Lightroom Tips

Awesome Lightroom Tip For Sports Photographers (who use Macs)

My workflow for sports photography uses the same two programs that I see most of the other guys working pro games use: Photo Mechanic and Lightroom (or Photoshop). I could do an entire post on why Photo Mechanic is so awesome, but for today’s tip, I just want to focus on one of it’s features and how to use a workaround to get something similar into your Lightroom-Only workflow (for Mac users only — more on why in a moment).

First, the Photo Mechanic Feature

When you’re covering a pro-game, getting your images up to the wire quickly is absolutely imperative, and so many shooters (myself included) quickly look at the image from each play and tag our keepers right then in-camera while we’re still out on the field. We do this by pressing the “lock” button our camera, which is designed to keep that image from being accidentally erased, but Photo Mechanic recognizes that locked image as a “tagged image.” Because of that, when you download your memory card into your computer at halftime, you can ask Photo Mechanic to only show you your tagged images. That’s incredibly helpful because instead of wading through 1,000 or 2,000+ images trying to find the good shots up upload to the wire, PM shows you just the ones you’ve already tagged when you were out on the field, so you’re WAY ahead of the game. Sadly, Lightroom does not (though I’ve been talking directly with Adobe these past couple of day to see if this can be added in a future update, but for now, it’s can’t).

Now, the workaround

So far, we’ve only figured out how to do this on a Mac — we couldn’t figure out how to pull this off on a Windows machine yet, but if somebody knows, we’d love it if you’d post it here in the comment. Now, before I get into the tip — I’m aware there are plug-ins and scripts you can add to Lightroom that will do this, probably more elegantly than what I’m going to show you here today, but this is at least one way to “get there” without add-ons.

We call it “The Sneaky Pete Play” (because my buddy Pete Collins figured out most of this workaround)

Now, before I lay this out, there is one part where you’re going to want to freak out, but don’t — your images aren’t in any danger because you still have an entire full backup. Just so you know that’s coming. OK, take a deep breath: here we go (remember, this is a workaround, and a tiny bit clunky at that, but it will still achieve pretty much the same thing — you getting to work on your tagged images without looking through thousands of images to find the keepers).


Don’t import the photos on your memory card  into Lightoom. Instead, just drag the folder of images directly onto your hard drive (or external drive) so it copies them there. If you look in the folder above, you can see a couple of the locked files (a small lock icon appears in the bottom left corner of the thumbnail. See files 150 and 152 above). Just to reiterate — I copied this files onto my computer from the memory card.


Click on any one of those thumbnail on your computer and press Command-A to select them all. Now click on any thumbnail and drag the whole bunch of photos (even if there’s a thousand — it moves as easily if there were two) and drag them into the trash. Don’t freak out — remember you have a full backup on your memory card, but you won’t have to use it anyway. So, just drag them all into the trash can on your desktop. The warning dialog above will appear letting you know some of the images are locked, and it’s asking if we want to move those locked files into the trash, too? Our answer is “NO!” but there is no “NO” so first turn on the “Apply to All” checkbox then click the Skip button as shown above. That way, only the unlocked photos goes into the trash can (the Apply to All checkbox keeps you from clicking the “Skip” button for every locked photo in your folder).


STEP THREE: (above)
Now when you look back in your folder, all that is left is your locked files (the ones you hit the lock button on during the game).


Select all the images left in that folder and drag those straight onto the Lightroom Dock Icon and it brings up the import window for just those images. Now you can work on just your tagged keepers, just like in Photo Mechanic — But you’re not done yet. There’s one important final step that brings this full circle.



STEP FIVE (above)
Go back to the Finder and before you do anything else, just press the keyboard shortcut “Command-Z” (for “undo”) and all those images you put in the trash jump right back into that original folder again. That’s it!

Now, how long does this process take once you’ve copied the images onto your computer? Well, I thought you might ask that, so I timed it using the stopwatch on my phone. It took 21-seconds.

This is one you have to try once — it actually works better than it sounds. Thanks to Pete Collins for helping me figure this one out, and again, if you’ve got a similar workaround for Windows without using an add-on to Lightroom, we’d love to hear it.

