Developing and editing
Without even leaving the Library module, you can use the Quick Develop panel in the right panel group to make some quick, but effective, adjustments. For more advanced image processing, the Develop module offers additional adjustment tools, as well as a more comprehensive and convenient editing environment.
Using Quick Develop in the Library module
The Quick Develop panel offers simple controls for making basic adjustments to color and tone, and a choice of develop settings presets. In the following example you’ll quickly improve the tonal balance of an image using the Auto Tone button.
- In the Filmstrip, select the file DSC_3637.jpg. You can see the name of the file in the tooltip that appears when you hold the pointer over its thumbnail, and also in the status bar above the Filmstrip when the image is selected.
- Double-click the selected image in the Filmstrip to open it in the Loupe view. To make more space available for a larger preview, hide the Filmstrip by pressing the F6 key or disable the menu option Window > Panels > Show Filmstrip. Hide the left panel group by pressing the F7 key or disable the menu option Window > Panels > Show Left Module Panels.
- In the Quick Develop panel, watch the tone distribution curve shift in the Histogram panel as you click the Auto Tone button.
- Click the triangle to the right of the Auto Tone button. Click twice each on the left-most button for the Highlights control and the right-most button for Shadows. Click the left-most Whites button once, the second button from the left for Blacks twice, and the right-most Clarity button three times.
As you can see from both the image preview and the distribution curve in the Histogram panel, this photo has a tonal imbalance: the lit area of the wall is overexposed, the shadowed areas are somewhat flat, and there is a lack of mid-tone detail.
You’ll notice an immediate and substantial improvement, especially in the brighter areas of the image; the adjustment has recovered a lot of detail from the overexposed wall. The shadowed areas show some improvement, but are still too dark. The peaks at either end of the histogram curve have shifted, but there is still a very apparent trough in the midtone range.
The histogram shows a greatly improved tonal distribution; there is more information in the midtone range and no obvious imbalance at either end of the curve. The adjusted image has much more detail in both the lit and shadowed areas.
Working in the Develop module
The controls in the Quick Develop panel let you change settings but don’t indicate absolute values for the adjustments you make to your images.
In our example there is no way to tell which parameters were modified by the Auto Tone adjustment, or by how much they were shifted. For finer control, and a more comprehensive editing environment, you need to move to the Develop module.
- Keeping the image from the previous exercise selected, switch to the Develop module now by doing one of the following:
- Click Develop in the Module Picker.
- Choose Window > Develop.
- Press Ctrl+Alt+2 / Command+Option+2.
The History panel not only lists every modification you’ve made to a photo—even Quick Develop adjustments made in the Library module—but also enables you to return the image to any of its previous states. The most recent entry—the last Clarity adjustment you applied—is at the top of the History list. The earliest entry, at the bottom of the list, records the date and time that the image was imported. Clicking this entry will revert the photo to its original state. As you move the pointer over each entry in the list, the Navigator displays a preview of the image at that stage of development.
The Basic panel displays information about the adjustment settings that was unavailable in the Quick Edit panel. For our image in its most recent state, the Exposure is set to -0.20, Contrast is set to -6, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, and Clarity are set to -90, +90, +9, -9, and +60, respectively.
For this image, clicking Auto Tone modified the Exposure setting only, but applying Auto Tone to another photo will produce different adjustment values.
By comparing the Before and After images, you can see how much you’ve improved the photo with just a few clicks.
Now let’s look at how much difference your manual Quick Develop adjustments made after applying Auto Tone.
There’s much more to learn about the tools and features in the Develop module, but we’ll leave that for later. For now you’ll straighten this slightly tilted photo, and then crop it.
Straightening and cropping an image
- Press D on your keyboard to activate the Loupe view in the Develop module.
- Click the Crop Overlay Tool (), located just below the Histogram in the right panel group. The Crop Overlay Tool enables you to both crop and straighten your image.
- When the Crop Overlay Tool is active, additional controls become available in a panel below the tool buttons. Click to select the Straighten tool (). The pointer changes to a crosshairs cursor, and the spirit level icon of the Straighten tool follows your movement across the preview.
