In Part 1 of this series, I explained the basics of how Lightroom works, the best way to import your photos, and the different options you have when culling your images. In Part 2, I want to show you the essentials of the Develop module. This module is the area of Lightroom where you can color correct, crop, straighten, sharpen, and perform several other adjustments as well.
Briefly, here is what you need to know about the Develop module. On the right of your image are a number of tabs. The Basic tab is the one that you will use most often. Here will be where you perform the majority of the adjustments that you will make to your image. Using adjustment sliders, you can manipulate your image’s color and exposure in a number of different ways. Each slider performs a specific purpose, and it is worth the time to get a feel for what each one does by sliding them up and down and seeing the effect it has on your photo. Since all edits in Lightroom are non-destructive, all changes can be undone and reverted back to the original at any time.
Eventually, all of the different tabs will be worth looking into and mastering, but if you are just starting out, there are two other tabs that are important at this time to familiarize yourself with. First, is the Detail tab. Even though there are a number of sliders located here, this tab’s only purposes are to control the sharpening and noise reduction of a photo. Sharpening is an adjustment that can be beneficial to almost every photo, and there are several options for doing this here. Noise reduction is beneficial to understand as well, especially to photos that have a higher ISO and contain more noise than you prefer. The second tab that is worth getting to know is the Effects tab. The primary use you will have for this tab early on is controlling the vignette you have on your photo. This tab also has sliders for adding grain, as well as a dehaze slider that is useful as well. If you stick with these three tabs when starting out, you will be able to do almost anything that a photo needs for a beginner.
After you make your way through the tabs, there is one more set of tools that you need to know. Directly above the Basic tab is a row of six tools. The first tool is the Crop tool. With this tool, you can drag the corners to adjust the crop of an image, or rotate the box to straighten it. Holding the shift key while cropping will lock the aspect ratio so it doesn’t change while adjusting. The second tool is the Spot Removal tool. While it isn’t as capable as using tools in Photoshop, it is useful for quickly removing small objects out of your image. The spot removal tool works by automatically detecting another place in the image that would be a good place to clone from. You can change the area that the tool is cloning from manually by dragging it if needed. The third tool is for red-eye removal and is fairly straightforward in how it works. Finally, the last three tools are for adjusting sections of an image without adjusting the entire thing. The tools, listed in order, are the gradient filter, radial filter, and adjustment brush. These tools basically do the same function, with the main difference being the way in which they select the area that you are adjusting. Adding one of these three tools applies an adjustment to a certain part of an image, and then you can go back and use the tool’s sliders to change the setting over the specified area. Simply delete the filter from the image if you want to remove the changes.
Applying edits to multiple images is easy in Lightroom. Below all of the slider tabs, you will see a couple of options. The Previous button will apply all of the adjustments made to the prior image to the one you are currently viewing. If you select multiple images, the Previous button becomes the Sync button. Select all of the images you would like to apply the same changes to and make sure you have the correct edited image viewing that you want to source the changes from. If you push the sync button, a settings box will open up allowing you to select exactly which adjustments you would like to apply to the other selected images. Be careful to uncheck boxes like spot removal, as you likely don’t want to apply the removing of a specific area to several images.
Lastly, here are a couple of tips to help you as your work in the Develop module:
- Lightroom has a number of shortcut keys that are worth getting to know. For example, holding down the space bar will quickly turn any tool into a magnifying tool to zoom into certain parts of an image.
- Pressing the backslash key will show you the before version of the edited image. This is always helpful to view when you are finished editing an image to make sure you are happy with the adjustments you have made.
- The alt key has several functions in Lightroom. Holding down the alt key while using several of the sliders will show you a different view of what is being applied to the image. This is especially helpful in the Effects tab. Holding down the alt key also locks the center point in place while cropping, turns the adjustment brush into an adjustment eraser, and does several other things as well.
Lightroom is a great tool, but one that can be overwhelming. While it will take years for most people to master such a diverse software, learning the basics isn't as difficult as you would think. Hopefully, the first two parts of this series will give you enough of an understanding to be successful at organizing and editing your images. In the final part of this series, I will show you how to add metadata to your photos, rename them, and finally export them properly.