Hope you sports photographers found that helpful, and here’s wishing you lots of great shots this weekend (I’ll be shooting the Steelers/Falcons game in Atlanta on Sunday up in the Georgia Dome). 🙂





  1. lucky 7 February, 2017 at 04:01 Reply

    These are some sports photography tips that should also be kept in mind:
    1) Camera Settings – Burst mode, Focal Points & Aperture Priority
    2) Camera Settings – Shoot in JPG!
    3) Lens settings – 2.8 Is Almost An Essential!
    4) Lens settings – Image Stabiliser & Focus Mode

    The above tips will definitely help making an good impression.
    Product Photography Sydney

  2. David Grooms 1 March, 2015 at 18:50 Reply

    Scott, it is great having you doing I shoot college and pro sports for 2 national wire services but I also like doing portraits and weddings. I would never trade my Lightroom for Photo Mechanic. Lightroom is just a great photo editor. I shoot sports in RAW and here is my Lightroom workflow for Mac

    First – Download a free software (or Donation ware, although I cannot find the creator to give him a donation and he doesn’t reply to my emails) called AutoCopy from It is simply a Java script and works great and works every time.

    Next – after it is installed set it up to look for your card reader and/or sd slot on your computer. Also tell it where on your computer to copy the images to, AutoCopy lets you decided to copy “locked only” “unlocked only” or all images from the card. Set up of AutoCopy takes only a couple of minutes.

    Now in Lightroom go to File > Auto Import > Auto Import Settings > Click on Choose and pick the folder that you setup in AutoCopy. Then pick your presets. I have one that applies camera profile/noise reduction/contrast settings that I like/and clarity, vibrance, and saturation. Then select your metadata preset.

    That is it. Now shoot some pictures and lock the ones that you like on your camera. When ready (at halftime or between innings) plug your card in to the card reader and AutoCopy and Lightroom do the rest. Before you can get the card out of your second camera your locked images from the first camera are already in lightroom. All I do is make white balance adjustments, Crop and then add my captions. I use Typinator ($25) that works exactly like code replacement in PM for my captions. Once captions are done I export to FTP right from Lightroom and I am done. I can usually get 15 to 20 pictures out to FTP during halftime with far better looking images that what I would personally get out of PM.

  3. Richard Hix 23 February, 2015 at 21:47 Reply

    While originally intended for sports photographers, this tip will also work for wildlife (birds) photographers. On an outing I’ll take a lot of photos using continuous mode while following a bird, but only a few will be keepers. This tip will work to speed up my workflow too.
    Many thanks.

  4. Larry Kauffman 7 January, 2015 at 14:53 Reply

    When importing the locked photos add a label (Red) to the metadata, then after command-z do a second import without the (Red) label and “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checked. Only your locked photos will be will have a red label.

  5. Robert Kaufman 13 December, 2014 at 10:00 Reply

    Why do you need such a quirky workaround?
    If you ingest tagged files only om Photo Mechanic, select all and then ” edit selected photos” in LR, LR Will only import the selected photos.
    Even Easier, ingest all files, selected tagged etc.

    All you need to do is to set LR as another editor in prefs.

    BTW, Saw that you only shoot jpg,s When shooting sports? Again, why don’t you shoot RAW and JPG,s on different Cards ?
    You Can transmit your jpg,s via wifi from Camera, and then transmit a “developed” RAW version during breaks.
    But I bet you kendall this 😅


    • Scott Kelby 13 December, 2014 at 10:42 Reply

      Hi Rob — if they already had PM, then this wouldn’t be an issue. That’s why I said in the post, this is for somebody using a “Lightroom Only” workflow. Yes, the problem can be fixed by buying another $150 program, or by using this free workaround.

      • Robert Kaufman 13 December, 2014 at 10:59 Reply

        Hi Scott,
        If they have A ” Lightroom only” workflow, I bet they are not sports photographers 😉

        I have used PM since it was called the AP Viewer and I can not imagine shooting news or sports without it. Or anything, in fact.
        Best money you can spend on your workflow and the support is unique.

        – Rob

        • Edwin 13 December, 2014 at 12:29 Reply

          Hi Scott. I would like to share another way to this on camera. I use a Nikon with double memory slot. I mark my selected images by protecting them just as you do, but then in camera you have the option to copy just your protected images to the second memory card in an individual folder if you wish. After that its easy just to import into lightroom this new folder which contains only your protected images. On a Nikon, the menu steps would be: playback menu – copy images – select images – select protected images – OK – copy images.

