Do You Use The Alt/Option Key in Lightroom? Here's Why You Should.

Do You Use The Alt/Option Key in Lightroom? Here's Why You Should.

With the latest update of both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, the editing curve is becoming increasingly smaller for both. Here's how to take better advantage of Lightroom.

Even in its early days, Lightroom had some really useful shortcuts that it's continued to employ and has mapped across to Camera Raw. One of my personal favorites that I find invaluable in some cases is the Alt (PC) or Option (Mac) key for visualization of adjustments. Holding the Alt key or Option key when using some of the sliders provides you with visual feedback for your edits. Holding the Alt/Option key when sharpening you may already know, but just in case you don't, I'll add that one below.

The key part of using the Alt/Option key is that it provides you with visual feedback to see what is happening to your image. Displaying in either black or white (white reveals, black conceals) allows you to see quickly where clipping is taking place, and I personally find this more useful than the clipping indicators of the histogram. 

The Basics Panel

I normally don't use it for the exposure slider, but you can, and it will display any areas in your image that are overexposed. In the example below, I have over-exaggerated the results for the purposes of demonstration, indicated by the navigator, histogram, and exposure slider.

Holding the Alt/Option key when adjusting any of the following sliders will allow you to highlight the areas of clipping in your images and adjust them slightly more finitely than the displayed red or blue indicators in the histogram panel. 



The image example used has very few black points clipped in the shadows as indicated below.


While using the black slider, I adjusted it to the left, increasing the blacks as an example. For this type of image, it would be inadvisable, but this enables you to see how the Alt/Option key works.

This is not a particularly good image, but it helps illustrate how much you can control the clipping simply by using the Alt/Option key when editing in this fashion. 


When adjusting the amount of sharpening to the right while depressing the Alt/Option key, the image will become tonal and lose all color information. The reason for this is that we can interpret the amount of sharpening easier as a black and white image than we can in color. I suggest that you zoom in 100% when applying sharpening, as this will yield better viewing results.

Once you are happy with the amount of sharpening and still holding the Alt/Option key, adjust the Masking slider. At first, everything will be displayed as white, indicating that the whole image is being sharpened as a global edit. Black shows the areas not being sharpened, while the white areas remaining are sharpened.

Noise Reduction

The same visual monochromatic tonal indicator, as with the sharpening, is employed here to allow you to see the amount of the reduction effect. Too much and the image will be too soft, so again, I would zoom in 100% when adjusting. 

Lens Correction

This one I rarely use, but it's good to know it's there to show you the areas affected by fringing and allow you to pinpoint them more accurately. I mainly use this to see them quickly as in the example below and then zoom in and use the eye dropper tool to correct them, but you can also use the sliders to adjust while holding Alt/Option.

Parting Thought

If you are relatively new to Lightroom editing, I hope you found this brief tutorial helpful in some way. There are many different ways to edit your images, so choose and use the methods that suit your workflow.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Gary McIntyre is a landscape photographer and digital artist based on the west coast of Scotland. As well as running photography workshops in the Glencoe region, providing online editing workshops, Gary also teaches photography and image editing at Ayrshire college.

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As you would expect, for Photoshop users, this also works in Adobe Camera Raw. I've always found it very useful in adjusting blacks, whites, and highlights.

This is one of those LR things that I wish C1 would adopt.