How to use Confusing Lightroom Editing Tools

Let’s unpack it together in this photography tutorial.

Video tutorial explaining some misunderstood lightroom editing tools

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How to use Confusing Lightroom Editing Tools

Understand and Use these less known Lightroom Editing Tools

Editing in Lightroom can be confusing! You might not understand how to use some of the tools, or how they are different. Read on to understand these common confusing editing tools

In this editing tutorial, Mark Denny goes in depth explaining four different Lightroom editing tools and how to use them.

Lightroom Editing Tools Explained: Small Details that Make a Big Difference 

This tutorial breaks down some small editing details that can make a large difference in your end result.

Decoding some editing sliders in Lightroom that seem like they have the same tools for the job, but when you look closely (and know what to look for) there a big differences in results 

This tutorial doesn’t show you how to use Lightroom, so check out these posts to learn more about Lightroom and how to use it overall:

Confusing Lightroom Editing Tools #1 Traditional Vignette vs Radial Filter


Firstly, what is a vignette? It’s an effect that will darken the outer corners of an image to draw attention to the center. There is an editing slider in Lightroom called Vignette that will auto apply this effect to your photo.

A good rule of thumb for the vignette slider is to use a range of negative 15 to negative 25 to get the desired look (darkens down the corners of image to create contrast)

The problem with using the Vignette slider is that you don’t have a lot of control over the effect.

You can’t control how much darkening is applied to individual corners of the image as they will all have the same amount applied. 

Not all corners of a picture will have the same brightness value, and the simple Vignette slider cannot compensate for that.

This screenshot shows the image with the vignette applied under Effects:

Editing the confusing lightroom editing tool vignette setting to change the darkness around the edges

Radial Filter / or Radial Vignette

To adjust the vignette for individual corners, you can instead apply a radial filter to the image (oval sized for landscape photos, centered on image.

Use the masking layer and choose radial filter, then adjust the size of the oval over the image.

Click invert to effect the outer corners of image which gives you a vignette. Then decrease the exposure slider to darken corners as much as desired.

Under the masks menu, click subtract, and then select brush. With this tool you can now brush away some of the added inverted radial filter (aka Radial Vignette) where it’s too dark.

Using this radial filter inverted is a way you can make your own custom Vignettes so you don’t have to rely on that limited slider. 

This can help you make sure that all the corners of your image look the way you want them too, specifically when the 4 corners of your image have noticeably different levels of brightness.

Radial filter is a less understood lighroom editing tool

The difference between Lightroom Editing Tools #2 Clarity vs Texture

The effect of these two sliders looks very similar, but they are actually different.


This slider is located in the Develop module under the Basic editing tools.

So what does clarity do? It enhances the mid-tones in your photograph by sharpening the larger sized details in the image.

The downside to clarity is that it adds a lot of luminance to the area, meaning the colour becomes too desaturated and white.

It also darkens down shadows while making colors too white. Darker areas of the image will become even more dark which is not always desired.

This screenshot shows the clarity turned up to 100, and the desaturated brights:

Clarity can make the bright parts too white and desaturated


It enhances a lot of the smaller sized detail of the scene, so texture potentially does a better job at what you would want clarity to do.

The downside of texture is that it can subtly oversaturate the colours of your photo if used too much. 

But overall it does a good job of adding texture to the image without desaturating colors or darkening shadows too much. 

This photo shows the more subtle effect of using texture:

Using texture gives the photo more clarity without desaturating

Confusing Lightroom Editing Tools #3 Clone vs Heal


The clone feature can be used to remove an unwanted area or spot in an image. It does this by capturing a different spot of the image, and overlaying it onto the undesired spot. 

In Mark’s example he ‘removes’ an unwanted stone in a river by cloning another spot of the river with no stone and placing that over the top of the stone, covering it with the river reflection. 

This basically removes the unwanted object by covering it up with a cloned part of the image.

This screenshot shows the circle of river where the rock was and the circle of chosen image to cover:

Using cone to replace a rock with the river


Heal typically does a similar job to clone but a little better. Use heal by..

Instead of mirroring and then copy pasting over the top of undesired spot, Heal attempts to capture the texture and tone of a selected area and then blend them onto the area you are trying to spot remove. 

Heal can be used to create a better blended and more natural looking match for your spot remove. 

Both are good and have their place, Heal will create a smoother natural finish in areas that are busy with a lot of texture and colours close together. 

Lighroom using heal to replace the textures and tones over the rock

How to use Lightroom Editing Tools #4 Saturation and Vibrance 


Saturation is referring to the purity of the colors in the photo. So what is does the Saturation tool do? It saturates all of the colours in the same exact way, higher or lower. Maxing or removing all the colour from every colour channel in the scene.

Saturation can often make colors appear flooded or less authentic in the photo if turned up too high, or make them appear dull and shallow if too low.

This can be frustrating if you want only to add depth to some colors in the image but not all.

This image below shows the saturation turned up all the way on a photo and the unnatural tones created:

Saturation in lightroom too much for this photo


The vibrance slider targets only the colors that are more muted in the image and leaves the colors alone that are already more saturated.

Vibrance could be considered a ‘Smart Saturation’ tool. 

On a test of full saturation vs full vibrance, vibrance was more successful and bringing out the colours of an image without flooding them to be too much for the image. (Of course you wouldn’t use these tools at 100 usually, but you can try it to emphasize the difference between them)

The colors over all end up being more naturally balanced with vibrance over saturation. 

Again, both have their place to be used. Vibrance is often the tool for the job when wanting to emphasize colours, specifically in images that have a wide contrast in the colour range.

This image shows the side by side difference between vibrance and saturation being turned up to 100 to emphasize the differences:

Difference between these lightroom editing tools saturation and vibrance

Lightroom editing tools can be confusing but this guide should help!

Hopefully you now feel confident to use these less known editing tools within Lightroom.


Which of these tools will you now use in Lightroom editing?

Comment below!

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