By Suzanne Mathia


In my Lightroom classes and one on one tutoring I often get countless questions that ask…

“what’s the difference between this and that.

Vibrance and Saturation…..Dodge and Burn…..Relative vs Perceptual rendering intent etc.

Great questions and we have fun exploring the answers. Over the years I have collected some of the most often asked  questions and my answers. Although I could dive in really deep with these answers, I’ve kept them relatively simple and easy to understand.


Vibrance and Saturation

Although they appear to do the same thing they do work very differently. Think of Vibrance as “smart saturation”.

The saturation slider is very aggressive and effects all the colors and gradations of colors in the image with the same intensity. As it tends to hit the red channels heavily it often creates overly saturated and unnatural skin tones.

Vibrance, which was actually created by Adobe, is more intelligent, it leaves the already saturated colors alone and increases the intensity of the more muted, less saturated colors. This is particularly great for skin tones as well as a more natural look to most of your images.





If you decrease the vibrance slider all the way to the left, you will still see some remnants of colors. However, the same adjustment with the saturation slider takes away all the color leaving you with a grey scale image.












Note that the Vibrance adjustment tends to hit the Blue and cooler tones first and the saturation slider hits the reds and oranges first.  So, depending on my image I may choose to use either vibrance or saturation or a careful combination of both knowing which colors it will target heavily.


All these slider works to either increase or decrease perceived detail in an image, but they have very different end results because of how they attack edge frequency differently. High frequency areas have a lot of detail and lots of edges whereas low frequency areas are relatively smooth.



The new texture slider isolates the contrast in the middle frequencies so it wont effect the really small or really large details. Reducing Texture is great for skin smoothing without over doing and getting that plastic look. Increasing the texture can add subtle sharpness and clarity to an image. It is available as a global adjustment and well as a local adjustment. Unlike Clarity and Dehaze, Texture doesn’t significantly shift color or saturation. It’s also useful for creating the appearance of sharpness of slightly out of focus areas.

I prefer to use it locally with a brush to affect only targeted areas of the image in a very subtle manner.


Is more aggressive with local contrast in the mid tones of an image it’s what I used to refer to as Texture before that slider was recently introduced. It’s a lot heavier handed than the texture slider and definitely affects the black and dark areas of your image. I will use the Clarity slider sparingly and usually globally to add a little pop to the overall image.


Does exactly what is says it removes the effects of water vapor and haze in our images. It adds or reduces a lot of contrast and saturation, but it also adds a lot of blue.  Often if I use the tool aggressively, I need to adjust by blue saturation sliders to compensate for the color cast and increase shadow detail.  Great for underwater photography and milky way as well as night sky photography.

I will often use just one slider or combine a bit of each one to create the desired effect and mitigate any adverse effects.

Clone and Heal

Cloning takes pixels from one place and replaces the other. Everything is copied exactly, shape, color and texture

Healing takes pixels from one place and BLENDS them with the other, retaining texture, color and tone












There are no real rules as to which tool to use.  If one doesn’t work the way you wanted, try the other!

Dodge and Burn

These terms are leftover from film darkroom days. They were techniques used during the printing process to change the exposure of areas of an image.

Dodging makes area lighter


Burning makes areas darker

A great example is how makeup is applied. Dark to make areas recede Bright to bring them forward.

Used for adding depth and separation to portions of your image. Brightening or darkening areas to guide the viewers eye through the image and add three dimensionality.

Highlights vs Whites

The Whites slider is the absolute brightest part of your image. That area that is to the further right on your histogram. If you are underexposed moving the Whites slider will ensure that you’ve maximized your dynamic range.

The Highlight slider adjusts the next level to the left of the whites, the bright values in your photograph. Highlight slider can recover lost detail in the brightest parts of your image brighten the image without pushing your exposure past your white point.

A little trick in Lightroom is to hold the ALT/Option key while moving the whites slider it will show a threshold view that will allow you to see the whitest whites as they appear.

Shadows vs Blacks

The Blacks slider is just the opposite of the Whites slider.  It is the True black and the far left on your histogram.

That ALT/OPT key trick works here too showing the threshold of the black tones. I am not a proponent of setting the black in the image too early if at all.

The shadows are the underexposed areas but not true black.  Increasing the shadows can reveal detail but too much can introduce a lot of noise and result in a flat artificial looking image. Lowering the shadows can add contrast and form.

Flow and Density

Flow controls how much of the effect you see with every stroke of the brush. Its cumulative so he more you brush over an area, the more of the effect that you will see. If the flow is set at 100% all of the effect is applied at once. A lower flow setting allows you to add effect gradually and subtly

Density puts a limit on how much of an effect is applied in total. A density 50 means that only 50% of the adjustment will be applied.

Using the adjustment brush and using flow and density as needed will make the best most effective adjustments

Hue Saturation Luminance

Hue is the shade of color

Saturation is the intensity of the color

Luminance is the brightness or darkness of the color also referred to as value



Sharpening – Amount/Radius/Detail/Masking

Amount – from zero which is no sharpening to 150 which is the maximum. Too much sharpening will add noise and too much detail giving a really “crunchy” look.

Radius – The size of the area around the edges to be sharpened.  A value of 1 = I pixel all the way up to 3 is the max and will affect 3 pixels from the edge. With the radius slider use the ALT/option key to show the threshold of the effect as you apply it

Detail – 0 will apply the sharpening to only the larger edges where 100 will hit every edge no matter the size. The detail slider is designed more for bringing out the finer textures.

