In this post, I’m going to show you how to edit gold tones in Lightroom. This is the same exact way I edit my Instagram photos for golden tones.

When I want to edit my photos for golden tones in Lightroom Classic, I break it down into five steps:

  1. Basic exposure adjustments
  2. Temperature adjustments
  3. Tone Curve adjustments
  4. Color adjustments
  5. Split Toning adjustments

In part one of this two-part post, I will be covering the basic exposure adjustments, temperature adjustments and Tone Curve adjustments. Be sure to check out part two, where I’ll dive into the color adjustments, touch briefly on color theory and split toning adjustments.

Basic exposure adjustments

The first thing I tweak are the basic exposure adjustments. During this part, you will want to pay close attention to the histogram. It will tell you what parts of your photograph are either under- or overexposed:

For my example, I shot the image very underexposed, so I needed to increase the shadows and blacks while also dropping the highlights.

In the past, I would not pay attention to the histogram. My photos would look darker and more underexposed on different monitors when I exported them.

I found that this was because the screen I would edit on was so bright.

It wasn’t until I paid closer attention to the histogram, that my photos were turning out how I wanted them to look on other screens other than mine.

With all this being said, pay attention to the histogram and make your adjustments to your exposure, highlights, shadows, whites and blacks until your photo is exposed to your liking:

I tend to lean toward more “moodier” edits, so most of my photos will still be a little on the underexposed side. Once your photo is exposed to your liking, we can move on to the temperature adjustments where most of the magic takes place!

Temperature adjustments

The temperature adjustments panel is where most of the magic happens.

Slide the temperature panel slider to the right to add that golden tone to your image.

Be careful not to go overboard.

I often adjust this panel in the beginning and then come back to tweak this panel after I make the rest of my adjustments, so don’t worry about getting it perfect to your liking on your first go-around.

Many people adjust the temperature to be on the warmer side and that will be the only adjustment they make. You could just adjust the temperature panel and that’d be it, however, it’s important to remember that this will “warm up” everything in your photo — including your subjects skin tone.

I don’t like this to be the only adjustment I make, as this could cause an unnatural skin tone that looks fake. Pair that with a photo retouching job that makes the skin look porcelain and it’s a bad combo. It could also cause your subject to look like they have a spray tan.

That’s why it’s important to also make adjustments the following adjustments I cover in this post. Now that you have adjusted the temperature to your liking, it’s time to adjust the tone curve.

Tone Curve adjustments

I love adjusting the Tone Curve — it’s what really adds that pop and depth to your images. It can turn an average photograph, into a professional looking photograph when done properly. And just like every other adjustment, be careful not to go overboard (I used to do this all the time when first starting out).

The most common tone curve adjustment is the S-shaped tone curve:

This S-shape will create great contrast in your image:

When messing with the Tone Curve — just like our basic exposure adjustment — pay attention to that histogram! Because you are again tweaking with the highlights, shadows, whites and blacks, it can affect your overall exposure.

You may need to go back to your basic exposure adjustments and add additional tweaks.

After you are happy with your tone curve and some depth and contrast has been added to your image, it’s time to adjust my favorite panel — the Color Adjustment panel.

In part two, I will be covering the color adjustment panel and split toning! I’ll also have a video walking you through every step. Stay tuned.