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How to Create a Magical Autumnal Atmosphere Using Lightroom

This Lightroom tutorial will show you how to enhance autumnal photos and make them look as magical as the season is.
Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

How to Create a Magical Autumnal Atmosphere Using Lightroom

The gorgeous autumn months are almost over. At the end of every season, photographers review their portfolios, reminisce, and find beautiful outtakes they didn’t notice before. These outtakes may have been overlooked because of their desaturated colors, lack of light, or uneven horizons. If you can relate to this dilemma, don’t throw those photos away! Whatever drew you to those images – an interesting composition, a graceful pose, or a striking expression – can be enhanced in a way that overshadows the photos’ flaws.

This tutorial will show you how to enhance autumnal photos and make them look as magical as the season is. To recreate this style, all you need is:
– Any version of Adobe Lightroom
– Your favourite presets/overlays (I’ll be using MCP’s Inspiration Lightroom Presets)

Let the magic begin!

Adobe Lightroom editing panel

The foundation of anything, be it a house or an image, is highly important. If you don’t start editing correctly, your results will look dull and uninspiring. The ideal base for magical autumnal photos is warm, pleasant to look at it, and soft. MCP’s Build A Look #7 – Theatrical is exactly that. I used Theatrical Strong to intensify the general atmosphere in the photo.

lightroom preset caring peach

Lightroom overlays are ideal for subtle fixes. If your image is too yellow, a blue overlay will quickly fix that, and vice versa. Certain overlays are simply creative. Enhancing certain tones in your portraits may enhance your subjects’ features or make their eye color pop. While this step is optional, I highly recommend experimenting with it. Even a slight change in tone can have a great impact on your image. I used the Caring Peach overlay from Color Tricks, which added more orange tones to the image.

Caring Peach overlay from Color Tricks

Now it’s your turn to enhance your photograph using Lightroom’s tools. The ones we’ll focus on in this tutorial are: Basic, Tone Curve, and Color. The beauty of Lightroom presets is that upon applying them, you’re left with even more room to thrive as an artist. The Basic panel will allow you to fix any flaws that your presets overlooked, such as highlights, shadows, and clarity. I increased the highlights to enhance the model’s face, removed a few shadows to make her hair stand out, and increased the clarity to focus on every detail in the shot. I also increased the temperature to enhance the feeling of autumn. Don’t worry, it won’t look too oversaturated later on!

lightroom tone curve

In the Tone Curve panel, the perfect color combinations are made. To make the most of this tool, gently move the curve in different directions. Be careful – sudden movements will create very dramatic (and often unwanted) results. If a combination doesn’t work, double click on a point in the curve to start over. This may feel like a hopeless activity for beginners but after a couple of experiments you’ll wonder why you doubted yourself in the first place. 🙂

Basic and Tone Curve panels

The Basic and Tone Curve panels focus on general tones and details. The Color panel gives eager artists a chance to have full control over the hue, saturation, and luminance of every color in their photos.

When it comes to female portraits, I like to decrease the luminance in Red to highlight my subjects’ lip color. In addition to that, I increase the luminance in Orange to add more highlights. This is the perfect time to desaturate unnecessary reds or oranges created by previous steps. Simply drag the saturation slider to the left for a subtle change in color.

decrease the luminance in Red to highlight my subjects' lip color

Now it’s time to focus on the background. Since we’re working with autumnal photos, yellows and greens are what we should focus on. To create a dramatic effect, I often oversaturate the yellows and drag the hue slider to the left to create redder tones. This creates a richly vibrant atmosphere.

focus on the background

If you want to edit a specific area in your photograph, the Adjustment Brush tool will serve as your creative lifesaver. The brush is located right under the Histogram (pictured below). Once you click on it, paint over the areas you’d like to change. When your selection is ready, you’ll be able to change things like temperature, shadows, highlights, saturation, etc in just that area. I selected the background to increase it’s temperature and to add a few more shadows to create a mysterious effect. If you’re not happy with your selection, click on Erase and paint over any unwanted areas. Once you’re happy with everything, click on Done underneath your image. Voila! Pure magic.

Adjustment Brush tool

Taya Photo autumn before and after

That’s it! Your magical autumnal photo is ready. With the help of 3 panels and an adjustment brush, you can make even the dullest outtakes stand out.

Happy editing!


Try these Best-Selling Lightroom presets:

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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How to Create a Magical Autumnal Atmosphere Using Lightroom