When it comes to post-processing, tricky lighting doesn’t have to be something to shy away from.

Great moments happen regardless of the ‘optimal’ environment, and especially within documentary photography, we should learn to embrace all of it.

However, before approaching how we edit, it’s really important to get everything as correct as possible in camera.

The reason that great photos can happen from great moments is because the photographer is able to observe her surroundings with a keen, sharp eye. In doing so, the strength of the photo distracts from the less than ‘ideal’ conditions, allowing the viewer to focus on what really matters.

Still, what the heck do you do when it comes to editing for harsh sun, mixed light and dark nighttime indoor light?

We are three of the instructors from The Documentary Approach and are here with three video Lightroom tutorials to show how we tackle these situations.

Even though we may approach our editing a little differently, the first step we take is to adjust white balance and exposure.

It’s always important to set the right color temperature before you start applying anything else. This can be achieved in a number of ways but one of the simplest is to make use of the eyedropper tool and click on a neutral value within the image (white walls, clothing or even clouds can work for this).

One big thing to note here is that we don’t try to ‘fix’ the white balance to make skin tones or light look perfect – we only change the white balance to make it look the way it looked when we saw it in person. Therefore, mixed light will still essentially look like mixed light once the edit is finished.

Because all of us apply presets, we make sure to customize the sliders to dial down (or bring up) any changes we might need to make post-application. This typically involves adjusting contrast, highlights, shadows and clarity. Occasionally, a trip to the HSL panel will be needed (like in Lauren and Felicia’s videos).

Lastly, we make local dodge and burn edits if needed. This can be applied with the LR brush tool. Again, we’re not trying to do an overhaul of a subject – it’s really about small, minimal enhancements to bring forth the moment.

1. Indoor bad light

What the heck do you do when it comes to editing for harsh sun, mixed light and dark nighttime indoor light? Here are three video Lightroom tutorials to show how we tackle these situations.
before
What the heck do you do when it comes to editing for harsh sun, mixed light and dark nighttime indoor light? Here are three video Lightroom tutorials to show how we tackle these situations.
after

2. Mixed light

What the heck do you do when it comes to editing for harsh sun, mixed light and dark nighttime indoor light? Here are three video Lightroom tutorials to show how we tackle these situations.
before
What the heck do you do when it comes to editing for harsh sun, mixed light and dark nighttime indoor light? Here are three video Lightroom tutorials to show how we tackle these situations.
after

3. Harsh light

What the heck do you do when it comes to editing for harsh sun, mixed light and dark nighttime indoor light? Here are three video Lightroom tutorials to show how we tackle these situations.
before
What the heck do you do when it comes to editing for harsh sun, mixed light and dark nighttime indoor light? Here are three video Lightroom tutorials to show how we tackle these situations.
after