How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

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In this article, you’ll see how to use a new feature in Lightroom called Reference View to match your image processing.

Note: this feature is only available in the latest CC version of Lightroom. 

Why might you need to match image processing?

Have you ever been working on a file and thought that it reminded you of another image that you’ve processed? So you find that photo, then copy and paste the settings. But, you can see they don’t quite look the same despite having the same settings. So you’re forced to jump between the two images to try and match their look. It’s tedious.

How about if you’re working on a fashion editorial and you need to have a cohesive look to the whole shoot? You used both natural light and flash, as well as being indoors and outdoors for the shoot. That’s a lot of jumping around images to get them to have a similar look and feel.

How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

A fashion editorial needing a cohesive look

Let’s say you’ve shot Raw + Jpeg in-camera after changing a lot of camera settings. You now want to compare the two so you can make the processed Raw, look more like the in-camera JPEG. Perhaps you’d like to create a preset so that you can then automate this processing.

You could also be working on a long term project over months and even years. Having a similar look is critical to tie the project together. Each time you have to go back and try to get the images to match, even though you can’t just put them side by side when in the Develop module.

How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

A project with a cohesive look

Or can you? Well since Lightroom 6.8, you can. In that release, Adobe added a new feature called Reference View. Reference View allows you to bring up another image beside the one you’re developing. You can zoom in and out, as well as check color values to try and match between the two photos.

Using Reference View

To open Reference View, go to the Develop Module and make sure the Toolbar is showing (T on your keyboard). Then click the [R|A] icon on the left side of the toolbar to activate Reference View.

Reference View in the Toolbar - How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

Reference View in the Toolbar

You can also right-click on a file in the filmstrip and choose “Set as Reference Photo”. From the Filmstrip, drag another image to the blank reference pane. Alternately you can go to the Grid View in Library (Shortcut G), and right click on any file and then choose “Set as Reference Photo”.

How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

By clicking on the arrow to the right of the Reference View icon, you can alternate between a side-by-side or top and bottom view.

reference view side by side - How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

Reference View side-by-side.

You can zoom in and out of each photo separately, as well as move around the photo. This is useful for matching the brightness and colour of both the shadows and the highlights.

reference view top and bottom - How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

Reference View top and bottom.

Watch the Histogram

If you look under the histogram you can see the RGB (red, green, blue) values for the pixel under the cursor.  If you prefer to see LAB colors right-click on the Histogram and choose Show Lab Color Values.

When both your reference and the active image have the same dimensions, you’ll see two values for each channel. The first is the reference view, the second is the active photo. The values are read from the pixel under the cursor. If the photos have different dimensions, you’ll see “–” instead of number. As you hover over the reference view, the second digit will be –, while over the active photo, the first digit will be –.

All of the tools in Develop can be used with the Reference View, except for Crop. If you go to crop, you’ll get a warning to let you know you have to leave Reference View to make a crop.

How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

In practice, zoom into the photos and make changes so that the numbers on similar areas of the photos are good matches. The longer you take, the closer it will be but often a few tweaks will get them into a more cohesive match.

How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

You’ll also notice a lock icon in the toolbar. When you turn this on, it means your reference photo will remain selected even if you exit out of Develop. You can exit Reference View by clicking on the Develop Loupe icon in the toolbar, or by going to Library.

How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom

For the more visual among you, I’ve also made a video on using the Reference View in the Lightroom’s Develop module.

Conclusion

Have you tried Reference View yet? What are your thoughts? Do you find it helpful?

Read more from our Post Production category

Sean McCormack is a Fuji X Photographer and author based in the Galway in the west of Ireland. He's the author of The Indispensable Guide to Lightroom CC. When he's not writing or creating YouTube content, he shoots people, places and even things.

  • joelluth

    Great tip, thanks!

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