The Basic Panel of the Develop Module

The Basic Panel of the Develop Module

This post was updated on December 13th, 2020

Adobe ® Lightroom’s Develop Module explained

In the following articles of this series, we explore the Develop Module of Lightroom, while post-processing a photo. Most of the time one article explores one sub-panel in detail to discover its potential. 

As shown in the Starting with Lightroom article, I already have applied the Lens Correction to this photo, and the import assigned the Adobe Color profile to the image.

In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Starting Point

Choosing a (camera) profile

My second step is to choose the suiting color profile for my photograph. This because it affects the entire image and has an influence on how far I have to push the sliders for the desired result. 

Basic Module with the Adobe Color Profile

The display of different profiles can be changed, by clicking on the up/down arrow on the right side of the panel. 

Profile selection with the Grid preview
Profile selection Large preview
Profile selection with the List view

Hovering over the profiles also shows a preview of the profile applied to your current photo in the center. 

Also, you can choose to show only Color, only Black and White (Monochrome) or All types of profiles by clicking on the appropritate tab.

In this case, I am opting for the Adobe Landscape profile. It brings out more detail than the initial Adobe Color profile. 

In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with the Adobe Landscape profile applied

As you can see, the shadows are a little brighter, and, in my opinion, the blue in the sky is silghtly enhanced. However, there is more in the Basic panel that I can do to improve the photo.

Changing the White Balance

Since I am working on a RAW file, I can change the White Balance of the initial photo to anything I like. I could use the sliders for Temperature and Tint to change the White Balance, but I find it much easier to use the eyedropper-tool instead.

Basic Panel with the Eyedropper Tool circled

Hovering over the photo, I am trying to find a relatively neutral area in the image. A neutral area means the percentage values for R(ed), G(reen), and B(lue) are as close as possible. If I chose a spot of true black or true white, Adobe ® Lightroom would reject it.

While hovering with the eyedropper tool over different sections of the image,  I can see a grid with the RGB percentages. Even more helpful is the preview shown in the small navigator window. So I am not only looking for the percentage values, but also an appealing preview.

New White Balance Settings
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with new White Balance applied

In this case, the original White Balance is not very far off from what I eventually picked. However,  it does make a difference.

Tone Settings

Once more I am starting with the settings which affect the entire photo: Exposure and Contrast, before fine-tuning Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and blacks. However, let’s see this step by step.

A short key to getting some good starting point for these six settings is to <Shift>-Doubleclick on the Setting’s name.

Exposure and Contrast

As you can see, by looking at the Histogram in the top right, the photo appears ever so slightly underexposed. So I move the Exposure slider a little to the right to compensate for that. Too much and I lose detail in the sky, which is not desirable either. 

Exposure and Contrast Settings

Now I change the Contrast. As you can see by the color gradient of the Contrast and Exposure slider, the sliders work in opposite directions. Moving the Exposure slider to the right brightens the photo up while moving the Contrast slider to the right darkens the photo. Very often, though not always, you will, therefore, find yourself moving the Exposure and Contrast slider in opposite directions.

In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Exposure and Contrast Settings applied

Blacks

Unless you have a photo of bright colors only, with no blacks, you will most likely want your black to be pitch black and not dark grey. However, if your blacks are too dark, it would mean that your grays might be drifting into blacks too. The latter, of course, needs to be avoided, unless you need them to be that dark for some reason. The Blacks slider is going to help you with this task.
Yes, changing the Blacks, Whites, Highlights, and Shadows affects the histogram as well, so be careful not to overdo it.

Black Settings
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with Black Settings applied

If you compare the previous version with this one, you will notices that for example, the rocks got darker, but the darkening in the sky is barely noticeable. This, because the Blacks slider affects the darkest areas of an image.

Whites

The white parts of your subject should, of course, be white in your photo as well. Say, you would take images of a bride in her white dress, it should look white, not dirty-grey, right? The White slider can, to a degree, save you from burned out whites as well as from grayish looking brides’ dresses.

White Settings
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with White Settings applied

In this little example, the most noticeable effect is the brightening of the sky. Also, if you look carefully at the histogram, you can see that it has changed too.

Shadows

The Shadows slider effects, how could it be different, the shadows of the image. In the case of this example, it brightens the rocks a little and adds detail to the photo. At first, the result might look as if you now had an overexposed photo, but we address this problem with the Highlights slider in the next step.

