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Develop module image editing

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Adobe Press.
  • Date: Feb 20, 2018.

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC Book, author Martin Evening discusses smarter image processing with Lightroom, including how to use the Develop module interface, the Basic panel, the Tone Curve panel, and more.

Easing the workflow

Virtual copies and synchronizing your develop settings across a sequence of images can all give you more creative flexibility, as can the use of Presets in Lightroom.

Making virtual copies

In addition to making snapshot versions, you can create virtual copies of your master photos by going to the Library module and choosing Photo ➯ Create Virtual Copy (p0334_01.jpg [Mac] or p0334_02.jpg [PC]). This makes a virtual copy of the master image (Figure 4.110) that is automatically grouped in a stack with the master photo. When viewing the Library Grid view or Filmstrip, you can tell which images are virtual copies by the turned-page badge in the bottom-left corner. As the name suggests, you are making a proxy version of the master. It may look and behave like a separate photo, but it is, in fact, a virtual representation of the original master that you can continue to edit in Lightroom as if it were the original image.

Figure 4.110

Figure 4.110 A Virtual copy image.

So, what is the difference between a virtual copy and a snapshot? Well, a snapshot is a saved history state that is a variation of the master. You have the advantage of being able to synchronize specific edit adjustments across all the snapshot versions but lack the potential to create multiple versions as distinct entities that behave as if they were actual copies of the original. A virtual copy is therefore like an independent snapshot image, because when you create a virtual copy, you have more freedom to apply different types of edits and preview these edits as separate image versions. You could, for example, create various black-and-white renderings and experiment with alternative crops on each virtual copy version. The example on the page opposite shows how you might use the Compare view mode to compare a virtual copy version of a photo alongside the master version (or you could use the Survey view to compare multiple versions at once). Virtual copies also make it possible for you to create collections that have different settings. For example, you can use the Create Virtual Copy command to create black-and-white versions as well as colorized versions from a master image, and then segregate these virtual copies into separate collections.

You also have the freedom to modify the metadata in individual virtual copy images. For example, you may want to modify and remove certain metadata from a virtual copy version so that when you create an export from the virtual copy, you can control which metadata items are visible in the exported file. For instance, when submitting photos to clients, you may wish to exclude certain metadata that cannot normally be removed automatically at the export stage.

Making a virtual copy the new master

Once you create one or more virtual copies, you can then choose the Photo ➯ Set Copy as Master command to make any virtual copy version of an image become the new master version (and make the old master version become a virtual copy).

  1. As you make new virtual copies of a master file, these are automatically stacked with the original master image.

  2. One of the advantages of having virtual copy versions of a master file is that you can explore applying different Develop settings and compare these against the original master.

Synchronizing Develop settings

Let’s look at ways the Develop settings can be applied to multiple images. Whenever you have a selection of images selected in the Develop module, the Previous button changes to Sync (Figure 4.111). Clicking the Sync button lets you synchronize the Develop settings across two or more photos, based on the settings in the target photo, and opens the Synchronize Settings dialog (or you can use the p0337_03.jpg [Mac] or p0337_04.jpg [PC] keyboard shortcut ). If you hold down the p0012_04.jpg key, the Sync button loses the ellipsis (Figure 4.112), and clicking the button will bypass the Synchronize Settings dialog and apply a synchronization based on the last used Synchronize settings. In this mode you will see a Set Default button. This lets you set the current Develop settings as the new default settings for files shot with this particular camera plus this specific serial number and ISO setting. What gets set here all depends on how the preferences have been configured (see page 353).

Figure 4.111

Figure 4.111 The Sync… and Reset buttons.

Figure 4.112

Figure 4.112 Holding down the p0012_04.jpg key bypasses the Synchronize Settings dialog.

If you click Check All in the Synchronize Settings dialog, every item will be checked. If you click Check None, you can then choose any subset of synchronization settings. Whether you choose to save everything or just a subset of settings, this will have important consequences for how the photos are synchronized. If you choose Check All, everything in the selected image will be synchronized. In some cases, this might well be the easiest and most practical option. But you will not necessarily always want to synchronize everything across all the selected photos. Sometimes you’ll need to think carefully about which specific settings you should synchronize. If not, you may end up overwriting settings that should have been left as they were (although you can always recover a previous image version via the History panel on an image-by-image basis). For example, if your imported photos have the camera default settings applied for Sharpening, Noise Reduction, and Calibration, you will want to be careful not to overwrite these settings. The sync behavior can also be critically affected by the process version of the most selected and other photos (see Note).

