Using only the Basic Panel, we are going to teach you how to make simple image corrections in Lightroom 5 to take your image from a dull RAW file to a beautiful image ready for more advanced processing. Check out the video and article below for our 5 steps to making Basic Panel corrections in Lightroom.


Learning the Basic Panel in Lightroom 5 is a great starting point to bring an image from dull and boring to radiant and stunning. Sometimes all an image needs is basic correction to really shine, and the following article will take you through the basic image corrections process from start to finish, and along the way, we will give you a few tips and tricks that we use when developing.


Starting from the top of the Basic Panel of the Develop module you have two options for the Treatment of your image, Color and Black & White. Color is the default setting, but you can change the Treatment Setting between Black & White and Color at any time during your image processing.


Tip: You can quickly alternate between Color and Black & White by pressing “V” on your keyboard. Simply press “V” and your image will switch to whichever treatment is not currently active.



After the Treatment settings, the first subsection in the Basic Panel of the Develop module is the White Balance section. White balance is essential for the color accuracy of your image, as well as the overall feel of your image. You don’t necessarily need a “technically correct” White Balance, but you do need to set the appropriate WB to fit the mood and emotion of the scene.


Lightroom 5 comes with several white balance presets which emulate the white balance presets on your camera. The presets are Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Florescent, and Flash. The problem with these presets is that you have to remember what kind of light you shot your image in, and they can be inaccurate in mixed light situations. These presets can be useful starting points, but they don’t always deliver the most accurate results


Tip: One of my favorite ways to adjust the white balance of an image is to use the Eye Dropper tool, which you can select by pressing “W” on the keyboard, or by clicking on the Eye Dropper icon. Most people are confused by this tool and they try and select something that is white in the image, like a wedding dress or a shirt. The problem is that often times these whites in clothing are not pure white, and they have other tones mixed in.

Instead all you need to do is select a neutral color; or basically any color that is not blown out or too dark, like gray or black. When used correctly, the Eye Dropper gets you close to where the white balance needs to be for color accuracy. Once you use the Eye Dropper tool then you can do some fine tuning with the Temp to get your image looking exactly how you want it.


Tip: It’s important to note that White Balance will be affected by your exposure, so it is important to take a minute to make sure your exposure is where you want it before fine tuning your White Balance.

Once your Exposure is, at least, close to where it needs to be then you can go about fine tuning your white balance by using the Temp and Tint sliders. The Temp slider controls the warmth of the image, and you can adjust that from cool to warm based on your preference or vision for that image.


The Tint slider controls the amount of green or magenta tint in your image, and based on your camera manufacturer you may have to adjust this one way or the other to get the most accurate colors or effects in your image.

Tip: Nikon, for example, is usually a little green, so sliding to the magenta side offsets that green and produces cleaner more true colors rendition. Canon, on the other hand, is usually a little more magenta, so pulling the slider to the green side can offset that to get the best color in your image.


The exposure settings are the next subsection of the basic image adjustments tab. In this subsection, you will find three options for you to choose from: Auto, Exposure, and Contrast.


Auto Tone is really not something that we would recommend using. With Auto Tone Lightroom 5 will analyze the image and then make adjustments to the tone based on what it thinks the image should look like. Auto Tone is sort of like the auto mode on your camera, the camera makes all the decisions about how it thinks the image should look. Sometimes it may not do a bad job, but most of the time the results will not be adequate, especially if you have a specific style you’re editing for.

The Exposure slider should be your primary method of adjusting the overall exposure of your image. Sliding to the left removes light from the image while sliding to the right will add light.


After the Exposure comes the Contrast slider, this is pretty self-explanatory – It affects the global contrast of the image.

Tip: We recommend waiting to adjust contrast until after you have made your other tone adjustments. Contrast is a global adjustment, and by simply adding the correct amount of Whites and Blacks (which we will be discussing next) we generally can avoid having to add Contrast to the overall image, which may apply contrast in undesired areas.


This is where a lot of the magic happens while you are making basic corrections to your images in Lightroom 5. As you can see highlighted in the image below, tone settings include the: Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks sliders. These sliders combine to essentially create a tone curve.


Tip: You can easily see what area of an image will be affected for each slider by looking at the Histogram which is located above the basic adjustments tab, at the top of the Develop module. When you begin to move one of the sliders, like the Highlights slider in the image below, you can see how the information in the section of the Histogram is being effected in real time.


Each of these sliders only affects a certain portion of the image data, which allows you to fine tune the tone of your image. You can adjust the Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks to very specific degrees which makes it a far better control tool than simply adjusting the overall Contrast of an image. The final effect is similar to that of a Tone Curve, except this slider format can be easier to use for those unfamiliar with the Tone Curve.

Tip: Sometimes the effects of these sliders can be extreme and other times they can be subtle. It all depends on the slider that you are using and how much of the image data falls within that slider’s range.

For example, if you adjust the Highlight slider and drag it all the way to +100 but there are not many highlights in the image, then that adjustment on your image will be minimal. On the other hand, if you did the same to a high key image (an image on a white backdrop that is meant to be bright) the effect would be much more noticeable due to the majority of the image falling into the Highlight sliders realm on the Histogram.


Generally it is better to stay away from extreme +100 or -100 adjustments on the slider, but there are situations where it would be needed. In the end it is a matter of preference and what your vision for the final image is, just keep in mind the larger the adjustments the more you will be affecting image quality.


Following the Tone settings, it is time to move onto the Presence subsection of the Basic Panel tab in the Develop module. This is where you will find the Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation sliders.


The Clarity slider boosts the midtone contrast of your image, which has the effect of bringing out more or less contrast and detail in your image – depending on which way you move the slider. For a wedding image like this one we want more of a soft look, so we keep the Clarity to +10. If this were a street photography image where we wanted to grungier sort of look we may move the slider all the way up to about +40 or even higher.

Tip: An important thing to note is that the clarity slider should almost never be below -40, after that point virtually any image will become too soft and unusable (in our opinion). There may be some cases where you want the Clarity around -15 to -35 for say an up close portrait, in general it is better to avoid extreme clarity adjustments.

The Vibrance and Saturation sliders work in tandem and are similar, so it is easy to confuse them. Simply put, Vibrance is biased towards less saturated colors, while Saturation effects the saturation of all colors in the entire image without any bias.

Left side of the image is -100 Vibrance | Right side of the image is +100 Vibrance

Tip: Vibrance is great to use when you are trying to preserve skin tones because it has a lighter effect over subtle skin tone colors when compared to Saturation which can quickly oversaturate skin tones. The Saturation slider effects every color equally, and it should be used carefully. It’s easy to take saturation adjustments too far.

Left side of the image is -100 Saturation | Right side of the image is +100 Saturation

Did you notice the difference between the Vibrance and Saturation slider example images above? If you look at the -100 Vibrance area you will still see some color in the greens of the tree while in that same location on the saturation example is completely grayed out. This is what happens to your images when you use one slider over the other, although your results will be less subtle because you will almost never have either at -/+ 100.

Tip: We are done with the Basic Panel adjustments! We always recommend doing a quick before and after look at the image once you think you are done so you can see exactly what you did, and you can see if you need to make any further adjustments. You can quickly toggle the before/after by pressing the “” keyboard shortcut.


This is the image that we started with, underexposed and definitely not something that you would want to deliver to a client.


As you can tell in our after image, we have made significant adjustments by using these 5 Basic Panel sections in the Lightroom Develop Module.








Total Course Run Time: 9H 55M 15S


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