Working in the Develop Module

by Michael Clark

Last week I discussed a technique for adjusting white balance in the Develop module of Lightroom. While writing that blog I thought it might be instructive to blog about how I work in the Basic Panel (right hand panel) in the Develop Module. In general I work with the Develop module set up as below so I can see the image large. I will usually also snap off the upper and lower sections of the interface and have just the image, the toolbar and the right hand panel open. When I need to sync images I'll open the filmstrip.

The image below is from a recent shoot in White Sands, New Mexico. The images were shot using battery powered strobes and a custom white balance was used. I always shoot raw images with my Nikon D2x- so when they come into Lightroom the images can sometimes be a little overexposed (exposing to the right) and washed out to some degree - strobes are pretty much the cat's meow for digital so these images looked quite good already when I started working them up. Below are the before and after versions of the image in Lightroom.



As you can see above, even with a custom white balance set in-camera Lightroom reads the image on import with a significant warm green cast. So now let's move onto how I use the basic panel in the develop module.

First off, I check the Recovery slider, holding down the Option key (Mac) as I move the slider to see if any highlights are blown out. I'll recover as much highlight information as I can but there shouldn't be too much blown out if I exposed correctly. If there are metallic or reflective objects in the image I won't try to recover all of that information as it should be blown out - I can deal with that in Photoshop. Next, I'll move down to the Blacks slider and do the same. I don't want my blacks blocked up completely but a little isn't the end of the world. I find the default of 5 is pretty close to where I want this slider for most of my images. If the image is a silhouette then I might even try to block up the blacks to force a pure silhouette.

My next move is to adjust the Clarity, Vibrance then Contrast and Brightness in that order. Since all of these affect the white balance as I wrote in last weeks blog I save white balance for last - unless it is so far off I can't work with anything else - then I'll make a quick white balance adjustment, get it into the ball park and continue with my normal sequence.


I am very careful with Saturation, Vibrance and Contrast as those can really affect how an image prints - especially if it is going to a magazine and will be converted to the CMYK color space. Clarity is very subtle so go wild there if you want. Saturation I never go more than +15. Many times I'll decrease saturation, especially with skin tones. And with contrast it is rare that I go above 40. Again these numbers are relative to my clients and how the images are used.

Hence, my basic workflow starts in the Tone box and then moves to the Presence box and back up to the white balance. For my work efficiency is king and this method of working makes for a very fast workflow in the actual image processing phase.

That's it for this session. See you next week.

Adios, Michael Clark