How To Make Your Photos Look Like Lightroom Edits WITHOUT Lightroom


A few months ago, I bit the bullet and got Lightroom. AND LET ME TELL YOU: IT IS BEAUTIFUL. Life-alteringly* beautiful. BUT HELLO this post is going to be very confusing (not the tutorial part hopefully lololnervouslaughter) because I’m going to try and sell you Lightroom and this other photo editor called PicMonkey. You might have heard of one of these, both of these, or HECK YOU MIGHT EVEN OWN THEM.** But today I’m going to show you how to make your photos have the shiny-ness of Lightroom WITHOUT Lightroom. (Not that I’m dissing Lightroom because I PROMISE I’M NOT. I’m also not sponsored by PicMonkey even though that would be nice. EVERYTHING IN THIS POST IS ENTIRELY MY OWN OBNOXIOUSLY WISE OPINION. As usual.)

*Shut up spellcheck it’s a word. Now.
**Like me. I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE OK. *sits in lotus and looks very sagacious*



I really don’t know how I ever lived without Lightroom. WHO EVEN WAS MY PAST SELF??? Oh yes. She was really good at editing photos on PicMonkey. So as a human bean who has copiously used BOTH of these photo editors, I promise I will give a fair and unbiased opinion. Well kinda sorta. JUST TRUST ME OK I’M YOUR WAFFLE QUEEN.


• $9.99 per month

• INFINITELY ADVANCED but also pretty simple for people who are familiar with basic photo editing functions

• The fine-tuner’s dream – and TRUST ME FINE TUNING DOES A LOT



• Free or $3.99 per month (but some of the stuff I use in this tutorial is premium only WAAAH)

• CRAZY SIMPLE and user-friendly but also pretty advanced – as I’m going to show in a minute

• Can do some things Lightroom CAN’T do, such as create graphics with text, overlays, and collages


First, let’s have a look at Lightroom. I’m using this picture for example. It is a historical church (omg really) in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. (PLZ IGNORE THAT MINDLESS PEDESTRIAN WHO WALKED RIGHT INTO MY FRAME???) I really wanted to bring out the stark contrast of a bright day, with pops of color from the beautiful blue sky and golden sunlight on the brick walls.


As you can see, I did A LOT of editing on this particular photo. I don’t do this for all my photos. In fact, most of the time I do as few edits as possible. The nice thing about Lightroom is that with three or four clicks, your photo looks about 546531234% better than the original. With PicMonkey, it takes a little longer. BUT I’M GONNA SHOW YOU HOW DO IT.

I’m starting with the same original file as I did for my Lightroom edit. The very first thing I do is adjust brightness, contrast, highlights, and shadows. FINE TUNE IT, BRO. I cannot stress that enough. Also remember less is more and we’re going to come back here at the end.


Next, I’ll adjust the temperature and saturation of the photo. PicMonkey’s saturation looks JUST SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT than Lightroom’s, so all this stuff takes FINE TUNING. Look closely. No two photos are alike.


Now we get into the premium stuff. REMEMBER $4 IS LESS THAN $10* and I would highly HIGHLY recommend subscribing to PicMonkey. It is one of those tools that I absolutely could not have a blog/internet life without. SERIOUSLY WORTH IT. But I digress. “Film Stock” is one of my favorite filters on PicMonkey. It’s kind of perfect.

*REALLY ABBIE WHAT A FASCINATING DISCOVERY YOU HAVE MADE


Quick note: dodge and burn are soooo important if you want to crush your photo editing game!! There will always be those “problem areas” in photos – places where things are a little too dark or a little too bright. DODGE AND BURN, BRO. They fix everything. (Well almost.)


I don’t like PicMonkey’s “clarity” tool. I JUST DON’T. It looks grimy. But!! HDR IS A REALLY NICE REPLACEMENT. It makes edges cleaner and detail like BOOM. It’s fabulous, basically.


And if that’s not crisp enough for you, head over to the “Touch Up” tab. IT’S NOT JUST FOR THE WRINKLES UPON ONE’S FACE OK. I use these tools for so many things in my photos. “Mascara” on trees, “Eye Tint” on flowers, “Blemish Fix” to blot out people I don’t like** – YOU NAME IT I’LL FIND A WAY TO USE IT. Today I’m using “Eye Brighten” to crisp up any fine details I want to really pop.