Auto Sync mode

If you p0012_04.jpg-click (Mac) or p0012_04.jpg-click (PC) the Sync button, it switches to Auto Sync mode (see Figure 4.113) and stays as such until you click the Auto Sync button to revert back to Sync mode again. In Auto Sync mode, you first make a selection of photos, and as you adjust the Develop settings for the most selected image, you will see these adjustments propagated across all the images in the selection. You will notice that there is a switch next to the left of the Sync/Auto Sync buttons. Clicking this toggles between the Sync and Auto Sync modes, or you can use the p0336_01.jpg (Mac) or p0336_02.jpg (PC) keyboard shortcut. Lastly, there is the Reset button, which can be used to reset photos back to their Lightroom default settings.

Figure 4.113

Figure 4.113 Hold down the p0039_01.jpg key (Mac) or p0012_03.jpg key (PC) to switch to the Auto Sync mode.

  1. The Develop settings in the most selected photo can be synchronized with other photos in a selection by clicking the Sync button (circled) or using the p0337_03.jpg (Mac) or p0337_04.jpg (PC) keyboard shortcut.

  2. In the Synchronize Settings dialog, I selected the Check All settings option. This should be used with caution, because synchronizing everything may overwrite important Develop settings in the selected photos.

Copying and pasting Develop settings

Another way to synchronize images is to copy and paste the Develop settings from one photo to another using the Copy and Paste buttons in the Develop module (Figure 4.114). You can also do this by selecting a photo from the Library Grid or Filmstrip and use p0338_01.jpg (Mac) or p0338_02.jpg (PC) to copy the settings. Either method opens the Copy Settings dialog shown in Figure 4.115. Here, you can specify the settings you want to copy. If you p0012_04.jpg-click the Copy button, you can bypass this Copy Settings dialog completely. So, if you had previously clicked the Check All button to apply all the settings in the Copy Settings dialog, p0012_04.jpg-clicking the Copy button copies all settings without showing the dialog. After you have copied the Develop settings, you can select a photo or selection of photos via the Library module Grid view or Filmstrip and click the Paste button to apply the current copied settings (or use the p0338_03.jpg [Mac] or p0338_04.jpg [PC] shortcut). Incidentally, Library Grid copying and pasting performance has been improved in this latest version of Lightroom and now is slightly faster than Bridge.

Figure 4.114

Figure 4.114 The Copy and Paste buttons in the bottom-left section of the Develop module.

Figure 4.115

Figure 4.115 The Copy Settings dialog.

Applying a previous Develop setting

As you navigate the Filmstrip, Lightroom temporarily stores the Develop settings for each photo you click on and thereby allows you to apply a previous Develop setting to any photo. When you apply a previous Develop setting, the Copy Settings dialog does not open because clicking the Previous button simply applies all the Develop settings from the previously selected photo. You can also use the p0338_05.jpg (Mac) or p0338_06.jpg (PC) shortcut to apply a Previous setting. If more than one photo is selected in the Filmstrip, the Previous button will say Sync instead. If you still wish to apply a Previous setting, hold down the p0217_10.jpg key and the Sync button will change to Previous. Click it and Lightroom will apply a copy of the previous image settings to the most selected photo in the Filmstrip.

  1. Whenever you select a photo in the Filmstrip, Lightroom automatically stores the Develop settings as a Copy All setting.

  2. If you then select another photo in the Filmstrip and click the Previous button, this pastes all the Develop settings from the previously selected photo.

Lightroom and Camera Raw compatibility

Lightroom and Camera Raw share the same Camera Raw processing engine. This means any development adjustments that are applied in one program can be recognized and read by the other. However, you need to bear in mind that new features are added with each new Camera Raw release, making Camera Raw version-specific. If you are subscribed to a Creative Cloud plan, you will have immediate access to the latest updates for Lightroom and Photoshop and can therefore maintain full compatibility. You can open files processed in earlier versions of Camera Raw or Lightroom and edit them. But problems can arise when you share files that have been edited in the latest version of Lightroom or Camera Raw with someone using an older version. This is because Lightroom and Camera Raw cannot be expected to provide full backward compatibility for older versions. For example, if you are using the most current version of Lightroom, you can add Guided Upright corrections and apply Dehaze adjustments. If you edit an image using these controls and share the raw files, only another user using the same version of Camera Raw or Lightroom will be able to read the files and edit the Guided Upright and Dehaze settings. If you share the files with someone using an older (incompatible) version of Camera Raw or Lightroom, the person will be able to open the file and see the later verison edit changes applied in the preview but not have the controls to edit these adjustments. Therefore, you need to take version compatibility into account when sharing catalogs or exported raw files with other Lightroom users.

