While the Tone Curve and Basic Controls in Lightroom are there to help you improve the tone and contrast of your image, the HSL controls are designed to help you improve the color.

HSL stand for Hue, Saturation and Luminance.

Just to recapitulate the theory, hue tells you about the actual color. Saturation gives you the amount of grey in a chosen color. Luminance indicates the brigthness of that color.

When will you need to use the HSL controls?

Usually, when you have a photo with one or several colors that are not to your liking. For example, it may happen that the color of the ocean was not captured right, the grass was not green enough, or the color of the dress your model was wearing not vibrant enough. Whenever you have to make such corrections, the HSL control is your friend.

Now, in Lightroom you don’t have to use the sliders in a random fashion trying to find the actual color that needs improvement. There is a bit of magic that comes with Lightroom’s Targeted Adjustment Tool. It enables you to change the hue, saturation and luminance of the selected color range, simply by clicking and dragging on the color you want to change.

Here is an example of a photo with somewhat washed out colors.


We will use the Saturation and Luminance sliders to ajdust the color.

  1. I clicked on the HLS to open the panel, and then I opened the Saturation sliders. 2
  2. I selected the Targeted Adjustment icon. The appearance of the cursor changed as I went over the photo.4
  3. I clicked on color I was targeting. I drag the mouse upward to increase the saturation. You can drag the mouse downward if you need to decrease it. In this case I selected the reddish color and increased its saturation.
  4. Then I selected the blue color of the sky and I also increased the saturation. This made both selected colors more vibratnt.
  5. I clicked on the Luminance control. I dragged on the red and blue colors upward to increase their luminance too.

After correcting with the HSL sliders here is the end result.


The photo looks more vibrant and shows way more drama.

It is common that a photo can have more or less visible spots and specks. The source of these imperfections can be different, including dust, water, sun spots, other small objects, or defects caused by dust on the sensor of your camera. If you detect such imperfections in your photos, you can always go to Photoshop and use some of Photoshop’s great tools to remove those spots.

But what if you don’t have time for Photoshop?  Or if you just want to show your clients a quick preview and make a test printout?

Well, in that case, Lightroom can come to the rescue.

Here is a step by step guide how to remove spots in Adobe Lightroom:

  1. If you haven’t yet identified the problematic areas of your photo, zoom in by something like 100 percent. Now it should be much easier to see the dust or sun spots against those areas that have consistent color or texture.
  2. Press Q on the keyboard to quickly display the Spot removal controls. Note that you will be automatically transferred to the Develop module with the commands of the removal tool located below the histogram.spot-removal-1
  3. Choose between the Clone mode and the Heal mode. If you are familiar with the Stamp tool in Photoshop, that’s exactly how the Clone mode in Lightroom works. It will copy the texture from a selected part of the shot to the area you want to repair. The Heal mode (my favorite) combines the characteristics of both the source and the destination (specifically, texture, lighting, and shading) to provide a more natural look.spot-removal-2
  4. Set the size of the brush to cover the total area of the defect you want to remove.spot-removal-3
  5. PLACE the cursor over the portion of the image you want to fix and CLICK. The second circle will appear to enable you to select the source area.spot-removal-5
  6. Move the cursor to second circle, CLICK and DRAG the second circle around. Look for the appropriate source area that provides the best fix. At the same time a preview of the result of the fix will appear at the spot you want to retouch.spot-removal-4
  7. Release the mouse button only after you have found the location that gives the best possible fix.
  8. The two circles will remain active when you hold the spot removal tool over the image even after you have finished the above procedure, allowing you to click again if you change your mind and make additional adjustments.

Note, if you want to remove more complicated objects, click and drag with the mouse over the part you want to retouch. A white marquee area appears, and then another identical marquee that you can drag around and search for the best source area. Here is an example of how I removed an entire rock from the picture below by using this technique. It took me no more than 15 seconds:





In Lighroom, you can easily and pretty much intuitively improve the composition of your photos. Here are the steps you need to perform:


  1. If you press R on your keyboard, the controls for cropping and straightening will appear. Note that these tools are available only in the Develop module. Pressing R in any other module will bring you directly to the Develop module.1
  2. Here you can change the Aspect ratio of your photograph before cropping.2
  3. You can fix the selected Aspect ratio by clicking  on the Lock icon. That way your selected ratio will remain constant when you work with the crop marquee.3
  4. If you have slanted images, you can use the Straighten tool, indicated in the image below to the left of the Angle control.4
  5. All you have to do is locate a line or object in the scene that you know it should be horizontal. Click and hold on one end of the line, and drag the pointer to the opposite end of that line. Then release the cursor. Lightroom will then take over and perform the rotation to straighten the picture. This is a quick and efficient method that eliminates the need of manually rotating the shot.
  6. As a final step after cropping and straightening, you should press Enter to apply the changes. You can do that freely knowing  that all changes you have made here are reversible, and that you can go back later and reexport your picture with new settings.

Here is an example of using the Lightroom’s magical straightening tool. It took no more than 10 seconds to fix the skewed horizon in the photo below.



In Lightroom 5, you can use the Histogram to quickly change the primary tonal ranges of your photos.

