Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
Now, it's time to talk about the sliders in the Tone section of the Basic panel. This really is the heart of the correction that you're going to do in this panel. These sliders affect the exposure and the contrast that can help you to bring back detail in highlights and shadows and to set a bright white and a dark black point in the image. Before we get started with these sliders, I want to make sure that your sliders look just like mine. If you're not using the exercise files and you happen to be using an older photo, one that may have been corrected in an earlier version of Lightroom, then you won't see the same sliders in your tone section of the Basic panel that I have here.
If that's the case, you should also see a warning square down here with an exclamation mark on it. You can get your sliders to look just like mine by holding down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on the PC and clicking on that warning icon. Now you'll be able to follow along with me. Before we look at each of the individual sliders here I want to mention that there is an Auto Tone button here in the tonal area. If you're in a hurry or you just want to see what Lightroom would do with this photo, you can click this button and the result in this case is pretty good.
I like the appearance of the image and the histogram looks pretty good to me. So I just might go with Auto, and as you can see clicking the Auto button has changed each of the sliders moving it from its midpoint of zero in the center of the scale. I can tweak any of the sliders from this point on or I can set them all back to their starting point and use the manual sliders from the get go. I'm going to do that so that I can show you what each slider does. If I would click the reset button at the bottom of this column that would reset all of the sliders here in the Basic panel.
If I want to reset just the Tone sliders, I can hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key in the PC. That changes this button to reset tone and I'll click there to set just the Tone sliders back to zero. When I'm working with the individual sliders in the Tone area, I usually start with the Exposure slider and then move right down through the sliders in the order in which they appear here. One reason to do that is that the sliders are interdependent so for example, the amount that I'll have to tweak the Highlight slider will depend on where I set the Exposure slider.
You may not be used to working in this way but I think you'll appreciate it if you give it a try. It will also save you some time if you get used to working from top to bottom and you're processing a lot of photos at once. So, starting with the Exposure slider, this slider controls the overall brightness of a photo. If I want to make all the tones in the image darker so the photo looks darker overall, I'll drag the Exposure slider to the left like this. If I want to make the photo look brighter as I do in this case, I'll drag the Exposure slider over to the right. Now how do I know how far to go here? Well, what I'll do is I concentrate on the midtones.
Remember from the last movie, or if you just look up at the histogram you can see this too, that the Exposure slider is intended to correct primarily the midtones in the photo. So in this case I'd consider the midtones to maybe be this building over here. And I'll keep my eye there as I move the exposure slider until it looks to me as bright as I would like that area to be. Maybe I'll go around there. I can always come back and tweak this further after I adjust the other sliders. Next I'll move to the Contrast slider.
The Contrast slider controls how bright the bright tones are going to be and how dark the dark tones. Now I'm not talking about the extreme ends of the histogram but the other dark and light tones. Most images will look best with a little additional contrast so I do generally drag the slider to the right a bit to make the image pop a little. Let's see what happens in this photo. As I drag to the right you can see that I'm getting a little more punch in the image. Now if I want to see how the image was a few moments ago, before I adjusted exposure and contrast to compare it to how it is now, I'll press the Backslash key.
There's where I started and there is where I am now. Next, I'll move down to the Highlights and the Shadow sliders. The purpose of these sliders is to bring back detail, either in the highlights or in the shadows, without affecting the rest of the image. The Highlight slider is particularly powerful. For example, in this image when I increased exposure I lost a little bit of detail up here in the clouds. I'd like to bring that back and so I'll drag the Highlight slider to the left and see if I can recover some more detail. If I drag it all the way over I think you can see that best.
Now, you can really see the detail in the clouds up here and down here. I don't want to take highlights all the way over to the extreme left. I'm going to back on off that a bit, putting it around here. What I love about this slider is that it does effect the highlights bringing detail back in without too much of an effect on other tonal values on the photo. The same is true of the Shadow slider which I can use to open up the shadows in the image. So, in this case keep your eye up here and over here and down here in the darker areas as I drag the Shadow slider to the right.
And that opens those up, bringing in some more detail without really affecting the rest of the tones in the image. As a general rule, I try to keep the Shadow slider and the Highlight slider in the same neighborhood on either side of zero. So, I might increase the Shadow slider a bit to bring it more in line with the Highlights slider. Now, the image still doesn't look great and I think what it needs is some undertones of rich black. For that, I can use the Black slider. The White slider and the Black slider are used to set the extreme whites and the extreme blacks in the image.
I'm actually going to start with the White slider. And in order to see what the slider is doing in the image, I'm going to go up and click on this Highlight Clipping Indicator to enable it, and then I'll go down and drag the White slider to the right. Now, notice that there are some red pixels starting to appear here in the image and those are just indicators meaning that the pixels under the red are being pushed toward pure white with no detail. When I see that, I'll back off a little bit so that I don't blow out those white pixels, and as you can see that highlight indicators are no longer lit up.
I'll click on it to disable it and then I'll go over and I'll enable the Shadow Clipping Indicator so that I can use the black slider and see which pixels I'm going to be pushing to pure black as I drag the Black slider over toward the left. I'm usually not as concerned about sacrificing detail in some small black areas of the photo like these, particularly where those areas aren't very important to the content. I'm going to click on that Highlight Warning Indicator again to turn it off so that I can see the result. So, let me approach that Black slider again so you can watch.
Here it is at zero and look how the image pops more as I drag the Black slider over to the left pushing some pixels to appear black which increases contrast. So, now that I've made the first pass through the tonal sliders, I can always come back and tweak something. Maybe I want a little more contrast. Maybe I want a little more exposure. Maybe I want to bring back some more highlights and so forth. Now before I'm done there's one more slider that is in a different section of the Basic panel but then I really consider it a tonal control and that is the Clarity slider.
What this slider does is make the midtones in a photo look more crisp and detailed. Let's see what it does in this image as I drag it to the right to increase clarity. As you can see, there's now a little more detail in the midtones and you can see it here in the decoration on the front of the building. So, increasing clarity is a nice way to finish things off. By the way, if you ever want to soften an image, giving it a real glow, you can move the Clarity slider over toward the left and you'll get an effect something like this and this can sometimes help to soften a portrait.
But I'm going to increase clarity in this case to somewhere around there and it is just a subjective decision as to where I want to leave that slider. When I'm all done, I want to compare where I am now with where I started so I'll press the Backslash key on my keyboard. There is where I started and there is where I am now and I think I'm going to actually take clarity down a bit and maybe take contrast down so that my edges aren't as sharp. So, those are the sliders that I think are going to change the appearance of your photo the most as you process it in the Basic panel.
If you don't remember what any of these sliders do, go back and listen to this movie again and try out these sliders on a number of different photos of your own so that you can really see what each one does.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
180 Video lessons · 70494 Viewers
64 Video lessons · 92235 Viewers
86 Video lessons · 60420 Viewers
103 Video lessons · 29049 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.