Lightroom Tricks I Wish I had Known Sooner

If you are anything like me you probably get new software, install it (without reading the install instructions), fire it up once installed, and hack around trying to figure out how everything works. Apparently, this isn’t the way it should be done!

Lightroom is no exception. I won my first copy of Lightroom at a Canon Roadshow back around the time Lightroom 1.0 was launched. I had wanted to try it out for an extended period but couldn’t really justify the price tag considering I had just shelled out for Photoshop (± R7,500 fourteen years ago 😳), and that Photoshop could do everything Lightroom did and more. Winning it couldn’t have come at a better time and I dived right into using it – trying everything out in no particular order!

Over the years Lightroom, and I for that matter, has gotten a lot better. Features have been added, some removed, and the whole experience streamlined somewhat. It has become faster, the ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) converter more accurate, all around a lot more polished than the product that initially launched, and I still don’t know of another software application of this type that is as well supported by 3rd parties. And yes, there may be some applications that are better at some things, but as a whole package, I still haven’t found anything that comes close – especially with regards to what I need.

Lightroom Tricks

Over the years I have come across tips and tricks that have saved me a lot of time and made my workflow that much quicker. Some of these I have heard from other people, whilst others I stumbled upon purely by accident. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have accidentally pressed a key on the keyboard only to discover a new shortcut. Sometimes I would know immediately what I had done, whilst other times I had to slowly press, one by one, all the keys in an area of the keyboard trying to figure out which one I had pressed by mistake.

The “\” Key

This one I had bumped instead of hitting the enter/return key. What I learnt was that it toggled between the image as it was originally imported and the current version with all edits applied. This was awesome! I had worked a lot with my before and after edits side by side so that I could see what effect any given change made. The problem with this is that it uses up the valuable real estate on a single monitor setup. Now, with the press of a single button, I could very quickly flick between a before and an after image. What makes this one a nice surprise is that even if you had taken the time to go through the Lightroom menus and learn the shortcuts you wouldn’t have come across this one – it isn’t there!

The “O” Key

O is for overlay and it is a really handy way of seeing how a particular graduated filter, radial filter, or adjustment brush is being applied. By hitting the letter O you get a nice coloured overlay showing you how your filters are being applied. This really comes in handy when you have applied a filter to an image and now want to go and erase certain parts of the filter. It can also be used in conjunction with the crop tool to cycle through different crop overlays, with some of the overlays being excellent at helping you with your composition. This one is in the menus but you need to go looking for it as it isn’t part of one of the top-level menu items.

The “Top-Down Workflow”

So many people I tell this to have no idea that Lightroom has a top-down workflow. What you are meant to do is start with the Basic adjustments and only move on to the Tone Curve once you are happy that the basic adjustments are as you would like them. Each step of the edit is like this and you should only move on to the next step once the one before/above it is complete. As an example, you will notice that when you adjust your colour temperature and tint that often you need to tweak tour exposure – that is why Exposure is below White Balance in the ‘Basic’ tab. Another place where you can see the top-down workflow logic is with sharpening. The Basic tab and Tone Curve tab can both affect the apparent sharpness of an image. After all, when you adjust the sharpness you are really just adjusting edge contrast.

Lightroom Tricks I Wish I had Known Sooner

This is the reason why these all in one presets don’t always work well and why I have always prefered presets that are specific to each of the editing tabs (Basic, Tone Curve, HSL/Color etc…). It isn’t as quick as a single click adjustment, but it is, in my opinion, a more accurate way to edit.

For years one exception to this rule was the camera profile which used to be part of the ‘Calibration’ tab’. You really needed to set this before anything else and then move up to do the ‘Basic’ adjustments. I think Adobe just assumed that you would always leave it on the Adobe Standard profile, but there were always better camera specific profiles that could be selected. Thankfully Adobe recently fixed this by moving the profile selection all the way to the top – where it belongs!

Auto Advance

This feature has been amazing with regards to selecting/culling my images and has saved me hours, possibly days of work. By default, it seems to be turned off but I think everyone should turn it on. To turn it on make sure you are in the Library module and click on Photo > Auto Advance

Lightroom Tricks I Wish I had Known Sooner

Now I can breeze through making my selections by clicking on “P” to Pick (approve) an image and “X” to Reject an image. Each time I hit one of these two keys Lightroom will auto advance to the next image without me having to do anything. I just sit with one finger on P and the other on X and breeze through my selections. Once done I can then use a simple filter to get Lightroom to only show me the Picked/Approved images, or I can select all the rejected images and get Lightroom to either remove them from the library (they will still be on your hard disk but won’t show up in Lightroom), or I can get Lightroom to delete them permanently (There is no going back if you do this so choose this second option wisely – I never choose this option).