- Look for a line in the image that should be either true horizontal or vertical. For this image, the only reliable reference is the post of the street-lamp. Drag a plumb line down through the center of the post with the Straighten tool. Release the mouse button; the image is rotated so that your plumb line becomes vertical and the Straighten tool returns to the Crop Overlay Tool controls.
- When you’re done, apply the crop by clicking the Crop Overlay tool, the Close button at the lower right of the tool controls, or the Done button in the Toolbar.
Lightroom has overlaid a cropping rectangle on the straightened photo, automatically positioned to achieve as large a cropped area as possible while trimming away the angled edges. If you wished to adjust the crop, you could drag any of the six handles on the cropping rectangle. To assist with manual cropping, you can choose from a variety of grid overlays in the Tools > Crop Guide Overlay menu, or hide the grid by choosing Tools > Tool Overlay > Never Show.
You can reactivate and adjust the crop at any time by simply clicking the crop tool.
Adjusting lighting and tonal balance
In a previous exercise you adjusted the Recovery control to darken highlights. For this exercise you will use the Fill Light feature to lighten areas that are too dark without affecting the rest of the tonal range.
- Press the F6 key to show the Filmstrip, and the F7 key to hide the left panels. In the Filmstrip, click to select the photo DSC_7556.jpg.
- Inspect the histogram at the top of the right panel group. It’s easy to see that the tonal distribution is uneven: data is clumped at both ends of the curve with a heavy bias towards the shadows and an obvious deficiency of information through most of the midtone range.
- In the Basic panel below the histogram, click the Auto adjustment button at the top of the Tone controls, noting the effect on the histogram curve as well as the image in the work area.
- Inspect the settings in the Basic panel. The Auto Tone adjustment has affected most of the Tone settings. Press Ctrl+Z / Command+Z to undo the adjustment, or show the left panels and click the Import entry in the History panel.
- In the Histogram panel, move the pointer slowly from left to right from one end of the graphed curve to the other. Each tonal range is highlighted as the pointer passes over it. In the Basic panel, the corresponding control is also highlighted.
- In the Basic panel’s Tone pane, drag the Exposure slider to the right, or type in the text box, to set a value of +0.2, noting the change in the histogram as well as the photo. Set the Contrast value to +20 and set the Highlights, Shadows, and Blacks to values of -60, +60, and +50 respectively.
- Set both the Clarity and Vibrance values to +50.
- Scroll down in the right panel group and expand the Lens Corrections panel; then, select the Profile mode in the picker at the top of the panel and click the check-box to activate the Remove Chromatic Aberration option.
- Activate any of the before and after views by clicking the triangle to the right of the Before/After button in the Toolbar and choosing from the menu. In the History panel, click between the Import entry and the most recent state, noting the improvement in the tonal distribution in the Histogram panel.
Like the image that you adjusted using the controls in the Quick Develop panel, this photo is another difficult case; captured in shadow on an gloomy day, and effectively back-lit by the glare of the overcast sky, the image is too dark and appears flat and dull.
Although the photo has brightened a little, it still appears flat and lifeless. The darker tones have shifted slightly to the right and the peak in the shadows range is not as sharp. The peak in the highlights is reduced, but the trough in the mid-tones is still a dominant feature.
This image requires an approach that addresses different tonal ranges separately. The Histogram panel can help you to identify the settings that need to be adjusted.
You’ll start by adjusting the Exposure—the setting indicated for the midtone range, and then work down through the other controls in the Basic panel.
The Clarity and Vibrance settings in the Basic panel’s Presence pane affect the image as a whole, rather than a specific tonal range. Increasing the Clarity adds depth and definition to an image by heightening the local contrast between adjacent areas of the image. The Vibrance slider alters the saturation of color in a non-linear manner, boosting less saturated colors more than bolder areas.
Your adjustments have brightened and intensified our underexposed lesson image. Unfortunately they have also intensified a digital artefact known as chromatic aberration, which results in colored fringes around pictured objects, usually most noticeable near the edges of a photo where the lens has been unable to accurately focus the different wavelengths of incoming light on the sensor.
