Lightroom tutorial: 16 ways to edit photos faster and better in Photoshop Lightroom

Pro tips, tricks and techniques for Lightroom that will save you lots of time and hundreds of clicks when editing and retouching photos.


Spending too much time on the process of editing photos rather than being really creative?

In this Photoshop Lightroom tutorial, photographer Tigz Rice will show you 16 handy shortcuts, settings and hidden menu features to speed up your editing in Lightroom – allowing you to be more productive as a photographer and retoucher.

Pick and reject photos in Lightroom for easy culling


Lightroom offers a multitude of ways to rate your images, from star ratings and colour labels right down to the basic Pick (P) and Reject (X). 

Pressing on these shortcut keys will allow you to filter out the good images from the not-so-good ones. By clicking on the solid Flag filter icon in the bottom right hand corner of the Library or Develop modules, you can also filter your files to see only the ones you want to keep.    

Compare groups of photos for easy picking


If you’ve got several images that are very similar, highlight them all and press the shortcut key N to bring up Survey Mode. All the images will now appear together in the main window, allowing you to see them all at once and quickly pick the best one.

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Automatically move on after rating photos in Lightroom


Another handy feature in Lightroom is Auto Advance, which ironically is not automatically switched on. Go to Photo > Auto Advance and now, once you’ve given an image a rating, it will automatically move to the next image. 

This alone could save you several hundred clicks per edit on an average shoot.

Don't import your misfires


A large proportion of editing time includes the download of images from the memory card and Lightroom's creation of working previews for you to edit. You can reduce this by unticking images in the Import windows that you know you will not be editing – such as the misfires, blinks and sneezes.

Don't generate larger previews than you need


Speaking of previews, Lightroom recently introduced a new feature which allows the software to create previews size that's at the same resolution as your monitor – so your computer's not wasting time and processing power on big previews full of detail that you can't see.  

Go to Lightroom > Catalog Settings > Standard Preview Size and choose Auto. You can also tell Lightroom to automatically discard 1:1 previews after a chosen number of days to keep your Lightroom cache as small as possible.

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Learn Lightroom's shortcut keys


As with all Adobe applications, there are plenty of shortcut keys to help you speed up your workflow. If you’re struggling to remember them, click on Help > Library Module Shortcuts… (which will read Develop Module Shortcuts when you’re in the Develop Module, etc) or hit Cmd/Ctrl + / in the menu for a handy list.

Edit on the move with Lightroom Mobile


Lightroom Mobile is a great tool for photographers who spend a lot of time travelling, allowing you to upload smart previews of your images to your iPad or phone and edit on the go. You can pick and reject images, make exposure adjustments, crop and even add presets to your images. 

Everything you do will be automatically saved back to your main computer/s for those final touches.

Find your focus


Like a tidy workspace? Keep all of your tabs free of extra information by right-clicking on any of the dropdown tabs and choosing Solo Mode. Now only the one tab you are working in will be open at any time.

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Create your own default settings in Lightroom


Always applying the same settings in Develop Module? Once you’ve applied them to an image, hold down the Alt key, which should change the Reset Button into a Set Default Button, click on this and then click on Update to Current Settings.

Now these develop settings will be applied automatically on Import, saving you going them for every shoot.

Create your own presets in Lightroom


Alternatively, if you’ve got a few different styles you like to switch between, why not save them as presets instead. 

To create a preset in Lightroom, edit one image in your chosen style, then click on the + icon at the top-right of the Presets panel (on the left-hand side of your screen normally). Tick all the Develop settings you want to include in the preset, give it a name and press ok. Note: It's normally best not to include Exposure and White Balance settings in presets, as these will vary shoot to shoot.

Apply settings from one photo to others in Lightroom


Save time by editing one image and applying those edits to a group of similar images. With your edited image selected, highlight the others you want to apply the same settings to and then click on the Sync button in the bottom right-hand corner. 

Again you have the option to filter what's applied to just specific settings using the tick boxes supplied.

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Do almost everything on import: rename files, add presets, SEO op-timisation…


All of these can be done in the Import Screen by applying presets from the dropdown menus in each tab during the import phase.

Spend an hour creating a series of presets and next time you need to import some images for editing, set those presets running. Lightroom will do the work while you make a cuppa.

Edit photos across both Lightroom and Photoshop


For the few things that Lightroom can't do such as Liquify, use the Dynamic Link function found across many of Adobe's Creative Cloud apps to take your images – complete with edits – directly into Photoshop.

Simply right-click on the image you need to edit, choose Edit In… from the menu. From the options you're given, you can bring the image into Photoshop as a regular file – or further down the list you also have the option to bring the image in as a Smart Object, giving you the ability to access and modify the edits you've made to the Raw file in Lightroom as well.

How Lightroom's Smart Collections work


Smart Collections are folders that are automatically populated with photos to match your chosen requirements, making it easier for you to do tasks like updating your portfolio with your very best work.

Create a new Smart Collection by clicking on the + icon in the Collections panel in the Library module, In the dialog box that appears, you can now set a series of rules – for example, images that have a star rating of greater the (or equal to) 5 stars.

Now, whenever you are working on a series of images, all you have to do is press the 5 key while editing to have your favourite photos automatically appear in the Smart Collection as well as their original folder.

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Create slideshows in Lightroom quickly and easily


You can also use Smart Collections to create quick and easy slideshows. Click on the Smart Collection and then in the top-right corner of the screen, go to the Slideshow module.

The images will be automatically placed into a slideshow format, with plenty of options in the right hand panel to add music, add text and even format the styling to match your brand. Once you’ve previewed your slideshow, it can be exported at HD resolution in .MP4 format.

How to make Lightroom run faster


Finally, don’t forget to optimise your catalogue regularly to keep it running at maximum speed. You can do this by going to File > Optimize. Alternatively, you can do this in the Back Up dialog box when exiting Lightroom.  

This can take a few minutes depending on the size of your catalogue.