Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module

The develop module is where you will be developing your photos.  This is the the most exciting place to hang out in Lightroom.  There are so many options for editing your photos and when you are finished here your photos will look fabulous.

There is lots to know about this section, so lets dig in and get you oriented!

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module


We covered this in the last lesson, but as a review, this is where you will see a preview of your image.  As you use the zoom tools above this small view of your photo, a rectangle will appear and you can drag it around to decide what you see in the Main image area of the Develop module.  This is also where you can see a preview of any presets you want to apply.  Just hover over the preset name and a preview will appear in the Navigator.

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module


This is where Lightroom will store all the presets that you install as well as any that you make.  In order to see the individual presets, you need to open each collection using the disclosure triangle to the left of the presets name.  The disclosure triangle will be pointing down when it is open.

To see a preview of the preset in the Navigator area before you apply it, just hover over the preset you want to see.  To apply a preset, click on it.

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module


Lightroom allows you to take Snapshots of your photo at any given point while editing.  Click on the “+” on the Snapshot panel to add a Snapshot.  This is a nice feature. For instance, let’s say you edit this photo using one preset and want to apply another to see how it looks.  Just take a Snapshot of them and then you can go back and forth to decide which you like.

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module


This is one of the reasons that I choose to use Lightroom over other editing software.  Lightroom’s History Panel keeps a record of everything you do to your photo from the time you import it into Lightroom.  You can go back to any point in your history and start from there or go all the way back to the beginning and start over.  When you exit Lightroom, the history doesn’t go away.  It will still be there the next time you open Lightroom and will still be there 5 years from now if you need it!

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module


You’ll notice that the collections panel is available in the Develop Module just like it was in the Library Module.  The collections panel is available in every module and will look the same throughout all the Modules.  However, you’ll notice that you don’t have access to your Folders in this Module.  This should help you understand why creating collections is so valuable and time-saving.  

For instance, if I was editing one session and finished and wanted to move on to another, as long as I created a collection of the next session I won’t have to leave the Develop Module.  If I haven’t created a collection, I will need to navigate back to the Library Module find that folder of images and come back.

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module


The Develop Module toolbar is located in the same place as the one in the Library Module, but will have different tools available when you are here.  The tools I like to have available here are the Before/After tool (shown by two Y’s in boxes-click the arrow next to the boxes for different ways to view your Before/After), the Flag Tool (allows you to Flag favorite images), the Rating Tool (allows you to rate your images using stars), the Zoom Tool (gives you a handy slider for zooming in at varying amounts), and Soft Proofing (the way you can view your photos the way your lab will see them.)

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module


The Histogram will give you lots of information about your photo. It is a graph of the different tones in your image.  The darker tones are graphed on the left and the brighter tones are graphed on the right. One of my favorite things you can do is view the RGB color values of any area of the photo that you hover over. This can help you edit skin tones and proof your photos.  You can also make adjustments to your photo by clicking and dragging directly on the histogram.

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module

Local Adjustment Tools

These are the tools that will allow you to make adjustments to small/local areas of your photo.  You’ll find (from right to left) the Brush Tool, the Radial Filter, the Graduated Filter, the Red Eye tool, the Spot Removal tool, and the Crop Tool. Clicking on each of these will open a new panel giving you options for using the tool.  For the Brush, Radial Filter, and Graduated Filter the panel will look similar to the basic panel.

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module

Basic Panel

The basic panel will be your most used panel when making adjustments to your photo.  It is where you will adjust your white balance, exposure, contrast, shadows/highlights, clarity, and saturation.  Moving the sliders to the right will increase the value and moving the sliders to the left will decrease the value.

The dropper at the top-left of the panel gives you the option of adjusting your white balance by clicking the dropper over different areas of your photo.  It works best if you choose a neutral area of your photo.  I typically look for a gray tone.

Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module

I can’t go into depth with each of the other panels or this post will get terribly long. So I will give a brief description of them.

  • Tone Curve: Adjust your photos contrast, highlights, shadows using a curve similar to the one found in Photoshop.  If you don’t feel comfortable adjusting the curve, you can use the some of the presets found in the Point Curve section.
  • HSL/Color/B&W: HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance.  Essentially, you can make adjustments to the colors in your photo using this panel.  You can also completely remove the color and create a black and white photo with this panel.
  • Split Toning: This is where you can add a little color to your highlights and shadows.  
  • Detail: This is the panel you will use to sharpen your photo and where you can reduce the noise in your photo introduced by using a high ISO.
  • Lens Corrections: This panel is used to correct any distortion and chromatic aberration caused by your camera lens. It is also where you can make perspective corrections using the Upright tool.
  • Effects: This is the panel that I use to add a vignette to my photos by dragging the amount and midpoint slightly to the left (to create a dark vignette) or to the right (to create a light vignette.) You can also introduce grain into your photo here.
  • Camera Calibration: This is where you can change the Camera Profile and the Process Version.


Mastering Lightroom: The Develop Module

Previous/Reset Buttons

These buttons are found at the bottom of the Right-side panels in the Develop module.  The Previous Button allows you to apply all the same settings you applied to the last photo you developed.  Super simple and easy.  It will also apply any crop, brushes, or filters you applied.  You may need to adjust those for each photo.

The Reset Button resets your image back to the Lightroom default settings.  It’s a quick way to start over!

Don't Miss the Other Installments in this Series

1. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Catalog

2. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Importing

3. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Library Module

4. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Develop Module

5. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Developing Your Photos

6. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Developing Photos With Presets

7. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Exporting and Everything Else