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The Develop Module’s “Solo Mode”

One of my favorite things about Lightroom is that it’s a one-stop shop for organizing and editing images. I use the program’s Library mode to sort, edit, keyword and generally organize my image files from all of my assignment work and personal photography. Then I simply click over into Develop mode to make edits to my Raw image files—everything from color correction and exposure adjustments to tweaking shadow values, specific color hues and saturation levels, sharpness and noise edits… Really, almost everything you can think of to do to a RAW image file can be done in Lightroom’s Develop module. The problem is, sometimes all those tools can be a bit too much.

You see, the way Lightroom displays its tools—whether in the Library mode or the Develop mode, or any other mode, for that matter—is to use a column on each side of the image preview area to stack the necessary tools and functions. In the Develop module, that means the tool panels stacked from top to bottom include the Histogram, selective adjustment tools, the Basic settings panel (which includes controls for white balance, exposure, contrast and all of those “basics” that you’d expect to find there), the Tone Curve, a color panel which includes headings for Hue Saturation and Lightness, Color and Black & White; a Split Toning panel, Detail panel, Lens Corrections, Effects and finally Camera Calibration. There are a lot of tools here, and I access something from almost all of these panels on almost every image I edit.

Because I’m always accessing those tool panels in the Develop module, I’m always jumping back and forth from one to the other. And rather than opening and closing each panel, by default they all remain open and consequently don’t fit on the screen—and I’ve got a big screen! It can be a bit of a pain to have to click and drag the scrollbar up and down, or toggle your mouse’s scroll wheel, to try to find the panel with the tools you’re looking for. Thankfully, Lightroom has built-in a fix for this. It’s called Solo Mode, and not only can it be used to clean up the Develop module, it can be used to clean up all the other modules as well.

By right-clicking (or control-clicking) on any heading in the Develop module, a popup window arrives to let you customize the tools that are found in the module. So if you’re the kind of gal who never uses Split Toning, then you can simply uncheck Split Toning here and it will disappear from the module. At the bottom of that list is really what we’re here for: Solo Mode. By checking Solo Mode, Lightroom will only open one tool panel at a time. That means when you’re working in, say, the Basic panel, and you go to click on the Detail panel, the Basic panel will close and the Detail panel will open. This maintains a clean, clutter-free workspace, where all of your tool options remain visible on screen at all times.

I find this a much more efficient approach to editing my RAW image files. After all, you can only work with one tool panel at a time. There’s no need to have all the others open at once—especially since they can make it harder to find the one tool you’re after. Give Solo Mode a try and see if it doesn’t make your Lightroom workflow faster and more pleasant as well.

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