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Post Production Tips

Everything You Need to Know about the Basic Panel in Lightroom 4

By Pye Jirsa on April 5th 2013

Introduction

In this video from our Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD, we will go over the Basic Panel in Lightroom 4 in complete detail. This article will go over what the different adjustments in the Basic Panel are as well as how to change these adjustments to edit our images. In addition, we will discuss some of the improvements in the Basic Panel since Lightroom 3.

Watch the Video

Solo Mode

To get to the Basic Panel, we need to be in the Develop Module first. Make sure you have an image loaded up already! We can get to the Develop Module by hitting “D.” Each panel in Lightroom corresponds to a number and the Basic Panel corresponds to “1.” To expand or collapse the Basic Panel, hit “Ctrl + 1.” There are a few panels below the Basic Panel, so if you only want to see one of the panels opened at a time, simply right-click on the panels and select “Solo Mode” as we have done so below.

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Treatment

At the very top of the Basic Panel, we have “Treatment.” Treatment allows us to choose if we want an image to be in color or in black and white. You can click on “Black & White” to automatically convert your image to black and white. However, the easiest and quickest way is by simply hitting “V.”

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As a side note, if you convert your image to black and white, your basic adjustments to the image will not change. The only thing that is different in Black and White Mode is that we do not have Vibrance and Saturation adjustments because there are no colors in the image. We will cover Vibrance and Saturation later on in this article. As you can see below, Vibrance and Saturation are grayed out if our image is in black and white.

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Temperature and Tint

The next section in the Basic Panel is the Temperature and Tint. There are a few ways to adjust these in the Basic Panel. You can use any of these methods to adjust all of the settings in the Basic Panel. The first is by clicking on the slider of the adjustment with your mouse and dragging the slider left or right.

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We can also mouse over the slider and hit Up or Down on our keyboard to move the slider. Hitting Up or Down on your keyboard will move small increments on the slider while holding down “Shift” and hitting the Up or Down on your keyboard will move the slider by larger increments. Finally, you can also adjust the setting by simply typing in a value.

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If you move the Temperature slider to the left, you are going cooler, which means that your image will become bluer. To warm up your image, or make your image more yellow, move the Temperature slider to the right.

The Tint is located right below the Temperature. The Tint adjusts the greens and pinks/magentas in your images. If your image is too pink, then pull the Tint slider to the left towards green. If your image has too much green in it, pull the slider to the right towards pink/magenta.

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While these sliders are basic ways of adjusting the temperature of an image, we can use White Balance (WB) to adjust the temperature of an image as well.

White Balance

The White Balance Selector can be found right above the Temperature. When you click on WB, a menu will appear where you can choose a specific scene.

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The WB Selector works just like how your camera would work. You can either leave WB on “Auto” and Lightroom will try and guess the settings for your image. You can also switch to a specific scene, where all the presets are built in, such as “Daylight,” “Cloudy,” “Shade,” and so on. Lastly, you can leave WB at “As Shot,” which will be whatever the WB was in the camera.

Another way to select WB is to hit “W.” This WB Eye Drop Tool allows you to drop over a neutral tone in the image and then automatically select a White Balance based on that tone. You do not have to find an area that is specifically white. Instead, find a target neutral, which can be anywhere between white and gray. It does not matter how gray it is so long as it is a neutral gray. Even a black that is not fully clipped that still has detail in it is going to allow Lightroom to choose the correct White Balance. In our image below, the most neutral object is the dress. We can drop the WB Eye Drop Tool right over the dress and Lightroom will dial in a White Balance.

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Exposure and Contrast

The next set of adjustments in the Basic Panel is the Exposure and Contrast adjustments. These adjustments are completely different than what they were in Lightroom 3. Lightroom 3 used Process Version 2010 while Lightroom uses Process Version 2012. In Lightroom 4, these adjustments are supposed to mimic a tone curve. Instead of having an actual tone curve to adjust, you will just adjust the tone curve with the sliders. In our Histogram article, we talked about how you can tell what area each of these sliders is affecting. For example, if we mouse over Exposure in the Basic Panel, the Histogram shows that the Midtones of the image will be most affected by the Exposure.

