(The Fifth of) Ten Simple Steps to a Faster Workflow in Lightroom

Fifty most important shortcuts for the Library and Develop modules in Lightroom. Click to download the pdf.
Figure 1: Fifty most important shortcuts for the Library and Develop modules in Lightroom. Click on the image above to download the pdf.

The fifth step is a simple one: Learn the keyboard shortcuts for the functions that you use the most and, as a consequence, the ones that will save you the most time and effort.

I was never a big keyboard shortcut fan until I started to use them. Now, I am one of their biggest advocates. Even just a few shortcuts can greatly speed up your workflow in Lightroom as well as other image editing applications.

The biggest complaint that I hear is that it is hard to remember all those shortcuts and I would agree if you needed to remember all the shortcuts in Lightroom. However, you don’t need to remember all the shortcuts; learn the ones that will save you time. Also, learning them one at time is helpful as well. Pick one or two and use those regularly; once they become a habit for you, choose one or two more and do the same.

For example, I find it easier to double-click an image than use the “E” shortcut key to view an image in Loupe View. When in the Develop module, I use the shortcut keys to invoke the Crop, Spot Removal, Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush tools. It is simply easier and faster to click on Q to open the Spot Removal tool than navigate the cursor to the Spot Removal tool icon and click on it.

To help you decide which shortcuts to learn, we have prepared a list of 50 important shortcuts in Lightroom. There are many more shortcuts than those in our list. However, the shortcuts on our list are the ones that are most likely, based on our experience, to save you a significant amount of time. Download it by clicking on the figure or hyperlink above.

– Brian

Editor’s Note: In early May, Brian started a series of ten posts each outlining one or more simple but small things you can do to speed up your Lightroom workflow. This is the fifth post in that series; the first post was about how to efficiently manipulate Lightroom’s interface to reduce clutter; the second about the improving your efficiency inside Lightroom by using context menus; the third about how to name folders; and the fourth about how to name image files.

(The Fourth of) Ten Simple Steps to a Faster Workflow in Lightroom

The fourth step is a follow on to the last one: Pick a format for naming your images, rename them after deleting all the throw aways, and never, ever deviate from your chosen format.

When you take an image, the camera assigns the image file a filename, e.g., _DSC5645.NEF and IMG_7689.CR2, and, when you import images, Lightroom uses the camera given filename for the name of the image. However, _DSC5645.NEF and IMG_7689.CR2 tell us nothing about the images; in fact, the filenames are meaningless outside of some other organizational talisman, e.g., a properly named folder. This is why it is important to name your images in some meaningful way.

A filename doesn’t need to tell you everything about the image but it does need to tell you enough to know the general subject matter, e.g., London rather than the Tower of London, and where to locate it. As before with folder names, if you name your images consistently following some standard format, you will have an easier time finding your images later.

My format is fairly simple and flows directly from how I name folders. My images are saved in a folder named with the date the images were taken and a short description, e.g., 2014-05-16_Mom’s 80th Birthday. I rename images, after importing, sorting, and deleting all the throw aways, with the date the images were taken, a short description (always the same as the folder name), my last name, and a sequence number to make each filename unique, e.g., 2014-05-16_Mom’s 80th Birthday_Zwit_0034.nef. As with folder names, the filename is created by using the four-digit year and two digit month and day the image was taken followed by a short description of the subject of the images; the hyphens and underscore are added for readability.

What this does for me is:

  1. By glancing at the filename, I instantly know something about the image, i.e., the date the image was taken and subject of the image.
  2. I can easily locate the folder containing the original image because the name of the file begins with the folder name. (I never change the name of an image when I export them from Lightroom; otherwise, this chain is broken and it can be difficult to find an image.)
  3. My last name in the filename tells people who took the image. This is important if you send images out to editors or others who may use your images; they can see who took the image immediately. It also helps to protect your images (albeit easily circumvented by renaming the file.)
  4. Assuming I had the images sorted in chronological order when I renamed them, the images sort in the correct chronological order, e.g., 2014-05-15_Mom’s 80th Birthday_Zwit_0034.nef will be followed by 2014-05-15_Mom’s 80th Birthday_Zwit_0035.nef. (Computers sort differently than humans and that is why we use four numbers for the year and always use two digits for the month and day, e.g., June 19, 2014, is 2014-06-19, and November 9, 2014, is 2014-11-09.)

