6 of Lightroom’s Hidden Treasures


Lightroom is very popular for post-processing lately. In this article I will go over a few of Lightroom’s hidden treasures. See if you use these, or maybe you have some others you can share with us in the comments section.

1. Virtual Copy

In Lightroom’s develop module you can have any number of something called Virtual copies. The advantage is that each copy can use a different arrangement of settings to make the image look different; thus you can compare several options to see which gives the best results.

Virtual copies are not a copy of the original image, but a set of instructions copied from the original file, to which further instructions are added. It is not a duplicate image file; it is only the instructions written previously on the original, copied, and kept as a separate instructional file format, very tiny in size. You can backtrack and start over, or you can continue editing where you left in the current virtual copy you are editing.

To create a new virtual copy Click Ctrl + ‘ on PC (Command + ‘ on Mac) OR right click the image thumbnail and choose “Create Virtual Copy”

In essence it is different instructional files acting on one single original image, to produce different images as per the different processing strategies you apply (you then need to export each to create separate final files). Virtual copies are an intelligent way to try out different things without duplicating your originals, and consuming hard disk space.

Lightroom hidden treasures tips 01

This screen shot from filmstrip shows the Virtual Copies. The page flip symbol
(circled in red) on the bottom left corner of each image is the sign for Virtual Copy.

2. Soft Proofing

This has been one of the most sought after features in Lightroom for long time. Press “S” on your keyboard as you work in the Develop module and your working image’s background turns into paper white (you can change that as well). The photograph will appear as if it is on paper, and a notification shows “Proof Preview” on the top right of the image area.

To check if your image has any colour problems, take a look at the histogram. The clipping indicators are turned into two symbols; one on the right corner is a print colour warning, and the left one is a monitor colour warning. Too much of a particular colour in your image will give you a warning on the same histogram (click the paper and monitor symbol), that those colour regions are unable to make it into print medium. This means you have to reduce the colour intensity of that particular colour.

Lightroom hidden treasures tips 02

This screen shot shows the paper symbol on top right and the monitor symbol on top left of the soft proofing window (both are circled in red).

By clicking “Create Proof Copy” you will be able to create a Virtual Copy of the present settings and after the correction you can compare it to the changes after correcting the colours. You can apply colour profiles too based on the printer you are using. Press “S” again to exit Soft Proofing mode.

3. Smart Previews

Smart Preview, as the name suggests, is a smarter way of working when you have hard drive space constraints (say you are working on your laptop but your files are in the external harddrive). Smart Preview creates high res – low size file which can be used for working purposes. The moment you want to export the photographs, connect your external hard drive and export it from the original.

This tool will be highly useful for people who have already accumulated a lot of files, and utilized hard disk space. The moment you import, the option will be there. If you click the tick box to create Smart Previews, Lightroom will create and store them in a separate folder where your working instructions (your LR catalog) will be stored. The moment you connect your external drive, you will have an option to discard the smart preview files. Before discarding, the instructions will all be written on to the original files.

Lightroom hidden treasures tips 03

This screen shot shows the original file without Smart Preview

Lightroom hidden treasures tips 04

This shows the screen for the same file with Smart Preview (circled in red)

4. Lights Out

One of the least used tools in Lightroom; comes with a simple shortcut. Simply press “L” on your keyboard and the entire screen dims (80% dim), except the image area. Press “L” again and the screen will go to pitch black except your image portion. The smart thing about this is that when you first press the “L” you can continue working with the 80% dimly lit, panel sliders. You can also set what percentage you want for your Dim Level by going to your Preferences settings (see below).


Set your Dim Level percentage in Preferences, here

When you press “F” for full screen you have to wait for resizing the image to full screen. But when you press “L” for lights off it is done in a snap.

5. Target Adjustment Tool (TAT)

This tool is available in the Develop module’s Tone Curve and Colours sections. This is one intelligent tool to adjust the tonal values directly on the image, when you do not know which sliders to adjust. You pick the tool from the panel and adjust the image directly by pressing and holding the mouse button, while you drag up or down as you may wish. The changes appear instantly as you drag.

