Lightroom Tutorial 5 – Local Developing Tools

I am writing this tutorial for beginners and those with little experience of Lightroom. I will endeavour to write it in as simple terms as possible. It would help if you open Lightroom and follow along using one or two photos of your own.

Local Development tools

The local development tools are the ones that mean you can make changes to parts of your photo, rather than developing the whole photo. In the image below I have highlighted the tools.

11 – Crop/rotate, 2 – Clone/heal, 3 – red eye removal, 4 – Grad filter, 5 Radial filter, 6 – Adjustment brush

The key is to develop your subject first using the global tools that we discussed in Tutorial 4. Once you have got your subject exposed properly we can then use the local development tools to refine our photo. If you blow out the sky ensuring that your subject is exposed properly, then don’t worry because we can reclaim it using the local tools. In the above photo my subject is the dancers, so I develop globally to have the right exposure for the dancers, then I can use the local tools.



21 – Crop tool, 2 – Crop edge point

If you click on the crop tool (1) you notice that a frame is place around your photo (2). If you hover your cursor over the frame then you will notice a two-way arrow. Left click and then drag to move where the edge of your crop will be. Once you have adjusted the edges to suit the crop that you want, press enter. Don’t worry if you want to reclaim some of what you have cropped out. Click the crop tools again and the whole picture will reappear, with your current crop indicated by the crop edge point which you can now adjust to suit your needs.

With the crop tool clicked you can place your curse outside the photo and a twisted two-way directional arrow will appear. You can use this to rotate the photo.

My advice would be to rotate the image early on in developing your photo, but don’t crop until the end. If you crop at the beginning of the process then Lightroom has less pixels to work with and this may affect the quality of your photo and how smooth the result is.

If you have Photoshop and are working on a project for assignment, and want all of your photos to have the same crop ratio, then use Photoshop. In Photoshop, you can set the crop to any ratio that you like, and can have the same ratio for all photos in a series, even though they are different sizes.



My least favourite Lightroom tool. If you have Photoshop then use it for clone and heal rather than Lightroom. It is far more intuitive, and it can be used alongside the healing brush tool to give a smooth finish for complex cloning.

However, let’s explore the Lightroom version for those that don’t have Photoshop.

31 – Clone tool indicator , 2 – Clone, 3 – Heal

Clone – click the clone tool indicator and move the cursor over you photo. Notice that it changes to a circle crosshair. To decrease or increase the size use the  [ ] keys. Stroke the cursor over the area that you would like to clone out. It will paint a white line, and then when you release the mouse button a box of the same size will appear over an area that Lightroom analyses to be a suitable match to paste over your selected area. If you don’t like the match then you can change the selection. Move your cursor so that it is within with in the outlined source box, a hand will appear, left click and then drag the box to where you want the selected area to clone from. Press enter and your clone is saved but a grey circle still appears. You can either press enter again and the clone tools is then gone, or hover your cursor over the circle, left click, and now four options appear. Click heal at this point and Lightroom will blend your clone in with the background. You can also delete it from the four options. Press enter twice to exit the clone tool.

Heal – healing works in much the same way as above. It works better on dust or spots that have been caused by rain or dust on your lens. Adjust the cross hairs so they are only slightly bigger than the spot, and press enter. Lightroom will select a source, which you can manually move. Press enter once when you are happy with the selection and twice to exit the tool. Be aware that once you have pressed enter once a grey circle will remain around the area that you have healed and the source point. This will go once you press enter the second time to exit the tool. I initially thought this grey circle would remain and ruin the photo. It doesn’t.

Let us consider that you have used the clone/heal tool and pressed enter to exit the tool. You find that you are not happy with it and want to alter the selection. Click on the tool selector again. Notice that you have a solid grey circle where you cloned. You can hover your cursor over it, right click and then alter or delete. You can use the tools multiple times on each photo, and all of these are removable at a later stage without any image destruction.


Red Eye Removal

A useful tool for portraits of people and pets.

Click on the tool and cross hairs appear. Left click and drag so that an ellipse is produced and ensure that it covers the whole of the eye. You can then adjust the tool for the size of the pupil, and to lighten or darken the area using the sliders. You can do the same for pets by clicking on pet eye.


1 + 2 – sliders for pupil size and lighten/darken.


Grad Filter

My favourite tool. It is my go to tool for developing my photographs. Once you have a bit of practice using it you will come to realise just how much you can do with this tool. I prefer this to the adjustment brush because of the consistency and smoothness of adjustments. When you use the adjustment brush, if you go over certain areas more than others, you can sometimes see the strokes of the brush, the grad filter prevents that from happening, and after the photo I will explain why.