It isn’t important whether you use this scheme or another. What is important is that you develop a scheme and use it without fail. As with naming folders, whatever scheme you choose must do two things: (1) be easy to follow and (2) make it easier to find your images.

Once you select a naming scheme, you can create a preset that will automate renaming your images by doing the following:

  1. Click on F2 or go to Library > Rename Photos…
  2. Click on the File Naming drop-down menu and click on Edit… See Image 1 below.
  3. In the Filename Template Editor (See Image 2 below), first clear the current preset from the text box at the top of the window and then select the appropriate tags that will make up your template (If you want to add a description to the filename as I do, insert the Custom Text tag at the appropriate location; when you go to use this template, Lightroom will allow you to enter the description without having to edit the template. Also, if you use a sequence number to make the names unique, pad it with at least three zeros, i.e., select the sequence tag “0001” or “00001.”)
  4. Once the preset is created, you MUST save the template by clicking on the File Naming drop-down menu and clicking on Save Current Settings as a New Preset…
  5. Enter a name for the new preset
  6. Click Done
File Naming drop-down menu
Figure 1: Rename window with the File Naming drop-down menu. The Edit… option is at the bottom of the drop-down menu.
Filename Preset Window
Figure 2: Filename Template Editor with Brian’s Standard Filename template displayed in the text box at the top of the window.
Rename Photos window
Figure 3: Rename window with the Standard Filename template selected. Note that custom text, in this case a description, can be added when this template is selected; if a template doesn’t contain a Custom Text tag, you can’t enter custom text.

Once the template is complete, renaming the images can be done quickly and easily as follows:

  1.  Select all the images by using the shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + A
  2. Click on F2 or go to Library > Rename Photos…
  3.  Choose a template for renaming the images from the File Naming drop-down menu
  4. Add custom text, if any, and change the sequence number if necessary
  5. Click on OK (the wording of this button is different on a Mac)

If you name your folders and files consistently and in way that makes them easier to find, you will be able to retrieve specific images quicker than if you leave the file names as they come out of the camera. And, the great thing about Lightroom is that you can automate renaming the image files with a template. So, there really isn’t any excuse for not being able to find any image quickly.

– Brian

Editor’s Note: In early May, Brian started a series of ten posts each outlining one or more simple but small things you can do to speed up your Lightroom workflow. This is the fourth post in that series; the first post was about how to efficiently manipulate Lightroom’s interface to reduce clutter; the second about the improving your efficiency inside Lightroom by using context menus; and the third about how to name folders.

(The Third of) Ten Simple Steps to a Faster Workflow in Lightroom

The third step is one that you need to carefully think about before implementing it: Pick a format for your folder names and never, ever deviate from it.

When you import images into Lightroom from your memory card or another external source, Lightroom must store them in a folder on your hard drive and that folder must have a name. You can name these folders anything. However, every night, I put my car keys in the exact same spot on the counter. Why? If I don’t, I won’t have any hope of finding them in the morning. It is the same with your images, if you save your images to folders consistently named per some standard, you will have an easier time finding them later.

My format is fairly simple. My images are saved in a folder named with the date the images were taken and a short description, e.g., 2014-05-16_Mom’s 80th Birthday. The name is created by using the four-digit year and two digit month and day the image was taken followed by a short description of the subject of the images; the hyphens and underscore are added for readability. This folder is housed on my hard drive in a folder named for year, e.g., 2014, in the Pictures folder. So, the hierarchy of folders is: Users > Brian > Pictures > 2014 > 2014-05-16_Mom’s 80th Birthday.

screenshot_0395
Image 1: Folders containing images named as described in the text. Note that they sort chronologically.

