we like that kind of slightly soft look to our photographs. All we really need to do from here is just do our little exposure game, right? We're gonna drop in that radial filter, using our local adjustments and we can pull it down a little bit to bring a natural vignette into the photograph. If we want, we can tweak other colors and so forth but I really like the way that this looks. We can tweak the tone curve, if we need to. But I think it looks, actually, what we'll do is just add a little bit of a subtle contrast curve. I'm gonna produce this, guys, for my screen so hopefully the people at home are seeing the correct thing. On the TV it might be a little bit odd. Okay? And then we're sharpening, I know that they have this guy in here, I don't really generally like using it very much, it's difficult to gauge and to see. I like to just zoom in. If I'm gonna adjust sharpening, I'm gonna zoom in. Remember, if you're at home, write this down. Our general settings for sharpening, there it is, 71.3, you can go up to like 1.5 if you want. 1.3, 20, and 60 with 15 noise reduction. That is our typical setting, you can see how you get a really nice, soft, beautiful look. Look at, like this is ready to go. If we're gonna blow it up to a gigantic print, I might sharpen this a little bit. But it looks so beautiful, this skin looks perfect. It looks soft, it looks great. And here is... Oh, one thing I forgot to do. Let's do our little split tone. Okay, here with split toning, we're gonna add in this warmth into the highlights just a bit. We're gonna add a little bit of blues into the shadows just a bit and then give it a balance towards the highlight side. This balance, by the way, is just telling Lightroom how much of the effect do you want to show on each side? Do you wanna balance it and show it more towards the highlight side or do you wanna balance it and show it more towards the shadow side? We always, for portraits, we'll balance towards the highlight side because that's where our skin tone is residing. Okay, so this is fantastic. It has a really beautiful and polished look to the image. Here's the before and the after. You guys see it over here? Very simple adjustments, very easy to do. Okay, let's go down. Now what we do is we take that same setting and we synchronize it over the scene. We can drop in our radial filters on an image to image basis but what we typically would do, is we're gonna work inside of Lightroom with just our flagged images shown. So once we've culled, we're gonna set up a little filter right here. So we just turn on our filters by choosing this, we select flagged or one star. I always, I like to change all my one star images just to flagged. So when I get into Lightroom, I just hit P to mark it as a flag and then hit 0 to take the star off of it. I don't like stars, I like flags. That's just me, I'm patriotic like that. Actually, that doesn't make sense because the flag has stars and stripes. Yes, Catherine. Quick question for you. In the filmstrip there on the image, there with the exclamation mark. I know that when you click on that it's gonna tell you your metadata's been updated, probably or something, right? Tell me what to do, if you're supposed say yes or no to that, I can never... Yeah, so right now, it says right here. See that little question mark, or the little exclamation point right there? It's saying that there's a metadata conflict right now because what happened was, probably in Photo Mechanic I marked it as a one and then went back to Lightroom. And so Lightroom is saying, oh the XMP file on disk is different from the one in here. Now, what I'd recommend is that you do your Photo Mechanic culling and then you take it to Lightroom. If you take it to Lightroom and then you go back to Photo Mechanic to make an adjustment and then you go back to Lightroom, you run into that issue because now Lightroom has a different set, you just wrote something to the XMP and Lightroom's gonna ask you what you wanna do. So what you'd do is, I don't wanna keep any of the settings that I changed on disk, basically. So it's just saying, do you want to import the settings from disk, that is do you wanna take whatever you did externally and bring it into Lightroom? I would say no, I would say overwrite. Okay? So that's all that does. But generally you're not gonna go back and forth like that. We just did it because this was already imported and we went, you know, like that. Okay? So how we synchronize, we would synchronize this entire scene by doing this. Selecting several grouping of images by holding down shift and left clicking, control shift S, or command shift S. We would select check all, deselect, and this is what you wanna screenshot. Deselect local adjustments, lens corrections, propping and spot removal. Those things we adjust on an individual basis so at that point, I would click synchronize. And what we're gonna do is when we synchronize this, we're gonna synchronize this entire scene all the way up to the point where our scene basically changes, which is right here. So I would synchronize everything from the start of this all the way up to that point. Those 45 images. Then