Lightroom Develop Tips

So far we have gone through speeding up Lightroom, importing into Lightroom, and organizing your photos in the Library Module with Lightroom. Now it’s time to cover some Lightroom Develop Tips. The Develop module is where the magic happens within Lightroom. It’s where you get to decide how you want to present your photos to the world. 

Remember, all RAW files begin in the middle. By this, I mean that a RAW is adjusted for middle contrast, middle highlights, middle shadows and so on. This is because a wedding photographer definitely wants a different look to their final product compared to say a nature photographer or sports photographer.

Lightroom Develop Tips - Presets (1)

Like all the other modules in Lightroom, the Develop Module has the ability to create presets for the bulk of what you want to do to a photo. I have hundreds of presets in my Develop Module. This is mostly because I purchased the now defunct VSCO Film Presets. VSCO Presets emulated the film I used to shoot and they worked with most of today’s modern digital cameras. 

VSCO basically took all these types of film and ran them them through a camera, while simultaneously taking the same shot with a digital counterpart. They then constructed presets for the Develop Module of Lightroom. These presets gave you one-click control for processing your photo to look like the selected film. 

VSCO stopped updating and even selling these presets this spring. I made sure that I downloaded them prior to the presets being pulled from the VSCO website. As a professional photographer I can be bought, if you want them! Again, kidding, but not really.

Lightroom Develop Tips - It’s Not Preset It and Forget It

While the VSCO presets give you a one-click adjustment set for your photo, my Lightroom develop tips, don’t suggest you leave it at that. I will tell you that many of the VSCO presets will over-contrast and over-saturate your photo right out of the box. In some cases of course. 

So like any AUTO adjustment, use it as a starting point. Use a critical eye when processing your photo. I personally want my shadows to be black, but not so black the photo looks muddy. I want my highlights to be seen throughout their range most of the time. 

Processing a photo that attracts people to your work takes time and practice. The beauty of Lightroom is that every adjustment is non-destructible. In addition, every adjustment is available for update and refinement as the software and your image-making progresses.

Other Preset Options

The final Lightroom develop tips for presets is that I also create develop presets for repetative tasks. For instance, I know that if I shoot a photo at ISO 3200 with my Leica SL, I prefer to add 30 points of Luminance Noise Reduction to that photo. So I have created a preset that I can add across all of my photos from a particular shoot that were taken at ISO 3200.

To accomplish this task quickly, I just use the metadata search within the Library Module, choose ISO Range and select all of the photos that were taken at 3200 and apply my preset. 

I have also created the mother-load of Brush, Radial Filter, and Graduated Filter presets. Then I put them in a numerical order to help find and remember them. This makes me even faster when processing photos. 

Auto Sync (2)

The Auto Sync switch is another tool within the Develop Module that I use during almost every processing edit. Auto Sync allows you to simultaneously add the same adjustments to every photo you have selected. This functionality is amazing for finalizing an entire burst sequence of photos.

Note: Two things. You need to have 2 photos selected to see the Auto Sync option and if you have never used it before you will need to turn it on with the “switch” to the left.

Lightroom Develop Tips - History/Snapshots (3)

If you have ever used Photoshop, you probably know about the History function. Similar to Photoshop, Lightroom has a History function, but with so much more power in my opinion. History in Photoshop ends once you close the file and you cannot hold a particular place within your editing history either. 

In Lightroom, your processing history only goes away if you clear it from a particular file. Within the History Panel you also have Snapshots. When you create a Snapshot in Lightroom, that particular point in your Develop History is saved separately so you can revert back to it later. The Snapshot history remains until you choose to delete it as well. 

This Lightroom develop tips is huge when deciding on the final look of a photo. You can save a single image in color, high-key or even black & white to revisit with a single click later in the week, day or year.

Lightroom Develop Tips for Speed

Have you not read my article on speed yet? Hit pause and go read it. Now! Workflow through the Develop Module is pretty important if you want to keep your computer running faster. First remove dust, then global adjustments, and finally targeted adjustments. There I said it, but now go read it. There’s even more to it.

Lightroom Develop Tips - Reorder Tool Panels (4) & (5)

Adobe recently added the ability for users to customize the order of the tool panels in the Develop Module. Just right click over any Tool Panel Title like “Basic” or “Tone Curve” etc. and choose Customize Develop Panel…

Then it’s just a simple drag and drop to reorder the tool panels to your liking. I put the ones I use most up front and even turned some of the panels off.

One other little thing you may have noticed from my screen shot is that I have also turned off all of the modules that I never use. Basically all but Library and Develop. 

That’s basically everything that I have for Lightroom Develop Tips. Other than giving you a play by play on the individual adjustments, but that is where you can shine. Use those sliders as a doorway to creativity and see what happens. Remember all of the adjustments you make are non-destructive so have at it!

Lightroom 5 Develop Video

It’s a bit dated from the newer version’s features, but the concepts remain the same.

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