What this does for me is:

  1. I always know my images will be in a folder named using the date the images were taken and a short description of their subject in a subfolder of the Pictures folder designating the year. (This is the car key portion of the naming scheme, i.e., put my keys in the same spot every time.)
  2. I can tell two things from the name of the subfolder: (1) the date the images were taken and (2) something about what images are in that folder. For instance, name a folder as 2014-05-16_Mom’s 80th Birthday tells me the images were taken on May 16, 2014 and are of my mother’s 80th birthday party.
  3. The subfolders sort in the correct chronological order, e.g., 2014-05-15_Mom’s 80th Birthday will be followed by 2014-05-16_Mom’s 80th Birthday. (Computers sort differently than humans and that is why we use four numbers for the year and always use two digits for the month and day, e.g., June 19, 2014, is 2014-06-19, and November 9, 2014, is 2014-11-09.

There are probably as many schemes for naming folders as there are photographers and you don’t have to use this one (although a lot of photographers do or at least a similar one). Whatever scheme you choose must do two things: (1) be easy to follow and (2) make it easier to find your images.

There are a couple of things to watch out for. First, don’t name folders by subject matter only. For example, while it might be tempting to name a folder Christmas for this year’s Christmas pictures, it isn’t going to help next year when you want to create another folder named Christmas for next year’s Christmas pictures. Second, avoid schemes that leave too much room for variation in how you name a folder. You want to use your folder names to differentiate between their contents but you don’t want to get confused by the name. For example, if I go to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge for two days, I will name the folders similarly by using the same short description but differently by using the date (one day will separate the images) Third, don’t split up your raw and JEPGs. Let Lightroom manage them or better yet, just delete the JPEGs because, with the raw, you can create a JPEG if you need one.

This is your first line of organization so take your time to settle on a naming scheme but do it and stick to it. Make it easy to use or you won’t use. Once you have decided on a scheme, start using it immediately. (I don’t recommend fixing all your folders because it’s a very tedious task. Just move forward knowing that, if you need an image from this day backwards, you have to work to find it.)

– Brian

Editor’s Note: In early May, Brian started a series of ten posts each outlining one or more simple but small things you can do to speed up your Lightroom workflow. This is the third post in that series; the first post was about how to efficiently manipulate Lightroom’s interface to reduce clutter and the second about the improving your efficiency inside Lightroom by using context menus.

(The Second of) Ten Simple Steps to a Faster Workflow in Lightroom

image right-click context menu
Image 1: The context menu displayed when an image is right-clicked, includes Edit In…, add to a quick collection, create a virtual copy, and others. The available commands are all actions that can be taken on the image. This reduces the need to hunt for the correct command in the main menus.

The second tip in this series on improving your Lightroom workflow is simple: Use context menus. A context menu aka contextual, shortcut, or pop-up menu is a menu in Lightroom that is displayed by right-clicking on an object in the user interface. See image 1. You can click on almost any object, including an image, a folder or collection name, and a keyword. The context menu will allow you to perform a limited set of actions related to the object or the current state of the application. Context menus are available in most programs, not just Lightroom

folder right-click
Image 2: The context menu for a folder in the Folders panel of the Library module.

Context menus are great for speeding up your workflow. Right-click on an image and you are presented with a list of pertinent commands that can be performed on the image. To invoke an action in the context menu, simply click on it. For example, right-click a folder name inside the Folders panel and you can create a folder inside the folder, rename the folder, remove the folder, save metadata, synchronize a folder, update a folder location, Import to the folder, export the folder as a catalog, show in finder, or get help. See image 2. This much simpler than searching eight menus for the right commend.

If you are on a PC, right-clicking an object is easy. Just position the cursor over the object and click the right button on your mouse or the right key on your trackpad. If you are on a Mac, it is a little more difficult. First, get rid of Apple’s Magic Mouse; it is hard to use and even harder to right-click with it. Instead, buy and install a two button Bluetooth mouse on your computer. Now, to right-click, simply click the right button. If you have a separate trackpad for your desktop or are using a Mac laptop with its trackpad, click the trackpad with one finger for a left-click and two fingers for a right-click.

Using the context menus in Lightroom is easy and will speed up your workflow. The commands in a context menu are available in the main menu but so are other commands that are not relevant to your current needs.

– Brian

Editor’s Note: In early May, Brian started a series of ten posts each outlining one or more simple but small things you can do to speed up your Lightroom workflow. This is the second post in that series; the first post was about how to efficiently manipulate Lightroom’s interface to reduce clutter.

