Lightroom Color Grading for Dummies

How do you move beyond using someone else's actions and presets to tone your images? It’s a lot simpler than you’d think. There are so many different ways to achieve similar results in post-production, and having so many options can be extremely intimidating when you’re just learning how to edit. This is the reason that many photographers will rely on actions and presets to “color grade” and tone their images when they are first starting off.

I will argue with anyone who says they hate presets. Why? I think presets are a great starting point for most beginner photographers. You have the opportunity to visually see the steps other photographers use to tone their images, and you’re able to deconstruct them and understand what makes that preset work for an individual image.

The downside to using presets is that every photographer (and their mama) is downloading the same “Top 50 Free Actions” on Google. That means you’re no different from the next guy. Is that okay? Not unless you want to have cookie-cutter photographs.


Color plays a huge role in the way your audience will interpret your images, and color grading is the process through which you’re altering the colors of your images to get a desired feel or mood.

Now, there are a variety of different ways to color grade your images. You have the ability to do so in programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, or using other third party software like Color Efex Pro and Perfect Photo Suite 9. To keep this blog post short and to the point, I’m purely going to focus on color grading in Adobe Lightroom because it’s one of the two most common editing platforms used by photographers, next to Adobe Photoshop.

I’ve done my best to compress the fairly broad subject of color grading into a 10-minute video. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions.