Auto Confusion Follow-Up

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Today’s Question: Now [after the answer about a discrepancy in the “Auto” adjustment behavior between Import and the Develop module in Lightroom Classic CC] I’m more confused as to what the best workflow is. Should I import first [without Auto], and then apply an Auto preset in the Develop module, or apply the preset with import?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Based on the differences between how “Auto” is applied as a preset during import versus later in the Develop module, I recommend a hybrid approach. I suggest applying Auto during import so you’ll have adjustments applied to your initial image previews. Then, for photos you want to work on in more detail, applying Auto again will help ensure the best starting point for the photo before you move on to refining the adjustments.

More Detail: As noted in an earlier Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, there are some differences in how the “Auto” adjustment is applied during the import process versus later in your workflow in the Develop module. I’ve since learned that this is in part a performance issue, in that the “Auto” applied during import is based on image previews, while the “Auto” applied in the Develop module is based on the original source image.

I still feel that it can be worthwhile to apply the Auto adjustment as a preset applied during import, so that the previews for your images will be based on having some degree of adjustment applied. To be sure, when you use the Auto adjustment, you aren’t necessarily getting a good “final” adjustment for your photos. In fact, in some cases the result after applying the Auto adjustment may be worse that what you get with no adjustments at all.

The majority of the time, however, I find that applying Auto during import provides a good basic starting point for my images, and a more pleasing preview for my photos. After reviewing to identify favorites, I will then start with an Auto adjustment in the Develop module, which will refine the effect that had been achieved during import.

I will then absolutely revisit all of the adjustment settings to fine-tune to taste. I just find that applying the Auto adjustment in the Develop module provides a better starting point compared to even the result from applying Auto during import. The effect of applying Auto while processing a photo in the Develop module is even significant if you hadn’t applied any adjustments up to that point in your workflow.

I certainly understand the argument that you might not want to have “automatic” adjustments applied to your photos. But I find it helpful in many cases to have the Auto adjustment (based on AI) applied to my images, even though I’ll then generally fine-tune most (or all) of the adjustment sliders for a given photo.