Lightroom Secret Revealed – The Scrubby Pin Trick

In this tutorial, I will show you how to fade a local adjustment in and out in Lightroom without the need for a plugin. The software gives you the ability to change the strength of a local adjustment simply by moving your mouse – a trick that most people do not know. Your editing work will get faster and much more powerful.

The tips in this post are small snippets taken from my new book Unleash the Power of Lightroom Presets. Check out this video to learn how this book can help you improve your post-processing in Lightroom through the use of presets.

Local Adjustments

Local adjustments are one of the most powerful features in Lightroom. The Graduated Filter, Radial Filter and Adjustment Brush tools (Figure 1) let you apply adjustments only to specific areas of your images without affecting the remaining areas. So, you can edit, for example, only the sky, leaving the foreground untouched. When you apply a local adjustment, Lightroom adds a pin to your image – a small dot that serves as a handle for you to modify the adjustment (change settings, move, duplicate, delete etc.) and that’s where this tutorial comes in.

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Figure 1: The local adjustment tools of Lightroom. In the local adjustment panel (1), you find the Graduated Filter tool (2), the Radial Filter tool (3), and the Adjustment Brush (4). Select one of these tools to apply local adjustments to your image. The Effect panel (5) allows you to control these adjustments.
[from the book ‘Unleash the Power of Lightroom Presets‘]

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The scrubby pin trick

One of the least-known power tricks in Lightroom is what I call the scrubby pin trick. You can hold down the Alt key on your keyboard and click and drag on a pin to increase (drag to the right) or decrease (drag to the left) all of its adjustments in unison (Figure 2). You can fade the adjustments in and out until the first slider hits its maximum/minimum value or 0 (Figure 3).

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Figure 2: The scrubby local adjustment pin. Hold down the Alt key and click on the pin (1). Your cursor will turn into a double arrow, and you can scrub left and right to change all the settings (2 and 3) simultaneously.
[from the book ‘Unleash the Power of Lightroom Presets‘]

This allows you to create an effect consisting of a mix of different settings that you can then increase or decrease as a whole, making local adjustments very useful and powerful. To achieve a similar fading effect with Develop presets, you need to use a Lightroom plug-in.

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Figure 3: Scrubby pins. Scrubbing to the left (1 and 2) brings all the settings closer to zero. The percentage by which the values are increased or decreased is proportional to how far you move your mouse. Settings that are zero initially are not affected. The changes stop when the first value reaches zero (1). Scrubbing to the right (3 and 4) changes all the values in the opposite direction until the largest (smallest) value reaches its maximum (minimum) (4).
[from the book ‘Unleash the Power of Lightroom Presets‘]

In the example shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3, I am using a local adjustment preset that applies an HDR-like styling to the sky through a graduated filter. The preset is created deliberately to represent medium-strength adjustments (see Figure 2Ž) to allow decreasing and increasing it from there.

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Tailor your Local Adjustment presets for scrubbing

When you are setting up a preset specifically to use the scrubbing feature, the initial preset really only sets the ratios between the different values. In this case, I decided that the Highlights (-50) will be decreased (negative value) as much as the Shadows (+50) are increased (positive value) when I scrub the pin. No matter where I move with the scrubbing, the Highlights value will always be the exact opposite of the Shadows value.

These values are also the reference point for all the other settings as they, being the largest values in the preset, will reach their maximum of 100 (and -100) first. By setting the Saturation value to 20, I make sure the Saturation value is always around 40% (20/50) of the Shadows value. In the same way, the Contrast will always be 60% (30/50) and the Sharpness and Noise values will always be 30% (15/50) of the Shadows value.

Setting up your presets for scrubbing to be somewhere in the middle ground provides enough information to Lightroom for controlling the values accurately throughout the entire range, and it gives you a good, moderate setting as a starting point.

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Setting up your Local Adjustment presets correctly and using them with the scrubby pin technique will give you an additional dimension in your Lightroom workflow. Not only does it make your work much faster since scrubbing is the fastest way to make a change. It also provides a tool that is otherwise not preset in Lightroom: It lets you change an effect as a whole with a single move of your mouse. You do not need to go into the Effects panel and change each slider individually. Just scrub that pin and they will all change in unison.

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