Developing Efficiencies in Lightroom’s Develop Module

Synchronizing develop settings in Lightroom.

I find that one of the big reasons photographers do not want to shoot in RAW mode is that they fear spending too much time on the computer. One of the great things about Adobe Lightroom is that it gives you several ways to be very efficient in managing your digital photo archive. One part of Lightroom that all photographers should master is the develop module.  While most shooters love the ability to easily make tone and color corrections to their images in this module, the ability to create develop presets and to apply changes to many images at once make “developing” in Lightroom one of the biggest time savers that digital photographers have in their arsenals.  And in my opinion, the less time I spend on the computer, the better.

There are basically three ways to apply develop settings to multiple images: the Previous/Synch button, presets, and camera raw defaults.  I’ll describe each feature in detail in this post.

The first option lets you synchronize settings between one image and one or more others, and is very straightforward.  It works like this.  First, make your develop changes to an image.  If you have a second image that can use the same settings, highlight that second image, then click on the Previous button (located at the bottom of the develop panel on the right.)  This basically pastes the develop settings from your most recently edited image to the highlighted image.  (You can do the same thing by using the Copy and Paste buttons on the bottom left of the screen.)

The previous button works great if you need to just apply all the changes from the previous image to one additional image.  If however, you want to apply these changes to several images or apply only a subset of the develop changes, you’ll want to use the Synch option.  To do this, highlight the “master” image that has the develop settings you like, then select the additional images that need these settings (using shift-click or ctrl-click to make your image selections.)  As you can see in the screen shot, one of these selected images is “more selected” than the others, which is denoted by having a brighter “slide mount” outline.  This is your master image, with the develop settings you are copying.  Once you have selected multiple images, the Previous button changes to the Sync button.  Click on that button to bring up the pop-up window seen in the below screen shot.  Now you can choose to synchronize all of the develop settings from your master image or just a subset of those settings.  This is a great way to quickly make white balance, tone, and other changes to a series of images from one photo shoot.

Lightroom lets you choose which develop settings to synchronize from one image to another.

Creating develop presets is similar to synchronizing settings.

If you find yourself making similar changes to certain types of images over and over again, then using develop presets can be another great time-saver.  I use presets for things like black and white conversions and noise reduction for high ISO images.  I also find that for nature landscape images, I often like to use a strong tone curve and bump up the vibrance of the image, so I have created a preset that will apply a strong tone curve and increase the vibrance slider to 25 with just one click.  Creating a preset couldn’t be easier.  First, make your commonly used develop changes to an image.  Then click on the + sign on the presets panel (on the left side of the screen.)  This brings up a pop-up window that is similar to the Sync pop-up. On this pop-up, you give your preset a meaningful name, then check off the settings you want to include in the preset (the settings are taken from the currently highlighted image.)  This new preset will be available any time you open Lightroom from now on, and to use it all you need to do is highlight an image and click on the preset name.

Setting Lightroom develop defaults for your camera.

Lastly, if you find yourself making changes to almost every image you bring into Lightroom, you should change your camera raw defaults.  I find that for the outdoor shooting I do,  I like to start with a few settings that are different than the defaults that ship with Lightroom (specifically, these are the contrast, clarity, vibrance, and saturation sliders.)  Like with creating a preset, first make changes to an image using the settings you want as a default, but don’t make any other changes. Hold down the alt (option) key and you will see that the reset button (on the bottom right) changes to a Set Default button.  Click on that button, then click on “Update to Current Settings” in the resulting pop-up.  As you can see in the screen shot, this will set new defaults only for the camera model that the raw image was shot with, so you can set different defaults for different cameras.  You can also restore to the Adobe defaults at any time from this same pop-up window.

In my case, any time I import a raw file from my Canon5D MarkII, these new default settings are immediately applied to that image.  As you can see from the next screen shot, you can also make default settings unique for specific cameras by serial number and for different ISO’s.  To do this, go to Lightroom Preferences, click on the presets tab and click on the appropriate check boxes.

Setting default develop options in the Lightroom preferences panel.

If you’re looking for an in-depth Lightroom class, check out my Lightroom in a Day NANPA Road Show seminar on April 14th in Rye, New Hampshire.

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