Making Camera Raw edits accessible in Lightroom

For Camera Raw edits to be visible in Lightroom, you need to make sure that image adjustments applied in Camera Raw are also saved to the file’s XMP space. To do this, launch Photoshop and choose Photoshop ➯ Preferences ➯ Camera Raw to open the Camera Raw Preferences dialog (Figure 4.116). In the dialog, go to the “Save image settings in” menu and select “Sidecar ‘.xmp’ files.”

Figure 4.116

Figure 4.116 To keep the Camera Raw edits in sync with Lightroom, you need to make sure that the Camera Raw settings are always saved to the sidecar .xmp files.

Making Lightroom edits accessible in Camera Raw

To allow Camera Raw to read Develop module adjustments that have been applied in Lightroom, you need to save the edits to the files’ XMP space. You can do this by choosing Photo ➯ Save Metadata to File, or by using the p0341_01.jpg (Mac) or p0341_02.jpg (PC) keyboard shortcut.

Keeping Lightroom edits in sync

If Lightroom detects that a file’s metadata has been edited externally, Lightroom displays a metadata status conflict warning badge in the thumbnail cell (providing you have the Unsaved Metadata option checked in the Library View options: Grid View Cell icons section). This may appear as an upward arrow (Figure 4.117), indicating the metadata has been edited externally, such as in Camera Raw. Clicking this badge opens the dialog shown in Figure 4.118, where you can choose to import the settings to Lightroom or overwrite with the current Lightroom settings. You can instead import external settings by choosing Metadata ➯ Read Metadata from files (in the Library module) or Photo ➯ Read Metadata from file (in the Develop module). If you are unsure about the current metadata conflict status, choose Library ➯ Synchronize Folder (Figure 4.119). The Synchronize Folder command will run a quick check to determine if everything is in sync between Lightroom and update the badge icons for any metadata conflicts.

Figure 4.117

Figure 4.117 A Grid view of an image where the metadata has been edited in an external application.

Figure 4.118

Figure 4.118 The metadata status change warning dialog.

Figure 4.119

Figure 4.119 The Synchronize Folder command can run a quick scan for metadata updates.

Synchronizing Lightroom with Camera Raw

The following steps illustrate how to keep a set of photos in sync when switching between Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw.

  1. Here is a selection of photos in Lightroom with only the default settings applied.

  2. I opened the same photo selection in Camera Raw, optimized the settings, and synchronized these settings with all the selected photos.

  3. In Lightroom, the “out-of-sync” photos displayed a metadata status change warning icon with an upward arrow, indicating the settings had been changed externally. I clicked the badge and then clicked the Import Settings from Disk button to import the Camera Raw adjusted settings (sometimes you won’t see the badges straight away and may want to choose Metadata ➯ Read metadata from file).

  4. The externally adjusted settings now appeared updated in Lightroom.

Saving Develop settings as presets

If you have created a setting you are likely to use again, it is a good idea to save it as a preset. For example, it is a tedious process to access the different camera profiles in the Camera Calibration panel Profile menu. Rather than click on each one to see what effect it has, you can create a Develop preset in which only the calibration setting is saved for each preset. Figure 4.120 shows an expanded view of the Develop module Presets panel in which you can see a list of custom preset settings. The Lightroom Presets folder will be installed already and has enough presets to help you get started. To add your own presets, click the + button at the top of the Presets panel (circled). This opens the New Develop Preset dialog shown in Figure 4.121, where you can choose which settings you want to include. The process version of the current selected photo determines which Basic panel adjustments are displayed here. Note also the process version warning. It is important to appreciate how process versions affect the available settings and subsequent preset behavior. When you have decided which to check, give the preset a name, choose a folder location to save the preset to, and click the Create button to add it as a new preset to the list. As you roll over the list of presets, you get to see an instant preview in the Navigator panel, as shown in Figure 4.120. You can update existing settings by right-clicking to reveal a context menu for the presets (which also allows you to select a preset to apply in the Import dialog for the next time you do an import).

Figure 4.120

Figure 4.120 The Presets panel.

Figure 4.121

Figure 4.121 The New Develop Preset dialog.

