Develop 4-5 Star Photos

posted: July 27, 2018

Through the previous steps, I have greatly reduced the number of photos that reach this step in my workflow. Only those photos I have rated as 4-5 stars will now be developed using Lightroom's Develop module.

Develop the 4-star rated photos:

  • Click on the “4-stars” Smart Collection to make these the current photos to be worked on

  • Work through the Develop process described below.

Develop “5-stars” rated photos:

  • Click on the “5-stars” Smart Collection to make these the current photos to be worked on

  • Work through the Develop process described below.


My Typical Develop Process

White Balance

I will first look at the photo to determine whether or not I need to adjust the White Balance. This need is mostly required when I shoot under artificial light conditions such as at an indoor volleyball or basketball event. Otherwise, I find the camera does a pretty good job of automatically dealing with white balance.


I will next take a look at the histogram. If the photo is significantly under or over exposed, I will make an adjustment to the Exposure slider to correct this.

If a portion of the photo is over exposed in relation to the rest of the photo (e.g., the sky), I will use the Graduated Filter tool to make the necessary adjustments.

White and Black Points

Once I am satisfied with the exposure, I will make an adjustment to the White slider and then the Black slider to obtain their optimum levels.

Highlights and Shadows

I will next tackle the Highlights and Shadow portions of the photo. I usually have to reduce the Highlight slider and if there are dark areas in the photo increase the Shadow slider.


For Landscape type photos, I will usually just click on the "Punch" preset and move on. If I want to take a bit more time, I work with the Contrast, Clarity and Vibrance sliders.

For People type photos, I stay away from much in the way of Contrast adjustments as they result in too harsh of a treatment. If the skin looks a bit unnatural, I will make small adjustments to the White Balance.


If I find any distracting elements (dust spots, power wires, etc.), I will use the Clone/Heal tool as appropriate. Photoshop is a better tool for this but Lightroom can handle many situations.


In my humble opinion, there is no one tool that can have a greater impact on your photo.

With the Crop tool you have the ability to do two things: decide what you want to leave out of the photo and/or digitally zoom in on a portion of the image.

Lens Correction

Lightroom has a good database of lenses. They have determined and corrected for the weaknesses of lenses and allow you to make a one click correction. Often times the correction is very subtle and other times it can be quite dramatic.

One may also correct any lens aberration (color fringing) problems with a single click as well.


On a number of my photos that are destined for the Galley of my web site, I will add a vignette... usually the Vignette 1 preset. In my opinion, this is especially dramatic on photos of people.


This is usually my last step.

If the photo is a Landscape type photo, I apply the Sharpen - Scenic preset. If the photo is close-up of a person, I will apply the Sharpen - Faces preset.


I do not always go through every one of the above adjustments just the ones I think will improve the look I am going for.

Special Case Develop Tools

Adjustment brush

This local adjustment tool is very useful in a number of circumstances. A few examples include: bring attention to the person's eyes by applying additional sharpening, draw the viewer's eye to a portion of a photo by lightening that portion of the photo, softening a portion of the photo that negatively draws the viewer's attention by reducing the sharpening, reducing the exposure on portions of the photo that draw the viewer's eye, etc.

Tone curve

I have never fully comprehended this panel so I rarely if ever use it.

HSL Panel

I use this panel if I want particular colors in a photo to "pop" or be subdued.

Split Toning

Proper use of this panel can have a dramatic effect on a photo.

Noise Reduction

I will only tackle Noise Reduction if the photo was shot at a very high ISO and there was a fair of amount of shadow content to the photo. The majority of my photos are viewed on a computer screen and at that size, noise plays a smaller role.

Add ins

From time-to-time, I also use Topaz B&W Effects which does a very nice job of converting photos to black-and-white.

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