all we're doing from there is if I press control or command D to deselect, all I would do is go from the beginning in the developed view and simply say okay, well on this one I wanna drop in a radial filter. So I'm gonna place that radial filter right there. We're gonna put it there and then look, this next image is identical. I'm just gonna hit previous. And then it'll drop in that same radial filter right over that next spot. You can also hit alt control V if you wanna do that too. Now, you don't always need to do this whole like previous thing of putting in the radial filters and that's why all we're doing is we're moving from image to image making sure that the synchronized settings work. Usually we'll just adjust the exposure, the contrast a little bit, make it crop. So we'll make individualized adjustments, then drop in a radial filter if we need to. If the next image is the same or of same composition, you just click previous or alt control V, option command V to do previous. Is it freaky that I've like memorized all these dang shortcuts? I wonder what actually important information the memorization of those shortcuts has replaced in my mind. Like stuff that actually matters. I feel like our heads can only hold so, like don't you feel that way? Like when you learn something new, you're like there went something else. I don't know what I just lost but I'll figure it out sometime in the future. Just lost something, okay. So let's talk about, by the way, let's talk about a couple quick settings, so. Real quick, our settings for this entire scene, 1/2000 a second, f / 1.2, ISO 100, we're on the Canon 85 mm. I often get asked if I prefer Canon or Sigma, or you know, I love both, they're great. I think it comes down to price point. For the money, the Sigma Art lenses are fantastic. They're incredible and if it's a Canon L lens that has come out in the last few years, you could probably say that the Canon L lens is gonna be a little bit better but if it's an older L lens and it's a new Sigma lens, you could probably say that the Sigma lens might beat it out. But there's price difference there. So you guys kinda have to decide is it worth the value for the additional, you know, you usually double the price type thing. But the Canon 85 1.2 has a beautiful look. Even the Canon 85 1.8 has a fantastic look. And that's very inexpensive, well comparatively inexpensive, I think it's three or four hundred bucks. Fantastic lens, they have the Sigma 1.4, they don't have the Sigma 85 Art yet, which is what I'm dying for that one, that would be amazing. So we love both. They're fantastic. It comes down to budget. But it has this. Look at 1.2, it's still adequately sharp. In my mind, this is still sharp enough. I know a lot of people would freak out and be like, that looks, well right now that just looks pixelated. If you're looking at it and you're like, that just looks pixelated, this is how it looks. I like that soft look. I don't know about other people, but I dig that. It's for me. My friends pointed out that I do the baby voice a lot when I'm teaching and stuff. Makes me feel comfortable, guys. I like it. Let's do one of these images. So check this out. What are our settings now? Look at how it's gonna change. So over here, we were at 1/400 a second. It stayed relatively the same, 1/4000, f / 1.6. 1/4000, f / 1.2. All ISO 100. Over here... Now we're at 1/400, 1.2, ISO and we're very closely monitoring this guy over here. Okay? We're making sure that these highlights on the face are not blowing out. Alright, so let's take this guy. It looks like I wanted more sharpness there so I actually went to f / 2.0 and 1/2000 of a second. Sometimes I'll do that just to make sure that, if I want both people focused, if kinda they're both my subjects, f / 2.0 is like a sweet spot when you're doing kinda up close shots like that. You'll get both of them. It's a sweet spot for me. Okay. What was that, I just hit I, I didn't hit go to next photo. Oh, what did I click, oh I pressed U. Control Z, command Z. My favorite shortcut in Lightroom, undo my screw ups. Okay, we're gonna take this photo, reset this out. So if I wanted to, let's go ahead and go back to one of the earlier images. Like, let's say this one. Just to show you guys, when you, I'm gonna take this control shift C, command shift C. We're gonna use those, just the global settings that we talked about, right? Press copy. And we're gonna assume that we've synchronized this entire area, just so you can see what that image would look like. So this is the shot. Control shift V or command shift V to paste that in. So, at least we get the right toning now. We have the right toning, we have a good amount of shadows, we have the right everything. We're just gonna tweak, basically, our exposure and bring that up a bit and then I'm gonna go ahead and grab my burn, this is that 0.5 burn. I'm gonna drop it right over their faces. Pull it down a little bit. And I'm making sure that, if you look at this, the feather is always at a 100% on burns. I wanna make sure that we're not making it look as if it has been burnt, okay? I'm also going to drop my clarity a little bit on this