Lightroom Tips

4 Lightroom Productivity Tips I Can't Live Without

Last week I posted about 5 common Lightroom slip-ups. I gotta admit, I’m really digging this numbered tip thing that’s out there a lot lately. It kinda gives me a place to stop, otherwise I’d continue writing and my articles would just run on forever 🙂
Anyway, this week I’ve got 4 Lightroom productivity tips that I simply can’t live without. I’m sure there’s more than 4 but these are the ones that come to mind first. They’re things I do without thinking – basically, tips that have significantly sped up my work in Lightroom.

1. Smart Collections – I started using Smart Collections a while back for managing my HDR photos (here’s a video about smart collections). I realized that all of my HDR photos had the word “tonemapped” in their filename. So I created a Smart Collection that automatically included anything with the word “tonemapped” in the filename. That gave me a quick easy way to always see my final HDR images. But there’s lots of other uses. You can have a smart collection created from a keyword, label, rating, etc… Let’s say you reserve 5 stars for the absolute best of the best. I don’t just mean your selects from a photo shoot though. I mean the absolute best photos you have (the stuff you’d show if you had 30 seconds to impress some one). So this collection shouldn’t be huge right but should just be one click away in case you want to quickly show off your stuff. Just create a Smart Collection that automatically adds anything rated 5 stars in it. And force yourself to only use 5 stars when it’s one of the best photos you have.

2. Copy/Paste – Copying and pasting Develop settings is another big one. I’ll often apply some settings to a photo and realize I want to apply the same settings to another one. Sure you could use the “Sync” feature but I like to copy/paste because I can just pick and choose which photo to apply the settings to whenever I want. Just select the photo and press Cmd-Shift-C (PC: Ctrl-Shift-C) to copy the settings (and choose which specific settings you want copied). Then you can just press Cmd-Shift-V to paste them on to other photos when you come across them.

3. Presets – Come on, you knew this one would show up here. Presets are just cool and useful. They’re one-click ways for you to get a specific effect (or at least get pretty close) to your photos without re-adjusting the sliders for them ever time. Plus, I give them away every so often here on the site too. Presets just make things faster. If you don’t use them, then start. They’re one of the single fastest ways to make you more productive.

4. Instantly Jump to a Specific Panel – I use this a lot as well. Let’s say I’m working in the Basic panel and I realize I want to try some of the Calibration profiles on the photo. I could scroll down on the right but that takes time. Remember, we’re talking productivity tips here right? Instead just press Cmd-7 (it’s the 7th panel on the right) to get down to the Camera Calibration panel. Lightroom jumps right to it. If you want to jump to Split Toning then press Cmd-4 (it’s the 4th panel). You can also check out the Window > Panels menu to see all of the shortcuts.

OK, so those are my top 4 productivity tips. Have any ones that you want to share? Remember, not just any tips though. They’ve got to be things that make using Lightroom a lot faster for you. Thanks!



  1. Maurice Moll 12 August, 2010 at 13:39 Reply

    I agree with Koert, I find the solo mode in library to be very quick. No scrolling, just click and you’re there.

    The problem with C-7 is I doubt many of us can do that one handed, so you’re c constantly taking your hand off the mouse and putting it back – that is not very quick.

    One’s goal in improving speed should be do everything via keyboard or by the mouse, going back and forth is generally slow.

  2. MattDJ 28 May, 2010 at 11:50 Reply

    Here’s a simple but oh-so-nice tip to help speed up the culling process of large shoots like a wedding. Instead of advancing through each image one by one by clicking the right arrow, hit the “caps lock” key. Now whenever you apply your specific setting to the image (remove, pick, unflag, star, etc.), it will automagically advance to the next image. Sweet.

  3. Mike Nelson Pedde 20 May, 2010 at 02:22 Reply

    Matt: You may have covered this somewhere already, but re: smart collections, they’re great if you want to use more than one criterion in your collections – for example, all images that have four stars and a blue colour. This you can set up with two criteria. However, if you want to find images that are, for example, four stars and “blue or purple”, there’s a trick to that. In the smart collection panel, before you click the ‘+’ to add to the search criteria, hold down the Alt/Opt key and then click ‘+’ and you can create sub categories for criteria.


  4. Dawn 19 May, 2010 at 11:06 Reply

    I especially appreciated the tip about copy/paste. I have always used the sync settings, which I did find to be a bit burdensome, especially when I didn’t want all of a group of photos affected at once. I’ll definitely be trying copy/paste next time I do some editing!

  5. Rich Woodfin 13 May, 2010 at 12:36 Reply

    Here’s a tip I cant live without.
    My mighty mouse recently died and I hooked up a newer MS mouse (two buttons on top with a scroll wheel button between them, and a thumb button on the side).

    I set up the buttons for Lightroom specific shortcuts and fly through post processing. The right button advances to the next picture, the scroll wheel button opens crop mode (like pressing the R key) and the thumb button deletes the current pic.

    All three from the mouse, without clicking the keyboard…. And as an added bonus, once in the crop mode, I just right click to the next image, adjust the crop, right click to the next Etc…

    • glow 19 May, 2010 at 03:51 Reply

      I’m using 5 of my mouse (Razor Copperhead) buttons and 6 of my tablet (Bamboo Fun Touch) buttons for shortcuts.

      1 – R : crop mode
      2 – Ctrl + Shift + C : COPY
      3 – Ctrl + Shift + V : PAST
      4 – ctrl+ ” (arrow right) : previous photo

      wheel for resize brush in develop mode

      1 – ctrl+ ‘+’ zoom in for PS
      2 – ctrl+ ‘-‘ zoom out for PS
      3 – ctrl+ Z undo
      4 – ctrl+ Y redo – save you history log if you using lots of ctrl+Z

      6 – space
      7 – popup menu with more shortcuts :>

      The touch surface is to sensitive for using with LR and it’s not supported properly. Adobe please, please… fix that!

      a very useful shortcuts for middle mouse button in Windows – minimize active window: Alt(left)+Shift+Space and then ‘N’ (unfortunately doesn’t work with LR).

  6. Rich Charpentier 13 May, 2010 at 10:00 Reply

    Been using tip #1 for quite a while for my HDRs as well. It makes it so easy, doesn’t it? I’ve also created an “Edits” quick collection for all edits that occur with the photos. Anything that gets tossed out to Photoshop, Photomatix, or Topaz Fusion ends up saved back as something other than DNG. So, I can quickly get to things I’ve worked on outside Lightroom.

    • Benny 18 May, 2010 at 15:10 Reply

      I do something similar with my “Edits” smart collection – it stores all photos that have been edited in the last 10 days. At my job I continually reference and make changes to past shoots, so it’s nice to have a quick way to get back to recently edited stuff.

  7. Florian Rachor 13 May, 2010 at 09:07 Reply

    So that’s no real high end tip, but in generall I would say keyboard shorcuts speed things up a lot. I never really click on Develop etc. I always press the according letters.

    When it comes to the adjustment brush I recommend the letter “o”. This shows the mask of the brush permantly. If you have mask a large area this really helps to speed up your work.

  8. Koert 13 May, 2010 at 03:49 Reply

    I find that setting the panels to solo mode, so that only one is open at any time, makes LR far easier and quicker to use, especially in the develop module.

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