By default, new presets are automatically placed in alphabetical order in a folder called User Presets. To make them more manageable, you might want to number them. Or, if you prefer, you can organize your presets into different folder groupings. For example, in Figure 4.122, I added a number of preset folder groups to the Presets panel. To add a new folder to the Presets list, right-click anywhere inside the Presets folder to open a context menu (Figure 4.122), and choose New Folder to open the New Folder dialog. Give the folder a name, and it will appear added to the Presets list. You can also use the context menu Import option to import presets you may have downloaded.

Figure 4.122

Figure 4.122 The Presets panel context menu.

Auto Tone preset adjustments

The Auto Tone option lets you include an Auto Tone adjustment as part of a preset. In some instances, this might be considered useful, because you can get Lightroom to combine an auto correction with other Develop adjustments. Because it can lead to different tone settings being applied to each image, this might not always produce the results you were after (even though the Auto Tone logic has continually been improved in Lightroom). So, just be aware of this when you include Auto Tone in a saved Develop preset setting; the results you get may sometimes be unpredictable.

The art of creating Develop presets

Lightroom Develop presets have proved incredibly popular. Lots of Lightroom users have gotten into sharing their preset creations. Although it is possible to encapsulate a complete Develop module look in a single preset, it seems to me that the best way to use Develop presets is to break them down into smaller chunks. In my experience, the trick is to save as few settings as possible when creating a preset. You often see Develop presets where the creator checks too many boxes and ends up with a preset that adjusts not just the settings it needs to adjust, but other settings, too. In many cases, it is not always obvious which settings a Develop setting is meant to be altering, and applying the preset may overwrite settings it shouldn’t. Or, the creator includes White Balance or Exposure settings that may have been relevant for the pictures the creator used to test the Develop setting with, but are not necessarily suited for other people’s photographs (in the following section, I have provided a quick guide on how to create neatly trimmed Develop presets). More importantly, Process Version 4 has had a significant impact on Develop preset compatibility. However, if you apply a legacy preset to a Version 4 image, the absence of a process version tag should mean such settings still translate okay to a Version 4 image (except for those settings that are specific to Version 1 or 2, such as Fill Light). In Figure 4.121, I deliberately left the Process Version box unchecked. Because of this there was a reminder to include the process version when saving a new setting.

Creating a new Develop preset

  1. After adjusting this photograph in the Develop module, I wanted to save the current Develop settings as a new preset.

  2. I clicked the Presets panel’s + icon to open the New Develop Preset dialog and checked only those settings that were relevant for this effect. I named the preset setting Muted Color Contrast and saved it to the Special effects folder.

Understanding how presets work

Even with a Develop setting like the one described opposite and examined in detail below in Figure 4.123, it can get confusing. A Develop preset like this is doing several things at once. It is boosting the contrast, reducing the color vibrance, and adding a split-tone effect. Incorporating all these Develop settings into one preset has disadvantages and can lead to messy situations like that described in Figure 4.124.

Figure 4.123

Figure 4.123 The outcome of the Muted color contrast Develop preset adjustment. In the Final Settings row, the green check marks represent the settings that were adjusted in the original image version and that remained unaltered after applying the preset. The black check marks represent those settings that are new and have been changed. This illustrates what can be regarded as a “clean” preset—it adjusts only the settings that need to be adjusted. Note that the process version did not change, as the preset process version matched that of the image.

Figure 4.124

Figure 4.124 This chart shows you what can happen when you apply a series of Develop presets. In the Final Settings row, the green check marks represent the settings that were adjusted in the original image and remained unaltered at the end. The black check marks represent the settings that are new or have been changed. However, the red check marks represent the settings that have changed cumulatively during the process of trying out different Develop presets (but that were not meant to be part of the last applied preset). This highlights the fact that when the Infrared Color Effect was applied as a Develop setting, some of the other Develop settings (that were not part of the Infrared Color Effect) had already been altered by the previously applied Develop presets.

How to prevent preset contamination

As I explained earlier, when I create presets I like to trim them down so that each preset performs a discrete task, such as a black-and-white conversion or a split-tone coloring effect. That way, I find I have more options to combine different settings and prevent getting into a situation like the one shown in Figure 4.124, where the end result was a contaminated mess. For example, I may apply one preset to modify the contrast and another preset to apply a coloring effect. I then keep these presets stored in separate preset folders so it is easy for me to locate all the presets that can be used to apply, say, different black-and-white conversions or cross-processing effects.

