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Lightroom Develop Versus Quick Develop

It is apparent that when Adobe designed Lightroom they tried to lay things out with workflow in mind. Right across the top in order are the five modules of Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web. But if there's an entire Develop module, why is there also a "Quick Develop" panel in the Library module? And how does it differ from the full thing?

Quick Develop in Adobe Lightroom
Quick Develop in Adobe Lightroom

Quick Develop with the Alt key held down
Quick Develop with the Alt key held down

At first glance the answer seems obvious: Quick Develop must be quicker. But let's look at what it's capable of and see it that actually holds true. There are three basic sections of the panel that can be expanded or shrunk as needed by clicking on the triangle icon to the right of each. The sections are: Saved Presets, White Balance, and Tone Control. By default, only this last one is expanded.

Saved Presets allows you to apply various treatments such as black and white conversion and crop images to predefined or custom aspect ratios. The list of possible presets provided by Adobe is long, and they are somewhat fun to play with, but just as with many of the built-in filters in Photoshop, it is rare that they will actually get you the best results possible regardless of whether you are trying to improve the natural look of an image or if you are going for something more artistic or interpretive. Still, given that all edits in Lightroom are nondestructive, one use for Quick Develop is to get you in the ballpark before you proceed to the actual Develop module to fine tune your creation.

The default version of the White Balance section provides just a single selection. But if you expand it, you get full control over Temperature and Tint sliders. The default view of the Tone Control section shows just an Auto Tune button to have Lightroom do what it thinks is best, together with controls for you to manually adjust Exposure, Clarity and Vibrance. Rather than being traditional sliders, these manual adjustments are presented as a series of buttons to lower or raise each by greater or lesser degrees. As such, you have to base your actions solely on what each image looks like rather than the position of a slider. For each adjustment, the single arrow buttons in the middle lower or raise that setting by a smaller degree than the double-arrow buttons at the ends of each button row. If you expand the Tone Control section, you'll gain access to Recovery, Fill Light, Blacks, Brightness and Contrast controls that work the same way. In either view (expanded or contracted), if you hold down the Alt key (Option key on Mac OS X), the Clarity and Vibrance adjustments will change to become Sharpening and Saturation adjustments.

Having just a series of buttons to decrease or increase adjustment values may seem somewhat uncomfortable if you are used to the way most image editing programs work. But again, remember that adjustments in Lightroom are nondestructive so you can fine tune things elsewhere as needed. If you click on the far right Exposure button three times in Quick Develop to increase exposure by three stops, as an example, you will see that change if you later open that image in the real Develop module. If you then move the slider back down three stops there, you will be right back where you started. It doesn't matter whether you change the exposure in Quick Develop or in Develop, or whether you do some in one and then some in the other, or even if you go back and forth and repeatedly change both, the end result will be the same regardless of how you arrived at it. Click on the Reset All button in Quick Develop and even exposure changes made in Develop will be returned to their starting point as if you had never changed anything.

If you select a number of images in the Library module grid view your Quick Develop settings will be applied to all of them. Better yet, the changes will be applied relative to any changes already made to each individually. To illustrate what I mean by this, suppose that you have increased the Exposure on one image by two stops but decreased it by one stop on another. It doesn't matter whether you do this in Quick Develop or in Develop. Regardless, if you then select both images in the Library grid view by clicking on them and use Quick Develop to lower the exposure one stop on both, you will end up with the first being now at plus two and the second at minus two stops. Each adds or subtracts from where it currently is. Both end up in the same place only if they started with the same adjustments. If the started from different points as in this example, the Quick Develop changes made to both together affects each by the same amount, but from a different starting place. The same holds true for all the adjustments in Quick Develop. This is a cool and very useful feature. While most of what can be done in Quick Develop can generally be done in the actual Develop module, and with greater control and finesse, the ability to collectively tweak a number of images in a meaningful way together is unique to Quick Develop.

Suppose you went out shooting but had your exposure compensation on the whole time without realizing it. Quick Develop lets you easily adjust exposure on all of them together. As an even better example, suppose you tweaked a bunch of images until they looked perfect only to later realize your new monitor wasn't calibrated. Quick Develop will let you adjust the tint of all of them together without messing up any individual changes you made to the tint of any specific images. I know no one reading this would forget to profile their monitor, but one of your friends might forget and you can help them. For situations like this, Quick Develop can be a life saver.

So is Quick Develop actually "quick?" If you have to go to the Develop module anyway to get full control and achieve the best results you can, perhaps the answer is no. It may seem like just an extra step that doesn't do away with the need for other steps. But if you have a group of images that need adjustments together, it can indeed help. Even if such group edits serve only to get you in the ballpark for more fine-tuned editing in Develop, it can save time to do them together in Quick Develop. Adjust once in Quick Develop together instead of once per image in the Develop module and you'll have less to do later on each. There are other ways in Lightroom to copy or sync settings across a number of images that we'll look at next week, but when you need to make a change to a bunch of images that are not all starting from the same settings, Quick Develop is the only good answer and is surely faster than manually making the same change to each image one at a time in Develop.

Date posted: December 12, 2010


Copyright © 2010 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Sync Settings and Auto Sync in the Lightroom Develop Module

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