It’s true! Adobe packed Lightroom full of helpful little features, and in this article, we take a look at our seven favorites, including:
- A quick way to adjust the overall look of your images
- How to make precise exposure adjustments with minimal effort
- How to save space when importing images
- Much more!
So whether you’re a beginner just familiarizing yourself with Lightroom’s tools or you’re a serious editor looking to revolutionize your workflow, keep reading!
1. Visualize Spots
Have you ever shared an image online or printed a picture only to find that you failed to remove some ugly dust spots? It happens to the best of us, and it’s a deeply frustrating problem. After all, who wants to spend long minutes scrutinizing every inch of their images?
Thanks to Lightroom’s Visualize Spots feature, you don’t have to. You see, Lightroom boasts a handy little tool that makes it insanely easy to see – and then eliminate – spots from your photos.
Here’s how it works:
First, make sure you’re in the Develop module. Then select the Healing option (you can also hit Q on your keyboard).
Next, head down to the bottom of the screen, where you should see the Visualize Spots option. Click the checkbox (2), and watch as all your dust spots are revealed! You can also adjust the level of detail in the visualization (3):
Note: If you don’t see the Visualize Spots option, hit T on your keyboard to reveal the relevant toolbar.
At this point, you’ll want to quickly go through your image, switching Visualize Spots on and off while you remove all unwanted spots using the Heal or Clone tools. (You could remove spots with the Visualize Spots feature always on, but it’s better to make sure that spots are removed properly.)
You’ll finish with a spot-free image!
2. Hidden Quick Develop tools
Lightroom’s Library module is primarily designed to review your images after import, not apply edits. That said, it can be helpful to make basic changes to your images as you view them (especially if you struggle to decide which photos look best).
And that’s where the Quick Develop options come in, which you can find on the right-hand side of the Library module (underneath the Histogram panel). These handy buttons let you adjust the image exposure, contrast, white balance, clarity, and more.
Take a look at the Quick Develop options, however, and you’ll notice that two common adjustments – saturation and sharpening – are missing. Happily, these editing tools are available. They’re just hidden! Simply ensure that your Quick Develop panel is open, and look at the Clarity and Vibrance buttons:
Press and hold the Alt/Opt key. Clarity will instantly turn to Sharpening, and Vibrance will instantly turn to Saturation:
Keep holding the Alt/Opt key as you make your adjustments. When you’re done, take your finger off the key, and the tools will revert back to their default states.
3. Quick Develop adjustment precision
As I emphasized in the previous section, the Quick Develop tools can be very handy. However, they’re not very precise, which can be a problem – unless you know what to do.
You see, in the Quick Develop panel, you have four buttons for each adjustment. The inner two buttons will incrementally adjust your image, while the outer two buttons will make larger changes:
The Exposure buttons, for example, feature single and double arrows for increasing and decreasing the exposure. Single arrows change the exposure in 1/3rd stop increments. Double arrows change the exposure by 1-stop increments.
But what if you want to make more subtle changes? Are you stuck using the standard single-arrow buttons?
As it turns out, no! If you need more precise buttons, simply hold down the Shift key. The single arrows will become smaller, and when you click the corresponding buttons, the adjustment will only affect the image half as much.
4. Refine your Linear Gradients
Lightroom’s Linear Gradient tool (formerly known as the Graduated filter tool) is a great way to bring back detail in the sky without affecting the foreground. Note that you can access the Linear Gradient by selecting the Masking option in the Develop module:
However, if you use the Linear Gradient frequently, you’ll run into scenarios where the tool affects more of the scene than you’d like. In this next shot, I wanted to darken the sky without also darkening the cliff and the trees on the left-hand side:
Fortunately, you can achieve the result you’re after in a few different ways. One option is to apply your Linear Gradient, then – with the tool still selected – pull up the shadows; it’ll brighten up the darker areas while leaving the lighter sky untouched.