        • Jason 14 December, 2014 at 18:18 Reply


          Unfortunately not all of us ‘sports photographers’ get paid a whole lot of what we do. I shoot a ton of high school sports in less than ideal conditions, but while I get a little income its still more of a hobby for the evenings. I’d rather spend my money on gear and spend a little extra time importing.

          Thanks for the ‘Lightroom only’ workflow Scott! With this tip I did find that I couldn’t rename my Locked files in Mac OS, so now need to find a command line way to unlock them. I’m sure Google will come to my rescue.


      • John 13 December, 2014 at 21:53 Reply

        We have a winner- no matter how hard you try, someone has to stoop to criticizing help.

        Frustrating- but I’m confident many appreciate all your help.

        Thanks for sharing as always.

  6. Julian Roberts 13 December, 2014 at 07:57 Reply

    John Beardsworth Locktastic LR plugin will do this quite elegantly and is only $10 (£6). Maybe we’ll get this as a native feature in the near future…?

  7. Rex Deaver 12 December, 2014 at 12:31 Reply

    Found this on another forum:

    1. Use Windows Explorer create a folder on your hard drive named TEMP and another folder named TEMP READ ONLY. (The second folder should be next to the first, not inside it.)

    2. Copy all files from your camera card to the TEMP folder using Explorer.

    3. Use Explorer to view the files. Change Explorer to show the Details View, then right-click on the top bar and add a column to show Attributes. Unlocked files will show “A” in that column and locked files will show “RA.”

    4. Click on the Attribute column to sort by that column, select all the RA files, and move (not copy) them to the TEMP READ ONLY folder.

    5. Import the files from the TEMP folder into Lightroom using your normal import procedure.

    6. Import the files from the TEMP READ ONLY folder into Lightroom the same way but use the import dialog settings to add some keyword such as “locked” to all of those files.

  8. Paul C 12 December, 2014 at 12:03 Reply

    This has reminded me to back to Dave Black’s KelbyOne class so I can learn to capture something worth tagging… Sports photography is SO HARD on a small budget, but with Dave & Scott’s tuition and a load of practice I guess I can do it. Let’s hope Santa drops a year’s membership in my stocking on the 25th (I could join for a lifetime for the cost of just one sports lens and sort out all my other deficiencies in landscape, portraiture, printing….. Honestly, Santa, I have been very good this year!)

  9. Steve 12 December, 2014 at 11:31 Reply

    What’s the best way to lock images in a 7d….? The oirg 7d, not a mark ii…. I can’t seem to find a way to set up a one button push to mark photo I take….. Any ideas guys…. Thx..

  10. ButchM 12 December, 2014 at 11:14 Reply

    While I appreciate your efforts to share a workaround for this issue … the method defeats the purpose.

    The benefit that PM and Aperture (and a few other apps) offers in downloading only picked/locked images is to save the time it takes to transfer the entire card of images when the user is only concerned with importing the relative few selects that the photographer made the effort to mark in-camera.

    This is a feature request that has been made to Adobe going back to the days of the original public beta program before Lr v1 was even released … PM has had the feature for about a decade … and Aperture 3 for nearly five years … it’s high time Adobe made the effort to offer this capability to their users.

    While I am a fan of workarounds that save time and effort … some workarounds result in creating more work. We pay developers to reduce our workload and it is high time that Adobe address this request.

  11. Jason 12 December, 2014 at 10:10 Reply

    Thanks for the tip! Goes well with RC’s recent video about tagging photos in camera!

    With the 1Dx you can indeed swap the lock button out for a rating. If I remember correctly, you do lose out on the voice memo feature. I’ve never used the voice memo, but don’t really like losing out on it just to have support for the rating in Lightroom.

    Here is to hoping Lightroom’s next release changes a locked photo to a tagged one! Seems like it would be something simple to implement.

    Thanks again!

  12. KC 12 December, 2014 at 10:02 Reply

    That was extremely silly to get people all up in a panic about temporarily throwing their unlocked photos in the trash.

    Why not simply use a secondary folder to store the unlocked photos temporarily? The retains all the files on the computer and removes the completely unnecessary panic.

  13. Christian Öser 12 December, 2014 at 07:43 Reply


    I’m a Windows user. Before using PhotoMechanic I also had to move my locked files manually to Lightroom, here is how I did it:

    Plug your card to your computer and open the Windows Explorer. Select the “Details” view and add the column “Attributes” by right clicking the columns. Locked photos got an “RA” attribute, so you can change the sort order by clicking on the “Attributes” column. Select only the locked images and transfer them to your desired folder, then import in Lightroom.

