Three Lightroom Classic Develop Module Tips

by Andrew S. Gibson
Three Lightroom Classic Develop Module Tips

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If you want to get the most out of Lightroom Classic it helps if you know your way around the Develop module. But it’s easy to overlook some of the Develop module’s most useful tools, especially if you haven’t been using Lightroom Classic for long. So today I’m going to share three tips that will help you use it better.

Develop module tip #1: Make the most of before/after

You’re probably already aware that you can switch between before and after views of your photo by pressing the backward slash (‘\’) key.

By default the before version is a snapshot of your photo made when you imported it into Lightroom. If you applied a Develop Preset during the import you’ll see the results of that preset, if not you’ll see the straight out of the camera view.

But what you might not know is that there are several ways of changing the default view to something more useful.

Cycling before/after views

The first thing you can do is cycle between four before/after view options using the Y|Y button in the Toolbar (use the ’T’ keyboard shortcut to display the Toolbar if you can’t see it). This is helpful because it gives you four different ways of comparing the before and after versions of your photos.

The first two views are ideal for vertical photos.

Lightroom Classic before & after view
Lightroom Classic before & after view

The second two for horizontal photos.

Lightroom Classic before & after view
Lightroom Classic before & after view

Click the Loupe View icon in the Toolbar (or use the ‘D’ keyboard shortcut) to exit the before/after view.

The History panel

You can change the default before view in the History panel by right-clicking on the relevant entry and select Copy History Step Settings to Before from the menu.

Lightroom Classic History panel

Now, when you press the ‘\’ key (or use the the before/after views) Lightroom Classic uses the selected history step for the before view.

You can do the same in the Snapshots panel.

Lightroom Classic Snapshots panel

With this technique you can compare the current version of the photo with any step in the developing process.

For example, if you apply a Develop Preset to your photo, then tweak the settings, you can compare the two versions to make sure that you’ve made the photo better.

The same principle applies when you’re converting photos to black and white. The first thing you should do after setting treatment to Black & White is copy the History step to the before view. Now you can compare your photo at any time with the straight black and white conversion to ensure you’ve made it better.

Here you can see the straight black and white version on the left, and the final result on the right. It’s a big difference!

Lightroom Classic before and after view

Develop module tip #2: Understand the differences between similar sliders

There are several sliders that have similar functions in the Develop module. Because of that it’s important to understand which is the best one to use on your photo.

The Vibrance and Saturation sliders

The first pair of similar sliders are Vibrance and Saturation.

  • The Saturation slider affects all colors evenly.
  • The Vibrance slider affects less saturated colors more than saturated ones, helping you avoid the over-saturated look. It also avoids protects skin tones from over-saturation.

The examples below show how it works. Setting Vibrance to +50 increased the saturation of the model’s red dress and skin a little. Setting Saturation to +50 made a much bigger difference to both.

Develop module Vibrance and Saturation sliders

The Texture and Clarity sliders

The other pair of similar sliders are Texture and Clarity (note that the Texture slider isn’t available in Lightroom 6 or earlier).

  • Clarity emphasizes texture by increasing edge contrast.
  • The Texture slider increases the amount of medium size texture in a photo without affecting fine detail.

In plain language, the Texture slider has a more subtle effect than Clarity. The only exception is skin tones, where Texture has a greater effect.

These photos show how it works. The Texture slider has a greater effect on the model’s skin, and the Clarity slider increases the overall contrast of the photo. Both are effective with black and white photos.

Develop module Texture and Clarity sliders

Develop module tip #3: Use all the tools

It’s surprising how many photographers don’t venture beyond the Basic panel. Sure, you can do a lot with its sliders. But to take full advantage of Lightroom Classic’s power you need to learn how to use all its tools.

For example, here are three tools that make a huge difference to your photos. But do you know how to use them?

Profile. The profile affects the tonality and color treatment of your images. It’s one of the most important Develop module settings. That means it’s essential to know how to choose the best profile for your photo.

Here you can see the difference between the Classic Chrome (native to Fujifilm X camera Raw files) and Adobe Vivid profiles.

Develop module profiles

The HSL/Color panel. This gives you complete control over the colors in your photos. Do you ever get the situation where blue flowers come out purple because of the way that your camera sensor records the color blue? That’s easy to fix in the HSL / Color panel.

Here’s a photo of flowers that are supposed to be blue, as recorded by the camera.

Purple flower

And this is what they should look like, after the HSL/Color panel adjustments.

Develop module Color/HSL adjustments

Local adjustments. These are adjustments that you apply to part of the photo rather than all of it. Most photos can be improved using Lightroom Classic’s masking tools. As a result it’s essential to know how to use them properly if you want to get the best out of your photos.

Local adjustments in Develop module

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Tinus Kühn October 30, 2019 - 8:13 pm

Thanks so much for the informative notes and the excellent examples. I have gained so much insight.

Jay Hessey November 2, 2019 - 4:21 am

While converting a raw color photo to B&W is easy in the develop modual by clicking the Black and White button in the Treatment portion, when I go to save the B&W version as a jpeg using Export , my original raw shows B&W and I have to put that back into the Develop modual to change back to color reversing the Treatment move. Seems clumsy. Is there an easier way to create the b&w, convert to a jpeg and still leave the original raw color without that last step? Hope this is clear. Thanks


Andrew S. Gibson November 2, 2019 - 7:51 am

Hi Jay, try developing your photo in color, then creating a Virtual Copy and converting that to black and white. That should do it.

Jay November 2, 2019 - 8:27 am

Oh, what an interesting idea. Have never used the virtual file function so this will open it up for me. Thanks, will let you know how it comes out


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