Correcting lens distortion
The combination of perspective and the characteristics of the lens you use to capture a photograph may result in any of several types of distortion in an image.
Our lesson image shows pronounced keystone distortion, which occurs when an object is photographed from an angle rather than from a straight-on view. Keystone distortion is common in photos of tall buildings taken from ground level; the edges of the building appear closer to each other at the top than they do at the bottom.
Another common form of distortion is barrel distortion: a lens effect that is most noticeable in shots taken with a wide-angle lens, causing straight lines to bow out toward the edges of the image. The opposite of this effect is known as pincushion distortion, where straight lines in the image appear to bend inward.
- In the Lens Corrections panel, select the Manual mode at the top of the panel.
- Observe the effect on the image as you drag the Distortion slider through its range; then, set a value of +90. Set the Vertical Transform value to -80. Set a value of -3 for Horizontal Transform and reduce the scale to 75(%).
- Activate the Crop Overlay Tool (), below the Histogram panel. In the tool options pane below the tool buttons, click to unlock the padlock icon, if necessary, so that the crop is not constrained to the original aspect ratio.
- Drag the handles at the corners and sides of the crop overlay rectangle to surround as much of the photo as possible without including any of the gray image canvas; then, bring the left edge inwards a little, referring to the overlay grid to help you center the image in the cropping rectangle.
- Click the Crop Overlay Tool again to disable it and return to the Loupe view. Choose the Before/After Left/Right view from the menu in the Toolbar. When you’re done, click the Loupe view button () at the left of the Toolbar.
This combination of settings is too extreme to really be called a correction, but serves to demonstrate how the Transform controls work. You can see that the change has given the image a very different feel; the Lens Corrections panel’s Transform controls can be employed singly, or in any combination, not only to “correct” an image, but also to achieve effects.
Editing in another application
In the process of reducing the keystone distortion in our lesson photo without pushing the top of our towers out of the frame, the image has been compressed horizontally, giving it an uncomfortable, pinched look.
In this exercise, you’ll learn how to open a photo from your Lightroom catalog in an external image editing application to find a solution to a problem like this.
Photoshop or Photoshop Elements will be preselected as the default external editor, if either of those applications is installed on your computer, but you can also specify another application in the External Editing preferences.
- If you wish to specify an application other than Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, choose Preferences from the Edit (Windows) / Lightroom (Mac OS) menu. Under Additional External Editor on the External Editing pane of the Preferences dialog box, click the Choose button beside Application, select your favorite image editor, and then click Open / Choose. Click OK on Windows, or the red Close button on Mac OS, to close the Preferences dialog box.
- With the image DSC_7556.jpg still selected in the Filmstrip, choose the desired application from the Photo > Edit In menu.
- In the Edit Photo With... dialog box, activate the option Edit A Copy With Lightroom Adjustments under What To Edit. Under Copy File Options, choose your preferred file format, color space, and bit depth from the options available in the pop-up menus. You can either type a new value for Resolution, or accept the default; then, click Edit.
- In Photoshop, choose Image > Image Size. In the Image Size dialog box, disable the Constrain Proportions option. Under Pixel Dimensions, double-click to select the Width value and type a new value of 1100 (pixels). Leave the option Resample Image active and choose Bicubic Smoother (Best For Enlargement) from the resampling menu; then, click OK. Choose File > Close; then, click Save.
- In the Filmstrip, select the original photo, DSC_7556.jpg. Press the F7 key to show the left panels. In the History panel, click to select the Import entry.
- Switch to the Library module by clicking Library in the Module Picker across the top of the workspace.
- Click the Compare View button () in the Library module Toolbar to compare the original photo with the externally edited copy.
The image opens in your external editor. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume you’re working with Photoshop.
The edited copy of the photo opens in Lightroom. In the Filmstrip (and also in the Library module Grid view) the thumbnail for the externally edited copy is stacked with the original image.