In this article, we will discuss how to use the Histogram as well as the Quick Develop panels, which are both right-side panels within the Library module in Lightroom.

Watch the Video Tutorial

The following video is from the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD, a 14-hour workshop covering everything Lightroom from file management to advanced artistic processing techniques. The video shown below explains the different settings available in the Library View Options.

The Histogram Panel

As you may already know, a color histogram is a visual representation of tonal distributions within a digital image. The horizontal axis represents the the tonal variations: the far left of the graph demonstrates the darkest tones, the far right shows the highlights, and grays are displayed everywhere in between. The vertical axis represents the number of pixels for a particular tone. Reds, greens, and blues are also represented by their actual colors displayed on the histogram.

Histograms are useful for many reasons, but they are particularly useful for checking for black and white clipping and displaying the information visually in a single graph allowing us to predict the overall feel of digital images.

1. Checking for Clipping

“Clipping” refers to the loss of image detail due to areas of the image that are completely black or completely white. This can happen in images that are over-exposed, under-exposed, or simply have a high amount of contrast. On a histogram, clipping is represented by high peaks on the far right or far left side of the graph. you can check for clipping by hotkey ‘J’, or clicking the downward arrows on the top corners of the histogram within the develop module.

Although clipping isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is usually best to avoid excess clipping on either the blacks or the highlights.

Here is an image that contains tones primarily in the middle range.

Now, here is the same image with a few adjustments.

After increasing the contrast, and adding more blacks and shadows as well as adding more highlights, the overall feel to the image will change and its histogram will shift towards both extremes. Histograms with diverging peaks are high contrast, usually contain more clipping, and have less mid-range tones.

2. Predicting the Overall Feel of an Image

We can also predict tonal distribution and overall look of a digital image by its histogram. For example, take a look at this histogram:

You can see that this histogram carries more weight on the left side of the graph, with a decent amount of black clipping, creating an overall darker feel to the image. We can also assess where certain tones lie. Wherever there are middle to light tones, those tones consist primarily of the color blue. There should be no bright highlights in the image since there are no peaks on the right side of the histogram. Now, take a look at the actually image that this histogram represents:

On a lighter note, we have a completely different distribution in this histogram:

We can see that this image will have a bright feel to it, however it will not display screaming highlights since the peak is towards the right side of the histogram but still fairly central. We can predict that this image will have a softer feel to it by its histogram. Now, let’s take a look at the actual image:

As you can see, histograms “map” the tonal distribution so it is easy to predict the overall feel of the image from its histogram.

The Quick Develop Panel

Developing and making adjustments to your images is much more precise within the Develop module, but the Quick Develop panel is located in the Library module directly under the Histogram panel if you want to simply apply a quick preset.


There are three categories under the Quick Develop panel: “Saved Preset”, “White Balance”, and “Tone Control”. Whichever preset is selected will apply directly to the image selected. The chosen preset can also be adjusted with the small or large arrow buttons. However, these controls are less precise than the adjustment bars within the Develop module.

This image is selected and in the Library module so we may apply Quick Develop presets to it.


In the “Saved Preset” section, you can choose between a number of presets, for example a blue filter:


In the “White Balance” section, you can select any preset such as “Flash” to compensate for images with unwanted tones from flash, or “Shade” to compensate for excess cold tones from images captured in shaded regions creating a warmer feel.


Within the “Tone Control” section you have the option to auto tone the image, although it usually doesn’t process the image correctly because Lightroom is simply guessing what the overall tone should be.

We recommend that you only use the Quick Develop panel if you have an external set of keys controlling Lightroom such as RPG keys, since these types of systems allow you to have more control over the adjustment bars in the Library module. More often than not, you are probably better off controlling image adjustments in the Develop module.

In our next Lightroom 4 A to Z DVD tutorial, we will be covering how to keyword and create keyword lists in Lightroom.

If you are interested in purchasing the Lightroom 4 A to Z DVD, it can be purchased for $99 in the SLR Lounge Store.

Purchase the Lightroom 4 A-Z DVD Guide

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