How I Edit my Photos: A Lightroom Tutorial

I get asked ALL the time how I edit my photos and use presets…like, on the daily. Not that I mind at all–I love photo editing almost as much as I love taking the photos! Something about transforming the photos from how they were shot to bright and colorful is so satisfying, so much so that I’ve recently discovered the world of Lightroom presets.

What are presets, you may ask? Well, do you remember circa 2013 when everyone and their mom used Instagram’s built in filters to an over the top degree? Yes? Don’t worry, I was guilty of that too. Presets are a more toned down version of those filters, meant to be a one-click editing solution that enhances photos (but maybe not to the extremities of the “Amaro” or “Mayfair” filters that I held so close not all that long ago). I love the look presets can give, and to the untrained editor, aka me, it’s a super easy way to make photos pop (I took a photography class in fall that was supposed to teach me how to edit, but alas, my professor was not helpful aside from telling me I was apparently doing it wrong :/). With that, here’s what I do to make my cosplay photos consistently eye-catching!

  1. Find a preset you like.

Etsy is your best friend when it comes to presets. I’ve only ever tried and used Aglow Presets, and I cannot recommend her shop enough! The owner is super kind and helpful, and her presets are very universally flattering for a good price. I’m not sponsored (though I’d love to be haha)– I just genuinely love how simple it is to use Aglow! I already have a handful of her presets, but for the sake of this post I purchased Creamsicle Aglow to demonstrate how I download and use these! I definitely recommend reading the descriptions of the presets you’re looking at to decide what kind of look you’d like your photos to have. This one emphasizes orange and cream shades while brightening the photos, but some of the others I’ve seen darken photos, bring out blues and green, make the photo cooler or warmer, etc.

2. Download!

If using Etsy, you should get an e-mail that will take you to your file. It comes in a .dng format, which you can download like a normal image. I then e-mail this to myself to easily transfer the file to my phone, but whatever method you use to get files like .pdfs on your phone will work!

3. Time for Lightroom

Adobe’s FREE Lightroom app is the key to editing photos with presets, or in general otherwise. I use it to make any typical adjustments as well and it’s the best you can get for free software! Once you have Lightroom installed, download your preset. Nothing will show up and a message will probably appear telling you the file type is not supported. This is fine, nothing is broken!

4. Installation

Open Lightroom and click on the bottom right corner to add photos into your gallery. Again, nothing will show up in image form yet–it’ll be blank and say “Cannot Load Image” like this. Click that check mark to add it into your gallery!

Now, an image should show up. This means the preset is installed and you can add it to your list of presets! Click the circle button with three dots in it up at the right corner, then the “create preset” button.

After that, give the preset a name and hit the top right checkmark!

5. Using Presets

Now that the preset is in Lightroom, it’s super easy to apply. Pick the photo you’d like to apply the preset to–I picked this one from my last princessing event. On the bottom right corner, there will be a button titled “Presets.” You may have to scroll through the bottom bar to find it, but it’s there!

Your preset will be under “User Presets,” and you might have to tap the top bar and scroll through the different folders of presets to find it at the very bottom if the user folder isn’t up by default. Click the preset you want to put on the photo and hit the checkmark!

6. Final Edits

Now is when I make any final edits to my photos. Exposure is the first thing I change, bringing it up or down to lighten or darken the photo overall.

Some presets might bronze the skin a bit too much (I’m pale so this is a common occurrence), in which case click the “Color” button on the bottom bar, then “Mix” in the upper right corner. Switch the button from Red to Orange, then take the saturation down and up the luminance! I didn’t need to do it here, but I usually do and it’s a simple fix I wanted to share!

Once I download the photo and take it into Instagram’s built in editor, I might make some last minute changes to the exposure, contrast, and saturation, but other than that, this is all I do to my photos! Here’s a before and after using Creamsicle, Coco Blush, and Sugared Vanilla to really see effects different presets can make:

ORIGINAL/AS SHOT                           CREAMSICLE

COCO BLUSH                              SUGARED VANILLA

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and that it helped you get some insight to how I edit my photos! Presets are my little not-so-secret and I love how cohesive my photos have looked since trying them out!

Til next time,


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