Applying adjustments in the Develop module: Basic workflow

The Develop module in Lightroom includes controls for globally adjusting the color and tonal scale of your photos, as well as for making local adjustments. All the adjustments you make in Lightroom are nondestructive. With nondestructive editing, your original file is not altered, whether it’s a camera raw file or a rendered file such as a JPEG or TIFF. Your edits are stored in Lightroom as a set of instructions that are applied to your photo in memory. Nondestructive editing means you can explore and create different versions of your photo without degrading your original image data.

Because edits are stored in Lightoom as instructions, you do not need to save them in the traditional sense. When you print or export your photos, for example, the adjustments are included. You only need to save your changes if you want them to be available to Adobe Bridge or Camera Raw. See Synchronize Lightroom metadata with Camera Raw and Adobe Bridge.

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The Develop module
Presets, Snapshots, History, and Collections panels


RGB values

Tool strip

Adjustment panels

Navigator zoom controls


Photos in the following formats can be edited in Lightroom: camera raw (including DNG), JPEG, TIFF, and PSD. Applying adjustments to photos is a subjective and individual process. Use the following steps as a guide for editing photos in the Develop module.

1. Select a photo to edit.

Select a photo in the Library module and press D to switch to the Develop module. To switch to a different photo in the Develop module, choose it from the Collections panel or the Filmstrip.

2. Evaluate the photo.

Use the zoom controls in the Navigator panel to inspect your photo and the Hand tool to reposition the photo in the viewing area. When you move the pointer over the photo, the RGB values under its position appear in the toolbar. Use the Histogram panel as a visual guide for measuring color tones, as well as to preview shadow and highlight clipping. You can even drag in the histogram interface to make tonal adjustments to the photo. See Adjust images using the histogram.

3. Make global color adjustments.

By default, the Develop module displays panels for making global adjustments to photos on the right side of the window. You can make Develop module adjustments in any order, but a common approach to using these panels is to start at the top and work down. Starting with the Basic panel, you can adjust the white balance, tonal scale, and color saturation of a photo, including Clarity and Vibrance. You can refine global color and tonal adjustments in the Tone Curve and HSL/Color/B&W panels, and you create special effects or colorize monochrome photos in the Split Toning panel. See Adjust image color and tone.

4. Reduce noise and apply sharpening.

Use the Detail panel to reduce noise and adjust the sharpness in a photo. Use the Lens Corrections panel to correct perspective distortions caused by the camera lens. See Reduce image noise, Sharpen a photo, and Correct lens distortion and adjust perspective.

Use the Before/After button in the toolbar to see the results of your edits, or simply press \ to cycle between before and after views. Use the History panel to return to any previous edit. Click the plus sign (+) in the Snapshots panel to capture any editing state that you can return to at a later time.

5. Retouch and correct flaws.

At any time, use the Crop Overlay, Red Eye Correction, and Spot Removal tools to crop and straighten your photo and to remove red eye, dust, and spots. To apply a postcrop vignette or film grain effect, use the options in the Effects panel. See Adjust crop and rotation, Remove red-eye, Heal spots and blemishes, Apply a postcrop vignette, and Simulate film grain.

6. Apply local color adjustments.

Color correct specific areas of a photo by using the Adjustment Brush tool or the Graduated Filter tool. See Apply local adjustments.

7. Apply adjustments to other photos.

You can apply edits from one photo to many others. For example, apply a set of edits to all of the photos from a specific shoot that require the same global adjustments. You can copy and paste them, or synchronize them. When you copy or synchronize corrections, Lightroom allows you to select the specific edits that you want to apply to the other photos. You can also use the Painter tool in the Grid view of the Library to apply Develop settings from one photo to another. See Apply Develop adjustments to other photos.

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