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To adjust the image brighter, simply drag the Exposure slider to the right. To make the image darker, move the slider to the left.

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Directly below the Exposure in the Basic Panel is the Contrast. The Contrast adjustment has greatly improved since Lightroom 3. In Lightroom 3, whenever there was harsh light or mixed lighting in an image, the Contrast amplified the colors in the image too much, particularly over skin tones. Because of this, we could not bring up the Contrast too high. However, the Contrast in Lightroom 4 works much better and we can bring up the Contrast without ruining our image.

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Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks

Below the Exposure and Contrast, we have the Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. If you look at the Histogram, the Highlights include a little bit of the upper end of the Midtones as well as the lower end of the Highlights. To adjust the Highlights to be brighter, move the slider to the right. If you want your Highlights to be darker, then move the slider to the left.

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Next, we have our Shadows. If you look at the Histogram, adjustments to the Shadows will affect the Midtone Shadows to the lower end of the deeper Shadows. To brighten up the Shadows, simply pull the slider to the right. To darken the Shadows, move the slider to the left.

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With the Whites, this is at the uppermost end of the Histogram. To make the Whites brighter, move the slider to the right. To make the Whites darker, move the slider to the left.

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With the Blacks, this is the opposite end of the extreme, which deals with the darkest Shadows of the image. So again, if we want to brighten up the Blacks, move the slider to the right. To darken the Blacks, just pull the slider to the left.

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As mentioned earlier, these adjustments in the Basic Panel are mimicking a tone curve. With Process Version 2012 in Lightroom 4, we are basically controlling the Histogram in our image via sliders. This makes it much more intuitive and easier for us to use.

Auto Tone

The last setting we have in the middle section of the Basic Panel is the Tone, where we have the Auto Tone button. If we select the Auto Tone button, Lightroom will automatically try and guess what the correct settings are for our image. However, Auto Tone almost never guesses correctly, so do not rely on this feature.

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Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation

The final section in the Basic Panel is the Presence, which includes Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation. In Lightroom 3, fringing would occur when subjects were over bright highlights and Clarity was up too high. Black edges would start to appear around your subjects, giving your image a nasty blackened edge effect. However, the Clarity in Lightroom 4 has been adjusted so that fringing does not occur as easily in your images now. Fringing can still occur, but it is much more subtle in Lightroom 4 than it was in Lightroom 3. The Clarity in Lightroom 4 also has a little more Contrast Boost, giving Clarity a powerful effect over Midtone Contrast levels. To increase the Midtone Contrast in your image, move the slider to the right. To soften and decrease the Midtone Contrast, move the slider to the left.

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Vibrance is a more subtle adjustment that tries to retain the skin tones in your images. If we bring Vibrance up, this will affect non-skin tone colors more than it is affecting skin tones. Because of this, we can brighten up the colors of the image without affecting areas where there is skin.

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Saturation affects the saturation overall in the image equally. That means that skin tones will get just as much of a boost as every other color in the image would.

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Reset Settings in the Basic Panel

If you need to reset any particular sections, hold down “Alt.” This will bring up the Reset button in each section. To reset a particular section, just hit the “Reset” button. For example, if we click “Reset Tone,” this will reset all of the tone sliders, starting from Exposure and down to Blacks.

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To completely reset all of the settings in your image, click on the “Reset” button at the bottom right of Lightroom. Make sure that you are not holding down “Alt” still.

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If you want to reset the slider of a setting, just double-click on the slider. For example, if you want to reset your Highlights back to 0, double click on the Highlights slider.

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Conclusion & Learn More!

Hopefully this article has given you a firm understanding of the Basic Panel in Lightroom 4 as well as knowing what each adjustment in the Basic Panel does. Stay tuned for our next article on the Tone Curve Panel in Lightroom 4.

We hope you enjoyed this article and video excerpt from the Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD. Stay tuned for our next article and episode!

The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD is a 14 hour video workshop turning any Lightroom novice into a complete master of Lightroom 4 in no time! The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop can be purchased by itself, or within the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection which also contains our award winning and industry standard Lightroom 4 Preset System, as well as the Lightroom 4 Workflow System.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing

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