51 – Grad filter selector, 2 – sliders, 3 – Colour tool


Select the grad filter, hold down the shift key with the left mouse button depressed and drag down your page 1 inch. Notice that there is a black and white circle, with a line above and a line below. Now press the letter o. The area that will be affected by changes that you make are shown in red, and the blank area that won’t be affected is below the bottom line. Move your cursor to the bottom line and a hand will hover over it. Drag that down another inch. You can see that the red is becoming fainter. This means that any changes that you make using the sliders will be more intense at the top and graduate down to the bottom where they will be fainter still. Now hover your cursor over the black circle, a hand will appear, left click and drag. The top line will now appear part way down your photo. When you make changes using the photo, the space above the top line will have full affect, gradually feathering down to no affect below the bottom line. To rotate the area then hover over the centre line to the left or white of the circle, click and drag. You have more control over this if you do so further away from the centre circle.

Grad Filter Key Tips

To free hand the grad filter left mouse click without pressing shift.

For straight vertical or horizontal, drag down or to the side with shift depressed.

To have a colour overlay so that you can see which area of your photo you are adjusting press the letter o, to change colour of the overlay press shift and o.

The grad filter will produce a straight line, in any direction that you choose. So, as well as selecting the area that you want to change, it will also select areas that need to stay as they are. Here the fun begins. In the photo below I want to make changes to the sky and not the buildings, but as you can see the grad filter has selected them too.

61 – Feather to horizon, 2 – Brush, 3 – Type of brush, 4 – Auto Mask, 5 – Centre circle, 6 – top line, 7 – Bottom line.

There is a lot in the above image, but with practice it becomes quite easy. The following exercise will guide you through the process of masking out the areas that you do not wish to change, and leave only the areas that you do.


Open a photo and click on the grad filter. Use shift drag to open the filter for 1 inch, press shift the letter o so that you can see the overlay colour. Hover over the centre circle and when the hand appears drag it half way down the page. Half of your photo is now red. Press the shift and t keys simultaneously, and notice that the word brush is highlighted (as 2 above). Now click the word erase at the bottom of the sliders (as 3 above) and then click Auto mask. The auto mask button detects edges, so when you make a brush stroke it will only work up to the edge. Set feather to 0 and flow to 100%. Move your cursor onto the photo and then press the ] key until your brush is around 1 inch in diameter. Now drag the brush over the parts of the photo that you want to be masked out so that the grad filter doesn’t affect them.

71 – Area that I have erased using the erase brush, 2 – buildings that I haven’t yet erased

I only want the grad filter to change the sky in this photo, so I am deleting the red overlay from all other areas. Tip use brush strokes, don’t try to do brush out a whole area in one go. This way if you go over the edge you won’t have to go back to the beginning. Tip – Zoom in and then use a smaller brush to ensure you delete areas of fine detail, such as the street lamp above. Tip – The grad filter selects by tone and colour that the centre point of your brush goes over. It will then delete all within your brush that match when automask is selected, so you will need to go over areas of different colours if they appear within the circle of your brush. Tip – Use the automask to brush out edges. Once the edges have gone you can remove the auto mask and erase the other areas as block brush strokes rather than tone/colour match (in the above photo I used automask to delete the edges of the buildings, and then stroked down towards the shops and people without automask.

If you then want to paint an area back in that you have deleted then select either brush A or B next to erase, move the feather slider in between 10 and 20 and the flow to 100% for anything above the grad filters top line and progressively reduce the flow for areas closer to the bottom line. You can test to see if the red overlays match up, if they don’t then press Ctrl Z to delete and adjust the flow, and try again.

Now press o so that the red overlay disappears, then press Shift T. This takes you out of the brush mode and means that you can use the sliders to adjust the areas that you have selected with the grad filter. Reduce the exposure to -4 and notice how the area goes almost black. Reset exposure to 0. At the bottom of the sliders there is a little box with the word colour next to it. Click on the envelop and select a blue colour, and then reduce the exposure. You will notice that the sky is now blue.

81 – Colour opacity slider

You can now adjust the opacity of the colour so that you have the right hue for your photo. Press enter when you have the colour that you want and then you can use the sliders to make further developments. I rarely make use of the colour adjuster, but it can enhance a sky where you have shot into the light.

If you now hover your cursor over the circle and right click, notice that you can duplicate the settings. This is great as it means you can make slight adjustments with the sliders, and then duplicate to slowly build up the effects, rather than trying to do them all in one go. I have found this to be useful when I have needed to make subtle changes. Hit enter twice and you are now out of the grad filter. However, you can click the grad filter tool again and set a different filter (be aware that where your two filters overlap both changes will combine, so erase out the overlap), also note that a circle appears where your last filter was applied. If you left click on the circle it will bring up your current slider settings which you can now re-adjust.

