I love Adobe Lightroom. That doesn't mean that I want to spend a lot of time using it. I'd rather be shooting or teaching Lightroom, so I want to work through my own images rapidly.
What follows are ten of the best tricks for working in Lightroom. Check these out to speed up your own workflow.
1. Use Caps Lock for Auto Advance
When you want to work rapidly in the Library module, my favorite trick is to hit the Caps Lock button on my keyboard.
When caps lock is on, you can use keyboard shortcuts to add metadata to an image and automatically move on to the next image.
- P to flag an image as a pick
- U to remove a flag from an image, or to skip the current image
- Number keys 1-5 to add the corresponding number of stars
- Number keys 6-9 to add a color label
I can't recommend Auto Advance enough as a small and easy, but very effective, workflow trick. With it turned on, you can move rapidly through a shoot and keep your fingers on the metadata keys above.
If you don't want to use the caps lock button, you can turn on Auto Advance from the Photo > Auto Advance menu.
2. Edit from Smart Previews
Smart Previews are
like magic. Lightroom can build smaller versions of your images inside of
your Lightroom catalog so that you can keep editing when you disconnect.
This is really useful for laptop users with huge image libraries on external drives. When it's time to leave your hard drive at home and hit the road, you can keep editing thanks to Smart Preview.
Adobe recently added another key use for Smart Previews: you can edit from them and enjoy a performance increase. Here's how it works: Smart Previews are smaller files than the original RAW images. They're quicker to work from, even when you have access to the full resolution, original images. We can make Lightroom use the Smart Previews while editing instead of the originals.
To make Lightroom edit from the Smart Previews, access the Preferences, and choose the Performance tab. Check the box that reads Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing to turn this option on.
3. Lights Out Mode Focuses On the Image
Sometimes, I want to focus on the images I'm working with—not the Lightroom interface. That's where Lights Out mode comes into play.
To enter lights out mode, press the L key on your keyboard in the Library module. The area around the image dims, and your image looks nice and clean. Tap it again to totally black out the area around the image. Pressing L a third time resets the view.
Lights out mode works great in single image view or in grid view. The key here is dimming the interface to temporarily focus on an image.
4. Add Your Logo to Lightroom
Let's get personal with Lightroom's vanity plate feature. With this feature, you can add your own logo or image to the upper left corner of Adobe Lightroom.
Go to the Lightroom > Identity Plate Setup menu to customize your workspace. On the Identity Plate dropdown, choose Personalized.
There are two options to customize the identity plate:
- Tick the Use a styled text identity plate to use your system fonts to type in your name or brand on the identity plate.
- Tick Use a graphical identity plate to use a transparent PNG image as a logo.
Vanity plates are perfect if you use Lightroom to showcase images to clients. That personal touch makes Lightroom feel like a branded studio app.
5. Watch Out for Clipping!
Clipping refers to the loss of highlight or shadow detail. Basically, when you push an image too far in post production, highlights will be blown out or shadows will lose any meaningful detail.
This can certainly happen during the capture of an image when we overexpose or underexpose, but it can also be introduced in post production.
You can watch out and avoid that by pressing the letter J on your keyboard in the Develop module. Or, click the little triangles in the upper corners of the Histogram to toggle the feature on.
The red areas indicate where the highlights will be blown out, while blue indicates loss of detail in shadows. Pull the sliders back into range if you want to avoid peaking.
6. Drag and Drop to Organize Presets
I love Lightroom presets. These are the one-click settings we use to stylize and adjust our images. If your Lightroom catalog is anything like mine, you've accumulated too many presets over time and need to tidy them up.
On the Lightroom presets panel, you can drag and drop to reorder and organize your presets into folders.
Need a new folder? Just right click in the presets panel and choose New Folder. Give your folder a name, and you have an entirely new grouping to organize your presets into.
I like to organize presets into basic categories like film style, black and white, and more. I also keep a favorites folder for my go-to looks. It's great to have a large selection of Lightroom presets, but don't forget to tidy them up periodically.
7. Improve Lightroom's Performance
If Lightroom is running slowly, I've got three things to check to improve its performance:
- On the Lightroom Preferences > Performance tab, toggle the Use Graphics Processor off if you use integrated graphics or older GPU's. Many users report slower performance with this setting on, surprisingly.
- On the Preferences > File Handling tab, greatly increase the size of your Camera Raw Cache. I leave mine set to 30 gigabytes.
- Periodically, run File > Optimize Catalog as a housekeeping step.
8. Get Creative While Cropping
You probably know that you can enter crop mode by pressing R on your keyboard in the Develop module.
However, you might not know about the variety of crop overlays, or the grids that you can place on top of an image while cropping.
When you've entered crop mode, tap O on the keyboard to cycle through the different crop options. Those grids can offer some great ideas for how to crop your images creatively. Try placing key parts of the photo on the intersection of lines to draw the viewer's eye.
9. Fade Your Lightroom Presets
We've already talked about organizing presets, but here's a great tip that will change how you use them.
There are presets that I love, but I might want to lightly apply them. Instead of fully applying the effect, it would be great if I could apply it like a layer in Photoshop and dim it slightly.
Check out The Fader, a Lightroom plugin to do just that. Download the plugin, and then go to the File > Plug-In Manager menu to install.
Once the plugin is installed, go to the File > Plug-in Extras > The Fader to use the new plugin. You can choose a Lightroom preset from the dropdown and apply it to your image. Pull the opacity slider to control how much the preset should be applied.
10. Auto-Hide Lightroom Panels
I do a significant amount of my editing on a tiny laptop screen, so screen real estate is always at a premium. It's tough to balance keeping an image in view with all of the controls that Lightroom offers.
Right click on the filmstrip and left and right flaps and choose Auto Hide & Show. This will hide those panels, leaving more room for your images. When you need to see those controls, just hover over those areas.
Recap and Keep Learning
Tuts+ has an extensive library of Adobe Lightroom coverage. For in-depth tutorials, check out some of the links below:
- If you were interested in the Smart Previews feature that I mentioned earlier, here's a guide to setting up Smart Previews.
- Lightroom is also great for styling your images with creative color.
- This Lightroom beginner's guide is a roundup of several tutorials to build your Lightroom expertise.
Most importantly: do you have any great Lightroom tips of your own to share? The comments are open to your ideas.