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Lightroom’s Top Quick Fix Tools

Two great ways to easily alter exposure, contrast and color

While Lightroom does a lot of things really well, my favorite thing it does is simplify my workflow—from giving me a one-stop place to organize and develop my images to making it super simple to make huge adjustments to my RAW image files. The fact that I can do so much in one application is a dream.

While there are many powerful tools in Lightroom, perhaps my favorites are easy to use but offer really powerful editing control. Two of Lightroom’s top quick fix tools are the Targeted Adjustment Tool and Range Mask Tool, and each of them makes it easy to make big changes to brightness, contrast, color and more. Here’s how they work. 

Targeted Adjustment Tool

The Targeted Adjustment Tool is found in two different places on Lightroom’s Develop module: the top left corner of the Tone Curve pane and the same spot on the HSL/Color pane. The tool itself is just a little dot; it looks like a button, so small you could miss it. But click it and it comes to life, putting lots of control at your fingertips.

For instance, in the Tone Curve pane, clicking the Targeted Adjustment Tool lets you quickly adjust highlights, shadows or midtones based on where you click on the image and which direction you drag the tool. With the tool active, click on a highlight area and drag downward to pull down white pixels and rein in highlights to maintain detail. Conversely, you can click in a shadow area and pull up to reveal detail there and brighten up the darkest pixels in the scene.

Switch over to the HSL/Color panel and you’ll see a Targeted Adjustment Tool next to each of the color headings for Hue, Saturation and Luminance. Each one works the same way: click the tool, then choose a spot in the picture to click and drag to increase or decrease luminance and saturation or to change the hue. It couldn’t be quicker and easier to make targeted changes, no selections required.

Range Mask Tool

Range masks work in a similar way, but they do introduce a form of selecting. These are found on the Adjustment Brush palette near the bottom of the frame. Choose any masking tool (gradient mask or radial mask, for instance) and apply it to the image as normal. Then click on the Range Mask heading to see options for Color, Luminance and Depth. While Depth is newer and more unique in practice (it selects areas of the frame based on their perceived distance from the lens) it’s the color and luminance options that we’re more interested in.

Range Mask in use

Choosing color, you’ll then use the adjacent eyedropper tool to click in the image and select a color to alter. Shift-clicking adds to the color range selection, and option-clicking shrinks it. This color-based range mask actually selects a range of pixels—within the image area you’ve already masked—based on their color. So now you can apply any other change to them, making them lighter or darker or more vibrant or less or even alter the hue itself. With this you could make a blue sky darker or more saturated, or even shift the color dramatically—making a green sweater blue, for instance.

Choosing the Luminance option under the Range Mask header works similarly, selecting pixels based on their brightness rather than color. To see exactly what luminance values Lightroom sees (i.e. temporarily turning off the color for a clearer view at luminosity), click the Show Luminance Mask checkbox to turn the preview black and white.

A luminance range mask is an especially great way to control contrast and improve shadow and highlight detail, and to do all of this selectively without overall changes to the image and without ever leaving the one-stop shop that is Lightroom. 

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