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6 Tips for a Faster Lightroom Workflow So You Can Get Back to Taking Photos!


Many photographers rely on Lightroom to organize, edit and share their photos. While this software has a vast array of tools to help people in several key areas, it has not always been known for speed. Recent updates and GPU acceleration have helped, but if you really want to have a faster Lightroom workflow, there are some simple things you can do to supercharge your post-processing. These aren’t hacks or plugins, but simple tweaks to Lightroom that can make your life a lot easier.

6 Tips for a Faster Lightroom Workflow So You Can Get Back to Taking Photos!

1. Apply a preset when importing images

The first thing you can do for a faster Lightroom workflow is to apply a preset when importing images.

Lightroom has a mind-boggling number of options and sliders to adjust when editing images. If you find yourself using the same types of edits on most of your pictures, you can use Presets to shave hours off your editing. Most people already know this, but you might not be aware that you can apply Presets when initially importing your files.

On the right side of the Import screen, there is an option for “Apply During Import.” Use this to select one of the many presets built into Lightroom (or select one of your own that you may have saved) and have it automatically applied to your pictures as you import them.

faster Lightroom workflow

In the screenshot above, you can also see an option called Nikon RAW import. That’s a custom preset I made that contains specific adjustments I like to apply to my Nikon RAW files, which gets me to a good starting point when editing. That alone has helped me with a faster Lightroom workflow, but applying it to a batch of photos on import is even more of a speed boost.

Don’t worry about messing anything up if you apply presets on import. Like everything else in Lightroom, they are non-destructive, meaning you can always go back and change things later.

2. Sync settings across multiple images

If you have spent any time editing multiple similar images in Lightroom, particularly from an event or photo session with clients, you have no doubt found the Copy/Paste Settings to be useful. Right-click on any image in the Develop module and choose “Develop Settings->Copy Settings…” Then check the boxes next to any (or all!) the settings you want to copy.

Finally, go to another photo, right-click, and choose “Develop Settings->Paste Settings.” Or better yet, use Ctrl+C (cmd+C on mac) and Ctrl+V (cmd+V on mac) like you would on any word processor.

faster Lightroom workflow

I shot dozens of pictures of this wasp. The Sync Settings option let me instantly edit a single image and then apply those edits to all my other images in an instant.

This process works great, but what if you want to paste your settings on to five, ten, or a hundred images? Even the fast method of using Ctrl+V starts to feel like a chore.

Fortunately, there’s a better way.

faster Lightroom workflow

Image 21 is selected, and Images 17-20 are also highlighted. After clicking the Sync… button, all the edits from 21 will be applied to 17-20.

In the Develop module, select a single picture in the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen. Then hold down the [shift] key and select more images. Finally, click the “Sync…” button to synchronize any (or all) of your edits on the original image to the rest that are selected.

When I discovered this trick, I almost fell out of my chair! I didn’t just speed up my Lightroom editing. It supercharged my editing.

3. Straighten your pictures with the Auto button

I’m always a little leery of anything that says Auto when I’m editing pictures. I don’t need my computer to do what it thinks is best – I want my computer to do what I think is best! At best, I use some Auto options, like when setting white balance on RAW files, as a rough draft that I go and refine.

However, there is one Auto setting that I have learned to use over and over again. Learning to embrace Auto for straightening my photos has saved me a lot of time and really led to an overall faster Lightroom workflow.

Image: The Auto button in the Crop & Straighten panel can really help make things go faster when...

The Auto button in the Crop & Straighten panel can really help make things go faster when you need to straighten your photos.

The reason Auto works so well for straightening images is that it doesn’t try to make a guess which affects the artistic goals of the photographer. It simply looks for straight lines such as light poles, buildings, or horizons, and then adjusts images accordingly. It works far more than I initially thought. Plus, it can really speed things up when editing in Lightroom.

faster Lightroom workflow

My tripod was askew when I shot this, but Lightroom fixed it with a simple click of the Auto button.

4. Automatically organize with smart collections

Collections in Lightroom are an easy way to organize your images. You can create as many collections as you want, and one photo can exist in multiple collections. What you may not realize is that Lightroom lets you create Smart Collections, which are populated dynamically according to rules you specify.

