Education
5 Amazing Lightroom Tools
by Chris Daniels

Lightroom is a fantastic editing and cataloging program for photographers that is simple to use right out of the gate. But, there are a few lesser-known features that make the program even better. Master these simple, but amazing tools and techniques and you will edit faster, more efficiently, and with more confidence!

LR Tool No. 1: Match Total Exposures

Let’s say you’re shooting outdoors. It’s a beautiful spring afternoon, the sun is bright, and there’s a breeze in the air. The sky is even showing off with some big, billowy clouds! It’s the type of day that makes you glad to be alive and outside. It's a great day to shoot! But then, the wind picks up and starts shifting those big, beautiful clouds around, and now you're adjusting your exposure several times a minute to keep up with the changing light. I mean, it’s okay. You’re a pro, and you’ve got this. You roll with it as best you can, finish the shoot, pack up the gear, pile in the car, and call it a day. As you drive away, you think to yourself, “Man, that was good.”

The next morning you sit down at your computer and slide the memory card in from the day before. You’re excited to see your shots (especially that one little set that you keep thinking about), and wonder if you’re going to go with the trusted Mastin Labs Fuji Original, or go back again to the Kodak Everyday pack because you can’t get enough of that Ektar!

You open up Lightroom and pull in the images. As they’re uploading and you see the previews appearing, you can immediately tell when the wind picked up and started shifting those clouds and your light around. You stuck with it, though, and got the shots, but your exposure is a little all over the place. A little difference here and there is fine, but you need an overall consistency for this shoot. You can find one correctly exposed shot and try to match the others to it one by one, but that takes forever. So what’s the faster and more efficient way?

Here’s how to do it.

  • Find an image that you like and adjust its exposure to where you would like it to be.
  • Once you have the exposure where you like it, select that image and any others from that section that should have the same exposure.
  • While in the Develop module, with your newly-adjusted image selected (it should be the primary image you see in the center), go to the top menu and select Settings > Match Total Exposures.

Lightroom evaluates the exposure of the selected “key” image and individually adjusts the exposure of all of the chosen images to match it. It’s brilliant!

Now, we’ll use the next tool in our list to do a quick highlight and shadow check on the shoot.

LR Tool No. 2: Highlights & Shadows Warning

This tool is incredibly useful and so incredibly fast. Use it to check the highlights in your sky or the details in your shadows. This is especially useful for printing and allows you to maintain detail in the highlights and shadows of the image.

While in the develop module, press the ‘J’ key.

That’s it. This toggles on the highlight and shadow clipping. While using this tool, if you are over or underexposed in any areas to the point of there being no information at all in some of the highlights or shadows, Lightroom highlights those areas in either blue or red. Blue for shadows. Red for highlights. Below are examples of each.

Now, moving along in our edit session scenario, we come upon a great image, but the lines of the photo are a little off. This is easy to see with a grid overlayed. (see example below)

The lines are also a little too complex to fix by merely rotating the image slightly. So, we have to consider other options. That brings us here:

LR Tool No. 3: Transform & Level Tool

This Lightroom tool seems to get smarter and more intuitive with every update to the software. It’s often so good that you can use the “auto,” “full,” and other options and nothing else. You can also easily make these adjustments manually, using the “Guided” button, or by clicking the little circle with the cross-hatching. When your image has lots of leading lines, such as if you shoot into the corner of a room, you will use this manual adjustment and correct them by hand.

  • Click one of the manual buttons. This activates a cursor with a magnification box.
  • Find a verticle line in the image that should be straight up and down. Click on one end of that line and drag it to the opposite end. (The line stays in place and can be adjusted if needed.)
  • Now, find a horizontal line in the image that should be level and do the same. (You may add additional points if necessary, but in most cases two is plenty.)

Lightroom straightens the image based on the guide you just created. If it looks good, press “enter” to finalize the change.

At this point, you have a good feel for the session you’re editing. You’ve fixed most major corrections using the tools and techniques that we learned, and you've been playing with the Mastin Labs preset packs along the way and know which one(s) you're feeling for this shoot. That means that you're in the home-stretch of this edit! All you need to do is make sure it all looks and feels the same, and there's a great way to do that.

Enter our next tool:

LR Tool No. 4: Sync Settings

This tool is one you can use in both the Develop and Library modules, and it works the same in each. Sync Settings applies all of the settings from the selected image to any other images that you choose. There are a few key things to keep in mind and watch out for as you use this tool.

Here's how we recommend going about it:

  • Select the image with your preset and adjustments applied.
  • Select the other images that you wish to have the same adjustments.
  • Once selected, click the "Sync" button towards the bottom-right of your module.

This brings up a checkbox menu. You have to be specific about which boxes you tick; otherwise, otherwise, you might end up with some wonky things happening and chase your tail trying to fix them.

  • Here are the items that you should check every time:

Unless your entire session is already very uniform, I would recommend syncing in small groups of similar images. This will also allow you to potentially check the "white balance" box and sync it along with the other settings.

At this point, you're pretty close to done with editing your shoot. All you need to do now is an overall quality check, and this is a great place to use the last of the five tools on the list.

LR Tool No. 5: The Reference View

There are so many ways and reasons to use the reference view tool, but more often than not, you use it to compare one image to another. Before this tool, I toggled back and forth between images, trying to spot tiny differences in the two, and then make adjustments. It's next to impossible to do it that way, and it certainly isn't any fun.

When you're comparing temperature and tone of images, matching contrast, skin tones, or a plethora of other things, this is the best way to get it done!

Here's how to use the tool:

  • In the Develop module, click the 'T' key to bring up the toolbar just below the main image.

If the bar pops up, but nothing is in it, click the little arrow to the right and toggle on the options.

  • Now, click the little box in the toolbar that has R A in it (You can also press 'Shift + R'). This splits the screen and instructs you to drag an image into the reference area on the left.
  • Select the image you wish to reference from the filmstrip below and drag it into the empty area.

The reference image stays in place, allowing you to move throughout the catalog and adjust images while using it as a guide.

So there it is! The Lightroom fantastic five! Let us know how these tools work for you and what other tools and tricks you love.

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