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The Lightroom Develop Module

My Workflow: Stage 3

By David Fleet

lightroom develop module

Right, now I'm going to show you Lightroom's Develop module, which is the 3rd phase of my workflow. We've imported our photos and used Quick/Smart Collections to get them organized (if you missed my tutorial on that, click here). Now it's time to make some basic adjustments.

If you're new to Lightroom, don't be thrown by the idea of a 'module'. It's a very simple system that Lightroom uses, making the transition from 'import' to 'process' to 'output' easy and logical.

Using Raw Files

Ok, so below is my original Raw file converted to a DNG (the reason I convert to DNG is because it's Adobe's version of Raw, and therefore most likely to be compatible with any future formats). As you can see, it's quite flat and the colours are a lot more muted than those I witnessed at the actual scene.

lightroom develop module

Before talking you through my adustments in the Develop module, I'll just briefly outline what 'Raw' is all about for the unitiated (skip this section if you're familiar with it).

The simplest way to view a Raw file is as the equivalent of a film negative. It holds all the information that the camera captured during the exposure and, just like a film negative, we have to process it to obtain the final image that we want.

There can be quite a bit of negativity associated with the idea of 'Photoshopped' images. But this usually relates to the idea of heavy-handed editing and drastic changes.

With Raw, there's no choice but to process (/convert) the file. But the idea - or at least my intention - is always to re-create the scene that I saw with my eyes as accurately and effectively as possible. What's more, shooting and processing Raw is as simple as it is satisfying (you might like to have a quick read of this introduction to the Raw file format if you're on really unfamiliar territory).


The first thing I do with any file is to check the composition. Usually, I would hope to get this more or less right 'in-camera', but if I've missed something distracting at the edge of the frame I may use the crop tool to remedy it. It's a quick and easy fix:

1. Click the rectangular icon underneath the histogram in the top right of the screen, to bring up the crop tool.

lightroom develop module

2. You'll see a grid overlay on your image. All that you need to do is move the edges of the grid to crop the photo in the way you want.

3. You have the option to lock the crop tool to the current dimensions ('aspect ratio') of your photo. Equally, you are able to specify custom aspect ratios or be completely free and determine the dimensions as you crop.

4. Straightening an image with a skewed horizon line is also made very easy in the Lightroom Develop module. With the straighten tool simply draw a line that should be level, to show Lightroom the adjustment that needs to be made. (This will produce some empty space in the cormers which be dealt with by cropping).

lightroom develop module


The first thing I look at after doing any necessary cropping is the 'camera calibration'. This determines how colours appear in the image, based on certain pre-defined settings.

I tend to find that the default setting of 'Adobe Standard', or sometimes the slightly more saturated colours of 'Camera Landscape', are the most suitable for my images. But there are also 'Portrait' settings and various others, so have a play around and see which work for you.

It's worth mentioning that whilst the 'Camera Landscape' setting can produce quite vivid colours, in itself it doesn't typically yield results as pleasing those you can achieve by making individual adjustments later in the process.

lightroom develop module

Lens Corrections

Right, on to the next step. Now it's time to take a look at the 'Lens Correction' drop-down, which is a great feature of Lightroom 3 and can be a real time saver. It reads the Exif data of your camera and can tell which lens and camera combination you've used.

It automatically apply corrections for distortion, chromatic aberrations and vignetting - all processes which would be time consuming to correct manually.

So that covers stage 3 of my workflow in the Lightroom Develop module. Next I'll talk you through some more typical post-processing tasks in the 'Basic' tab: Editing photos in Lightroom.


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The Lightroom Series:

1. Lightroom Tutorials Home
2. Lightroom Review

1. Importing Photos to Lightroom
2. Organizing Photos in Lightroom
3. The Lightroom Develop Module
4. Editing Photos in Lightroom 1
5. Editing Photos in Lightroom 2

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