Reference View: A New Way to See in the Lightroom Develop Module

Jason Bradley

In my previous blog post, “One (More) Reason To Use Adobe’s Creative Cloud,” I touched on why one should use Lightroom CC (Creative Cloud); it has a bit more functionality than its Lightroom 6 perpetual license counterpart, and will likely have more over time. And true to form, Lightroom CC 2015.8 was just released, and the Develop module has a new viewing mode that’s not available in Lightroom 6.8’s release.

If you aren’t sure how to update Lightroom CC to it’s most recent version, click here to see more from Adobe Support.

 Lightroom CC 2015.8’s new Reference View

The new mode, Reference View, is the first addition to the Lightroom Develop module’s viewing modes since it was initially released in February of 2007. Reference View allows you to look at two images side-by-side so you can develop an image while visually referencing a second image. Image referencing can help to match colors, tones, or the overall look and feel of one image as compared to another. Without a doubt, image referencing can be helpful for the photographer who wants to present images together in a presentation, showing consistency and cohesion of style.

To access the new viewing mode, enter the Develop module. Look to the lower left corner of your viewing window to find a new small R|A button (below, top image), or you can go to Menu Bar > View > Open (below, center image). You can also use the quick keys Shift, R. Once you’re in Reference View, you’ll see the main viewing window has been split into two panes (below, bottom image). The view on the right is referred to as Active, and the one on the left is referred to as the Reference. Active is the image that is selected for developing.

Top: Click on the new R|A button to launch Reference View.

Center: While in the Develop module, you can also launch Reference View by going to Menu Bar > View > Open Reference View.

Bottom: In Reference View, the main viewing window is split into two panes.

To add an image to the Reference View, simply drag and drop the desired image from your filmstrip onto the Reference View pane. Note that you do not, and should not, select the image you want to reference. If you click on the border of the image you intend to reference, you will change what’s in the Active View window. In other words, click and drag from the center of the thumbnail, not the border. 

There are two layout options for the Reference View. To see these options, click on the small triangle to the right of the R|A button, as shown below. You can then choose Reference View – Left/Right, or Reference View – Top/Bottom. To the right of the R|A button is a small lock. The lock is handy if you want to keep the reference photo in place when you leave the Develop Module. Lock it to keep it; unlock it to clear it out. 

The two available layouts for Reference View

Another handy feature can be found in the Histogram Panel, as shown below. (Note: this feature works best if your Active image and your Reference image are the same aspect ratio or orientation). As you place your cursor over either the Active or Reference image, your histogram will show you RGB values of both images. The numeric value on the left refers to the Reference image, and the value on the right refers to the Active image. If aspect ratio or orientation does not match, then you’ll be shown RGB values from one image at a time.

While in Reference View, the Histogram Panel can show you a side-by-side comparison of RGB values.

Once you’re finished with Reference View, close it by clicking on the Loupe View icon (quick command D) to the left of the R|A button.

Jason Bradley is the owner and operator of Bradley Photographic Fine Art Print Services and the author of Creative Workflow in Lightroom. Bradley is also a nature and underwater photographer based in Monterey, California, and leads photo expeditions both above and below water. To see more of Jason’s work, or learn about the workshops and services he provides, please visit his website or find him on Instagram and Facebook

Adobe Creative Cloud Jason Bradley Lightroom & Photoshop

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  • Very well explained, thank you! I assume this feature is useful for achieving consistency (or intended inconsistency or contrast) within a series of images. Are there any other purposes this tool could be applied for?

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