(The First of) Ten Simple Steps to a Faster Workflow in Lightroom

The one complaint that I hear over and over from photographers is that they spend too much time in front of a computer working on images. However, I am not very sympathetic.

Ansel Adams spent hours getting one photograph right and, today with Lightroom and Photoshop, we can do on our computers what Adams did in the darkroom in five minutes or less. In addition, we aren’t being exposed to unpronounceable chemicals such as 4,4-dimethyl-1-phenylpyrazolidin-3-one. Our biggest risk is that we might get carpal tunnel syndrome or a stiff neck and neither is that great a risk assuming you sit up straight at your desk and take breaks.

My lack of sympathy doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in an efficient workflow. An efficient the workflow means I am more likely to enjoy the editing process and have more time for shooting. (It also means that I have more time to spend with my significant other or my dog!) Moreover, a more efficient workflow is many times a simple manner of changing a setting or learning a new way to use existing tools.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting ten short blog posts, each outlining one or more simple but small things you can do to speed up your Lightroom workflow. This week’s post is about how to efficiently manipulate Lightroom’s interface to reduce clutter.

Many of us work on laptops with relatively small screens. Very quickly the screen can get cluttered with open panels, images, and other program windows. A few simple shortcuts and turning on Solo Mode for the panels in Lightroom’s sidebars will go a long way in helping you clean up some of the clutter.

To quickly alter the interface, click:

Lightroom with the "lights" turned off.
Image 1: Lightroom with the sidebars, module picker, and filmstrip hidden and the “lights” turned off.
  • TAB to toggle the sidebars on and off
  • SHIFT + TAB to toggle the sidebars, module picker, and filmstrip on and off
  • F5 to toggle the module picker on and off
  • F6 to toggle the filmstrip on and off
  • \ to toggle the Finder Bar on and off
  • T to toggle the Toolbar on and off
  • L to turn off the “lights” (Clicking on L darkens the screen surrounding the image or images in the image preview area of the interface. This permits you to view the image or images without the distraction of the sidebars, module picker, or filmstrip. See Image 1. If you continue to click on L, the screen will darken further and eventually return to normal.)
Image 2: Turning on Solo Mode.
Image 2: Turning on Solo Mode. If a check is next to Solo Mode in the menu, it is on.

As you open panels in a sidebar, the sidebar will get longer and longer and you will be scrolling more and more through all the open panels. You can, of course, close open panels by clicking on the small triangle on the far left end of the panel’s title bar before opening another panel. However, this requires two clicks. If you turn on Solo Mode, Lightroom will automatically close any open panels when you open another panel in the same sidebar, reducing the number of clicks required to close an open panel and open a closed panel to one from two. It doesn’t sound like much but it greatly reduces the amount of scrolling required to get to a panel. To turn on Solo Mode, Right Click on the title bar of any panel in the sidebar and choose Solo Mode from the menu that pops up. See Image 2.

Solo Mode is specific to a sidebar and you will need to turn on Solo Mode in every sidebar separately. You may or may not want to do this. I use Solo Mode in all my sidebars except for the left sidebar in the Library module, which contains the Navigator, Catalog, Folders, Collections, and Publishing Services panels. It is sometimes helpful to have more than one of these panels open at once, particularly when I am creating a new collection.

Image 3: To suppress the display of a panel, right click on the title bar of any panel in the sidebar and click on the name of the panel in the menu.
Image 3: To suppress the display of a panel, right click on the title bar of any panel in the sidebar and click on the name of the panel in the menu. If there is no check next to the name of the panel in the menu, the panel will not be displayed.

Finally, you can turn off panels that you don’t use. For example, I never use the Quick Develop panel in the right sidebar of the Library module and all it does is take up space in the sidebar. So, I turn it off. To turn off a panel, Right Click on the title bar of any panel in the sidebar and click on the name of the panel in the menu that pops up. See Image 3. You can turn the panel back on again by right clicking on the title bar of any panel in the sidebar and then clicking on the name of the panel again.

As you can see a few simple shortcuts, turning on Solo Mode, and suppressing the display of unused panels can go a long way in reducing clutter. All of us work differently so try out these shortcuts, Solo Mode, and turn off the panels that you don’t use and decided what works best for you.

– Brian