Brief Introduction to Lightroom Panels

Lightroom is an extremely powerful tool filled with just about everything a photographer needs to create an amazing portfolio. Not only is it powerful, but it’s fast, and can run on modest hardware. All of my photos have been edited on my 2012 Macbook Air. Most of my edits only take me five to ten minutes to get from a RAW file to a finished product. To top it all off, it has an elegant and powerful organization toolset. A lot of the beauty of Lightroom is its selection of photo centric tools placed under the Developer tab. I’m going to very briefly describe each major section that I focus on during my edits and what each of them do. This is a simplified article regarding what you can do with Lightroom. To watch some of this knowledge play out on screen I do offer editing videos where I use each of these tools mentioned to edit some of my photos. 


First up, you have your histogram; a graphical representation of your image. From exposure information, to contrast and color casting. Within this box you can actually adjust your exposure, highlights, shadows, black and white points simply by dragging in their respective areas. The left side is the darker regions of your photo and the right is the lighter regions. You can also activate highlight and shadow clipping information on your photo by pressing on the arrows in the top left and right of the histogram box.


Next up is the Basic edits box. This can give general edits to the overall image. If you want to bump down highlights or restore shadow information on the overall photo, this is where you’ll do it. Essentially, this places those same controls of the histogram into individual sliders. If you want to bring out some details in your shadows, drag the slider up. If you’d like to darken up your image a bit, drag down your black points. You can also give a general addition of contrast with that slider. There are several controls for coloring. The temperature slider can balance out your white balance if you didn’t get it right in the shot. Or it can create warmer or cooler images if you want to drag them a little further. The tint slider goes a bit further to adjust your magenta/green spectrum of your photos. This can be used in conjunction with your temperature slider to create interesting color combinations. There is a clarity slider as well. This somewhat works like contrast on a micro level. This slider can be very helpful, but can also give you just enough rope to hang yourself with, especially regarding portraits. 

Adjustment Tools

If you’ll notice, just below the histogram box is a nice little toolset for more direct manipulation of your image’s settings. You have adjustment brushes, circular tool, gradient tool, spot healing brush, and a crop tool. Each of these can be very powerful. The first three tools mentioned can make similar adjustments that you can do in your basic box. These are how you make adjustments to skin, skies, eyes, and more. The spot healing brush isn’t as powerful as what photoshop users are used to, but it’s perfect for minor corrections. Then there is the crop tool. Didn’t get your composition quite right in camera? This is a way to help alleviate that. 

Tone Curve

Another way you can adjust your contrast, shadows, highlights and such is to make use of the tone curve. Just like your histogram your darks are on the left and lights areon the right. Moving them up/down from the default linear position will adjust the values on your photo. Some people even use this tool to help obtain a more film/matt like look in their photos. This can be done by maintaining the linear direction but by dragging the black points up and the white section down. This decreases contrast and flattens the images a bit. 


Colors can be managed by the HSL/Color/B&W box. You can change the tones of some colors, de/saturate them, or even adjust the brightness of each color. Have a dominant color on your photo that you want toned down? Desaturate it a little and adjust its brightness. If B&W isyour thing, head on over to it’s tab and your image will automatically be adjusted for black and white. Once there, you can selectively adjust the the brightness of each color tone. This is important because black and white images tend to rely heavily on contrast. 

Split Toning

Split toning is not something I use heavily. However, this tab can give color tones to your highlights and shadows.  If you want to give your black and white photo a hint of color? This is a way to do that.


Now that your photo has been adjusted for contrast and color, you can bring out the details. This is very important when shooting RAW because the camera hasn’t applied any sharpening for you. Many people rave about PS’s high pass tool. You can achieve very similar results with this tab. The better your image file, the more you can push it. If you do portraits, you’ll want to use that masking slider as that will allow the sharpening be applied to areas of microcontrast rather than everywhere. This is key since pushing your sharpness too far can result in grain. 

Lens Corrections

The Lens corrections area is great when you’re using glass that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. This is where you change distortion, chromatic aberrations, and many other aspects to what can go wrong during your shoot.


The last tab I’ll talk about is the Effects tab. Here is where you can correct for a vignette or even create one yourself. You can even add grain if you want to give it a grungier look. [dt_gap height=“10” /] Well there you have it! A brief synopsis of Lightroom and the tools I use to help make my photos what they are. I don’t use any presets and if you’d like to learn more about how I do this, my videos can be found at