Tutorial: Short, Sweet Workflow for Editing Street Photography in Lightroom 5

When it comes to street photography, much of the aesthetic appeal is the limited editing that usually takes place (or doesn’t take place, I guess), leaving the story and subject the focus of the image instead of creative editing. But that’s not to say that editing should be left out of the equation or completely disregarded.

If you’re wondering where that line should sit, this tutorial by Swiss street photographer Thomas Leuthard shows you what he does when he imports his street photos into Lightroom 5.

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 11.33.44 AM

The main takeaway from the video is that you should keep your post-processing short and sweet when it comes to street photography. Each photo, Leuthard maintains, should take less than a minute to edit from start to finish. And so the steps he shows you are minimal, and serve as a great foundation upon which you can build your own editing workflow.

The entire video comes in at 7-and-a-half minutes, so be sure to set some time aside at lunch and give it a watch.

(h/t Reddit)

P.S.: For those of you using Apple’s Aperture to edit your photography, Leuthard shared an Aperture 3 tutorial some time ago that utilizes the same techniques, just in a different piece of software.

  • Florence Griffith

    Thomas has interested me in his work over the past year or so…but I find his approach is not right for me…I do go out and shoot everyday…and my post processing is probably a couple minutes longer…and I do believe that what you cannot do in camera…you can do in photoshop or whatever post processing tool you may choose…he adds vignette to his images…some lenses do this naturally…others do not not…some say much as Thomas has said you should not alter your street images…I just disagree…in many cases it makes the images better…I may make my image more subtle or more vibrant…it still is a street image…it is my vision…as you have yours…to each his own…and as Thomas says…get out there and shoot…be creative…I can do that both in camera and in photoshop

  • Caligold

    I don’t like the claims that are made in the beginning such as “Im a photographer and not a photoshopper”… Then he goes and makes all the changes that could have been made in a camera. Either you are a purist or not, don’t say that you don’t make changes and then go make changes…. cheers.

  • Joe Aguirre

    this guy is an asshole and knows nothing about street. he is a white tourist that exploits people.

  • Alessio Michelini

    I agree, post production is as important as the act of taking the picture.
    I like his stuff, but I don’t agree with his opinions.

  • Jack B. Siegel

    Each to his own. Mr. Leuthard has draw the line at a minute. Part of the artistry of being a photographer is knowing just where to draw that line, just as part of the artistry is knowing which photos to print.

    I don’t like what I consider to be over-processed photos, but I think Mr. Leuthard is drawing too sharp of a line. It doesn’t appear that he does any digital dodging or burning, which certainly has its origins in film. Nor does he seem to do much with curves or toning. He can do those things without over processing his photos. Both have film analogues.

    I took a workshop from a 70-year photographer four years ago. His photos have graced the covers and pages of many well-know magazines. At the time he said that if you spend more than 1 minute post processing, you should take another photo. I took a workshop from him two months ago. Apparently in the intervening four years, he spend more time with photoshop, because now he is singing its praises. So I always wonder when people are opposed Photoshop whether they really dislike computers or have some other reason for not exploring it.

    In closing, I would note that RAW files are meant to be manipulated, even if not in an overly aggressive way. Leica packages Silver Efex with its Monochrom camera, as an example. Being too dismissive is a mistake, but it is also a view point that Mr. Leuthard is entitled to.

  • imajez

    When people witter on about post processing and how they don’t believe in it, invariably it is because they are not very good at it. What they don’t normally do is make a tutorial video showing exactly how little they know about post processing.

  • imajez

    Which illustrates my point exactly. Your expert criticised something he was unfamiliar with. Now he knows how to use the tool, he’s done a volte face and loves it.
    Many post processing naysayers however are simply incompetent at darkroom/lightroom style work [usually photography in general] and never make the progress, your tutor did.

  • Jack B. Siegel

    I am a bit surprised that PetaPixel posted the video. It is pretty worthless in terms of instructional value. In fact it is arguably harmful, because it stops far short of showing someone who is new to digital photography all the available features in Lightroom or how to use them in an effective, but restrained manner. I assume it was posted to get just this sort of discussion going.

  • hypocratewithacamera

    “Post processing is a waste of time”
    but here let me just add some clarity and vignettes and a crop.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Wow, what would this guy do if he had to shoot film? That whole darkroom thing is postproduction…

  • flightofbooks

    None of which is “post-processing” if it’s done in LR with the original raw file.

  • Stan B.

    The guy Contradicts himself BIG TIME when he states something to the effect that the photo is made in camera, not in post- then admits to cropping, arguably the most radical form of post in analog or digital. If you’re gonna don the purist’s garb, cropping is Most Definitely Verboten.