Masking – Allows you to decide where the sharpening is to be applied and where you can “mask” it out. ALT/OPT key provides visual overlay. The areas in black are being masked out, while the areas in white are where the sharpening will take effect


Noise Color/Luminance

Luminance noise is noise where only the brightness of a pixel is affected.  Luminance noise is monochromic so it will be less colorful and more like grain. Seen frequently in images with high ISO

Color noise looks more like confetti, multi-colored pixels in area that should have solid color

There are many programs and adjustments that can help minimize the look of noise but they come at a price….they soften your image and blur the details. They best way to avoid issues with noise is don’t bring it in in the first place. Expose to the right. Of course, with really low light shots and night images a software solution is required.

Profiles vs Presets

Presets are shortcuts or predetermined “recipes” for applying Develop/Edit settings.
















Profiles apply an overall look to the photo. They leave all the Develop/Edit controls unchanged. It a different starting point for your image. LUT’s(Look up tables) LUTs work by remapping colors and allow you to browse various color rendering, camera profiles and creative artistic effects

Size vs aspect ratio

Size is the actual measurement of an image length and width, the dimensions of your image. It can be measured in inches or pixels

Aspect Ratio is the proportional relationship between its width and height – so will determine its shape. For instance, a 6 x 4 inch image has an aspect ratio of 3:2. An aspect ratio does not have units attached – instead, it represents how large the width is in comparison to the height.





DPI – Dots per inch deals with a printed or scanned image.  How many dots of ink will be applied per inch of paper.  DPI is for print out put

PPI – Pixels per inch deals with pixel resolution and is usually used in screen and digital image formats. The higher PPI the higher the pixel density and hence the quality of the image. The individual pixels in a 300 PPI image are much smaller than in a 72 PPI image. Smaller pixels blend the shapes and color better and allow for greater enlargements.

Raw vs DNG

Because each type of digital camera has a different sensor, many different types of camera raw formats exist.

Each camera manufacturer has their own proprietary RAW format, Canon uses .CR2, Nikon .NEF, Sony ARW etc.

Along comes ADOBE and they create a format called DNG which stands for Digital Negative. They are open standard and non-proprietary. It is intended for long term file preservation should any of these camera companies go out of business.

There are pros and cons to converting RAW images to DNG. They claim to be faster loading and compact. It does take another step in the import process to convert to DNG, especially with large files. You lose the ability to use the manufactures software, The DNG file format removes a lot of the metadata from the RAW file, so details about picture controls, focus point, and so forth, are no longer available.

Backups take longer and many international photography competitions will not accept DNG.

As of today, I do not convert my RAW images to DNG

Rendering intents Relative / Perceptual

Rendering intent describes four modes by which color management systems adapt some or all colors in a picture to the limitations of a given display or printer.

For practical purposes we use two of those, Relative Colorimetric and Perceptual

Perceptual – Tries to preserve the visual relationship between color so it’s perceived as natural to the human eye, even though the color values themselves may change. This is useful with images that have out-of-gamut colors.

With Perceptual, colors are generally desaturated in order to preserve their perceived relationship. This can make for very smooth transitions between colors and avoids the banding that is possible with Relative Colorimetric, the downside is a slight loss of saturation.

Relative Colorimetric – Out-of-gamut colors are shifted to the closest reproducible color in the destination color space. It compares the white of the source color space to that of the destination color space and shifts all color accordingly. Relative colorimetric preserves more of the original colors in an image than Perceptual. First it takes all the colors the printer or color space can reproduce and does so, exactly. Then, it takes all the ones out of gamut and maps them to their closest in gamut equivalent. This rendering intent has the benefit of causing no over all tone shift to the image. Relative Colorimetric tries to reproduce colors with as little desaturation as possible.

For most images, Relative Colorimetric rendering produces superior results. For others, Perceptual will be far better. Images with significant shadow details where a slight lightening of the print is acceptable to open up the shadows. Also images with areas of highly saturated color can benefit from Perceptual rendering. If you see color banding in the soft proof with Rel. Color. selected, try Perceptual.

Lightroom desktop /mobile/cc/cloud etc

I saved this one for last as it keeps changing!!









We went from Lightroom then branched of to Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC when the new subscription model was released. Then in 2017 it was just called Lightroom Classic CC now its Lightroom Classic. Lightroom Classic is the desktop-focused digital photography product. Lightroom Classic is the renamed version of the Lightroom application you have used in the past, and it is optimized for desktop-focused workflows, including local storage of your photos in files and folders on your computer.

Lightroom is the cloud-based photo service that works across desktop, mobile, and web. This was called Lightroom CC now it’s just Lightroom.

Finally, there is Lightroom Mobile – This app is for IOS and Android

I hope that help to put some of the missing pieces together


I am available for one on one instruction either at your home with your computer and images or we can meet online via TEAMVIEWER.

I can help you

Setting up and understanding Lightroom

Organize your images

Cleaning up your mess

Find missing photos

Streamline your workflow

Advanced techniques in Post Processing

Quick Tips and Shortcuts


Backing Up

Create Books and Prints

I also teach classes throughout the year with ARIZONA HIGHWAYS PHOTOSCAPES at University of Phoenix.

Suzanne Mathia is an Instructor with