Hidden Lightroom features in the Develop Module

The Develop module in Adobe Lightroom CC Classic is fairly straight forward. With a little bit of poking around, a modestly computer savvy photographer can make some pretty decent edits with relatively little

knowledge of the software. The more you dive into this program though, the more secrets you will discover. In this article and accompanying video, I will reveal the hidden Lightroom features of the Develop Module.

I suggest watching the video first and then using this article as a quick reference guide.


Although the Crop Tool is pretty straight forward, there are a few features that many people overlook. It is important to note that the crop tool is only available in the Develop Module. By pressing the R Key, Lightroom will automatically switch to the Develop Module if you are not already there and open up the Crop Tool.

You will notice some thin lines that appear over the image while the crop tool is open. These lines are called the overlay. You can cycle through seven different overlays by pressing the O Key. If you’d prefer to use the menu instead of the keyboard shortcut, you can do so by navigating to Tools > Crop Guide Overlays and picking the overlay that you want. Furthermore, any overlay that is not symmetrical can be rotated the by holding down Shift and pressing O.

Lightroom crop overlays


If you would like to contract or expand a crop from all sides of the frame at once hold the Option Key (mac) or Alt (PC) and then click and drag on any edge of the crop frame.


To rotate the crop by 90 degrees, press the X key.

How to rotate crop aspect ration in Lightroom


It is very easy to create a cluttered workspace when working in the Develop Module. Whenever you open a new tab, the previous one stays open. If you go down the entire line you’ll have nine open tabs which makes for a cumbersome editing experience.

Solo Mode tells Lightroom to automatically close the previous tab you were using whenever you open a new one. This feature can greatly speed up your workflow by eliminating unnecessary scrolling. To turn on Solo Mode, hover over an area without text on any tab in the Develop or Library Module. Then Control Click (Mac) or Right Click (PC) and choose Solo Mode


The Match Total Exposure feature in Lightroom allows users to match the exposure of one shot with another. You can even select multiple shots to be matched with a single master exposure. This is not to be confused with synchronizing a series of images. When you synchronize exposure, Lightroom changes the exposure value to the same value on every image no mater how bright they were to start off with.

When you use Match Total Exposure, Lightroom analyzes each image that is selected and compares it with the master. The software then adjusts the exposure slider for each selected image individually until the brightness of that image is equal to that of the master. In other words, Lightroom equalizes the brightness of any selected image with that of the master. The master is the image that you choose first. If you would like to change the master click within the image of any selected thumbnail and that will then become the master selection.

match total exposure in lightroom

It is important to note that if the exposure is too far off, Lightroom will not be able to perform the match total exposure operation correctly.


1. Make sure you are in the Develop Module by pressing the D Key

2. Click on any thumbnail to make a master selection.

3. Command click (mac) or Control click (PC) on the thumbnail or thumbnails that you would like to match with the master. (If there are multiple images in a row that you would like to select, Shift Click on the last image that you want to include and Lightroom will select all of the images in between.

4. Once you have you images selected, navigate to Settings > Match Total Exposure.



Most panels in the Develop Module have groups of sliders that are labeled under a sub-heading. For example, The Basic Panel has Tone and Presence sub-groups. Lightroom gives you the ability to reset these groups of sliders independently of one another. To do so, hold Option (Mac) or Alt (PC). You will then see the words Reset appear after the sub group text. While continuing to hold option click the Reset text to reset that group only. Alternatively, you can double click on any sub-group and that will zero out the sliders in that group.


If you would like to reset a single slider, all you have to do is double click on the text to the left of it and that will zero out that particular slider.


There may be times when you want to increase or decrease the overall intensity of a local adjustment such as the Gradient, Brush, or Radial Tools. Once you have made some adjustments to the local sliders you can hold Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) and hover your cursor over the pin. This will cause the cursor to turn into a double sided arrow. At this point you can click and drag to the left to decrease the effect or click and drag to the right to increase the effect.


By default, the local adjustment overlay is red. There may be times where you want to change the color of the overlay though. For example, if you are applying the effect to a red surface the red overlay will be hard to see. To change the color of the overlay go to Tools > Adjust Mask Overlay and choose the color you’d like. Alternatively, you can Hold Shift and press the O Key to cycle through the options.

Color Overlays in Lightroom


Holding the Option Key on Mac or the Alt Key on a PC will often reveal options that where not available before you hit the modifier key.


Holding Option/Alt will temporarily turn the Brush Tool into the Eraser Tool when the Brush tool is selected. Holding Option/Alt when the easer tool is selected will temporarily turn it into the Brush Tool.


When you click and drag on the edge of a gradient, the center point moves which could result in having to reposition the gradient. This may cause an unnecessary second step. When you hold Option/Alt and drag one of the edges of the grad filter, both sides of the grad expand or contract at the same time allowing the center point to remain stationary. This is very useful if you have the center of the grad lined up with a horizon line in your image.


