How to Create a Clean, Bright and White Look in Lightroom

Achieve a bright and airy look with this Lightroom tutorial. You’ll learn how to perform the base retouching steps such as fixing the white balance. Then you’ll learn the unique combination of color settings that will give you a clean white look. You’ll also learn how to manually lighten dark spots and finally, you’ll complete it by adding a soft and subtle glow. A free light and airy Lightroom preset is included at the end of the tutorial.

Preview of Final Results

Step 1

Here’s the photo that I’ll be using for this Lightroom tutorial. You’ll notice that the walls aren’t perfectly white.

A key ingredient to the bright and airy look is the photo you’re starting off with. You’ll find that Instagram influencers who use this look get very specific with the color scheme of their photos. Everything from the decor to the walls are carefully chosen to get the white and brown color palette.

The interior design of the home has a clean white aesthetic. I specifically chose this photo with large areas of blacks to show you that your photos don’t need to be ultra-minimalistic with no dark colors.

Step 2

First, we’ll fix the white balance. Go to the Color section and select the Eyedropper tool. Click on a white part in your photo. As you can see, the white balance makes a dramatic difference.

If you need to increase the exposure, you can do so. Often times we don’t notice that an image is too dark/light until after we fix the white balance.

Step 3

The walls in the photo aren’t pure white even after fixing the white balance. To further give it a white look without desaturating everything, you can use this combination of Vibrance and Saturation settings:

  • Vibrance: -50
  • Saturation: +50

These settings are just a starting point. You should adjust them to fit your photo. Don’t go overboard with these settings (ex. Vibrance -90, Saturation +90) – it can make skin tones look gray and flat.

As you can see, the walls look whiter than before.

Step 4

If there’s any other overpowering colors in your photos, go to Color > Color Mixer > Saturation. Use this tool to desaturate vibrant colors. Since there’s none in our photo, we’ll skip this.

Note: Use this minimally. It can be tempting to desaturate everything and end up with a dull photo.

Step 5

Next, we’re going to use the Brush tool to lighten dark areas in your photo. Select the Brush tool and set the Exposure to something high, such as 3-4. We’re using a high number so that it’s easier for you to see where you’re brushing.

Brush over the dark spots in your photo then lower the exposure.

If you want to use a different exposure setting for different areas, you’ll need to add another brush adjustment. You can do this by clicking the + icon on the top.

Here’s how the photo looks like before and after brushing. Remember, you’re not trying to make everything light and bright to a point where it’s unrealistic. You’re choosing the areas that need to be lighter. For my photo, I purposely left the top-right spot darker to hide the mess up there.

Step 6

Finally, to complete the look we’ll reduce the Dehaze setting. Go back to the Develop settings and then go into the Effects section.

Start by reducing the Dehaze setting. Dehaze is typically used to bring back detail in foggy landscapes. But if you use a negative dehaze setting, it will give your photo an ethereal glow. Use a minimal amount such as -10.

To bring back some detail, increase the texture setting.

Here’s the before and after of this step. By using a minimal setting, you can give your photos a brighter look while keeping it realistic.

Final Results

We’re done! Here’s how the photo looks like after giving it a clean and bright look.

Download the Clean and Bright Lightroom Preset

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