    To each his own. Personally I’m sick, sick, sick of blown highlights in digital. I don’t care how little or how much time you spend, but if ya wanna be taken seriously- respect the craft. Unless, of course, you’re an artiste.

  • Imustbemissingsomething

    How is the clarity slider not post processing? Or hitting auto on the B&W conversion?

  • flightofbooks

    Because, when using lightroom those things are done during processing and therefore are categorically not post-processing (at least with raw files; one could argue that since jpgs are developed in-camera anything done to them after upload is “post-processing”).

  • flightofbooks

    Tourist? All of his videos seem to be set in his home city.

  • flightofbooks

    “respect the craft. Unless, of course, you’re an artiste.”

    talk about pretentious, gee whiz

  • Stan B.

    Yeah, for what it’s worth, for what anything here is worth… anything constructive besides, “gee whiz?”

    “I’m pretentious.”

    I didn’t tell anyone how to do it, or how it should be done.

    All I said was, “respect the craft.” How are you going to do anything you love if you… don’t respect the craft. And I wasn’t even talking about the person above.

    It’s an open forum- what do you have to ADD? Challenge me, contradict me, prove me I’m wrong… ENLIGHTEN ME!!!

    But ya gotta do better than “gee whiz.”

  • ItsAdiscussion

    Does that include spot removal and lens distortion correction?

    “categorically not post-processing” – I was always under the assumption that anything after you click the shutter was considered post processing. By saving all of the data captured, shooting in RAW is to enhance the benefits of post work by not relying on what a sensor chip “thinks” the final result should be.

  • marchesa

    I think you lose something of value if you take him too literally. To me he’s suggesting a frame of mind about street photography–that the emphasis for experimentation should be in the streets, not at the computer. For me, this doesn’t exclude extensive post processing of your best shots. But for initial evaluation this is worthwhile–and in fact, it might be all you need.

  • flightofbooks

    If it’s done with the original raw file data in a non-destructive setting e.g. lightroom, it’s all processing. You are processing the raw file. If you export that raw file in whatever output format and send it to another program, e.g. photoshop, and work on it there, that is post-processing.

  • flightofbooks

    Waxing poetically about “respect for the craft” followed up with “Unless, of course, you’re an artiste.” (which I assume was meant sarcastically not that it really matters) is a ridiculous statement. Who says artiste, even ironically? And are you really claiming that art photographers don’t care about the craft of photography? That’s an extremely bold claim, particularly when it’s offered so flippantly.

    It’s just hard to take a statement like that at all seriously.

  • Paul K Rivera

    Michael . even
    though Roy `s report is exceptional… last friday I got a great Honda NSX
    from earning $7404 this – five weeks past and also $10,000 this past munth .
    it’s realy my favourite-work Ive ever done . I actually started eight
    months/ago and immediately got over $79 per-hr . find out this here

  • NotBuyingIt

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree over the semantics here then. I will continue to think that split-toning, distortion correction, and spot removal are all post-production. As in after the photo was taken. By your logic, I can open a file in ACR and as long as it stays a smart object I can manipulate it however I please in Photoshop without it being considered post. I’m not buying that.

  • Will Chao

    wrong, the raw file is never affected, what you do in LR only affects the resulting JPG which is obvious a form of ‘post-processing’

    and for pete’s sake don’t get so hung up on terminology, ‘pp’ is just a fancy word for editing

  • Stan B.

    Fair Enough!

    I’ve already addressed the guy above, so I’ll clarify my personal beef with guys who let the highlights fly in post- something one sees way too often in digital, to the point where they just don’t seem to bother or care, or… claim it as innate to their gritty, street savvy, no holds barred “look.” There are ways to make high key photography work, ways to properly utilize and incorporate it effectively- and it’s not by sloppy or negligent post, and then claiming it’s part of one’s artistic “style.”

    The Illuminated Man by Duane Michals is blown out purposely to achieve its intended effect- the photograph could simply not exist otherwise. Blown out highlights in most photographs these days are definitely not essential, do not add anything of value, and merely detract from the overall viewing experience; no matter how one explains it away…

  • flightofbooks

    For “post-processing” to mean anything at all, the image must first be processed. So when does that happen with a raw image, which is by definition unprocessed until it’s put through lightroom, or ACR, or whatever. If that’s already post-processing, then post-processing is a completely meaningless term.

  • flightofbooks

    Right, the raw file is never affected. That’s exactly the point. From the raw file we get output in some other file format. Work done on that output file is “post-processing”.

    And if we’re being precise, PP has nothing to do with editing, although a lot of people misuse the term editing to mean “processing/post-processing” (which is actually a bigger problem than the more technical difference between processing and post).

