Video: Where To Begin (Developing Photos)

The one or two questions I hear a lot as a Lightroom & photography instructor are “how do you know what to do when you’re developing a photo” and “where do you begin?” — in this video, I’m trying to provide ONE possible answer.

I based the video on a more “documentary”, mid-morning light landscape photo from one of my recent hikes because I think it’s easiest to convey this particular approach, which is based on an “evaluation” as the starting point for work in Lightroom’s Develop module.

The three cornerstones are:

  1. Choose a good camera profile as the starting point
  2. Evaluate the white balance for plausibility
  3. Use the histogram to see whether the representation of tones matches what the photo should show

I hope that with this simple example photo, the video illustrates that approach well.

This is a really quick way of developing one’s photos, but with all my yapping and the explanations, the video somehow got more than 10 minutes long — my original idea was to create “Lightroom Shorts” that are ideally under 5 minutes…

And then in the end, I forgot to do the before/after comparison (with the backslash \ key in the Develop module), of course. Duh! So as an added value :) for my loyal blog readers, here’s this comparison:

Mid-morning back country views in late spring; San Diego Couny, California. May 2022.
Before/After comparison of mid-morning exposure straight out of camera with auto-white balance versus developed “final” image, after choosing camera profile, adjusting white balance and evaluating exposure, based on the histogram.

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Alexander S. Kunz is an expert, tutor and teacher for Adobe Lightroom in San Diego, California. His services are available both in person and online, using remote assistance/screen sharing software. Whether you're stuck with a problem in Lightroom and need help, want to learn Lightroom from the ground up, or need assistance setting up your computer, storage and backup for your photographic workflow - Alexander can help you. Please get in touch if you are interested!

All images and content © by Alexander S. Kunz, unless otherwise noted. No re-use without express written permission.

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6 thoughts on “Video: Where To Begin (Developing Photos)”

  1. It’s always interesting to see how a good photographer uses LR – I think it proves the maxim that there is no one right way. Everyone has their own method. I’ve seen people say you shouldn’t touch exposure, you should get it right in camera or fix it some other way. Or you shouldn’t ever bother with the tone curve, just leave it. For me, dragging the highlights down in the tone curve often is nicer than using the highlights slider and like you, I’m fine with moving the exposure slider. And it sure makes sense to check that profile and fix the white balance first. I used LR for years without adjusting the profile or white balance and I agree, they’re very important.
    Because I jumped right in when the new masking tools came out and failed to watch any instructional videos, I never tried (or really noticed!) the custom choice button there. You used it in this video – I think to burn. I went over and over the video to see what you were doing, then I finally saw that “custom” choice and tried it. Well, sheesh! Why didn’t I see that before? Maybe I won’t use it much but it’s good to know it’s there. It may not have been the learning experience you intended but it was a good one! :-) Thank you.

    • I have no idea what “custom” choice you mean. Now I have to watch the video again, sheesh! ;)

      Also, any “you should” or “you shouldn’t” statement is nonsense, of course… what would be the reason to NOT use the Exposure slider, Tone Curve, whatever?! That’s just hilarious! Using the tools at one’s disposal is just a personal choice. It’s not like trying to get a slotted screw into the wall with a crowbar. xD

      • Good analogy, I totally agree, but there are lots of people doing LR videos who seem to think their way is the only way. The “custom” drop down is in masking…I hadn’t noticed it before. Sh…sh!

        • Oh, you mean the local adjustment presets? You can create your own, yes. I think it just shows “custom” when the sliders (from a previous adjustment, if “Reset sliders automatically” is off) don’t match an existing preset.

  2. I often use my crowbar with slotted screws!

    Seriously, though, this was a great video stepping through one way to approach that sometimes intimidating initial edit. And like Lynn, I’m always interested in seeing how others go about their edits as it can reveal new ideas for me to try. Sometimes I try something once and it works and I sort of settle into a rhythm from there, never realizing there might be alternative, or, gasp, even better, ways of accomplishing something. It’s good to keep learning and keep experimenting.

    • Thank you, Todd. I guess the really, really main point is this part of “evaluation” — whether one decides, based on that, where they’d like to take a photo (artistically), or where a photo should be taken (documentary, travel) is a different story. In this simple example, I was aiming for a stronger rendition of reality with more impact, to convey the feeling properly.


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