Step By Step Guide To How To Edit Architecture Photos

Step By Step Guide To How To Edit Architecture Photos

I am into a nice flow now telling you how I work as an architectural photographer. And this post follows on nicely from last week’s post.

These are the steps I go though when I edit my architecture photos in Lightroom.

  1. Import the photos into Lightroom
  2. Create a Backup
  3. Apply Import presets
  4. Put the photos in a folder in Lightroom
  5. Stack the bracketed sets
  6. Create folders called All and Picks
  7. Choose the photos to edit and move them to the Picks folder
  8. Move the other photos to the All folder
  9. Crop the images
  10. Correct horizontals and verticals in the Transform panel
  11. Edit the first image in the Basic panel
  12. Copy editing settings to similar images
  13. Repeat the process until all photos are edited
  14. Do the same with the wonderful HSL panel
  15. Do the same with the Tone Curve panel
  16. Do the same with the Detail panel
  17. Do the same with the Effects panel
  18. Dodging and burning
  19. Other local adjustments
  20. Apply a radial filter
  21. Remove stuff in Lightroom
  22. Remove stuff in Photoshop
  23. Add metadata
  24. Rename the photo file names
  25. Export as JPEGs for issue

So that is my step by step process to editing my architecture photos in Lightroom. Let’s go into each of these in a bit more detail.

Who am I?

I am Rick McEvoy, an architectural and construction photographer based in the UKJI have been a Lightroom user since version 1 was released in 2007 would you believe. I still have the CD that I bought somewhere!

But what you need to know is that this is what I do and this is what I know about. And that in this blog post I will be revealing for the first time my unique workflow that has evolved from me doing hundreds of architecture shoots over the years.

Not the normal way of processing

This is not necessarily how others teach this, but this is the process that I follow on every shoot to get the look that I am now known for.

The thing that I do is that I do each thing to all the images. I crop them, I make them vertical and horizontal, and go on from there. I do the same adjustments to all the photos before moving on to the next one.

I do not edit one photo and then move on to the next one. This is my workflow, which I have developed over the years, which I use on every shoot.

This is how I edit architectural photos in Lightroom!

What is this post about?

It is a step by step guide, it is the process, how I do this.

What is this post not about?

It is not about the numbers on the sliders – too many variables. For that I am going to write about some architectural photos that I have created so I can get really specific.

1 Import the photos into Lightroom

Well it’s a good place to start! I import the photos into Lightroom by inserting the memory card into my PC and, erm importing the photos. The photos are added to a single Lightroom Catalogue that contains all the digital images that I have ever taken with a camera (not my phone).

A couple of points here.

My Lightroom Catalogue is on an external, 4TB hard drive. Lightroom is installed on my PC hard drive.

2 Create a Backup

When I import the photos into Lightroom I have asked Lightroom to make a duplicate set which it adds to my hard drive. If my external hard drive packs up no problem – I have these new images on my PC hard drive and still on the memory card.

I also have a cloud backup which is permanently running in the background. I also do another, monthly back up which is to another external hard drive stored somewhere else.

So I always have three sets of the images in different places.

3 Apply Import presets

When I import photos into Lightroom I apply some processing to each and every image. I will go into this in more detail in the posts about individual images.

I apply some processing in the Basic panel which I found myself doing to every photo, which gives me a great start. I also apply metadata such as copyright etc to each and every image.

Automation in Lightroom is such a wonderful, time saving thing that I use and love.

4 Put the photos in a folder in Lightroom

I have lots of photos in Lightroom, and I need to be able to find them. I have a logical, clear and easy to navigate filing system. One for another post but for now I break down the folders for my photos into year, client and shoot.

5 Dealing with the bracketed sets

I don’t take one photo at a time, I take three photos at the same time and merge them together in Lightroom.

First off I select all the images from a shoot and then select Stacking, and then Auto Stack By Capture Time. This puts the three images from each composition together. As I am not taking that many photos, and they are some time apart, it is easy for Lightroom to know which photos go together.

Once placed in a stack I work through the stacks one by one, merging the images and creating a new HDR image.

How does this work?

Simple, select the three images, right click, select Photo Merge, HDR and then a dialogue box appears. Choose the settings you want and then leave Lightroom to it. And then go on to the next image and so on until you are done.

Check that the new HDR file is at the top of the stack and you are good to go!

6 Create folders called All and Picks

Now that I have the images to work with I create sub-folders called place them in a sub-folder called Picks. These are my picks. I also create a new sub-folder called All and Picks. Why do I do this? Well if I create a folder called Picks and leave the rest in the parent folder things can get confusing.

7 Choose the photos to edit and move them to the Picks folder

Now I know which photos I am working on and all is nice and clear. There is a lot to choosing the photos which is one for another blog post.

8 Move the other photos to the All folder

These are the photos that I am not editing which will get deleted from my Lightroom Catalogue at some time in the future. I have never had to go back to this folder to find an image that was required by a client.

And once deleted if I ever did need an image I have them backed up elsewhere. Sure it would be a pain to retrieve them but always there if needed.

9 Crop the images

Finally time to edit the photos. By the way editing the photos includes the process of choosing the photos to edit. Another one for another post!

I start off by cropping the photos. Why is this first? Then I know exactly what I am editing. I crop each photo first to ensure consistency across the set of images.

And this is how work – I crop all the images and then move on to the next thing.

10 Correct horizontals and verticals in the Transform panel

I sort the horizontals first, and then the verticals. I spend a lot of time trying to get these bang on in camera, but they always need a bit more work.

