The Alt/Option Key: 12 Hidden Features of Lightroom

Lightroom has many hidden features and you can’t know about them until someone points them out for you. One of those things is the Alt (PC) / Option (Mac) key. There are quiet a few things that you can do with the Alt (PC) / Option (Mac) key and most of the people are not aware of these. There is a lot of functionality attached with this key and you’ll be surprised just how many hidden features uncover themselves when you press it. I’ve put together this video showing you the many things that can be done in Lightroom with the Alt (PC) / Option (Mac) key. If you prefer to read, you can continue below the video.

1. Changes Import & Export Buttons

In the Library module, pressing down the Alt (PC) / Option (Mac) key changes the Import and Export buttons to Import Catalog and Export Catalog.

The Import and Export button change to Import Catalog and Export Catalog
The Import and Export button change to Import Catalog and Export Catalog

The Import Catalog allows you to merge another catalog into your current one. So, let’s say you have another catalog that you made just for a trip you took and now you want to merge it into your main Master catalog. You would press the Import Catalog button and then do the things it asks you to do.

The Export Catalog button will let you export only a folder or selected photos, as a separate catalog. So, when I press this, it will only export the selected folder as a separate catalog.

2. Changes Quick Develop Settings

In the Library module, you have the Quick Develop panel to quickly apply some edits to your photographs. On first sight, you see controls for Exposure, Clarity and Vibrance. But, if you press the Alt/Option key, the Clarity and Vibrance change into Sharpening and Saturation allowing your to quickly adjust those too, if you need to.

The Clarity and Vibrance changes to Sharpening and Saturation

3. The Keywording Panel

The Keywording Panel in the Library module allows you to add keywords to your photos. In that panel at the bottom, you see Keyword Set. Through this, Lightroom allows you to create sets for your keywords that belong to a certain category, for example, you may have one set of keywords for landscape photography and another for portrait photography.

You can press Alt/Option and a number to add keywords from a Keyword Set  to your photos

How the Alt/Option key works with this is if I press the Alt/Option key, you’ll see little numbers appear next to the keywords in the Keyword Set. With the Alt/Option key pressed, if I press any of those numbers, that keyword will get applied to my photo. So, from the image above, if I press Alt-1 / Option-1, it’ll apply the keyword day shots to the photo.

4. Activate and Deactivate Solo Mode

Solo Mode is when Lightroom only lets you open one panel at a time. If you open another panel, the first one collapses. The regular way to enable Solo mode is by right clicking on title bar of any panel and choosing Solo Mode from there.

How it works with the Alt/Option key is that if Solo mode is on, and you just have one panel open, simply press the Alt/Option key and click on the other panel too. It will open the other panel without collapsing the first one, which means that it switched off Solo mode.

Or if I have more than one panel open, if I hold down the Alt/Option key and click on any panels title, that’ll open up only that panel and collapse all the others, which means that it switched on Solo mode. You can do this in any of the modules.

5. Reset a set of sliders

In the Develop module, we have the sliders to make adjustments to our photos and you’ll see that the sliders are kinda divided into little sets of sliders that do similar things and they are divided by thin grey lines.

Hold down Alt/Option and click on the name of the set to reset all sliders in that set

If you hold down the Alt/Option key, you’ll see that the name of the particular set of sliders will have the word Reset added to it and if I click on that while holding the Alt/Option key down, it will reset all the sliders only from that set. The rest of the settings will stay there. You can do this to any of the settings in the Develop module.

6. Visualization Tool

The next thing you can do is if you hold down the Alt/Option key when moving a lot of the sliders in the Develop module, it helps you in getting a better idea of the result. So, let’s see how it works with the different sliders in the Develop module.

1. Exposure Sliders

First, the Exposure sliders. If you hold down the Alt/Option key and move the Exposure sliders, it’ll show you if there’s any clipped highlights or shadows.

Once you move the Exposure slider while holding down Alt/Option, it turns the entire screen black and when there are pixels getting clipped, you’ll be able to see those pixels against the black background. I’ll see something similar with the Highlights and the Whites sliders.

If I move the Exposure/Highlights/Whites while holding down Alt/Option, it’ll show me overexposed highlights

With the Blacks and the Shadows Slider, you’ll see the opposite. You’ll see the clipped shadows. The underexposed areas. The whole screen will turn white and only the underexposed pixels will show.

Moving the Blacks / Shadows slider while holding down Alt/Option will show me the underexposed pixels.

2. Split Toning

In the Split Toning panel, if you hold down the Alt/Option key while moving the Hue slider, on either the Highlights or the Shadows, it’ll help you visualize what the effect will look like in its full strength. It lets you see which color you are at. Something that’s a little difficult if the Saturation is at a low setting.

The Alt/Option key while moving the Hue slider in Split Toning panel will show you the effect of the Hue in full intensity.

3. The Detail Sliders

In the Detail panel, you have the options for Sharpening and Noise Reduction. The Alt/Option works with both and helps you visualize the effect. If you hold the Alt/Option key down and move the Amount slider, it turns the photo black and white, which allows you to see the sharpening more clearly.

The Alt/Option key with the Amount slider makes the photo black and white for you to see the effect clearly.