The chart shown in Figure 4.125 summarizes a series of Develop preset steps that were applied in the step-by-step example that begins on the page opposite. The final setting does include lots of red check marks where the settings have changed cumulatively, but this does not matter as much as in the Figure 4.124 example because the whole point is to build up the settings one step at a time. You will notice that I included a *RESET Special Effects step. This preset is designed to cancel out previous preset settings and therefore acts like a “clear settings” button. To illustrate this, I have used crosses to indicate these items are returned to their default settings). Therefore, when applying, say, different split-tone effects, you can click each of the presets in turn to see a full-screen view of what the end result will look like, without fear of messing up any of the settings that have been applied already. To clear a Split Toning preset adjustment, you can simply select a specially created Split Toning “reset” preset. You can also use p0348_01.jpg (Mac) or p0348_02.jpg (PC) to undo a preset setting, or use the p0348_03.jpg (Mac) or p0348_04.jpg (PC) shortcut to reset all the Develop settings.

Figure 4.125

Figure 4.125 An example of the effects of cumulative presets applied to an image.

  1. Here, I went through a list of tone adjustment presets and selected the Tone Curve-Medium Contrast preset to apply a moderate contrast boost to this image.

  2. I wanted to try some special effect coloring presets, so I selected an SFX-Cold tone preset from my Special Effects preset folder. In case I wish to reset the preset settings here, I have included a RESET setting in each folder that resets all the relevant sliders to zero.

  3. I selected a *RESET Special effects preset. Shown here are the settings I saved when creating this preset (I zeroed all the items checked here). I use all caps so the reset presets stand out more. And, I place an asterisk at the beginning of the name so the preset appears listed first in each of the preset folders.

  4. I then applied a B&W Infrared preset from the Special Effects folder.

  5. Next, I went to the Split Toning folder. Here, I selected the ST-Sepia split-toning effect.

  6. Finally, I opted for the ST-cool tone split-tone preset and finished off by adding a Tone-Burn corners preset from the Tone Adjustments folder.

Creating default Develop camera settings

Some Develop settings you may wish to apply as standard at the import stage. For example, you want to always apply a Profile lens correction, you may want to apply a particular camera profile or a modified sharpening setting. To do this, you can go to the Develop module Develop menu and choose Set Default Settings. This opens the New Develop Preset dialog shown in Step 3, where you can click the Update to Current Settings button to update the default settings for the camera model listed in the same dialog. But if at the same time you have “Make defaults specific to camera serial number” and “Make defaults specific to camera ISO setting” checked in the Lightroom Presets preferences, clicking Update to Current Settings will make the default setting specific to the camera serial number and ISO setting. This is useful if you wish to apply specific noise reduction settings based on the camera’s ISO metadata. The combination of the Set Default Settings and Default Develop Settings preferences allows you to establish the default settings that are applied to all newly imported photos.

  1. To create a default camera preset setting, first select a photo shot with a particular camera that is representative of how the camera performs at a specific ISO setting. Then work on the photo in the Develop module to achieve the optimum sharpness and noise reduction that would make a suitable starting point for future image editing. In the Lens Corrections panel, I recommend checking Enable Profile Corrections and Remove Chromatic Aberrations. In the Camera Calibration panel, I suggest checking to make sure that the process version is set to Version 4 and the Adobe Standard profile is selected (which is the default setting anyway for newly imported photos). In all the other panels, it is essential that the sliders are at their default settings. This is especially important in the Basic panel, where the White Balance setting should be left set to As Shot.

  2. Go to the Lightroom Presets preferences (p0353_03.jpg [Mac] or p0353_04.jpg [PC]) and make sure that “Make defaults specific to camera ISO setting” is checked. It is important that you do this before proceeding to the next step. You can also check “Make defaults specific to camera serial number” if you want the settings to be camera-body specific.

  3. Now go back to the photo you worked on in Step 1 and choose Develop ➯ Set Default Settings. This opens the dialog shown here, where you need to click the Update to Current Settings button. Do this and Lightroom will automatically make this the default setting for all newly imported photos that match the camera model, serial number, and ISO setting. When camera default settings are applied to a photo, there will be no badge on the thumbnail to indicate that it contains edits. This is because Lightroom treats such edits as default values. Although this may seem obvious, it is easy to forget you have applied camera default settings and then wonder why the Lightroom-rendered image looks different from what you expected, yet has no badge to indicate changed settings.


    Click to view larger image

    Photograph: Ashridge forest, Hertfordshire © 2013 Martin Evening Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII | 14mm | 200 ISO | f8 @ 0.5 sec

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