In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to achieve the light and airy look in Lightroom CC. You can also follow this tutorial with Lightroom mobile, Lightroom Classic CC, or Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter. You’ll first learn how to desaturate colors without making skin tones look washed out. Then you’ll learn how to lighten the shadows without making your image look flat. Finally, you’ll learn how to convert this into a professional Lightroom preset that you can use on all of your photos. There are also 8 Lightroom mobile presets that you can download for free.
Reducing the Saturation
Before we start, make sure that your photos’ white balance and exposure has been corrected.
We’ll start by reducing the saturation. If you do this with the vibrance or saturation sliders, the skin tones will look washed out. So we’re going to use a different technique.
Go into the Color section and click on this button to bring up the color mixer. Click on the dropdown menu and select Saturation. Set the saturation to -50 for all of the colors except red, orange and yellow. Don’t worry too much about the settings because we’ll be fine tuning everything at the end.
Now switch to the luminance settings. Set the luminance to +50 for all colors except red, orange and yellow. As you can see, the image has a lighter look but the skin tones stay natural.
Lightening with the Dehaze Adjustment
If you want to make your photo Lighter, you can bump up the shadows. However, this might make the hair and skin look flat. A great alternative to this is the dehaze slider. Go to the Effects section and reduce the dehaze setting. This will add some fogginess to your photo but be very careful and don’t overdo it.
As you can see in this comparison image, adding some haze will give your photo a lighter look without the flat look that you get with the shadows adjustment. You can use a combination of both depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
Editing the Curves
Now we’re going to edit the tones with the curves. Go to the Light section and then click on this icon to bring up the curves editor.
If you’re not familiar with the curves, don’t worry because you can still follow along. But I recommend checking out my tone chart tutorial afterward. That video will help you understand how this tool works.
In some light and airy photos, you’ll notice that the image looks a bit dim but not underexposed. To recreate this, switch to the Point Curve mode.
Drag the top-right point downwards. This will drop the whites.
Add a point to the middle and move it back up to the center. This will move the midtones back to where they were before.
Making it Warmer/Cooler
If you want to make the effect warmer or cooler, don’t use the white balance. Instead, go to the curves and switch to the blue channel.
Add a point in the middle. Drag the point up to make it cooler or down to make it warmer. You only need to move it very slightly. I prefer to keep mine neutral so I’m just going to leave this alone.
Fine-Tuning the Settings
Now that we’re done with the overall effect, you go back into any setting and fine-tune it. Most of the fine-tuning will be in the color mixer. For example, I want the foliage to be a bit more blue for that film-like look. So I’ll go into the Hue settings and shift the green slider towards the right.
I’m also going to switch to the Luminance setting and lighten the greens. I’ll also do this to the yellows, but be careful with this setting because it can affect skin tones.
Saving a Light & Airy Preset
To save this as a preset, go to the Presets section.
Click on the panel menu and select Create Preset.
Give it a name, checkmark only the settings you’re using, then save. You can now apply this preset to any photo you like.
We’re done! Here’s how the image looks like before and after. This effect is ideal for wedding, portrait, and lifestyle photography.
Free Light and Airy Presets
If you like this effect, download my free light and airy Lightroom presets. There are 8 presets to choose from and you can use them with Lightroom on your laptop, tablet, or phone.
There’s also a Pro version that you can upgrade to (and if you do, thank you so much for your support – I really appreciate it). In the Pro version, you’ll get 50 Lightroom presets and 50 LUTs that you can use with other software like Affinity Photo, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro. Every preset also comes with a skin protected version that restores up to 75% of the original skin tones.