Don’t Use This Button in Adobe Lightroom

Photographers are always looking for ways to improve their editing process. Often, a particular piece of advice is given to use a specific option in Lightroom to help nudge your photo in the right direction. This video talks about why you should never use that option.

Editing photos can be a complex and overwhelming process. Using the wrong slider, the wrong combination of sliders, or even one slider adjusted too much in Lightroom can alter your result drastically, often for the worse. A frequently recommended piece of advice is to use the Auto button in Lightroom to get an idea of where to take a photograph. Alister Benn with Expressive Photography disagrees with this advice and believes it runs the opposite of what photographers want.

Benn, a landscape photographer, reviews several samples of what using the Auto button in Lightroom does with your photos. He distills it down to several key sliders the Auto button adjusts, including exposure, highlights, shadows, blacks, whites, vibrancy, and contrast, with variations depending on the photograph.

Benn goes on to show how the button introduces artifacts in a photograph in some situations and leaves the photographer needing to correct these issues. He does not believe a photographer’s time is well-spent, needing to fix problems not in the original photograph.

I found this video engaging as it runs contrary to advice I have seen in the past online if you are grasping for a starting point with your edit. How about you? Do you use the auto button in Lightroom? Do you find it helpful or more of a hindrance?

Jeffrey Tadlock's picture

Jeffrey Tadlock is an Ohio-based landscape photographer with frequent travels regionally and within the US to explore various landscapes. Jeffrey enjoys the process and experience of capturing images as much as the final image itself.

Log in or register to post comments

I don't have an issue with auto for evaluation. It often allows to see things with a different perspective. The thing is to not use it in your process. Clicking for an evaluation and return to default parameters specific to a capture can be of great help. But I would say, don't use it if your monitor is not calibrated.

Fair point. Sort of a preview of where the image could go, with the option to choose to enhance/modify it or simply decide you don’t like the direction the “Auto” button took it.

I haven't used Lightroom in a while, but if you want to have an auto setting I recall being able to double click on the name of the setting "Shadows" and it would do an auto adjustment for just that attribute.

SHIFT+Double Click will do the auto setting for just the slider you click. Can be a way to see what LR thinks for that one setting and then agree or disagree with what it thinks from there!

As was mentioned I will often use Auto for a quick evaluation. However, what I don't like, and imo what makes it unusable, is that it defaults to the same settings almost all the time for certain sliders. I will almost always get +9 vibrance,+5 saturation,+6 contrast and quite often +/-50 for both shadows and highlights. It seems as though everything revolves around the exposure. To be fair, the whites and blacks do change as well. So I usually just set the white and black point and go from there.

It was interesting in the video when he compared what the auto settings did on different images. Definitely seems it has directions it wants to go and makes adjustments to the same set of sliders to get it there.

The Lightroom auto button is useful if you want to find out what your photo would have looked like if you suddenly decide you're wasting time with all those manual settings on your camera.

I don't think that is quite an accurate statement.

Assuming you photograph in raw, the file is going to need some editing just around contrast, sharpness, etc. If you are sure of the direction you want to go, then yeah, Auto won't have much value. But if you want a quick "what if" the Auto button is there and easily reversed.

In either case, a well-exposed file is going to offer greater latitude in a solid edit than needing to "save" a photo.

I should have made it more obvious it was a tongue-in-cheek comment. My bad. I do actually use the auto button the same way as everyone else. To see if it will point me in the right direction with adjustments to various settings.

Oh! It's all good - I did completely miss that it was tongue-in-cheek comment! :D

I almost always use the Auto. I've never found the plain raw file a good place to start with developing images. For years, I used presets on imported files which set highlight, shadow, white, black, vibrant, and saturation. Those always looked better than plain files but still required a lot of adjusting, especially for exposure. Using Auto helps me see the range of development possibilities quickly.

Yeah - raw files always need some work, just a matter of how much of an edit a photographer is inclined to do. I've been known to hit Auto just to see a quick process on an image and then usually revert back to the original or start adjusting sliders as needed. There is definite an element of quickly seeing an option with the Auto button.