Holding down Alt/Option while moving the Radius and the Detail sliders turns everything grey and I can only see the edges inside the photo and those are mostly the areas affected by the sharpening.

The Alt/Option key while moving the Radius & Detail slider makes the photo grey only showing the edges in the photo.

With the masking slider you can control if your entire photo is affected by the sharpening, or just the edges in your photo. Holding down the Alt/Option while moving the Masking slider shows you the areas that will get affected by the sharpening. The areas in white are the ones that get affected and the area in black is the part that doesn’t get affected by the sharpening at all.

The Alt/Option key while moving the Masking slider shows you the mask

Then, Noise Reduction. Holding down the Alt/Option key while moving any of the Luminance, Detail, Contrast sliders makes the photo black and white which helps you judge the effect in a much better way.

The Alt/Option key while moving the Noise Reduction sliders makes the photo black and white to help you see the effect clearly

4. Chromatic Abberation

The Alt/Option key also helps visualize the Chromatic Aberration. In the Lens Corrections panel, in the Manual tab. You have sliders under Defringe. If you hold down the Alt/Option key while moving the Amount sliders and it’ll show you the pixels getting affected by this adjustment in black and grey while the rest of the photo turns white.

The Alt/Option key while moving the Amount slider will show only the pixels getting affected by the adjustment and the rest of the photo turns white.

Hold it down while moving the Hue sliders and it’ll show you the range of the tones that are getting affected. The wider area you pick with the Purple Hue or Green Hue sliders, the greater will be the area that’ll get affected by their respective Amount sliders.

The Alt/Option key while moving the Hue sliders will show the pixels getting affected by the adjustment

5. Post Crop Vignetting

Holding down Alt/Option while moving the Midpoint, Roundness, Feather or Highlights slider will show the effect of the vignette in its full intensity. This will only work if you have moved the Amount slider a little bit. If you’ve moved it towards the negative side, it will show it in full intensity on the negative side; and if you’ve moved the Amount slider on the positive side, it’ll show the effect in full intensity on the positive side.

The Alt/Option key visualizes the vignette in its full intensity to help you set the other tools.

6. The Dehaze Slider

If I hold down the Alt/Option key and move the Dehaze slider, it starts to show me if there’s any clipping happening. Since the Dehaze slider  darkens stuff, so this will tell us if the photo has gotten a little too dark and we need to stop.

The Alt/Option key with the Dehaze slider will show you if your photo has any shadow clippings

7. Finer Adjustments in Tone Curve Panel

In the Tone Curve panel, if you drag the curve on any photo, you can do it freely. If you hold down the Alt/Option key and then move the curves, you’ll notice that it’s dragging much more slowly. This way, you can make very fine adjustments in the Tone Curve if you need to.

8. Center the Crop Overlay

When you are using the Crop tool and then drag the crop overlay from one corner, the overlay is anchored on the opposite side.

Without the Alt/Option key pressed, the crop overlay is anchored at the opposite end.

But, if you hold down the Alt/Option key and then drag a corner, the overlay will now be anchored in the center and it’ll get dragged from all four sides.

Holding down the Alt/Option key while dragging the corners of the crop overlay will anchor it in the center

9. Reset Radial and Graduated Filter

When you select the Radial and Graduated filters, the sliders are at the positions of the last applied settings. If you want to get them all to their original positions, you can simply press the Alt/Option key and the word Effect will change into Reset. You can click on that and all the sliders come back to their original positions.

Holding down Alt/Option changes Effect to Reset

10. Change the Adjustment Brush into an Eraser

If you use the Adjustment brush, you would know that you end up needing to quickly erase some of your adjustments too. You can quickly change the brush into an eraser by holding down the Alt/Option key. As soon as you release they key, the brush goes back to normal.

11. Change the Sync… button to Sync

The Sync button allows you to copy all your adjustments from one photo and apply them to others. You see the button, if you have more than one photos selected. If you simply click on that, it opens up a Synchronize Settings dialog box and asks me which settings are the ones I want to copy to the other photographs and I can choose from these and press Synchronize.

Holding down Alt/Option will change the Sync… button to Sync

What if I don’t want to see the dialog box every time? If I press the Alt/Option key, you’ll notice that the three dots next to the word Sync have disappeared and now when I press the button, it doesn’t show me the dialog box and applies the last settings I had selected from that.

12. Change Reset button to Set Default

If I press the Alt/Option key, the Reset button on the bottom right changes to the Set Default button.

Holding down Alt/Option will change the Reset button to Set Default…

If I press the Set Default button, whatever my current settings are, they will become the default settings and every time Lightroom brings in a photo, these settings will already be applied to the photograph. You can do this if there’s a particular setting you apply to all of your photos. You can make that to be the default.

Conclusion

You can see that Lightroom has a lot of hidden features and a lot of them work with the Alt/Option key. I am sure there are a lot more things that you can do with the Alt/Option key in some of the other modules as well, but the ones mentioned above are the most useful ones. So, never think that you know enough of Lightroom; there may be just another hidden secret you may discover the next time you open it.

Shajee Aijazi

Shajee Aijazi is the founder of Digital Darkroom Academy. He helps people speed up their post-processing workflow and organize their photos in a way that they don't have to waste time managing it and they can focus on creating great looking images.

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