Shadow Settings
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with Shadow Settings applied

Also, as the sliders before, this one also affects the histogram. If you look carefully, you can see less black clipping than before. 

Highlights

It should not come as a surprise that the Highlights slider affects the highlights in the image. Yea, I am sincerely sorry that it won’t bake cookies for you now… 

However, the good news is, that it can help you to get some structure back into your clouds, so let’s look at the effects in our example.

Highlight Settings
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with Highlight Settings applied

How do I know what values to set those sliders too?

Of course, I could set all sliders by try and error, but they not only work for themselves but with each other, which might make finding the perfect settings a little cumbersome. So three tricks can help you out.

Click on the word Auto in the upper right of the Exposure slider to let Adobe determine your settings. I cannot say that I use this one often, but then maybe if I were utterly uninspired one day it could help to give me a starting point.

You can shift-double-click on the slider’s name, and let Adobe find the setting for you.

If that doesn’t work for you, it should at least provide you with a good start.

Or you could hit the ALT key while moving the slider. It gives you an alternate view of your image, where the black areas are those that are not affected by your settings and the bright colors are those that are.

And, if nothing helps, and all you want is to set one of them back into its initial position, you double-click on the setting’s name.

The good news: the last two tips work on all sliders. 

Presence Settings

Until now the photo does not pop, not that it should look like a box of drops, but something is lacking. We’ve laid a good foundation, but the Presence settings are there to bring out the detail, and to bring this photo to yet another level.

Clarity

The Clarity Slider effects the mid-tone contrast. So opposed to the Contrast Slider, it does only make minor changes to the histogram, even if you moved it all the way to the right. Try it 🙂
In this example, I removed contrast and then added clarity.

Clarity Settings
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with applied Clarity Settings

As you can see, the castle’s details are much more pronounced now.

Vibrancy

If you want natural enhancements of the colors in a photo, you should try out the Vibrancy slider rather than the Saturation slider. While Saturation affects all colors in a photo, Vibrancy only affects muted colors. So moving the Saturation slider to the right, might turn your landscape into a box of candy rather than a natural looking photograph.

Vibrancy Settings
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with Vibrancy Settings applied

Dehaze

The Dehaze slider helps to bring out details if there is mist or haze in the photo. Though there is not too much in this one, I find the effect pretty. Usually I would not set the dehaze slider to a value above +30 to avoid overdoing it; however, there is creative freedom. So in this particular photo, I like using a bit more. Not only is the mist removed, but it also darkened the photo. Countering on that by changing the exposure settings, would, however, introduce noise and the just removed mist/haze again.

Dehaze Settings
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with Dehaze Settings applied

Saturation

As mentioned above, I would not recommend moving this slider to the right, except for checking the White Balance. Remember, the Saturation Slider works on all colors, muted as well as saturated ones. Enhancing the saturation on already saturated colors can easily lead to a non-natural looking photo – almost as if there had been a “turn everything into a candy box” filter on your lens. Let’s have a look:

Adding Saturation
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with a positive Saturation value applied

However, moving the Saturation slider to the left helps to create Black and White images, or like here, to finetune the overall saturation of a photo.

Negative Saturation value setting
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
Photo with a negative saturation value setting

The Result

During this article, we have gone from this unprocessed photo (well, almost, the lens corrections and a color profile was already applied.)

In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
This is where we started
In this tutorial we are exploring the basic panel of Adobe ® Lightroom's Develop Module, slider by slider, while post-processing one photo.
This is our result

So while reading about it has taken you some time, I would typically be able to create this result within two to five minutes. Though I have to admit, this one is a little bit special. The initial post-processing that I had done looked different, so I started from scratch again while writing this article. The final result reached here is different from the original final, and I do like it better…so I guess that means I worked about 10 minutes on this one then 😀 



All trademarks and copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

I am in no way affiliated with any of the products used in this post-processing process. I do not receive any kind of compensation for this article, it was neither offered or asked for.

THIS BLOG ARTICLE “The Basic Panel of the Develop ModuleX” IS NOT AUTHORIZED, ENDORSED OR SPONSORED BY ADOBE SYSTEMS INCORPORATED, PUBLISHER OF ADOBE ® LIGHTROOM

All photos taken by Lille Ulven Photography.

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