Quick Keyboard Adjustments in Lightroom 2 Beta

Lightroom 2 Beta has been a lot of fun to play with, and I’ve actually gone a lot further than just playing with it as I’ve toned several entire weddings and corporate shoots with the program.

With each new generation of Lightroom, Adobe seems to make it smarter and faster. Even as a Beta, LR2 runs fairly quickly on my Mac G5, which seems like an ancient machine to me now that the ultra-bionic models have been out for more than a year.

One bit of fun functionality that the darned clever designers put in to LR2 was the ability to use your keyboard for some of the most common toning adjustments . I might have missed this little gem if I hadn’t read the release notes when I downloaded the program.

Now I find it’s something I use all the time.

A couple of keystrokes and I'm makin' changes.

In the DEVELOP module, when I want to pump up the Exposure or the Vibrance or any of the options from Temperature down to Saturation I can just hit the “comma” and “period” keys to move through the list to find the feature I want and then use my “plus” or “minus” keys to move the amount up or down. (I know, it’s really the “equal” key, but it’s easier for me to think of it as the “plus” key. You don’t have to press “shift.”)

When you get to the adjustment you want, a brief pop-up message will appear at the bottom of your photo to let you know what is selected. (use that as a cutline)

But if you DO press “shift,” it will move the slider in larger increments. For instance, when you normally press the “plus” key once when adjusting the Exposure, it will move the slider up to “+10.” But if you hold down the shift key, it will take you a third of a stop up to “+33.” The same works in reverse, dropping the exposure by one-third of a stop if you hold the “shift” key while pressing the “minus” key.

Another keyboard trick, this one not mentioned in the release notes: If you hold down the “option” key while you press the “plus” or “minus” keys, it will move the slider in smaller increments. Except for Black Clipping, all the various options move in sets of five or ten units. But sometimes I don’t WANT to increase the Fill Light by five entire units: I just want to nudge it along by one or two.

So when I’ve selected the Fill Light option using my “period/comma” keys, I can then hold down “Option” while I move the slider by one unit at a time.

For Temperature, which normally moves up 50 degrees Kelvin at a time, holding down the option key restricts the change to just five degrees each time you move up or down. But it’s pretty rare that I make a temperature adjustment that small. Usually I’m holding the Shift key and going up or down by 200 degrees at a whack.

All this is great and it cuts down on my trying to hold my mouse reaaaalllllly steady while I make an adjustment in one of those areas. But I’ve been really eager to be able to do the same thing with some of the other adjustments, such as in the Tone Curve, HSL/Color/Grayscale or Detail panels.

Turns out you can use your keyboard for adjustments in every option in every panel. Almost. Sort of.

Lightroom reminds you what settings you're changing.

In MOST of the other panels, all you need to do is use your mouse to click on the word describing the adjustment you want to make. For instance, under Sharpening, click on the word “Detail” and then you can use the “+/-” keys to move up or down. The same rules apply as in the Basic panel. Hold down SHIFT to make each keystroke a bigger adjustment, hold down OPTION to fine tune.

Works with six-dozen adjustments! Count 'em! I did!

The fact that you must first click on the word is why I say you can “almost” do this the same as in the Basic panel. But I do understand that you wouldn’t want to have to cycle through 72 different options each time you wanted to change one thing. (Yes, I counted them, and you can really do this with 72 different settings.) But maybe Adobe can think of a way to let you jump from panel to panel and then just make changes within each one.

One reason I’m so pleased about this functionality is that I use the stylus on my Wacom tablet quite a bit when I’m working with photos, and while that’s great for lots of uses it’s pretty hard to move a slider up just one or two units with it. So I’ve set up one of the panels on my tablet to mimic the “+/-” keys and all I have to do is tap the adjustment-word I want with the stylus before making a completely controlled adjustment.

The one panel where this DOESN’T work at all is in the drop-down area for localized adjustments and cropping. I can understand why that’s true with Crop and Red-eye or Healing & Cloning, but it would be very useful in the Retouch panel. If you decide to edit a brush stroke, it’s very difficult (nearly impossible to do accurately in some places) to use your keyboard to do so. I hope that this will be rectified in the actual release.

Use the "semicolon" key to reset the adjustment if you don't like it.

One last useful tip: If you’ve made an adjustment using your keyboard and you can’t stand the way it looks, it’s easy to reset that individual adjustment. While the adjustment is selected, just press the “semicolon” key and it will take the slider back to its default setting. For me that's easier than trying to put my mouse exactly on top of the little triangle to double-click it.


Yigal David said...

That's great deal of help for me.
I discovered Keyboard adjustment yesterday but I searched all over Adobe Shorcuts table and didn;t find a word about comma and semicolon to move between fields.
BTW I use Wacom tablet as well.Thanks.

YigalDavidH at GMAIL.

Thomas said...

Yeah, the comma/period thing was a surprise to me, and now I use it quite a bit. And I've programmed my Wacom tablet to do some of those keyboard shortcuts,which saves time instead of switching back and forth from the keyboard to the tablet.

What appears to be a full list of shortcuts can be found in PDF form on Victoria Bampton's blog at and from there you can download the file for whatever system you have.

One thing I learned recently is that you can also go in to your system prefs (if you're on a Mac) and you can program some functions that don't have a hot key in Lightroom. For instance, I use Ctrl-Shift-I for "Import from Catalog..." because I do that sort of thing often. And Ctrl-Shift-E is "Export to Catalog..." which is also useful. Unfortunately, I haven't yet figure out how to do a keyboard command for certain develop presets I use like adding Clarity or desaturating all my HSL sliders to make black & whites. If you hear of a way, let me know!

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