The second method requires more work, but it’s also far more precise. Once you’ve applied your Linear Gradient, select Subtract in the Masks panel:
Choose Brush, then use your cursor to paint away the areas that should remain unaffected by the Gradient.
5. Adjust the preview size when importing
Lightroom doesn’t edit your RAW files, but upon importing images, the program does generate previews – and the size of these previews depends on your settings.
In the Import window (under File Handling), you can select one of four options:
If you select the 1:1 option, Lightroom will produce giant previews for each image. While this will make editing at high magnifications much faster, it will also take up a ton of space. Standard previews are generally a better choice; these correspond to the previews you see when your image is viewed at screen size in the Library or the Develop module. (You also have the option to create Minimal previews, but these are too small for any in-depth reviewing.)
Even Standard previews can take up a lot of space, however, so if you have a lot of photos (or a small hard drive), you may wish to adjust their dimensions. Select Edit>Catalog Settings, then click the File Handling tab:
Here, you can choose the size of your Standard previews. The default option is Auto, which automatically sets the preview size to match your monitor’s resolution, but what if you’re using multiple monitors? Or what if you use a 6K monitor and don’t wish to create gigantic Standard previews?
Therefore, I’d recommend looking through the options and even testing out a few sizes until you find the right settings for your needs. The smaller the preview size, the less space the images will take up – and you can also save space by reducing the preview quality.
By the way, Lightroom automatically creates 1:1 previews when you zoom in for close-up editing, but by telling the program to discard these previews after one day, you can ensure they don’t fill up your hard drive.
6. The Profile tool
If you capture your photos in RAW (which we generally recommend!), you have the option to change the look of each shot without applying a single editing slider. I’m talking about the Profile option, which lets you select from a number of different ways of rendering the colors and tones in your images:
Lightroom offers a handful of basic Profiles, and I encourage you to test out each one. The default option is Adobe Color, which generally looks fine, but the Adobe Landscape, Adobe Portrait, and Adobe Vivid Profiles are all solid alternatives.
And if you can’t find a basic Profile that you like, Lightroom has dozens of additional profiles, which you can find by selecting the Browse option under the Profile list (displayed above).
These include Artistic Profiles, B&W Profiles, and even Vintage Profiles for that retro vibe that’s so popular on social media:
Here’s an image of mine that displays the power of Lightroom’s Profiles. The left side uses the Adobe Standard option, while the right side uses the Camera Matching Landscape option:
So the next time you’re unhappy with an edit, try switching the Profile. Maybe you’ll hit on something amazing!
7. Use the Alt/Opt key to set the blacks and whites
Most of the time, it’s a good idea to maintain detail everywhere in your images. In other words, you want to ensure there’s information in both the highlights and the shadows without any clipped areas.
When you’re adjusting image tones in the digital darkroom, however, it’s easy to accidentally lose detail (or fail to recover detail) without realizing it. That’s where this Lightroom tool comes in handy.
Simply hold down the Alt/Opt key while adjusting the Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks sliders. Lightroom will create a mask that allows you to easily identify clipped areas as you work!
For instance, if you adjust the Whites slider while pressing the Alt/Opt key, your image will turn black – but if some parts are overexposed, you’ll see them as white or colorful areas.
And the opposite is true for the Blacks slider: If you hold down Alt/Option key and push the slider, the picture will turn white. If you clip some of the shadows, the areas will turn either colorful or black:
I highly encourage you to use this method when checking and adjusting the contrast of your picture. By carefully preserving detail in the whites and blacks, you’ll ensure that your images look professional – and thanks to Lightroom’s handy tools, you can achieve maximum contrast along the way.
Handy Lightroom tools: final words
Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be familiar with plenty of useful tools to enhance your editing workflow.
So head on over to Lightroom and test them out. See if you can re-edit a few of your images using insights from this article!
Now over to you:
Do you have any favorite Lightroom tools that we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!