Fix Photos with Lightroom Quick Develop

Lightroom offers two ways to get the best out of your images. We’ll take a closer look at the power of the Develop module in the next section but the Library module Quick Develop tab features a range of tools that can apply quick fixes to improve your photos.

You can find the Quick Develop tab in the right-hand sidebar of the Library module. To get the best use out of it, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the Histogram tab open at the same time, to help get the exposure right, and use the Loupe view in zoomed-out mode so you can see the whole picture much more clearly.

At the top of the Quick Develop panel you’ll see a dropdown menu offering a wide range of preset developing settings. These are great for experimenting with different looks and styles and include a range of monochrome filter and toning effects, various colour processing styles, sharpening, contrast enhancement and more. There are also video effects available.

The next feature is the white balance control. This lets you change the white balance from the setting used on the camera when you took the photo. It works best if you’re editing a Raw file, since it can correct the white balance without losing quality. If you’re not sure what the correct white balance should be, use the Auto option.

The Auto Tone button is something of a last-resort option. It will attempt to optimise the exposure, contrast and tone settings to produce a good result but it will only ever be an average approximation. All photos vary in their requirements, so it’s best to avoid it and adjust tone and exposure manually, keeping an eye on the histogram.

The Exposure adjustment control has four buttons. The ones with the single chevron adjust the exposure up or down by one third of a stop, while the buttons with two chevrons adjust it by a full stop. Unless your image is dramatically under or over-exposed it’s best to use the 1/3rd-stop buttons, keeping an eye on the histogram and the Loupe view.

Contrast is a harder thing to quantify than exposure but generally it makes the light tones lighter and the dark tones darker. Again, the singe chevron buttons make a slight adjustment, while the double chevron buttons make a larger adjustment. Most correctly exposed images won’t need much adjustment, so use it sparingly for best effect.

The Highlights and Shadows adjustments affect the higher and lower ends of the histogram respectively. They are used to improve detail in shadow and highlight areas and are particularly useful in difficult lighting conditions, such as heavily backlit scenes, where they can brighten up shadowed faces. They are best used in combination to avoid unbalancing the shot.

The Whites and Blacks adjustments are basically more extreme variations on the Highlights and Shadows adjustments. They are used to correct excessive clipping in deep shadows and bright highlights and take advantage of the expanded dynamic range available in Raw file images. Use in conjunction with the histogram for best results.

Clarity and Vibrance have replaced the old Saturation adjustment and offer much more precise control over tone. Basically, Clarity improves the contrast in the mid-tones of the image by sharpening the edge detail, while Vibrance increases the saturation of only the least saturated colours, so you can improve overall saturation without blowing out bright colours.

One advantage of using the Library module quick develop is that you can adjust a whole batch of photos at once. Simply select all the photos that you want to adjust and whatever adjustments are needed will be applied to all of them. This is particularly useful if you discover that you’ve used the wrong white balance setting on a whole shoot!

Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

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