To create a Smart Collection, choose the + button at the top-left of the Collections panel. Then select “Create Smart Collection…” and specify your parameters for the Smart Collection.

faster Lightroom workflow

As an example of how this can lead to a faster Lightroom workflow, I create Smart Collections to sort my photos by month for an entire year. I do this each January, and for the rest of the year my photos are automatically sorted month-by-month without me having to do anything.

Image: I create Smart Collections for my personal images at the beginning of each year. My images ar...

I create Smart Collections for my personal images at the beginning of each year. My images are then sorted automatically.

These Smart Collections also do not include any photos with the keyword “PhotoSession” which I apply to all images that I take for clients. Photos with that keyword go in another set of Smart Collections that I use to keep client images separate from personal photos.

Smart Collections can contain dozens of parameters including Rating, Pick Flag, Color Label, Keyword, even metadata such as camera model or focal length. They are an incredibly powerful but very simple way to make your day-to-day Lightroom editing significantly faster.

5. Multi-Batch Export

Lightroom has long offered customizable export presets. These allow you to export photos with certain parameters specified such as file type, image size, quality setting, and even specifying custom names.

faster Lightroom workflow

New in the November 2019 update to Lightroom Classic is the option to perform a single export operation that utilizes multiple Presets. This means you no longer have to do an export operation for full-size JPGs at 100% quality, another export for low-resolution proofs at 80% quality, and so on.

Just check any boxes in the Export dialog box for the presets you want, and Lightroom will take care of the rest!

Image: The November 2019 update to Lightroom Classic lets you select multiple presets for a single e...

The November 2019 update to Lightroom Classic lets you select multiple presets for a single export operation.

This is a great way to save time when you are ready to export your images. It’s not the kind of workflow addition that will change your life, but it’s another simple but highly effective process you can utilize to shave precious minutes from your editing. And as someone who exports a lot of photos regularly, those minutes add up.

6. Cull on Lightroom Mobile

One of my favorite aspects of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan is the synchronization between Lightroom Classic and Lightroom Mobile. While the mobile version of Lightroom isn’t as full-featured as its desktop-based big brother, it does one thing incredibly well that has made a huge difference for me when editing photos for clients.

Click the checkbox next to any Collection to sync those photos with Lightroom CC. This means you can access low-resolution previews of all those images on the web, your phone, or tablet. (Note that this does not work with Smart Collections, only regular Collections.)

6 Tips for a Faster Lightroom Workflow So You Can Get Back to Taking Photos!

I don’t find Lightroom Mobile particularly useful for detailed editing, but it absolutely runs circles around the desktop version when it comes to culling operations. If you have an iPad, this could honestly change your entire approach to culling your images. It also works pretty well on other mobile devices too.

Load a picture in any collection that you have synced to Lightroom CC and then click the Star icon in the lower-right corner. This switches to a mode where you can quickly assign star ratings or flags to any picture. Tap one of the Flag or Star icons at the bottom of the screen to change the status of the image. A quick swipe of your finger will load the next image.

faster Lightroom workflow

Tap the star icon in the lower-right corner of Lightroom Mobile to quickly assign Flags and Star Ratings with a swipe of your finger.

This is all well and good, but there’s one trick here that will send your culling into overdrive.

Slide a finger up or down on the right side of the photo to change the Flag status. Slide a finger up or down on the left side to assign a Star rating. Then swipe to the next image and repeat.

All your edits on Lightroom Mobile, including Star ratings and Flag statuses, are instantly synced back to Lightroom Classic on your computer.

I’m not kidding about the speed of this operation, either.

I used to dread the culling process, but now it takes a fraction of the time it used to. A few weeks ago, I returned from a photo session with over 1,100 images. In about an hour, I was able to cull them to a fraction of that amount, thanks to Lightroom Mobile.

Image: There were hundreds of images from this session that I had to sort through. Lightroom Desktop...

There were hundreds of images from this session that I had to sort through. Lightroom Desktop makes this a burden, but Lightroom Mobile makes it a breeze.

All six of these tips have saved me a huge amount of time over the years. I hope they are useful to you as well.

If you have any other tricks or suggestions for a faster Lightroom workflow, leave them in the comments below!

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Simon Ringsmuth
Simon Ringsmuth

is an educational technology specialist at Oklahoma State University and enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for photography on his website and podcast at Weekly Fifty. He and his brother host a monthly podcast called Camera Dads where they discuss photography and fatherhood, and Simon also posts regularly to Instagram where you can follow him as @sringsmuth.

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