**JUST KIDDING I avoid doing this by simply not taking pictures of people. PROBLEM = SOLVED


Ah, the vignette. FINICKY BEAST. Unfortunately, PicMonkey’s “Dark Edges” vignette just doesn’t do it for me. BUT “URBANE” IS SUPER SICK. I would turn this thing wayyyy down just because I don’t like to even NOTICE a vignette in a picture – mostly just FEEL it, if that makes sense. (I know it doesn’t make sense SHH LET’S MOVE ON.)


Those clouds need some character. DON’T THEY?? I MEAN. IT’S LIKE A WHITE BLAH OF NOTHING. This step is totally optional, but I’m going for it just to show you guys how cool the “Clone” tool is. You can literally paint over the sky WITH ANOTHER PART OF THE SKY. < Super helpful now if only I could do that in real life?? Someone work on a weather-changing magic wand for me ok.


As I am editing this photo, I keep glancing back to my Lightroom edit. What I notice is that the sky is AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SHADE OF BLUE. Which isn’t cool. BUT I HAVE A SOLUTION: “TINT.” I could make the sky purple or green or orange if I want to (insert malicious laughter here) but DON’T WORRY I’M MORE CONSPICIOUS THAN ALL THAT. I pick a darker shade of blue and ta-daaaa – PAINT AWAY.


LAST FILTER I PROMISE. “Orton” makes photos all-around more glowy, soft, and bright. I’ll turn this effect WAYYY DOWN because I don’t want to take away too much of all those sharp edges I worked so hard on earlier. But a little softening wouldn’t hurt this photo. SO THERE WE GO.


Finally, I’ll go back to the exposure tab we worked with at the very beginning and fine-tune a few more things. REMEMBER HOW MUCH I LIKE FINE TUNING?? You’re like lol shut up already.


AND WE ARE DONE MY FRENS. Here is the side-by-side of my PicMonkey edit and my Lightroom edit of the same exact picture. There are a few nuance differences (the sky is still a different shade of blue, the sunlight is red vs gold, and the highlights are cooler vs warmer, to name a few) but ultimately THERE ISN’T THAT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE. I don’t know if I could tell which one was edited with which software.


WHICH LEADS ME AT LAST TO MY POINT: Whether you have Lightroom, PicMonkey, or neither, I hope this tutorial has been somewhat enlightening as to what exactly makes a photo “Lightroom quality” vs mediocre. ALSO I HOPE YOU’RE NOT ASLEEP BY NOW.

Was this tutorial utterly boring? Was it helpful?? Do you use Lightroom or PicMonkey or something else? (OR EVERYTHING LIKE GREEDY LITTLE ME??) Can you tell the difference between those two edits?

rock on,
abbiee

25 comments

  1. Ahhh this is so helpful *bookmarks for later* I am an ignorant scrub when it comes to photo editing. I usually just play around with random filters and adjustments until the picture looks good enough to me. I really want to learn what everything means, though.

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    1. PHOTO EDITING IS THE BOMB OMG. <3 pshh I'M SURE YOU ARE NOTHING LIKE AN IGNORANT SCRUB because you = brilliant ;) but EEP I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKED THIS TUTORIAL! *hugs*

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  2. EEEPPPP! Yay, Thanks for this post! I am going to use it when I edit my pictures! Thank you thank you, THIS HELPS ME SO MUCH!

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    1. OMG THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY I'M SO GLAD YOU LIKED ITTTT <3333

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  3. GIRL I'M A PHOTOGRAPHER AND I'VE GOT PICMONKEY AND I KNOWWWW HOW AWESOME IT IS SO THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME SOME MORE TIPS ON IT!!!!!
    -Ariel

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    1. ARIEL I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKED THIS TUTORIAL *high fives you* obviously you are awesome. ;) ROCK ON <3

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  4. Wow, thanks for this! I'm a person who loves photography but can't splurge for photoshop or anything so this is super helpful. I have used PicMonkey in the past, but I generally use BeFunky for most photo editing. It's pretty much the same as PicMonkey - not sure which is better. I also like to use VSCO sometimes cause they have nice filters. Unfortunately it's a mobile only app.