particular photo. Alright, so when I get to a new scene, that would be the adjustment that I make. And then I would synchronize it across this grouping of images, basically, right? So you work from scene to scene, set to set, and an engagement session like this, that you're delivering 80 to 100 images, it shouldn't take you more than an hour or two to process. That's it. If you guys are spending more time than that inside of Lightroom, you're going a little bit too far with your images, or you're clicking too many times. Okay. So if you click J, you'll notice that there are a little bit of pieces blown out in the shot. So, J brings up our highlight and clipping alert, right? There's a very simple way of kind of fixing that. If you press J and then press your adjustment brush, create an adjustment brush that's a highlight only brush. And so what we wanna do is, actually, rather than doing highlights for this shot, we're going to do whites, actually. We can do whites and a little bit of highlights. And all you're gonna do is shrink the size of the brush down and watch that. Can I get a boom? Boom. Amen. It's very easy to do that, guys. And if the highlights are actually gone, if they're actually blown out, we could literally just jump into Photoshop for a second and paint a color into that area, add a tiny bit of texture to that area, and be good. We generally don't need to do that. But how do you recover the lost detail in the jeans? You know, in the highlights, detail is very much just like a plain color, there's not a lot of stuff there. It's just basic skin tone, or it's basic, you know, it's not a ton of crazy stuff. In the shadows, your detail is generally a lot of stuff, like how do you draw back eyes and pants and those kind of things. So that's why we always say error to the right. Expose the right, error to the right. Okay, very simple, easy fix there. Now, how do you know that you've gone too far on your vignetting, or that radial filter to pull in the attention? The easiest way, for me, is to go back to the grid view and look at the image at a thumbnail size. If you see, and this is exactly what I mean, I'm gonna create a virtual copy of this, so control apostrophe or command apostrophe. Let's create a virtual copy, let's actually add in a heavy, heavy vignette. So let's just go and increase, we'll just do our radial, okay? And, I know that this is something a lot of people tend to do, is they just really crush their vignettes. If it looks, from this bird's eye view, right? If the bird's eye view looks like there's a darkening coming into the shot, that's where I feel like I've gone too far. I want the bird's eye view, I want that outside view and that thumbnail view just to look like, I don't want any eyes drawn to that vignetting effect. It's just a subtle, graduating effect that they think is natural. If you look at it and go, hey nice vignette. That's a problem. And I really don't want people looking at any photograph and going, hey nice this, hey nice that. I want them looking at the photograph and saying, hey that's a nice image. I don't necessarily want any piece of a photograph to scream above everything else, right? I was sitting in a symphony and I was watching the conductor while he was conducting. This is what it looks like, right? Maybe that's church choir. (audience laughing) Alright, so he's conducting and he's keeping like the entire orchestra going, you know, at the same time, with varying, like, he's basically calling out and saying, I want you guys to go louder or I want you guys to go up and I want you guys to do this and I'm oversimplifying this process, by the way. In case you didn't know. And in case you didn't know, I'm not a professional conductor. I'm surprised y'all didn't know that. But the whole purpose of that was to keep everything coordinated and in balance with each other and if you think of yourself as the same thing, you are conductor of your photographs. You want your lighting, your poses, your post-production, your composition, everything piecing together in one symphony, no one piece screaming louder than the other. As soon as one section of the symphony starts playing too loud, it's obvious. You go, oh my gosh, the brass just like, went off and you can hear it. So that's kinda the way I want you guys to look at your photograph, if there's something that's screaming out, like a vignette, then you probably are off on this little balancing game. We're conductors, guys. We're conductors. By the way, these are perfect shots for like black and whites, too. I'd love to black and white that one. You guys see this nice little highlight on his face? Isn't it pretty? Okay. Let's look at these ones just to see settings-wise. We have 1/5000 a second, f / 1/2, and ISO 100. Looking at our histogram, let's go ahead and pull that down. Look at all the beautiful information we're retaining. Notice how we have kept some pure highlights and some pure shadows in the shot? It looks natural that way. Okay. Same things. 1/5000, 1.2, ISO 100. How easy it is to work over this set of images when all your settings are the same.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work