The Histogram gives you the number of pixels at each luminance level. It is a visual representation of how your image was exposed, if you’ve captured a lot of light, dark or intermediate tones. The full tonal scale is used when you have non zero values at each luminance level.

In other words, it is desirable to have the pixel values spread evenly throughout the histogram, rather than being bunched up in some part of the histogram. There are two border cases: the image is underexposed if almost all of the peaks are on the left hand side of the histogram; or  overexposed if they’re located primarily on the right hand side.

When considering the histogram representation of your image, you should try to avoid having spikes on the far right or far left side, because otherwise you’re going to lose details (clipping). See more about why clipping should be prevented and how to easily preview any possible clipping here.

By using the Histogram in the Develop module of Lightroom, you can change the tonal distribution and make fast changes to improve the exposure and contrast of your images. In Lightroom 5, there are 5 tonal ranges: Blacks, Shadows, Exposure, Highlights, and Whites. On the far left, you can access the Blacks, while on the far right there are the Whites.

Here is how you can make your edits:

  1. Open the photos you intend to edit.
  2. Click on the Develop module.
  3. Move the cursor over the tonal range you want to change. It will lighten up a bit and its name will show up below the histogram.
  4. Click and drag to the left or to the right. If you drag to the left, the tones represented by the selected Histogram region will darken. If you drag to the right, they will brighten.

Note that these tone controls depend on the process version you are working with.

Exposure applies to all process versions: PV2012, PV2010, and PV2003. You can use the exposure control to adjust the overall brightness of the image. The values of the slider are equivalent to the aperture values on your camera.

The other four tonal ranges described here apply to the PV2012 process version.

Highlights can be used to adjust the bright areas. If you drag to the right you will brighten the highlights, while to the left you will be able recover the blown out details.

Whites can be used to alter the white clipping. Just move the slider to the left to minimize the clipping. Dragging to the right will increase the clipping, which might be advantageous only if you want to have some mirror-like effects, for example highlights from metallic surfaces.

Shadows can be used to regulate the darker areas. If you move the slider to the left, it will darken the shadows. Dragging it to the right, you will brighten the shadows and recover shadow details.

Blacks can be used to regulate black clipping. Dragging to the left increases black clipping. Moving the slider to the right reduces the clipping.

Here is one example of using the tonal range sliders:

We will modify the tonal ranges to improve the quality of the photo depicted below. The original photo and the end result look like this:


  1. The original photo again with the histogram in the inset. You can see that the photo is rather dull and the pixels are bunched up in the central part of the histogram. We are going to correct this.tonal-range2
  2. Here we have slightly corrected the Expoisure by dragging the slider to the left. tonal-range3
  3. Next we have increased the Highlights by 98. tonal-range4
  4. The next step is to correct the Whites. We have moved the slider to the right by 56. tonal-range5
  5. Then we move the left portion of the histogram. First we correct the Shadows by moving the slider to the left. tonal-range6
  6. The last step is to decrease the Blacks slider. tonal-range7

Other Editing Tips

There is no right or wrong way to process your image. Experiment and don’t be afraid to try. Everything change you make is reversible and can be undone.

Watch for the possible clipping while working with the Blacks and Whites sliders. Use the clipping indicators as described here.

Take action by deliberately shooting some overexposed or underexposed images and then correct them by following similar steps to the ones we outlined above.






Clipping indicators in Lightroom can be extremely useful to help you prevent overcorrections while editing your raw photos. Before explaining how you can use them, let us first see what clipping is and why it should be avoided.

What is clipping?

Whenever you make any image editing to your raw photos, clipping can occur if your edits shift the darkest or lightest areas in the image outside the minumum or maximum intensity (pure black or pure white). As a result, you lose those darkest or lightest details and ruin the quality of your photo.

In the language of the histogram, this happens when the highlights extend beyond the right part of the histogram, or, equivalently, when the shaddows dissappear off the left part of the histogram. This effectively damages your photo as there could be considerable loss of detail.

Lightroom’s Clipping Indicators

Lightroom has a nice feature, but one that is easy overlooked – you can use the Histogram to show the clipped areas in your photographs. The Lightroom’s histogram is a way of representing the number of pixels at each luminance percentage. A proper photo should use the full range of the histogram, from the left to the right side of the panel. But spikes at each of the end points indicate clipping.

You can use the histogram clipping indicators to show you the clipped highlights and shadows so you can visualize and avoid overcorrection of the shadow and highlight details during your image editing.

  1. Open the Develop module and click on the Histogram panel.clipping-indicators-1
  2. Click the tiny triangles at the top-left and top-right corners of the histogram. Alternatively, just press the J key on your keyboard and both will be enabled.
  3. If you press the J key again, the triangles will be disabled.
  4. Now you can be sure that you won’t make a mistake by moving any controls in the Basic, Tone Curve, or HSL panels too far. If you move the controls in one direction the preview will turn red (clipping of highlight areas) or if you move the controls in the other direction it will turn blue (clipping of shadow areas), just like in the photo below.

