Develop an image using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Final Image - Place du Pantheon, Paris, France

Looking along Place du Pantheon towards the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Sometimes your eyes see things differently to how your camera sees the same scene. Sometimes you see something similar, but have a different idea of how you want to present the image. Sometimes the final image is nothing like what was actually in front of you. It doesn’t really matter in one sense because photography is a form of art. The final interpretation of the image can be anything you want it to be.

You are the artist.

Take the image at the top of this post for example. The original image really doesn’t look anything like the final product. The final image is more like what was there on the night, but the dynamic range of the camera just wasn’t able to capture the full range of light. The sun was setting and the light was fading, but the sky was still a lot brighter than the rest of the scene.

Let’s take a look at how the image was developed using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Straight out of camera

The image was made with an Olympus OMD E-M5 and an m.Zuiko 12-50/ƒ3.5-6.3 lens. The exposure was 1/400 sec, ƒ9 and ISO200. The focal length was 50mm which is equivalent to 100mm on a 35mm camera.

As you can see, the image is quite dark because it was exposed for the sky. If the image was exposed for the buildings in the foreground, then there was a risk of the sky being over-exposed and completely losing detail, which might not have been recoverable. The image is also tilted very slightly to the right.

Lightroom Develop Module - no adjustments

The original image in Lightroom’s Develop Module before any adjustments were made

Global adjustments

Before getting down to the finer details of developing the image, there were some global adjustments made to improve the overall exposure. The image was also straightened.


  • Exposure – added 0.30 stops
  • Contrast – unchanged
  • Highlights – minus 77
  • Shadows – plus 99
  • Whites – plus 61
  • Blacks – minus 9


Although not shown in the image, there were some global changes to sharpening too.

  • Amount – 70
  • Radius – 1.5
  • Detail – 10
  • Masking – 30
Lightroom Develop Module - basic adjustments

Basic global adjustments made in Lightroom’s Develop Module

Adjustment Brush

Next there were some changes made using the Adjustment Brush.


First up was the sky. The screenshot below shows the mask applied in Lightroom that indicates where the brush was painted and where the adjustments were applied.

  • Temp – unchanged
  • Tint – unchanged
  • Exposure – minus 0.35 stops
  • Contrast – plus 15
  • Highlights – minus 19
  • Shadows – unchanged
  • Clarity – plus 53
  • Saturation – plus 17
  • Sharpness – unchanged
  • Noise – unchanged
  • Moiré – unchanged
  • Defringe – unchanged
  • Colour – unchanged

The brush was adjusted to a suitable size and the feather amount set to 100. Both Flow and Density were set to 80.

Lightroom Adjustment Brush - sky

Making adjustments to the sky – exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, saturation and clarity using Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush


Next, the lower half of the image was warmed up. The foreground was in shadow and looked quite blue in the original photograph. Using the adjustment brush the Temperature was increased by 31 and then painted over the image. The screenshot shows the mask, which also includes the lower part of the sky. Painting over the warm tones already visible in the sky made them contrast even more with the cool of the blue sky above.

Both the Flow and Density were again set to a value of 80, with a Feather amount of 100.

Lightroom Adjustment Brush - lower half

Adding warmth to the lower half of the image using Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush

Pedestrian and Street Canopy

Next up was the pedestrian walking through the frame in front of the bollards and a street canopy on the footpath on the left of the image. Both were a little dark, so the following adjustments were added –

  • pedestrian – Exposure: plus 0.38 stops
  • canopy – Exposure: plus 0.52 stops
Lightroom Adjustment Brush - pedestrian

Adding a little exposure to a pedestrian and street canopy using Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush

Radial Filter

The buildings in the original image looked quite flat so two radial filters were added. First on the buildings on the right and then on the left side of the road.

Right Side

  • Exposure – plus 0.47 stops
  • Feather – 55

Left Side

  • Temp – plus 20
  • Exposure – plus 0.26 stops
  • Feather – 75
Lightroom Radial Filter - adding highlights

Adding highlights to buildings using Lightroom’s Radial Filter

Turning on the lights

The final change to the image was to turn on the streetlights using the Adjustment Brush. The lights were lit simply by painting over each of them with the following adjustments –

  • Temp – plus 100
  • Tint – plus 17
  • Exposure – plus 1.30 stops
  • Contrast – unchanged
  • Highlights – plus 100
  • Shadows – minus 100
  • Clarity – plus 100
  • Saturation – unchanged
  • Sharpness – unchanged
  • Noise – unchanged
  • Moiré – unchanged
  • Defringe – unchanged
  • Colour – unchanged
Lightroom Adjustment Brush - streetlights

Turning on the streetlights using the Lightroom Adjustment Brush

Before and After

And there you have it. Some simple adjustments to the image that drastically changed the way it looks. From a dark and flat image on the left to a much brighter and more vibrant image on the right of the screenshot below.

Lightroom Develop Module - Before and After

Lightroom Develop Module showing the original ‘straight out of camera’ image and the final version


Remember that photography is a form of art. There is no right or wrong way to process a photograph. The only thing that matters is the image you want to present to the world. Try to pre-visualise your image and then make the photograph with that vision in mind. Sometimes the image you capture will be very close to your final vision. Sometimes it won’t.

Don’t be afraid to process your photographs. Learn the limitations of both your camera and your processing software and then go and make images.


Photography is about vision; I love making photographs that tell a location’s story – the place, the people and the culture. I'm a photographer with a relaxed approach. I'm an experienced traveller and love teaching others about photography. Images can be made anywhere - right in your back yard or in exotic overseas locations. I can teach you not only to look at your surroundings, but also to really "see" what's there. Photography is more than just pressing a button. It's also about vision. Let me show you how to look, see and capture your world.

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