It is available in the colour section as well, where you can adjust the colour values (Hue, Saturation & Luminance). Click the tool from the panel, place it over the image where you want to make adjustments, while pressing and holding the your mouse button. In B&W conversion you can also adjust the black, grey and white values by adjusting the tones darker or lighter, in a similar manner as you did for colour.

Lightroom hidden treasures tips 05

This shows where to find the Targeted Adjustment Tool in the Curves panel

Lightroom hidden treasures tips 06

When the tool appears with up and down arrow marks, as seen here, it means the tool is activated.

6. Visualize Spots

As you use your camera, with the passage of time, the sensor tends to accumulate dust over itself. The dust spots become visible on your image and reduce its quality and appeal. As there may be any number of reasons for not cleaning the camera sensor, every time you see a spot there is a tool in Lightroom to clean them, at the image level.

You are probably aware of the cloning and healing tool, which is on the top of the Develop module – second tool from the left, below the Histogram. You can use this tool for obvious reasons and also for correcting the sensor dust spots. Press “Q” (keyboard shortcut) to activate the tool and look at the bottom of the image (see below).

Lightroom hidden treasures tips 07

This screen shot shows the image after the tool is activated

Click the check box adjacent to Visualize Spots and the image turns into an inverted monochrome one which show the dust spots more clearly (if you do not see the toolbar or that option press “T” to show the Toolbar). You can adjust the intensity of the brightness to find the dust spots using the slider next to Visualize Spots, on the toolbar. This is an easy way to find the dust spots and correct them by cloning the nearest best place.

Do you have any other Lightroom tips or hidden treasures that you use? Please share in the comments below.

For more on Lightroom check these articles:

Read more from our Post Production category

Navan Viswa is from India residing in Chennai now. He does weddings, products, industrial projects and travel photography. He studied as a Civil Engineer and worked as one for 12 years, found that the job not of interest and his passion was aligned towards photography. So he quit his job and is now roaming with his camera for commissioned and non-commissioned works. You can see more of his writings on his blog and more photographs on his web page as well as 500px.

  • Ravikanth Kurma

    Awesome article Navanee. Great job.

  • Navaneethan

    Thanks a ton Ravi. 🙂

  • Santanu Chandra

    Thank you very much…it will help in great ways…

  • Mark

    Thanks Navan I always wondered about the purpose of “Soft Proofing” Cheers!

  • Marian Aramburu Trošelj

    we are talking about LR 5, right?

  • Navaneethan

    Hi Marian,

    Yup, all the features above are available in Lr 5. Lights out, TAT and Virtual copy were available in the previous versions too.

  • Navaneethan

    Thanks Santanu,
    It’s a learning for me too by explaining in words to others what I know. 🙂

  • Bob Blauvelt

    Thanks. I just finished installing Lightroom for the first time, so all these little tricks and hints will come in very handy

  • Navaneethan

    Nice job Bob,
    You will find more on your way with Lightroom.


  • Good article Navan. The ‘visualize spots’ feature is something I need to look into!

  • Navaneethan

    Thanks Chris. I have started working on the second part. The high no. of sharing made me so. 🙂

  • Gb Waraich

    I’ve a problem with LR-5, every time when I import a image, a default preset automatically apply on that original image. And then I have to remove it by applying the ‘zeroed’ preset before working on it.
    How can I stop this??? plz help me….

  • Navaneethan

    Yeah Waraich, you can easily stop this. While you are working on the import window, on your right side there are 4 panels. The third one from the top is “Apply during import”, under this panel select “none” from the drop down menu for Develop settings and you are done.

  • Gb Waraich

    Yes,I did that but still there is same problem when I select the photo after import.

  • Jvodicka Photography

    Please check out my photography page at https://www.facebook.com/jvodickaphotography! Any support is appreciated!

  • Navaneethan

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Cheers to you too Mark. 🙂

  • Navaneethan

    Hi Waraich,

    I am unable to find any other possibility which triggers the problem. May be some expert near by your locality could help you. By the way which version you are using? Have you tried applying the updates if any?

  • Gb Waraich

    Thank you very much ! Navaneethan,
    I’ll try to do… by the way, I’m using Lightroom-5. (64 bit)

  • serxan


  • Si GUY.

    I think the sync settings button is worth a mention for batch processing. Although entry level users should know this.

    Switching the clipping on and off using J or the histogram toggles.

