3 Basic Photo-Editing Tools This Pro Can't Live Without (VIDEO)

If you're a new Lightroom user bewildered by the software's vast array of features, this quick post-processing tutorial will calm you down and set you on a path for quick and effective edits—with three simple "must-use" tools that a respected pro says she uses for virtually every edit.

Instructor Lori Lankford works both as a photographer and professional image editor who regularly shares straightforward editing and shooting advice for making better macro, floral, and nature images. In barely seven minutes she reveals three favorite Lightroom tools and provides examples of her imagery to illustrate exactly how they work.

Lankford jumps right in to her first tip which is to examine Lightroom's histogram to see if there's room on the left side of the graph (the darks) and/or on the right side (the brights) to open them up for more details in shadows and highlights. Her first image of a slightly dingy white rose is a great example of how a simple adjustment can make all the difference by brightening photos in a very realistic way.

She similarly opens up the shadows a bit to achieve a nice balance of tones throughout the scene in which the flower remains very prominent. Next on the list is the thoughtful use of cropping. Lankford demonstrates how this simple task helps you accentuate a key element in a scene and direct the viewer's eye to exactly where you want it to go. And sometime this means breaking the rules by positioning a subject in the middle of the frame.

She also explains why you should consider breaking the Rule of Thirds, and why the simple act of flopping a photo may add more impact to a shot  She provides a couple interesting examples: One making use of leading lines and another in which she eliminates distracting elements and takes advantage of negative space.

Lankford concludes the video with a discussion of Lightroom's oft-ignored Tone Curve tool, and she puts it like this: "The Tone Curve is one of the least-used tools and it should be the most used." We'll let her demonstrate how to take advantage of this "essential" tool that she describes as a "reflection of the histogram"—with darks tones on the bottom and bright tones up above.

You'll see how easy it is to adjust one or both of these exposure attributes by dragging up or down on the Curve. The bottom line is this: Even if you're a Lightroom newbie, these three tools and enhancements will make a significant difference, and then you can experiment with more advanced techniques as your skills evolve.

Take a look at Lankford's instructional YouTube channel after watching this helpful lesson where you'll find much more of the same. Then check out the earlier tutorial we featured from another accomplished pro who reveals a simple formula for capturing dazzling fireworks on Thursday during Independence Day festivities.