Holding Option/Alt and clicking on the Hue Slider in the Split Toning panel will temporarily show the selected color at full intensity.


Holding Option/Alt while adjusting the white and black sliders in the basic panel will allow you to see when the image starts to clip.

Clipping is when there is no detail because part of the image is either over or under exposed completely. Lightroom shows a black mask for white clipping and a white mask for black clipping. As you drag the whites brighter and the blacks darker you will start to see colors appear on their respective masks. This means that there is no longer detail where you see color appear.

Sometimes it is ok if part of an image is clipping. For example, if a bright sun in a blue sky is in the frame the sun will always be clipped and that is ok. Never try to darken a bright sun because a grey sun will always look much worse than a white sun. There are times when having solid black in a shot is desirable too, so use this feature as a guide but try not to let it be the absolute ruler of you

Learn post processing


It can often be difficult to see what is happening when working with sharpening. The first thing you should do when sharpening is zoom in to 100%. When zoomed out, your monitor may not be producing an accurate display of the sharpening.

Generally, you do not want to sharpen the entire image. That is where the sharpening mask slider comes in. When you hold Option/Alt and click on the Masking Slider in the Detail Panel you will see the entire image turn white. As you drag the slider to the right you will notice some black start to appear.

This is Lightroom’s way of showing you what parts of the image have sharpening applied to them. Anything that is white is being sharpened while anything that is black is not. The least detailed parts of the image will loose sharpening before the more detailed images. By using the masking slider you can protect smooth parts of your image such as the sky and clouds from being sharpened.


By Holding the Option/Alt Key you can turn your cursor into a pair of scissors. when the Spot Healing Brush is on. This feature allows you to click and drag a box over a group of points that you want to delete in a single action.


While the Tone Curve is a highly useful tool in Lightroom, it is somewhat limited when compared to the Tone Curve found in Photoshop. That is until you learn how to unlock it. One of the most overlooked features in Lightroom is the Edit Point Curve Button. This button is located in the lower righthand corner of the Tone Curve Panel. When you click it, the curve sliders disappear and you can then add points directly to the curve just like you can in Photoshop.

When this feature is unlocked, you can add as many points as you’d like as well as control the black and white points. The most common and easiest curve to create is a simple S-curve. An S-curve consists of two points on the Tone Curve Line. Generally, the first point will be placed a quarter to a third of the way down the line from the left hand side and dragged downward. The second point is then placed a quarter to one third in from the right and dragged upward. This simple curve is a great way to add contrast to a shot in a highly controlled fashion.

How to unlock the tone curve in Lightroom

Unlocking the Tone-curve allows you to create a “cinematic” fade tone.

How to create a fade tone.

  1. Unlock the Tone-curve.
  2. Move the black point up.
  3. Drag the white point down.
  4. create an S-curve in-between the black and white points Fade Tone Example.
Fade Tone Example


Range Masks allow photo editors to make local adjustments to an image based on a selection of tones or colors. Range Masks can be used with any local adjustment tool including the Gradient Filter, the Radial Filter, and the Adjustment Brush. In other words, you could drag a gradient filter over a portion of an image and then use the Range Mask to only effect the highlights, shadows, or mid-tones.

To add a Range Mask, you must first create a local adjustment using any one of the tools mentioned above. Once you have made the adjustment, make sure it is selected by clicking on its corresponding local adjustment pin. At this point, you can scroll down to to the bottom of the local adjustment panel and turn on the luminance or color range mask by clicking the “Off” drop-down menu just to he right of the Range Mask text. Choose luminance if you want to create a mask based on brightens and choose color if you want to create a mask based on color.

How to use range masks in Lightroom

You will now see two sliders appear. The first is the Range Slider and the other is the Smoothness Slider. The Range slider controls the range of tones that the local adjustment will effect. By default it is set to 100% The left slider represents black while the right slider represents white. If you move the left slider to the middle the mask would only effect 50% – 100% brightness. The opposite is true if you moved the right slider to the middle and left the left slider at 0.

The Smoothness slider controls the feather of the Range Mask. The further to the right you push the slider the more natural the Range Mask will look. The smoothness slider generally looks best between 60% – 100% but each image is different so take some time to play around with this slider.


Targeted Adjustments allow Lightroom users to make adjustments to to an image by clicking and dragging within the image itself. The Tone Curve, B&W and HSL panels contain a Targeted Adjustment icon. When you click on this icon, your mouse cursor will turn into a target with two arrows. Now you can click and drag on any part of an image to adjust the specific tones or colors found in that area and anywhere else in the image. This feature is helpful for folks who are more visual than technical.

It is important to note that the Targeted Adjustment Tool acts differently in the Tone Curve panel depending on whether or not the point curved is unlocked. If the Point Curve is locked the targeted adjustments will effect the corresponding Tone Curve sliders.

If the Point Curve is unlocked the targeted adjustments will create a new point on the point curve. If you are new to working with the point curve it is best to keep the number of points to two or three. The more points you add the harder it is to create smooth transitions of tones.