Using Lights Out Mode in the Develop Module

by Michael Clark

Judging brightness and white balance using any RAW processing software can be a tricky situation. In Lightroom's Develop Module I often use the Lights Out and Lights Dim feature to work with my images especially when I am working with the white balance and brightness sliders.

There are three modes to the Lights out mode in Lightroom - and it works in every Lightroom module as well. The three modes are off, lights dim, and lights out. To toggle through these modes you simply press the "L" key. The lights dim mode is the first to appear (as in the image below). If you press the "L" key again you go to lights out which is completely black save for the image.


Normally, I will go to lights dim on just about every image to judge brightness because it still allows me to see my sliders and controls but forces me to look at the image. And I have found that I am able to set a better brightness level in this mode without all of the distractions of the filmstrip and develop panel.

I also use the lights dim mode for working with images that have tough white balance issues. Normally, as in a previous post, I use custom white balance settings in camera for all of my work. But every once in a while I have to use auto white balance when the light is changing fast or I don't have time to create an in-camera custom white balance.

And as with most Adobe products, everything is customizable and so is the lights dim mode. To alter the percentage of dimming that the lights dim mode works with you can set exactly what you want in the preferences dialog as in the image below. I tend to leave it at the default because I am generally working on my images in a darkened room, not pitch black but with the lights out.


Using the lights dim and lights out mode along with some other keyboard shortcuts allows one to really fine tune an image quickly. You can find my 5 favorite keyboard shorts cuts in an earlier blog post here:

A note on calibrating monitors, if you do not have a calibrated monitor then all of this is hogwash and adjusting the brightness or any settings of your images visually is akin to painting on a canvas with a blindfold on - basically you have no idea how you are adjusting your images. For a tutorial on monitor calibration download my Winter 2007 Newsletter here:

Also of note, George Jardine, Lightroom evangelist extraordinaire has uploaded his latest podcast which covers some very interesting basics in the Develop Module and - AND it shows off one of the new features found in the soon to be released (hopefully) Lightroom version 1.1. You can download that podcast here:

The podcast is labeled "20070614 Tutorial Podcast - Basic Color Correction" and appears at the bottom of the list of podcasts. Alternatively you can get the podcast on iTunes as well. Just search for "Lightroom" and it will appear as "Adobe Photoshop Lightroom" in iTunes. Many thanks go out to George for his exceptional work on the podcasts!

That's it for this week.

Adios, Michael Clark