If you’re reading this, the likelihood is that you’re a Lightroom user, maybe even a power user. Regardless of what else is out there, whether it be Capture One, Affinity Photo, or whatever else, if I were a betting man I’d wager Lightroom is still on your computer and for many that means it’s still the go-to organizational and raw processing tool, and as such, if you’re going to use it, learn to use it better.

For the power users out there, what you’ll read here may be nothing groundbreaking, but for the rest, the beginners, the intermediates or those who just don’t quite wield LR like you invented it, here are 3 simple tips geared to utilizing Lightroom better, and with more precision. Implementing these should aid your processes in being quicker, and therefore speeding up your workflow whilst retaining accuracy.

Before/After Alternate Views With Y, Shift+Y, Alt+Y

Anyone who’s ever been to art school, or actually ever taken a writing class will know that we’re often told to step away from our creation, leave it entirely alone for a while, then go back to it with fresh eyes, whereupon you’ll find you’ve made a hash of things or at least spot all manners of errors or things you should or could do better. In retouching it can be the same, though sometimes you don’t have the luxury of walking away for a while, but you can zoom out and view things from a distance. It’s so easy to get lost in the details than you don’t see what the complete image looks like. You’ll frequently see retouchers zooming in and out to get a micro and macro view of things just for this reason. If you use Photoshop check out this article to see a way I do it without zooming in and out.

If you’re in Lightroom, it’s recommended that you refer to the before and after image frequently to see how you’re coming along, and comparing the two side by side is a great way to compare. To do this, you can hit the Y button, whereby you’ll be shown a split screen with the ‘before’ on the left and ‘after’ on the right. But there’s more… Hit the Y key and Shift together and you get another variation which can split your single image into a before and after, and then hit the Alt+Y and again you’ll find a horizontal split. You can actually hit Y again so show different sections of the image also. In each you can zoom and drag the image around, and then to revert…just hit the key combo again.

Free Your Screen with SHIFT+TAB

So many of us are moving around with small screens these days, with 12 inch to 13 inch laptops being just about the norm. While the convenience is lovely and we wouldn’t trade it for the world, there’s no getting around the fact that limiting screen size limits processes. Of course you can do everything (generally), but if you’ve used a large monitor before or a multiple monitor set-up the extra real estate helps when retouching and organizing, but there’s a way to quickly open up your screen to give you another inch or so (diagonally) within Lightroom, and it’s remarkable how big of a difference that makes. All you need to do is hit Shift+Tab, and do it in any module.

Many of you know that you can click a sidebar & menu bar’s arrow to hide it, and that hitting Tab hides both sidebars, but you can minimize all the menu bars and such with Shift+Tab. Literally hit those two and your screen really opens up, and you can do that in Develop, Library module, or whatever, and if you are using Lightroom in Full-Screen mode anyway, it really just frees up the screen entirely for you. To revert, just hit the combo again.

Alt/Opt Key For Tone Curve Precision

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. The solution is hold the alt/opt key while you move the curve and you’ll notice your movements slow and you have to be more generous with them to make an adjustment – this makes it easier.

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.

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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. 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