The Basic Panel of the Develop Module

The Basic Panel of the Develop Module

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. In this blog post we will start our journey through the different panels with the settings and sliders of the Basic Panel.

Update of “The Basic Panel of the Develop Module”

Adobe ® Lightroom CC version 8.3 (May 2019) introduced a new slider to the Basic Panel: the Texture slider. Additionally, the Presence section was split into two sections separated by a horizontal divider so that color changing settings are now visually separated from the other settings. This blog post has been updated to include this slider. Compare the two panels in the figure below to see the difference.

Slider image

Adobe ® Lightroom’s Basic Panel up to version 8.2

Slider image

Adobe ® Lightroom’s Basic Panel since version 8.3

I have also adjusted the text slightly to improve its readability.

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.

Starting Point
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 Texture Slider and the Adobe Color Profile selected
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 appropriate tab.

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

Photo with Landscape Profile applied in the Basic Panel
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 it is much easier for me to use the eyedropper-tool instead.

Basic Panel with the Eyedropper Tool circled
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 true black or true white spot, Adobe ® Lightroom would reject it, though.

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

Basic Panel with new White Balance Settings
New White Balance Settings
Photo with new White Balance Settings applied in the Basic Panel
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 in the Basic Panel

Once more, I am starting with the settings which affect the entire photo: Exposure and Contrast, before fine-tuning Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and blacks. 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. Therefore I decided to 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 in the Basic Panel
Exposure and Contrast Settings

Now I change the Contrast. As you can see by the Contrast and Exposure slider’s color gradient, 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.

Image with new Exposure and Contrast settings applied
Image with new 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. Of course, the latter 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, so be careful not to overdo it.

Black Settings in the Basic Panel
Black Settings
Photo with Black Settings applied in the Basic Panel
Photo with Black Settings applied

If you compare the previous version with this one, you will notice 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 adjusted in the Basic Panel
White Settings
Photo with additional White Settings applied
Photo with additional 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 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.

Changing the Shadow Settings in the Basic Panel
Shadow Settings
Resulting image after I adjusted the Shadow slider in the Basic Panel
Resulting image after I adjusted the Shadow slider

Also, as the sliders before, this one affects the histogram too. 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 get some structure back into your clouds, so let’s look at our example’s effects.

Basic Panel's Hightlight Settings
Highlight Settings
Photo after the Hightlighs are adjusted
Photo after the Hightlighs are adjusted

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 Exposure slider’s upper right to let Adobe determine your settings. I cannot say that I often use this one, but then maybe if I were utterly uninspired one day, it could help 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 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 in the Tone section. 

Presence Settings in the Basic Panel

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 bring this photo to another level.

Texture

Adobe added the Texture slider with version 8.3 in May 2019 to Lightroom CC. While the Sharpening Settings, which we will look into when we examine the Detail panel, affect all frequencies’ pixels, the Texture slider only affects medium-sized details. This means that the Texture slider will not enhance, for example, grain or noise in your image.

With this rather new slider, you can improve portrait photos by decreasing the skin’s texture and smoothening it out while preserving the natural look. Or you can also improve other objects by increasing their texture and having, for example, a wooden door to look less smooth.

Decreasing Texture

To smoothen out the texture in a photograph, you move the Texture slider to the left, like in the next figure.


Smoothening the texture by moving the texture slider in the Basic panel to the left
Applying a negative Texture Value
Photo with a negative texture applied

As you can see in the image above, the rocks and edges look a lot smoother than before. However, in this case, I do not think that the negative texture value is doing anything good for our image. So let’s see what we get if we instead apply a positive texture value next.

Enhancing the Texture

If we move the Texture slider to the right, we give the image a more defined, rough look. Which suits our example-subject very well indeed.

Adding Texture to an image
Adding Texture to an image
Photo with added texture
Photo with added texture

If you compare the photo with the smoother texture and the last one, you will easily spot the differences. In this later version, the stones in the wall and the flowers in the foreground stand out much more, especially if you look at the big versions of these images on my website by clicking on them. Moving forward in this article, I will use the image with the enhanced texture.

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 the Basic Panel
Clarity Settings
Photo with applied Clarity Settings
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 the Basic Panel
Vibrancy Settings
Photo with applied Vibrancy Settings
Photo with applied Vibrancy Settings

Dehaze

The Dehaze slider helps to bring out details if there is mist or haze in the photo. Though there is not too much haze 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 it a bit more. Not only is the mist removed, but the increased dehaze setting also darkened the photo. However, countering on that by changing the exposure settings would introduce noise and reintroduce the just removed mist/haze again.

Dehaze Settings in the Basic Panel
Dehaze Settings
Dehaze Settings applied
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 the Basic Panel
Adding Saturation
Photo with added Saturation
Photo with added Saturation

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

Negative Saturation value setting
Negative Saturation value setting
Photo with a negative Saturation applied
Photo with a negative Saturation applied

The Result

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

Starting Point
Starting Point

To this final version.

This is our result
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 Module” IS NOT AUTHORIZED, ENDORSED OR SPONSORED BY ADOBE SYSTEMS INCORPORATED, PUBLISHER OF ADOBE ® LIGHTROOM

All photos taken by Lille Ulven Photography/Wiebke Schröder.

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