Lightroom 3 Tips and Tricks: A few More of My Favorites

I’m back with a few more tips and tricks for Adobe Lightroom that I wanted to share with our readers. Again, I’m not a Lightroom expert nor do I claim to know more than the average person, but many photographers are new to the world of post processing and I’d like to help. Even if you have some Lightroom experience, read on. You may learn something.

Note: I need to apologize upfront to the PC users out there as I am a Mac guy and have been for about 10 years now. The menus in this review will be based on Lightroom for the Mac but as I understand it, the PC version is nearly the same so most of this should translate.

Navigation & Shortcuts

There’s not a lot to talk about here other than you should check out the link below to see the plethora of keyboard shortcuts available in Lightroom. Some of my favorites are listed below:

  • Quickly Switch Between Modules: Command, option 1 (2, 3, 4 & 5) This will allow you to quickly switch between modules in Lightroom (1=Library, 2=Develop, 3=Slideshow, 4=Print, 5=Web)
  • Isolate Your Image: Pressing the “L” key once darkens all of Lightroom except for your image. Press the L key again and all of Lightroom is completely blacked out and you are simply left with your image. This can be very helpful when reviewing images as the Lightroom dashboard can be distracting at times.
  • See the Original. When in the Develop module, pressing “\”, the backslash key, will present you with the original image free of any post processing. This is a great way to quickly see the original image compared to the image in its current state.
  • Quick Collection: Pressing the “B” key will add an image to the “Quick Collection”. I usually work on one project at a time in Lightroom. I often open all images for that project, rate them, and then make a quick collection of the keepers. This makes it easy to keep track of my keepers and quickly export them when ready. After I’m done, I clear the quick collection to make it ready for the next project.

A complete list of keyboard shortcuts is available on Adobe’s website.

The Option Key

Holding the option key while moving the exposure slider. White areas show blown highlights.

The option key, or alt key on the PC, is a magical key in Lightroom. It can perform many tricks and it can help you produce the best images possible. Holding the option key while moving certain sliders will present the user with a special view of the image. For example, if you hold the option key while moving the exposure slider, and the image will turn to black and white. All white areas are areas of the image that have blown highlight detail. Pretty cool, right?

Holding the option key while moving the blacks slider. The darker the area, the more information lost in the shadows.

The same can be done with the blacks slider. Hold down the option key while moving the slider and you will be able to see where you are starting to lose detail in the shadow areas. The darker the area, the more information lost in the shadows. This is essentially the same as blown highlights but in the shadow areas.

Holding the option key while moving the sharpening radius slider.

The option key doesn’t stop there. You can use this same method with the recovery slider as well. And if that wasn’t enough, my personal favorite is using the option key with sharpening. Make your way down to the sharpening box in the right panel of the Lightroom dashboard and you will see a series of sliders. I usually use the loupe tool to focus on an area that I want to make sure is nice and sharp. Then I hold down the option key while I adjust each of the sliders. Doing so will allow you to see the areas being affected by the sharpening with much more detail.

Holding the option key while moving the sharpening masking slider. Areas shown in white are the areas of the image where sharpening will be applied.

I think the most useful sharpening slider to use in tandem with the option key is the masking slider. Once you have adjusted your sharpness to your desired level, hold the option key while moving the masking slider. The image should turn mostly white. White areas of the image is where sharpening is being applied while the dark areas will not be affected. This is a very powerful tool as most of the time you do not want to globally sharpen an image. See the image above. I only wanted to sharpen the edge areas of the ring and the squares but not the cracks and imperfections on the ceiling.


The snapshot feature is definitely one of my top 5 favorite features of Lightroom. Making a snapshot of an image essentially makes a copy of the image in its current state which can be recalled later if needed. I like to make a few edits to an image, make a snapshot, and then try something new. I usually make a few different snaphots of an image and then pick the winner. This feature is nice because it’s not actually making copies of the same image, it’s simply saving image settings in the Lightroom library. This feature saves space as you are not actually making a copy and it is much more convenient because you are not managing multiple copies of a single file.

The snapshot box can be found on the left panel of the dashboard. Simply click on the plus button to create or edit a snapshot. Below is an example of two snapshots of the same image. One is a black and white snapshot and the other is the original version of the same image.


Presets are one of the real time savers in Lightroom. If you find yourself making the same edits to several photos, a preset will become your best friend. You can download presets from other people, companies (e.g. Kevin Kubota makes some nice ones) or you can create your own. The best part is, it’s super easy. After you’ve made edits to an image, you can create a preset out of one or all of the changes you made. Simply click on the plus button in the Presets box and you are presented with a box full of options.  Then select the changes to the photo that you made that you would like to save as a preset. That was easy! Some of my favorite presets are film replication presets from which give your digital images the look of specific films from back in the day. I highly recommend their presets but fair warning, there’s a ton of them and picking one can be a challenge.

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