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How to Use Lightroom: Sliders

Images Updated: September 2019 using Lightroom Classic CC 8.4

How to Best Control Lightroom's Sliders

Many competitors and plugins have emulated Lightroom’s slider and panel organization. A part of Lightroom’s success lies at the micro-level and the flexibility it provides in terms of how adjustments can be made. It might sound counter-intuitive, but constantly sliding sliders with a mouse is not always the most effective way of working. Therefore, it is beneficial to know your options. The following quick reference list will help you identify which slider move to use and when to use it. I have also included my personal opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  1. Click and move slider with mouse.

This is the most obvious slider move to start from and always one to try.

Advantages / disadvantages: Quick results with the added bonus of easily swinging the slider from extreme to extreme to have a quick visual of how your image is affected. With a large mass of editing - especially on a small laptop screen - this move can be imprecise, fatigue inducing and irritating.

  1. Click on slider track.

Instead of clicking and dragging the slider pointer click once on the slider track. The pointer will instantly move there.

Advantages / disadvantages: Very quick result but without precision. This move usually demands corrective action. I only use this method when the move is not very sensitive and I know almost exactly where my slider needs to be.

  1. Click on slider text to enter a precise value.

Click on the slider value and enter a number directly then press Enter to see the result. If you use the up/down arrow keys before hitting Enter you can increase/decrease the value without repeating the process.

Advantages / disadvantages: Not the fastest move but very precise and handy when you have more than one photo and want to copy the exact adjustment value from one photo to another.

  1. Click on slider text and drag.

A mix of moves 1 and 3 above.

Advantages / disadvantages: Quick results without the need to enter values by text. Beware that different sliders increase/decrease in different increments. For example the exposure slider will move by +/-10 but the shadow slider by only +/-1.

  1. Hover over slider text and change value with up/down arrow keys.

A quick combination of mouse and keyboard.

Advantages / disadvantages: This is one of my favorite basic moves that I use more than any other one. It gives very quick precise results, it is easy on the hands and in most cases does what I want without any other corrective adjustment.

  1. Reset slider by double clicking on its pointer.

Although Ctrl-Z (Cmd-Z) is always a great way to go back to our previous step, we sometimes wish to zero out a slider and not go to its previous value. In this case, double click on the slider's pointer and it will go to its default zero position.

Advantages / disadvantages: Finding the pointer is not always comfortable. A better method is number 7 just below.

  1. Reset slider by double clicking on its label.

Instead of trying to find the slider's pointer, double click on the slider's label!

Advantages / disadvantages: My favorite reset method. It always works great.

  1. Reset group of sliders by double clicking on panel label.

Did you know that you could reset a whole group of sliders? Just double click on the label of the group. In the screen shot below I reset the whole transform panel with just one move.

Advantages / disadvantages: Very powerful move, my preferred way of resetting a section of Lightroom settings and restarting without losing my settings in other panels. It works for all linear adjustments, tool settings (for example the adjustment brush) and all graphic adjustments like the tone curve. Just find the group label and double click!

  1. Click and drag on histogram

This move will adjust a whole host of sliders without touching a single one of them! Go to the histogram panel. If you hover above it and you will notice that from left to right it is divided in sections of blacks, shadows, exposure, highlights and whites. Grab any one that interests you and drag left/right.

Advantages / disadvantages: Lacks detail but provides very quick results. I especially favor dragging the middle exposure section as it adjusts the image by leaving the edges of the histogram untouched.

  1. Use targeted adjustment tools.

Some tools like the tone curve or HSL sliders have targeted adjustment tools that let us adjust sliders by clicking and dragging up/down directly on the photo. In the image below I show where to click to make a targeted saturation adjustment in the saturation section of the HSL panel.

Advantages / disadvantages: Again one of my favorites. This is an extremely useful tool that adjusts sliders without worrying about the sliders themselves. Great for tone curve adjustments or for work in the HSL panel to make skies more blue, bricks more red and grass more green!

I hope I demonstrated the level of flexibility you have in your Lightroom slider adjustments. All you have to do now is import a few images and start experimenting with the slider moves described above. With prolonged editing the devil is in the details and developing the style of slider control that suits you will greatly help in the longer run with comfort, speed and energy preservation.


About the Author: Dimitrios Matsoulis is an engineer that studied in the UK and has an industrial automation and solar energy background. His love for outdoor  activities and photography has naturally led him to photo editing. He uses  Lightroom and Photoshop for his own photography as well as  freelancing. He lives in Greece and maintains his online presence via his  personal photography blog, 500px and Instagram.