5 Underused Lightroom Tools That You Should Use More Often

By Jason Row / March 16, 2015

Last Updated on by

Adobe’s Lightroom has become one of the best editing and image management options for enthusiast and professional photographers alike. In its most recent incarnation, the editing tools that it provides mean that for many images, there is no need to work in Photoshop. Today we are going to take a look at five advanced Lightroom techniques.

1. Get a Deep Blue Sky

Sometimes the weather does not play ball and although our sky is blue, it's that wishy-washy light blue that does nothing for our shots. Fortunately in Lightroom there is an excellent tool not only for punching the sky out but also for changing the color of the sky- the HSL tool. Found about halfway down the right-hand window in the Develop Module, HSL stands for Hue, Saturation and Lightness. On initial glance, you will see a lot of color sliders under each of the tabs but our secret weapon is the tiny circle icon just below the Hue Tab.
First select the Hue tab then click on the circle icon. Take your cursor to an area of blue sky and click and drag up or down. You will see that the hue, or color, of the sky changes. Change the color of the sky to something more desirable then click the Saturation tab. Repeat the adjustment using the same area of sky, to increase the saturation of the sky. The end result will be a deep blue, almost polarized looking sky.

A hidden but useful tool
Simply click and drag

2. Keep Your Histogram Under Control

There is a simple but effective tool that allows you to see clipping in your images in both the shadow and highlights area. At the top right and left of the histogram, you will see a small triangle. Clicking on the one on the top left will reveal all the shadow areas that are now too black, in other words areas with no shadow detail. These areas will be shown in blue on your main image. You can now use the shadow or blacks sliders to recover these areas. Clicking the triangle on top right will reveal the clipped highlight areas and shown them as red on the main image.

Click on the triangles top left and right to reveal clipping
Red area are clipped highlights, blue are shadows

3. The Healing Brush

This is a very useful tool found in the Develop Module just under the Histogram. It is simply called the spot removal tool but like its Photoshop equivalent, it is more advanced that its name suggests. The tool can be used to remove simple spots such as sensor dust or a mole on a model’s face. This is done by selecting the tool, making sure it is set to Heal and making the brush radius about 50% bigger than the blemish. Then simply click on the blemish. However the tool is more powerful than that as it uses Photoshop’s content aware algorithms. This means you can remove large blemishes by clicking and dragging the brush over the offending area and the tool will work out what needs to be removed and intelligently replace it with the background.

Click and drag the healing tool to clean larger areas

4. Cropping to a Compositional Rule

Another fairly hidden but extremely useful tool in Lightroom is the Crop Overlay tool. To activate it, select the Crop Tool in the Develop module then go to the menu and select Tool – Crop Guide Overlay. There you will see a number of different overlays based around common compositional rules such as thirds, golden ratio and golden spiral. Selecting one will display the overlay on the picture allowing you to crop to that compositorial rule.

Cropping to a compositional rule
Crop 2
This is the Golden Spiral crop overlay

5. Virtual Cloning

Lastly, another often underused feature in Lightroom is Create Virtual Copy. This can be done in the Library module by right clicking on the selected image and selecting Create Virtual Copy. This will create an exact copy of the selected image with all the corrections and adjustments intact, or if you have not made adjustments, an identical copy of the original. This is extremely useful for trying out multiple different variations on the same image, but the real power is in the fact that because the image is just a virtual copy, it takes up virtually no space on your hard drive. A good way to work is to put the original in a new Collection then make multiple virtual copies inside the collection, allowing you to try different looks to a single shot.

Virtual clone creates an exact copy of your image, corrections included
Virtual 2
A cloned image ready for adjustment

Lightroom has a wealth of hidden or obscure features that can be extremely useful. Hopefully these five, along with the many others will help you improve your workflow and creativity.

About the author

Jason Row

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here


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