  • flightofbooks

    All I can take away from this is you don’t like an aesthetics that’s popular right now. Which is fine, although I can’t really get behind your claim that it’s mainly just a cover for being sloppy. It’s pretty easy to save highlights with digital cameras these days. Blowing them generally requires a conscious choice to process in that direction, or to over-expose in camera. Both require a firm understanding of the fundamentals in the craft of photography.

    So, you know, if you don’t like it, okay, but conflating an aesthetic style you dislike with laziness, with nothing to support that claim, is just silly.

    Also, I’m not sure if you’re just bringing blown highlights up as a general example of a processing/post-processing trend you dislike or you’re referring to the photo in this video, but those highlights are not blown, and if you watch the video you’ll see he makes sure to control them. If they look blown to you, I might suggest you should recalibrate your monitor (and who knows, maybe some of the other ‘blown highlights’ images you so dislike will look better afterwards).

  • Stan B.

    I think I made it clear I wasn’t talking about this guy in the very first sentence, and at this point I’ll just leave it at what I said in my original comment- to each his own…

  • imajez

    Dear me we are missing the point entirely aren’t FoB.
    Post processing’s ACCEPTED meaning is any work done on images to alter how they looked when they came out of the camera.
    The fact that editing is parametric or otherwise is also entirely irrelevant as they are just paradigms of image processing.
    The very fact that an image looks different on one’s monitor in LR/ACR etc means you have changed it’s visual appearance and that is the bit that counts., not what happens on a file level

    The mistake you are doing is being completely literal with words, many phrases in language can have a very different meaning if taken literally compared to how common use understands it. Take ‘near miss’ which is normally used to describe a close call between two planes. It doesn’t make sense because a near miss is actually a hit. A ‘near hit’ would be the more accurate phrasing of the event but as everyone knows what near miss means it’s not an issue.

  • imajez

    “Blowing them generally requires a conscious choice to process in that direction, or to over-expose in camera.”

    Nonsense! It’s very, very easy to have a scene with a dynamic range way outside of a camera’s ability. Take an every day situation such as a daytime indoor shot with sunlit windows in it. Expose for inside and boom go the windows.
    Shoot someone outside against the light [without fill lighting] and expose for your subject and boom, blown sky. And so on…..

  • Witek Braknazwiska

    Good point – to be efficient. In my opinion, all available tools ( dslr, filters, pc)
    can be used to improve or modified your work. Discussion is photoshop
    overused or not is not necessary. At the end its the good picture
    that counts and doesn’t matter that it was shoot on iphone, heavy
    or light processed in photoshop or else. Good luck with your

  • flightofbooks

    I think we’re talking about two different things. You’re talking about highlights that are incidentally blown out in a tricky lighting situation. Stan B. was, I believe, talking about a particular style that emphasizes blown highlights in a scene where no such challenge exists.

  • flightofbooks

    The “mistake” I’m making is insisting we use precise terms that have clear meanings. I’m not being overly literal, except to illustrate a problem with how language is used. The way “post-processing” is used is ridiculous and vague, and it blurs the distinction between normal workflow and extraordinary image enhancement and alternation. The way people have reacted to this video illustrates that pretty clearly.

    The terms “processing” and “post-processing” come from film photography, where the distinction between what was what was pretty clear. The problem arises when people try to apply the term “post-processing” as a catch all term for the same group of tasks it used to apply to, without taking into account that certain tasks might take place at a different point within the workflow for a digital image. If it’s all post, then what makes pushing or pulling the exposure of a raw image different from airbrushing an image in CS or other deep pixel alterations? This confusion causes a real problem when it comes to explaining to non-photographers (clients, for example) just how digital images are handled. It mystifies the production of photographs in a way that isn’t helpful.

  • imajez

    When a general word/phrase is used for something that has many finer aspects like post processing is, then other words jump in to fill the void.

    Retouching has a more specific meaning as does developing, grading, compositing, photoshopping and airbrushing. They may overlap in places but post processing still is an accurate phrase encompassing them all.

    The fact that with film, processing and post processing were very distinct physical phases. “Post processing” now means all creative work done after shutter is released not work done after “processing” or developing the film as in previous times. But I’d say that the conversion of a raw image to a one you can view or work on is effectively the processing stage, so it still makes perfect sense.

    If you are struggling to communicate with people that is either saying that you are using the wrong words or that they are a bit dim. ;)
    Not to mention this is still a very new area really, so in time the language will settle down/evolve further to cope.

    But at the end of the day, if everyone bar you uses post processing to describe work done on photos, then you are wrong. Accepted meaning is the actual meaning regardless of how wrong it may be technically. Which I do not think is actually the case here.

  • Martti O Suomivuori

    A typical fundamentalist: Don’t do as I do, do as I say.
    Duh is the word.