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Tips & Tricks

Lightroom’s Dark Knight | The Transformative Alt/Opt Key [Part 2]

By Kishore Sawh on March 17th 2016

When it comes to using Lightroom, or any of the prominent post processing software, it’s been my experience that users are about as adventurous as a hermit living next to minefield. This has always struck me as curious because if you own one of these programs, you’re likely a creative, and creatives by nature don’t play within strict boundaries.

I believe this tendency to avoid experimentation is a result of knowing how powerful the applications actually are, but then almost intimidated by the power and how they work, in fear of messing something up irreversibly. It’s likely why so many Lightroom users haven’t the foggiest about the abilities and applications of the ALT/OPT key, and how transformative it can be. It’s why I wrote part one to this, and why it’s being continued into this post and likely one other.

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If you have yet to look at part one, I think it prudent that you do that first, to get the juices flowing, as it encompasses some of the more simple, easy to remember, and easy to implement uses of the alt/opt key. It’s not necessary that you do so, just recommended; you can find it here.

In case you haven’t read the first edition, let me just preface what’s to come by stressing just how important the alt/opt key is to my Lightroom workflow – that is to say, I may literally halt use of LR altogether if the functionality of this key was removed. In terms of efficiency enabling tools/shortcuts in LR, in my opinion, it’s second to none. From offering altered visualizations to expanding key use and extending functionality, it is without equal.

Alt/Opt For Tone Curve Precision

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Curves, unsurprisingly, are all too often avoided in Lightroom probably because they just don’t behave in a way we are used to thinking and working, and that leads to confusion. This is unfortunate because once you grasp using curves well, there’s no going back – usually. For those that do retreat from them, at least in Lightroom, I’d venture to say it’s due to the fact that to use them with precision is a tedious endeavor.

Given the size of the box, then the size of the line (made worse if you start using points), pushing and pulling the line just enough can be agonizing due to the micro mouse movements you have to input to get it right, and usually, it requires a lot of redoing. That should largely stop once you begin using the alt/opt key because it slows down the mouse pointer movement speed dramatically, making it possible and easy to make very fine adjustments. Use it and fall in love with your Tone Curve panel.

Alt/Opt & Solo Mode

Solo Mode within Lightroom is a great organizational and screen real-estate saving tool. We’re all familiar with all the panels within the modules, and especially when using the Develop Module, we’ll have to use many of them per image. Now, depending on the size of your screen, you may only be able to see one or two panels as you’re working, meaning that when you’ve got through with the Basic panel, and you’ve got to head into the Camera Calibration or Lens Correction panels, you’ve got to do some scrolling, and it can be annoying. This is precisely what Solo Mode is for, as with it engaged, each panel you click on opens while simultaneously closing all other panels, keeping your panel column just how Monica from ‘Friends’ would like it.

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To engage Solo Mode, all you have to do is right click on any panel header and select it. But there are times you actually want more than a single panel open, and thus, Solo Mode is more useful when it can be toggled even quicker and simpler.

If you have numerous panels open, hold the alt/opt button and click on a panel header and you will engage Solo Mode, thus closing all the other panels but the one you clicked. This also works if the panel you want is closed; you would just hold alt/opt key and it would open and then close all the rest. 

If you find yourself currently in Solo Mode with a single panel open, but you want to open another, again hold the alt/opt key and click the other panel, which will open, signaling Solo Mode has been disengaged. It helps; try it.

Alt/Opt With Sync & Default Settings

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Diving a little deeper reveals that the alt/opt key changes even more subtle buttons though the effect of the change is anything but. When in the Develop Module, you’ll notice two buttons at the bottom right corner: Previous & Reset. Holding the alt/opt key changes the Reset button to Set Default, and if it seems like it’s deliberately being kept from view, that’s likely because it is.

The vast majority of photographers I know of are fine adjusting their image as they come across them and import them with default settings as is. However, the Set Default lets you manually change and set future defaults such as any detail settings like noise and sharpening, or lens correction, or exposure. It’s not typically something most photographers would do, but those who do use it, swear by it.

If you click Set Default, the following window will pop up:

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If you click on the Update To Current Settings button, Lightroom will consider your current settings and then make them the default for images taken with that particular camera henceforth. Note to the wise, if you do use this function only to decide you would like it reversed, you must select it again and hit the button on the other side, the Restore Adobe Default Settings button.

If you have more than one image selected, the buttons change to Sync and Reset, and you’ll notice Sync has an ellipsis following it. If you hit that Sync button, you’ll be presented with the Synchronize Setting window that we are all familiar with that lets you fine tune what characteristics you’d like to carry over to other images.

If you hold the alt/opt key, you’ll see the ellipsis vanishes and lets you bypass the Sync window and uses the settings from the last image.

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[REWIND: LIGHTROOM’S DARK KNIGHT |THE ALT/OPT KEY TRANSFORMS LIGHTROOM IN WAYS YOU LIKELY DON’T KNOW [PART 1]]

I hope you found this useful, if not revelatory, and there’s actually a third in the set to share that will have you fully sorted on the various ways to employ the alt/opt key as a tool, making your Lightroom life easier, quicker, and more effective.

And if you really do and want to absorb lots of this kind of information, I highly suggest you take a look at the Lightroom Organization & Workflow or the Image Processing Mastery workshops. They’ll get you up to speed, and fast, allowing you to get the most out of this program we spend so much time with.

– Kish

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. jayashree padmanaban

    This article is useful and efficient , thanks for sharing this information.

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