If you are like me you probably saw the Collections panel in Lightroom and wondered what it was for, poked around a bit, and then moved on – you really should be using this! It is an amazingly powerful way to group ‘Collections’ of similar images together based on common attributes like image ratings, keywords, and many, many other settings.

Lightroom Tricks I Wish I had Known Sooner

Use the above options when creating collections. You can use any combination to create your desired collection.

As an example, wedding photographers can now get Lightroom to automatically add their best images from a particular wedding venue into a Smart Collection. This Smart Collection can, in turn, be part of a Group called Wedding Venues. The next time a potential client emails asking if you have shot at a venue before not only can you reply positively, but in less than 5 seconds you can send them the best 4 or 5 images from that venue.

The possibilities are endless. I have seen so many creative ways of using collections and each and every way ends up saving that photographer a lot of time.

There is no point in reinventing the wheel so here are two excellent posts over at which should get you on the road to mastering Collections. Post 1 & Post 2

Not really a feature of Lightroom, but worth a mention anyway as it has helped me tremendously over the years since I came across the site. I have found this to be an excellent resource when trying to find out how various features in Lightroom work. Scott Kelby and the team get early access to new versions on Lightroom and have tutorials ready to roll out as soon as Adobe makes any significant updates. In between major updates they are constantly pushing out new content on how to get the most out of Lightroom. This is a site worth following!

And did I mention it is free? Well, it is!

Adjusting Your Capture Time

I sometimes shoot events where there are multiple photographers shooting on different cameras. Getting all the images to sync up nicely, and in the correct order in Lightroom depends on the cameras all being set precisely to the same time. Or at least that is what I thought!

You are able to correct the capture time for a single image as well as a group of images in Lightroom and it really couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is select the images you want to adjust whilst in the Library module, select the Metadata tab which can be found on the righthand panel, click on the Capture Time and then re-adjust accordingly.

Lightroom Tricks I Wish I had Known Sooner

As you can see from the panel above there are a number of different options you can choose from, but I most often use the first one. All you then need to do is go down to where it says “Corrected Time” and set the new time for that image. In the case of a group of images it will adjust all the images based on their relation to the highlighted image in the group – it won’t set them all to the same time!

But how do you know what adjusted time to use? This is as easy as taking a photo of your phone’s screen. The first image I get everyone to take when shooting with multiple photographers is a photo of my phone’s screen. More importantly, the screen needs to be displaying an app that shows you not only the hours and minutes but also the seconds. Unfortunately, the built-in apple clock app does not do this so I recommend you use this one: The Clocks: Alarm Clock, World Clock

Once open this app shows a plain screen with just the time on it. You only need to shoot it once for each camera and then you are set to go knowing that syncing all your images later on in Lightroom will be an absolute breeze.

Lightroom Tricks I Wish I had Known Sooner


Keywords are something, like Collections, that I ignored for an awfully long time. Man, I wish I had used them sooner as I have tens of thousands of images I neglected early on and I just don’t have the time to go back and update them all with keywords.

Keywords enable you to do so many things, but most of all they help you to find images quickly by punching in the keyword into the Library filter. They are also vital when using Collections, so if Collections have piqued your interest and you are not using keywords then I suggest you start using them.

There are two main times when you can enter keywords. The first is when you are importing your images into your Lightroom catalogue, whilst the second is when the images are already imported. When capturing keywords at the time of importing I suggest you use fairly generic keywords as they will be applied to every image that is imported. Try not to use overly specific keywords as they may be irrelevant with regards to some of the images imported. I tend to stick to things like the name of the person/company that commissioned me, the location and type of shoot (wedding, portraits, event etc…). The place to enter keywords when importing your images into the catalogue is found on the righthand panel in the Lightroom import screen under “Apply During Import”.

Lightroom Tricks I Wish I had Known Sooner

Once the images have been imported I add the more specific keywords to individual images. Whilst it may sound quite laborious it is actually quite easy to do. In the Library module, you should see the Toolbar below your images. If it isn’t there then click on View > Show Toolbar, or you can press the letter “T” to toggle this option.

On the Toolbar, there is a little spray paint can. Select the can and choose to paint keywords. Enter in the keywords you wish to paint and then click on the image you want to “spray-paint” the keyword/s to. With this option, you can become quite specific with your keywords as you are not applying to hundreds at a time.

So, those are some of the things I wish I had known and subsequently implemented sooner. Lightroom really has evolved into quite a powerful image editing program in its own right meaning that much of the editing I once did in Photoshop I can now do all within this one program.

If there are any tips you feel like sharing please do so in the comments below. I am always up for finding out new ways to streamline my workflow. Also, I was thinking of putting together a free set of editing presets. If this is something that people would be interested in then also just drop me a comment below.




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