Why Does Lightroom Always Darken Your Photos?

If you are new to photography and using Adobe Lightroom you have probably noticed that the thumbnail preview looks much better than the actual photo when you open the file. You may be wondering why Lightroom always darkens your photos and how you can combat this issue.

Three main reasons explain why Adobe Lightroom is darkening your photos and they are listed below:

  1. You are importing a photo taken in RAW format
  2. Lightroom presets need to be selected or changed
  3. Lightroom import settings are not correctly selected

For a more detailed explanation of why Adobe Lightroom always darkens your photos and other helpful information continue reading.

Why Lightroom Darkens Your Photos – Explained

Whether you are a professional photographer or just having some fun snapping pics of the things you love in your life you want the final product to look great.

When importing your photographs into an editing program you expect them to look as they did when you looked at the thumbnail preview of the photo on your digital camera. Unfortunately, when you open the file this is not the case, but don’t worry because there are three good reasons as to why Adobe Lightroom might darken your photo when it is imported.

Initial Format Makes a Difference – RAW vs JPEG Formatting

One of the largest reasons Adobe Lightroom will make your photos appear darker when you first import them to the program is that the original photograph was taken using the RAW format.

When a photograph is taken using RAW formatting the imported product can appear dull, flat, and unclear even though the thumbnail preview has a clean processed look.

Adobe Lightroom automatically uses a JPEG thumbnail created by your digital camera for you to preview before opening the file and that is why you will notice a change in the photo once it has loaded.

Nowadays, most digital cameras automatically display a small JPEG version of the photograph you took for you to preview, however the actual file will generally be in RAW format. If you don’t have a lot of time or do not do a lot of editing you can specifically change the settings on your camera to automatically process it as a JPEG.

Preset Settings Can Affect Initial Import

Using preset photo editing settings in Lightroom can be a huge time saver however, sometimes it can be a pain if you are not sure what settings are selected.

Oftentimes when people have issues with Lightroom darkening their photos it is because some presets may be selected that need to be changed. Sometimes it can be helpful to restore the Lightroom settings to the default and go from there until you have the settings the way you like.

Many serious photographers prefer not to use preset settings because they like to do the editing on their own for each photo.

If you do not fall into that category then you will be happy to know that there are oodles of options for presets that can quickly enhance your photographs and allow you to move on to your next project.

Lightroom comes standard with several preset options for editing photographs; however, if those are not to your liking other preset packages can be downloaded from the web. Many photographers and designers will make their preferred presets available to others who wish to edit their photos quickly and have a professional-looking outcome.

Importing Photographs Into Adobe Lightroom

Similar to the preset settings that can be used while actually in the Lightroom program there are settings that can be saved for when you import a photograph.

Sometimes people run into issues with photos being darkened because of certain settings being selected on the import file box. This is another time when it can be helpful to restore the settings to the default state and begin fresh.

Don’t Let The Pros Sway Your Preferences

Some professional photographers are adamant that RAW files are the best as they offer more options for editing and allow the photographer full control of the final image which is true; however, don’t let the professionals affect your preferences.

If you like having your photographs automatically processed as a JPEG would be, then hold your head up high and save those presets so you can save some time.

Many great photographs have been made via either format, the true determiner of whether or not the image is great is the photographer’s knowledge of placement and exposure and what is interesting. If the content is captivating the photo will be too.

So now you have a more clear understanding of why Adobe Lightroom may be darkening your photographs but what do you do when you’re done? Keep reading to find out.

What To Do When You’re Done – Saving Correctly

Once your photograph is edited you are ready to save the file so you can send it to a client or perhaps upload it to a social media platform.

Either way, you may be concerned that the RAW file format is too large for some applications to upload, or perhaps some platforms may not recognize RAW files. Fear not because you can easily save your photograph as a JPEG which will flatten the file and be accepted by more applications so it can easily be uploaded.

Photos Can Still Be Corrected After Saving In JPEG Format

Be sure to click on “save as” and select the JPEG format option when you are finished editing the photograph.

The great thing about this is you will still have the original RAW file so if your client is not satisfied or you need to make any further corrections you can open the original and not worry that your changes cannot be undone.

Don’t Despair When Photos Look Too Dark In Lightroom

As you can see from the information in this article, it is not the end of the world if your photographs do not match the thumbnail preview displayed when opening a file in Lightroom.

Now that you understand the difference between RAW files and JPEG files you can relax if you notice that your photo is darker when you open it in Lightroom and know that the settings can be easily changed to suit your taste.