Looking to add some beautiful, warm tones in your photos?
Well in this guide, we’ll be diving into how to edit warm tones in Adobe Lightroom.
When I want to edit my photos for warm tones in Lightroom, I break it down into 5 simple steps.
We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):
Table of Contents
1. Basic Exposure Adjustments
The first thing I always adjust is tweaking the basic exposure adjustments.
During this part, you will want to pay close attention to the histogram as that will tell you what parts of your photograph are either under- or overexposed:
For this example, I shot the image very underexposed so I need to increase the shadows and blacks and drop the highlights:
Paying attention to the histogram is especially important if you haven’t taken the time to calibrate your monitor for its true colors like I have been guilty of.
In the past, I would not pay attention to the histogram and my photos would look darker and more underexposed on different monitors or on my phone.
I found that this was because the screen I would edit on was so bright, that it was not representative of an average user’s screen.
This would cause all my photos to be very dark and underexposed and 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:
For me personally, I tend to lean towards more “moodier” edits so most of my photos exist on the left half of the histogram while still being properly exposed.
Once your photo is exposed to your liking, we can move on to the temperature adjustments where most of the magic takes place!
2. Temperature Adjustments
The temperature adjustments panel is where most of the magic happens:
Adjust the temperature panel and move it to the right in order to add that warmth and golden tone to your image:
Be careful not to go overboard. I often adjust this panel in the beginning and then come back and tweak this panel after I make the color, tone curve, and split toning 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 and then call it a day.
It’s true that in order to create warm tones for your photo in Lightroom that you could just do this, however, it’s important to remember that this will “warm up” everything in your photo including your subjects skin tone.
This could cause an unnatural skin tone that looks fake and could cause your subject to look like they have a fake tan (unless that is the look you’re going for).
That’s why it’s important to also make adjustments and have a general knowledge in how to edit the color adjustment panel which I will be covering after the next step.
Now that you have adjusted the temperature to your liking, it’s time to dive into the tone curve.
3. Tone Curve Adjustments
I personally love playing with the tone curve.
It’s what really adds that pop and depth to your images.
Turning an average photograph, into a professional looking photograph. But 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 creating that depth I was talking about:
For this example, I will be using the S-shape tone curve as well.
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 will affect your histogram.
You may need to go back to your basic exposure adjustments and add additional tweaks, this is perfectly normal.
After you are happy with your tone curve and some depth and contrast has been added to your image, let’s talk about my favorite panel — the colors adjustment panel!
4. Color Adjustment Panel
After making adjustments to the temperature adjustment panel, this is a great panel to make smaller tweaks to our color to fix skin tones or objects in the background to revive its natural color while maintaining that warm, golden tone in the image.
This panel is also great for color grading.
I am a big fan of color theory and the power color can have on the emotion and mood of a photograph:
For the sake of this post, I will only dive into the basics and I will dive more into color theory in another blog as it can get pretty in-depth.
Because the color adjustment panel is my favorite panel, I spend most of my time in here.
With so many options and adjustments you could make within the color adjustments panel, it can be easy to go overboard or just get frustrated because you do not know where to start.
That is why it is crucial to go into the color adjustments panel with a game plan.
This way you won’t run into the classic scenario of adjusting a color, moving it back, then adjusting it again because you weren’t sure if you liked the original or newer adjustment (we’ve all been there).
In my mind, I categorize the color adjustments into two parts, the warmer colors and the cooler colors. This allows me to approach the colors with the game plan I mentioned earlier — looking at them as two families opposed to eight individual colors.
The warmer colors consist of the reds, oranges, yellows, and greens:
The cooler colors consist of the aquas, blues, purples, and magentas:
Since we want to add warm, golden tones to our image in Lightroom, our main focus will be on the warmer colors listed above.
We will still be adjusting the cooler colors, but it will be to complement the bigger adjustments on our warmer colors.
As you will see, each color can be broken down into hue, saturation, and luminance.
Color Adjustment Panel – Hue
Adjustments to the hue deal with the actual color tones in an image — allowing you to shift color tones to a different color range if you wished.
This is the best panel to make your adjustments in terms of color grading.
Diving into the basics of color theory for my image example, I want to edit my image to have a complementary color grade of blues and oranges:
Because of this, I will adjust all the hues in my warmer colors to have a more orange effect.
And I will adjust all the hues in my cooler colors to have a more blue effect.
For my example, there are not many blues in the image to begin with.
The bigger color grading will happen when we discuss split toning:
Color Adjustment Panel – Saturation
Adjustments to the saturation of a color determine how “colorful” you want the color to be.
Since I prefer to edit my photos on the more “moody” side, I always tend to bump my saturation down a tad bit:
You can play around with this slider to your liking. Be careful not to go too overboard with the saturation as this is a mistake many beginners make when first starting off with editing in Lightroom.
You don’t want your image to look fake or cartoonish (unless you actually do).
Color Adjustment Panel – Luminance
Adjustments to the luminance deal with the brightness of a certain color within the image.
This is a great slider to adjust the skin tones on your subject and it is up to your personal taste and how your image is looking so far after all the other edits you have made.
Since red, orange, or yellow are most commonly associated with the color of the skin tone, bumping up the luminance on these colors will brighten your subject’s skin tone.
For my example here, I bump up the luminance on the red:
Just remember, like all other edits, do not go overboard with any adjustments and less is more.
5. Split Toning
The split toning adjustments panel is great for adding those final touches to the existing warm, golden tones within your image.
The split toning adjustments allows you to add color to your highlights and shadows.
In this panel, I leverage the rectangle box they provide that allows me to select which color I specifically want to add:
Since we are adding warm tones to our image, we will want to add a yellow/orange color to our highlights to create that warm, golden effect.
Personally, I always add a bluish color to the shadows as well just to add that complementary color (going back to the idea of color theory I mentioned earlier):
I am sure to add this subtly to the image to not blow out the yellow-golden tone in my highlights and ruin all the other adjustments I made prior.
Split toning is a great tool to add more character to our photographs, and in this case, add a warmer tone to our image — so just like all the other adjustments, be careful not to go overboard.
I hope you learned how to add warm tones in your image and edit warm tones in Lightroom.
This is my 5 step process that I always run through when editing.
Of course, you can add other effects such as sharpness, grain, and noise reduction but those will not affect the warm tones within the image so I left those out for the sake of this post.
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate used to run his own professional photography business called Nate Joaquin Photography but has since focused on the marketing and business aspect of photography although he still enjoys taking photos. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.com.