Exploring Editing in Lightroom

I've only had Adobe Lightroom for about six months and I have a lot to learn about using it efficiently and effectively.  Yesterday I sat down and read more about using Lightroom presets and brushes to edit images.  Lightroom presets are steps that have been recorded and let you easily make changes to a picture, like turning it into a black and white image or warming it up.  Lightroom brushes let you make localized changes to an image, such as whitening the eyes and smoothing the skin. 
I learned that when you edit an image in the LR Develop module, you can save the changes you've made as a "Snapshot."  This lets you go back to that version easily after you play more.  I can see that being useful in making "before" and "after" pictures to compare and share.  I used some of the tips that I learned to edit the picture below.

Here's the "before" image that needs some work.

Here's the "after" image.
I think editing is useful in making a good picture better.  I like subtle edits.  This picture needed to be lightened -- it was underexposed and too dark.  After adjusting the exposure, I used the eye dropper to adjust the white balance slightly.  Then I used brushes to whiten her teeth and smooth her skin ever so slightly.  Can you tell? Last of all I used a brush to further increase the exposure on the left side of the picture below her arm. 

Here are two of the sites that I looked around at yesterday:

Engineered Serendipity

One of the things I love about photography is the surprises I get when I upload images to my computer.  I try to intentionally craft each photograph using lighting, composition, and patience.  Even so, every now and then something surprising shows up when I look through the images.  Sometimes it's a fleeting facial expression that got captured.  Sometimes it's how the aperture combined with the compositional elements.  Sometimes it's that the image turned out better than I was anticipating.

The picture above is an example of serendipity.  This little girl didn't hold still for very long.  I did not pose her in this position.  Capturing a picture of her in the foreground, looking forward, with her parents blurred slightly in the background on each side of her was somewhat miraculous.  :)

This picture is another example of serendipity.  I was doing a late afternoon shoot with this mother and daughter.  We had done a bunch of shots down in a valley and when we came back up (thinking we were done) the sun was just setting.  I had not expected to get any backlit shots, but was happy with this one.

One last example comes from an indoor session.  I was using my old camera on Live View, which involves the screen image blacking out for several milliseconds when taking the picture.  I knew I hadn't gotten any genuine smiles yet, but when I uploaded this last image I found out that during those last black milliseconds a genuine smile had appeared and been captured.

I enjoy these moments of "engineered" serendipity.