Do the horizontals first as this makes the verticals easier to correct. If you try to do the verticals first you have virtually no chance.

And yes I do this to all the images.

Why do I work this way?

I crop and transform before doing anything else as this takes away parts of the composition, leaving what I want in the photo to work with. I do not want to waste my time working on something that I am going to crop out.

Not that I crop much anyway.

And it might be that an image just does not look right, or I am not happy with it, so no point wasting time.

11 Edit the first image in the Basic panel

Cropped and verticals and horizontals done, I work through the sliders on the Basic panel one after another.

Again I will go through the numbers when I write about specific photos, which I am actually getting excited about which is nice.

But I will say one thing here – I never use the Saturation slider, which is much too much of a blunt instrument for me.

12 Copy editing settings to similar images

One of the brilliant things about Lightroom is that you can sync what you have done to other images. In my case this is quite often possible for all photos of one external elevation. Sure things might need the odd tweak but this works really well and saves me lots of time.

This helps me to get images that look like the belong together, a cohesive set of images processed the same way having the same look.

Internal photos I tend to do this less with, as there are bigger variations.

And sometimes I take a single setting and apply it to other images.

13 Repeat the process until all photos are edited

I move on to the next image and do the same, syncing with other similar images until all I have applied Basic panel adjustments to all the picks.

14 Do the same with the wonderful HSL panel

My favourite thing is the HSL panel. HSL stands for Hue, Saturation and Luminance. I don’t use Hue, I might do the odd very local tweak with saturation.

But I absolutely love using the Luminance tool, where I can adjust the brightness of a colour by clicking on it and sliding up or down, giving wonderfully subtle adjustments to individual colours within an image.

Powerful, subtle, wonderful.

15 Do the same with the Tone Curve panel

And then back to the first image for the subtle tonal changes that the Tone Curve gives. I use the eye dropper to fine tune the tonal range, and again sync these adjustments across similar images.

16 Do the same with the Detail panel

I apply sharpening to photos in import – I have a number that works for me. But I do always check that this is the best number for the images, which 99% of the time it is.

17 Do the same with the Effects panel

The effects panel is where the vignette tool lives. I apply a subtle vignette to every image. This subtly darkens the edges of the photo, making the middle bit brighter and more pronounced. This is a well-established, classical technique that is really effective but you can’t see. If you have done it properly that is!

18 Dodging and burning

This is a wonderful technique from my darkroom days when I used to create rubbish prints. These days in Lightroom it is done with a brush that you can paint onto parts of the image.

What is it?

Lightening or darkening parts of the image locally, to provide subtle accentuation of things. I lighten things that I want to highlight, and sometimes darken the adjacent bits so the good stuff stands out.

Done well you would never know – that is how I approach all my image editing, subtle, natural and enhancing what is there, And no more.

More on this in the posts I will write about some of my architectural photos.

19 Other local adjustments

There might be the odd thing that I want to tweak, which I will do here, but normally nothing else needs doing.

Apart from my secret weapon.

20 Apply a radial filter

I love the radial filter tool. I select this tool and add circular(ish) shape to the thing that I want to stand out, which in my case is normally the building facade. I increase the exposure slightly, and then select invert so this is applied to the bit inside the lines.

And for interiors, I might select more than one thing and do the same, giving little pools of brightness which really make a picture pop, naturally of course.

21 Remove stuff in Lightroom

There is a spot removal tool in Lightroom. I use it to get rid of sensor dust spots in the sky, and other minor stuff.

22 Remove stuff in Photoshop

If there is something of significance that I need to remove, or a lot of small stuff like gravel, I will jump into Photoshop and remove it. This is all I use Photoshop for – Lightroom does everything else that I need.

Photoshop is too complicated for me so I avoid it unless I have to use it.

23 Add metadata

Boring but important. I add some keywords, not too many and I do not take too much time over this. I also add a title and a caption.

And that is metadata done. And I only add this to the photos that I have edited. I just don’t bother with the ones that I have not edited as I am not going to do anything with them so no point.

24 Rename the photo file names

I rename all the images so we all know what they are – something like “Photo of a building for XYZ Architects 001”, and add a sequence to the numbers to the images are easy to reference.

25 Export as JPEGs for issue

I shoot in RAW. Most people cannot open RAW files, so I export the photos as JPEG files so anyone can use them.

And that is my processing sequence.

I am going to write some posts in the very near future about some of my favourite architectural photos, where I will share the actual numbers on the sliders in Lightroom.

Check out the video

Yes there is also a video about this post which you can sit back, relax and watch on my You Tube channel.

Related reading

If you want to know more about my architectural and construction photography work check out these pages which have lots of links to other related posts

Work With Me

Construction Photographer

And finally why not check out my splended Photography Explained Podcast?

Thanks for reading this post, and I will see you on the next one. Talking of which, the next post is How I Got The Shot Of Bordeaux Cathedral – Architectural Photography In France.

Rick McEvoy

Rick McEvoy

I am Rick McEvoy, an architectural and construction photographer living and working in the South of England. I create high quality architectural photography and construction photography imagery of the built environment for architects and commercial clients. I do not photograph weddings, families, small people or pets - anything that is alive, moves or might not do as I ask!! I am also the creator of the Photography Explained Podcast, available on all major podcast providers. I have a blog on my website where I write about my work and photography stuff. Rick McEvoy ABIPP, MCIOB

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