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    1. EEEP THANK YOU EMILY. <3 I'm so glad you liked this tutorial! Hmm I've never heard of BeFunky but I'm totally going to check it out!! Sounds fab. ;) VSCO IS A LIFESAVER OMG <3 but wow yes so disappointed it's only a mobile app. :/ I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKED THIS POST!!

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  5. WELL DUH I'M NOT ASLEEP. That was very enlightening and useful and frankly very witty if I'm to be honest. I'm sad because I'm broke and therefore have nothing to pay for PicMonkey Premium with (although if I did, it would probably go to the books oops lol). I use PicMonkey for my graphic-making but not my photo-editing. But I should because my photos are horrible haha. TANKS, FREN.

    May @ Forever and Everly

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    1. OMG THANK YOU :''''') I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKED THIS TUTORIAL!! *hugs you and gives you waffles* HAHA I KNOW RIGHT whenever I have spare cash I'm like "BOOKMONEYYYYY" because it's just so hard to resist yOU KNOW??? ugh. the struggle is real. :') THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING MAY. <3

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  6. Thanks for this! I've been using both Lightroom and Picmonkey for several years now (and even Picnick before it got bought out). They do both have pros and cons! I prefer to edit in Lightroom, but will definitely take things to Picmonkey if I need to add text + overlays + anything special.

    I'd love to see a post comparing free Picmonkey to premium. I've thought about getting premium but wonder if it's really worth it, especially since I have Lightroom.

    Great post, and I really liked the comparison! Pretty photo, too!

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    1. I AGREE 100000% WITH YOU EMILY HAHA :') so true, they all have pros and cons. Lightroom is a dream. I don't know how I ever survived without it tbh. <3 OOH THAT'S A GOOD POST IDEA EMILY!! Maybe I'll do it sometime! ;) EEEP THANK YOU FOR READING DUDE

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  7. THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. And I'll just cry because I don't have Lightroom OR paid picmonkey hahahha. Ahem. But I still loved your tutorial! It was super clear and easy to follow. :') And if I ever actually get my act together and go with the premium picmonkey, I shall return here to follow all your steps faithfully. :D

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    1. GAH THANK YOU SO MUCH OMG. :'') Aw, I'm so happy the tutorial was easy to follow!! I ALWAYS FEEL SO CONFUSING LIKE OMG AM I MAKING LITERALLY NO SENSE??? so thank you for that. <3 *hugs*

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  8. THIS WAS SO HELPFUL BLESS YOU

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    1. BLESS YOU FOR READING KATIE <33333

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  9. I've never heard of Lightroom before, but I have messed with Picmonkey premium before (we have a small photo printing business in town which we use, and you can upload photos to their website and use picmonkey for free. Yup. Pretty awesome). I had no idea what I was doing, and the immensity of options is quite overwhelming, but I mostly do basic edits anyway. I always thought it was unfair how you can almost take a crummy picture and make it look cool.

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    1. LIGHTROOM IS BEAUTIFUL <3 Also omg that's SO COOL that you get to use PicMonkey premium!! I'M SO MAD AT THEM FOR MAKING SO MANY THINGS PREMIUM ONLY...but I seriously wouldn't be able to do half of what I do with my blog without it. :') so I'm grateful. I'M SO GLAD YOU LIKED THIS POST <3

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  10. This was seriously such a good tutorial!!

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    1. AW THANK YOU NABILA <3

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  11. THIS IS SO COOL OH MY GOODNESS!

    Also your header images are always the most fabulous of ever.

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  12. dude...thank you for doing this!! i actually don't edit my photos cuz...(not bragging but..) i don't need to. :) but i have used lightroom!! and your blog is my goals!

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  13. Thank you so much for this post!!! It was VERY helpful!!!

    littlebitofsunshineweb.wordpress.com

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  14. AAH PICMONKEY IS AWESOME. Now I want to get PicMonkey Premium!

    (You should do a post about making/designing blogpost thumbnail/header images too, btw. I suck at those XD)

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  15. This was helpful! Especially the dodge/burn part; I'm not sure I've ever used either of those.
    Laura flowersinmybasket.blogspot.com

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