    If you want to use a watched folder to automatically import the photos into Lightroom, you have to make sure to disable the RA attribute by right clicking on the selected files, then choose “Properties” and disable the attribute. Otherwise Lightroom won’t touch the locked files in the watched folder.


    • Scott Kelby 12 December, 2014 at 08:16 Reply

      Hey Christian — this sounds great! I’m going to try it as soon as I get to the office this morning. I’ll let you know how it goes, but this sounds like a really great method! Thanks!

    • lyle 12 December, 2014 at 11:55 Reply

      I always sort my files into PICKS and PASS folders. The PICKS are the ones chimped and flagged in camera as keepers.

      I have a .bat file on my desktop which lists the readonly marked files from the card and copies them into PICKS, then copies the non-readonly into the PASSES folder. (I’ve never done the watched folder thingy).

      I stripped it down as an example here, as maybe someone actually wants to know the windows command shell commands / features to do this in spite of the terseness of it all… I only double click the .bat file and it’s done. Then I import into LR from the PICKs and PASSES folders. (J: is my card, E: is my photo drive)
      dir /A:R – shows Readonly files
      dir /A:-R – shows the non-Readonly files
      attrib -R – removes the Readonly attribute

      dir /b /A:R J:\DCIM\104ND700\*.nef > PICKS.txt

      md “E:\TestDir\PICKS”

      for /f %%i in (PICKS.txt) do xcopy /i “J:\DCIM\104ND700\%%i” “E:\TestDir\PICKS\” /-y
      attrib -R “E:\TestDir\PICKS\*.*”

      dir /b /A-R J:\DCIM\104ND700\*.nef > PASSES.txt

      md “E:\TestDir\PASSES”

      for /f %%i in (PASSES.txt) do xcopy /i “J:\DCIM\104ND700\%%i” “E:\TestDir\PASSES\” /-y

      Your mileage may vary, just trying to be helpful.

  14. 12 December, 2014 at 05:36 Reply

    Probably got the wrong end of the stick here, but: On Windows (and mac) I believe protected files appear with a readonly Attribute. So when you plug the camera in and browse to the folder with the images on switch into Detail view, right click on the column headers at the top (the bit that says Name / Date / Type etc. If you don’t see Attributes in the list that pops up choose more and scroll down to Attributes, check it and click on ok and then Attributes column should appear If you click on it you’ll get all the Locked/Protected files grouped together and you can select just those and do with them what you want.

    The mac finder also has a detail view and you should be to do something similar there – but I’m not currently near one to find out.

    Windows also has a Protected Attribute column but it doesn’t seem to work on my Fuji Raw files.

    • Paul C 12 December, 2014 at 11:51 Reply

      Yes, Barrie, I was about to suggest the very same thing (though I haven’t tested it). I’m sure it would work.

      Surely there’s an IT pro out there who can put together a simple app that copies the files from the SD card & sorts them into 2 folders – locked & unlocked.

  15. Andreas Brett 12 December, 2014 at 04:49 Reply

    You could as well use in-camera rating for your photos. The 7d Mark II has a dedicated button for that. Lightroom imports the rating so you can simply filter your keepers within Lightroom without further ado.

  16. Andreas Brett 12 December, 2014 at 04:31 Reply

    Instead of locking the photos in-camera you could as well rate them in-camera. Lightroom recognizes the rating and you can do all the filtering within Lightroom without further ado.

    With the 7d Mark II the Picture Style button is now a rate button so it won’t take longer than locking a photo. Since the 7d Mark II is the new king in sports photography I guess most sports pros will use it 🙂

    • Scott Kelby 12 December, 2014 at 08:13 Reply

      If only Canon hadn’t take that loaner 7D Mark II back! LOL!! This is a great idea Andreas. I’m going to see if there’s some way to swap the lock for the star rating on my 1Dx (that camera is crazy customizable). Thanks for sharing – this is definitely worth checking out. 🙂

      • Al Hamilton 13 December, 2014 at 12:16 Reply

        Andreas is right on the money. Page 261 in 1Dx manual you can swap protect button for star rating(also does 2 to 5 stars if you really like to chimp- but I prefer to shoot). I didn’works.
        Using your PM/LR workflow with the star rating tweak for 3 months or so…

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