Grad Filter warnings – Making too drastic a change using the grad filter will mean that you get halo’s around the edges. If you have a halo, then use brush A, click auto mask, and go to the outside of the area that you just erased, and mask back in up to the edge. If you are developing a photo for assessment, then take it into photo shop and view at full size. If there is still a halo, you can clone the correct colour match and take it up to the edge. Its time consuming, so only do this for assessment or photo competition pieces. Trees – trees are a bloody nightmare to be honest. When you use the grad filter and the filter goes over trees you will need to erase the branches and leaves. Use the erase brush a) make sure that you use automask, B) Increase the brush size to as large as possible, C) Zoom in close. Click on the leaf rather than drag. Because you are using a large brush then it will change all of the leaves (of the same colour) within your circle, thus targeting a larger area which speeds up your process, do the same with tree trunks and branches. Why bother to do this? If you are using the grad filter to change the exposure of a sky and don’t mask out the leaves, then you get horrible coloured leaves and your photo will look awful. If you decide that the process is too time consuming and decide to erase the sky between the leaves, you will be left with a noticeable change in sky tone between the whole sky and the sky between the leaves (I have tried the lazy way and it ruins your photo). The grad filter is the best tool for adjusting the exposure of the sky as it gives a smooth, consistent and feathered finish. If you use the adjustment brush instead of the grad filter you will have streaks in the sky from where different brush strokes overlap, and still won’t have altered the sky between the leaves. Trees annoy me when it comes to developing my photos because they are time consuming. However, I take my photography seriously and if a photo is going to be assessed, is being entered into a competition, or is one that I value, then It deserves the effort that it takes. With portrait photography you will have to follow the same slow process with hair.

In the before and after photo below, I have drastically reduced the exposure of the sky to show two things. The first being that using the grad filter selectively means that you can isolate the subject by reducing the impact of the background. Secondly, take a close look at the church spire and notice that it has a halo around the edges. The more extreme your changes are the more pronounced the halo. More subtle changes mean less halo.



Grad Filter, Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Depth of Field

There are many occasions when we want to reduce the noise from a photo. You can do this by using the global develop tools and reduce the noise over a whole image, but that comes at the cost of reducing the detail and its sharpness. Using the grad filter we can selective reduce the background noise. A common tool to improve the clarity of a subject is to reduce the clarity of the background. You can do these individually or together. It is the same technique as above, but to keep the changes completely smooth, click on the grad filter, Shift drag for half a centimetre. Hover over the centre circle and drag to the bottom of the photo. This means there is no feather so the changes apply equally over the whole image. Then Shift T to open your brush, erase, automask, erase from the subject so that isn’t affected, then slide clarity to the left but move the noise slider to the right. The noise slider is counter intuitive, but it reduces noise to the right, and increases to the left. Reducing clarity is also good for isolating a person or object in a complex picture, and it decrease the depth of field in doing so.

Top tip for grad filter and automask – zoom in, be precise. Take your time. Taking your time now, will save time in the long run.


Radial Filter

I rarely use this tool, but it can be useful to make changes to a circular or elliptical area of a photo. I made use of it in the following photo to create two areas of light that were not in the original photo.


Click on the radial filter, click and drag to create a circle then us the squares to adjust size and shape. Move your cursor outside of the circle and you can now rotate it. Then use the sliders to make your development changes.

Top Tip

You can reset your sliders by double clicking on effect, you can also click on the custom button and use a preset adjustment. This works for all of the local development tool sliders apart from red eye removal.

91 – Effect button, 2 – Custom/presets button


Adjustment Brush

The strength adjustment brush is demonstrated in complex scenes where overlapping strokes are not going to be noticeable. It’s great for dodge and burn, and if you click on the adjustment brush and then on custom you will find the settings pre-programmed for dodge and burn. Make your global developments first to create the overall exposure that you want, then use the adjustment brush like a paint brush. You can use the presets or use the sliders to create the changes that you require. If you want to see the areas that your brush has touched then remember to press Shift o.


On the left we have the before image. Notice how flat the photo is. There is no movement through the picture and the eye wanders around. For the after photo I made global changes to tone and exposure. Then I have used the adjustment brush twice, with different settings for each. Firstly I used the burn tool and brushed over the people and flowers to the left, and the buildings behind the street performers on the right (avoiding the people). Then I used the dodge tool over the paving and the performers, to increase their exposure and light. This creates a pathway through the photo that the eye then follows naturally.


Experiment, have fun and I promise that with practice you will find that using these tools becomes intuitive.


The next tutorial will cover exporting, saving, and watermarks.






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