What do all the do all the develop settings mean in Lightroom?

For example, what does the Fill light setting do, and how does this differ from the Brightness setting?

I can of course just play around with the settings and see what the effect is, but I've found that I get better results when I stick to the settings that I understand the theory behind (such as Exposure and White Balance).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ One suggestion might be to get a good Lightroom book if you really want to dive into all of the various Develop settings. I'm a big fan of Scott Kelby's Lightroom 3 book: amzn.to/gapwMY Of course, if you have questions about specific settings, you can ask here, but "what do all the develop settings mean" is kind of broad for a question here. \$\endgroup\$
    – ahockley
    Jan 19, 2011 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree about getting a decent book, such as Scott Kelby's. I'd also suggest having a look at the shows available on Adobe TV: tv.adobe.com/product/lightroom \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick
    Jan 24, 2011 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


The fill light slider brightens and recovers detail from the shadows using an HDR style tonemapping operation. Used in moderation it can increase the apparent dynamic range and deal with large distracting overexposed areas. Turned up to 11 you will get a nasty overprocessed bright-everywhere image that will make people on Flickr go "wow great capture".

The clarity slider does something akin to high pass filtering, basically increasing the contrast of large details without adding noise. Used in moderation it improves the, well, clarity of the image, especially when there is low contrast or flare. Also looks good on clouds. When overused it makes everything look a bit plasticy and fake.

The vibrance slider selectively boosts the less saturated colours. This increases the overall colourfulness without pushing existing colours too far (which can happen when you increase saturation). Again if used too much you'll get something that is painful to look at. You can combine increasing vibrance with decreasing saturation which evens out the colours even more, I find this helpful to boost blues and greens whilst keeping skintones in check.

These are the main ones that are tricky in their operation, perhaps you could be a bit more specific about which settings you'd like to understand better.


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