Curious on how to add dark tones to your image? In this post, I’m going to show you how to edit dark tones in Lightroom Classic.

This is part one, be sure to also check out part two and the video tutorial if you are a more visual learner!

What follows is an explanation of how I edit dark tones for my own Instagram account. Let’s get started.

How to edit dark tones in Lightroom

I have seven simple tips when editing dark tones in Lightroom:

  1. Pre-photoshoot planning
  2. Basic exposure adjustments
  3. Temperature adjustments
  4. Tone Curve adjustments
  5. Color adjustments
  6. Split Toning
  7. Grain

1. Pre-photoshoot planning

The first tip I have when editing dark tones in Lightroom, does not even have to deal with Lightroom yet (just bear with me). That is, pre-photoshoot planning.

When editing dark, moody tones in Lightroom, it is very important that when you are on your actual photoshoot, that you are going for that “moody and dark” look. This means the photo should have a subject that preferably isn’t smiling, the time of day might not be when the sun is directly overhead, and the setting for your photograph is in a place that elicits a moody feeling.

In the past, I have tried very hard to edit a dark, moody tone for all my photos in Lightroom, however, I would fall short. This was because I would try to edit ALL of my photos with a dark and moody tone, even if the feeling and emotion the photograph was giving off wasn’t “moody” at all.

Here is an example. Take these two photos for reference. The first is my subject smiling in a general warm setting with greenery and palm trees in the background.

The second is my subject not smiling in a colder, darker setting.

The image that gives off a darker, more moody feel right out of the camera is the second one.

If you want to strive for an edit in post-production, the photo you capture right out of the camera needs to evoke the correct emotion.

Be aware of this when going into your photoshoot and plan accordingly. Once you know what kind of edit you want to make in post-production, it should reflect in your subject’s posing, their outfit and the setting you choose for the actual photoshoot!

After this, it’s time to dive into the edit within Lightroom to further enhance the dark tones of the photo.

2. Basic exposure adjustments

The adjustments I always love to start off with are the basic exposure adjustments. These are adjustments I make to the exposure, highlights, shadows, whites and blacks.

When I make my edits to these sliders, I am sure to also keep a close eye on the histogram as it will tell me which parts of my photo need to be brighter or darker.

When I edit my moody photos in Lightroom for Instagram, I prefer to have my image on the darker side to give it a more moody, darker vibe. Because of this, my photo will most often exist on the left half of the histogram — having a greater amount of shadows, blacks and a bit underexposed (personal preference).

3. Temperature adjustment panel

The temperature adjustment panel allows you to adjust the “temperature” within the panel while also having the option to add a green or pinkish tint to your photograph. This is a great panel to add preliminary color to your image and begin the process of color grading.

When editing moody photos, I tend to adjust both sliders to the left which adds in a blue, cool effect and a green tint to my image. These colors tend to go well with together because they have an analogous color harmony, which is one of my favorite color harmonies.

In my mind, cooler shades are often more reflective of a dark/moody vibe. Whereas the warmer tones are more reflective of a happy or joyous vibe.

You will want to add this adjustment subtly to add a hint of blue and green to the image without ruining the rest of the colors in the photograph. When we discuss the color adjustments panel, that is when we will dive into each individual color for greater control.

Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll dive into the tone curve and the rest of the tips!