You have probably heard about the IPTC metadata, but if you are new to photography, chances are, you don’t really know how important it is, or how to add this information to your photos. Metadata enables you to sort of tag your image files with your personal info, like copyright, name, and similar information. This, in turn, allows you to easily organize, protect, and search your collections. Just to be clear, it has nothing to do with providing your images with captions, which is a completely different topic in its own right. IPTC, website www.iptc.org, stands for International Press Telecommunications Council. They provided the industry standard for interchanging metadata information, originally intended for use by photojournalists. This info is stored inside the image file, and you can be sure that the look of the image is not affected in any way. To retrieve the metadata one has to use a program capable of reading IPTC data, which most of the today’s programs can do. Specifically, Lightroom uses the Library module to access and/or change this data. Today, all photographers can use this tagging system routinely, and in this post I am going to show you exactly how to do that using Lightroom’s excellent capabilities. Moreover, I am going to show you how to do that with a Metadata preset, so you can apply the basic metadata info on a whole bunch of similar photos at the same time. But let’s see why you should do it in the first place. You should tag your photos, first and foremost, to let others know about the copyright info, for example, whether it is a creative commons license, or you own copyright. If you hold the copyright, other people will also have a means of contacting you to ask for permission if they want to use your photo.

How to create a new metadata preset?

  1. Click on the Library module, then click on the Metadata control.metadata-presets-1
  2. Choose IPTC in the pop up menu.
  3. Click on the Preset option and select Edit Presets.metadata-presets-2
  4. The dialog that appears is a rather lengthy one. It enables adding all the details for a typical image in your collection. Take your time and fill in the fields that apply to ALL images in the shoot you intend to import. If the shoot is large, chances are there will be only a couple of values identical for all the images. Nevertheless, it might still be worth creating the preset.metadata-presets-3
  5. Click on Done and Save your newly created preset. Give it a descriptive name that will be meaningful for future use.

What values you shouldn’t set

Values like Caption, Label, and Subject information. They have to be added on an image by image basis.

What values you should set

The values like IPTC Copyright, IPTC Creator field, Rights Usage Terms, and Creator Information. For Copyright you should set something like Copyright 2015, Your Name, All Rights Reserved. You may also set Rights Usage Terms. Here you may add how the image should be used – for example – “Please do not reproduce without prior permission”. IPTC Creator field. Here you may add your name, email, address, website and so on. If you check any of the blank fields, they will be added to the metadata of the images as blank information. If there is already any metadata stored in the image file, it will be overwritten by the blank data. This concludes the procedure of creating a new metadata preset. Now you are ready to import your shoots into Lightroom.

  1. Click on the Import button. build-previews1
  2. Choose the folder that contains the images you intend to import. You will be able to see previews of the images in that folder. metadata-presets-5
  3. Choose how you want to import your images between DNG, Copy, Move or Add.metadata-presets-6
  4. Decide how you want to set the File Handing options. For more on this check our detailed explanation.
  5. Select the Metadata preset you prepared earlier within the Apply During Import panel.metadata-presets-4
  6. Click Import to import your shoots. You can click on the thumbnails in the Library to write the specific metadata information for each photo.

This was a step by step guide into using IPTC metadata in Lightroom. Please note that your metadata is not a permanent protection, it can be easily stripped by anybody. However, it helps with honest people who want to discover and credit your work.

When you are ready to import some of your photos in Lightroom, click on the Import button.


Once you do that, a new window will open. In the upper right hand side you will see a panel titled “File Handling”.


Click on “File Handling” and a dialog will open. There are several different file handling options that can be somewhat confusing. Let me break these options down for you in the next part of this step by step guide.

Build my damn previews

Basically, when you are importing photos in Lightroom, you have the ability to choose how you want Lightroom to render the photos when you view them. Your decision in this step will have a large impact on the time required to import photos but may save you significant time while editing.

Put another way, Lightroom first creates a low-res JPEG preview file from the full photo as it is imported, however, which quality selection you choose will determine how fast the hi-res image preview will show up when you are editing the full size photos (not the small thumbnails).

Your Options Are…



If you select the minimal preview option, that will give you the quickest import option but when editing in the develop module and looking at your photos at a full screen or zoomed in view, it will take the longer amount of time to render the full image.

Embedded & Sidecar


This option will display the largest possible image preview available from the camera. It takes longer than minimal to import but may be slightly faster while editing.



Standard is next in line in terms of rendering speed. The standard rendering will slow down the import process a bit, but when you only zoom to “fit” in frame it will show you the image preview quickly.



1:1 (one to one) previews are the slowest to import a since they are creating a full resolution preview at the time of import. What that means for you though is that you can zoom in to inspect the photo is much as you want without waiting for the photo to “render the full image”.   The downside is simply how slow it is to import (for a wedding I’d let it import overnight) and since the files are stored within’ your catalog, it can slow your editing down as your catalog/database file grows.

Which One to Pick?

Over time you will get a better feel for which file handling option works best for your workflow. If you like to inspect each and every photo and zoom in a bunch, 1:1 previews will be your best bet – if you are doing very quick edits and only fine tune a couple of the photos from each session, then minimal or embedded and sidecar might be best for you.