    Auto mask is another great time saver.

    Upon starting LR if you hold down the alt/option button you can switch between different catalogues very easily.

  • Si GUY.

    Also the right click functionality to jump straight into Photoshop for problematic editing or stitching panoramas. Likewise upon exiting photoshop it works seamlessly with LR and generates TIFF that appears neat and tidy in your catalogue.

    The move copy and add options upon import are very powerful as organisation within LR is key.

  • you can also just click “reset” in the develop panel to set it all to zero. But Navaneethan is right if you aren’t applying anything on import it’s odd why that is happening

  • Gb Waraich

    Hi ! Darlene, You’ve done it. I solve this by ‘resetting’ and I’ve also manually deleted the user preset from library.Now there is no problem and its working nicely.
    Thank You Soooo much ! 🙂

  • Gb Waraich

    Thank you !!!
    I’ve done it.

  • glad to help!

  • Leif-Olof Wallin

    Really good and insigtful stuff!
    I hope you don’t find this out of line but based on the good “vibes” around LR, I decided to download a 30 day trial license of LR 5.2 after previously been using Bridge and ACR from Photoshop CS5 as my workflow and I agree that LR seems to do more in an easier way in the workflow, I’m just missing one feature I got used to in Bridge – the ability to set copyright information automatically to each photo as I load them in. I’ve found how to add it to marked photos in LR5 but I’d love to understand if I can make it happen automatically upon loading them to get rid of that manual step.

  • Navaneethan

    Hi Leif,

    You can create a metadata preset and the same can be applied every time you import your pictures from the memory card. Thus copyright information can be applied automatically.


  • Leif-Olof Wallin

    Thanks a million!
    Found it

  • A very good article. The visualize spots is awesome when you have sensor dust! My one question is on the “soft proofing”. When I am on soft proofing, I notice I can change between sRGB and Adobe sRGB but switching between them also changes the histogram. Is there a better choice between the 2 (I am not sure of the differences) and does it affect printing?

  • I would also add on the visualize spots.. that when a person is removing spots and they dont like the choice LR did for the spot that they can also hit the forward slash ( / ) button and LR will choose another area, can keep hitting the slash until a desired result is chosen. Nice little quick tip.

  • Navaneethan

    Thanks Patrick for the kind words. It really depends on what is the purpose of the file. If the photograph is for printing you need to check with your print service provider, that in which profile they want the photograph. Recently I have made a short article in my blog about the colour profiles (sRGB, Adobe RGB & Prophoto RGB). Hopefully, it should fix your doubts -https://mecamerame.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/colour-spaces-in-photography-an-introduction/ and don’t forget to let me know whether it fixed your doubts.

  • navaneethanviswanathan

    That’s really a cool tip. I use to select it manually, if the Lr chosen spot is not satisfied. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thank you very much for your response back Navaneethan !! That was a very well informed read and really cleared up my understanding and I truly appreciate you sharing the knowledge. It was very well explained and easy to understand. I love learning new information. Cheers!

  • Debbie Langer Borato

    I dont see “visualize spots” on my toolbar under the image. How do I access this option?

  • Navaneethan

    Hi Debbie, you can see the ‘visualize tool’ only if you activate the ‘Clone/Heal tool’ from the tool strip below histogram. Otherwise you can get the tool activated by pressing ‘Q’. Even after if you do not see, it is because the toolbar is hidden below the image, to enable the toolbar visibility press ‘T’. Should be alright now. Cheers.

  • Debbie Langer Borato

    I use LR 4. Is that why I still cant see it? I have used Q and T. The toolbar comes up, however, no visualize tool box.

  • Navanee Viswa

    You are right Debbie, visualize spot feature is introduced in version 5 only. But you can correct the dust spots manually by viewing your image at 1:1


  • Debbie Langer Borato

    Is there a way to use my sliders like highlights and blacks to enhance the dust spots? The black and white image looks like there should be a way to bring those spots up somehow manually. Not sure how though.

  • Thanks. I just started doing some client proofing using Lightroom through http://www.Format.com, which I’m so happy they added, and I agree that it’s really useful. It seems like there’s so many opportunities for photographers with this and I’m excited as a Format user to see what features they add next.

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