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Viewing Images in Lightroom – What Are The Options?


Digital photographers can tend to take tons of photos. Viewing images in Lightroom can be a tedious and time-consuming task if you are not familiar with the various tools available to you. In this article, I’ll outline some techniques and tools to help improve your post-processing workflow.

Lightroom Grid View - Viewing Images in Lightroom

Viewing many images in Lightroom

The most common way of viewing images in Lightroom is by using the Grid View option. You can also use the Filmstrip option.

In Grid View, your main panel in Lightroom is populated with the thumbnails of photos stored in the folder you have open. To select the folder with images you’d like to view, open the left module panels. To do this, you can press F7 on your keyboard, or click on the triangle to the left of your main panel. Then navigate in the Folders tab to the folder you want to open.

Alternatively, you can use the Filmstrip. This shows up below your main panel when you press F6 or click the triangle at the bottom. Using the Filmstrip module, you are limited to viewing the thumbnails at only one size.

In Grid view, you are able to alter the size of the thumbnails. Three ways you can do this are by:

  1. Using the Zoom slider below the main panel and to the right
  2. Using the + and – keys
  3. Holding down the Ctrl key (cmd on Mac) and scrolling your mouse wheel.

Below the main panel, you will also find the option for choosing how Lightroom sorts your images. By default, it uses Capture Time, but you might find it more convenient at times to change this. There are lots of options including File Name, File Type or Label Color.

Lightroom Grid View Options

You can customize the way your Grid View looks.

To do this, go to View in the top menu then click on View Options. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl+J (or cmd+J on a Mac). Here you have a lot of control over how the information about your photos is displayed. It may seem overwhelming if you are new to viewing images in Lightroom, but keep in mind these options. They will be good to visit again later when you are more familiar with the software.

Selecting and viewing more than one image in Lightroom

There are various options for ways to view images in Lightroom when you want to compare images. To select the photos you want to compare, click on one, and then, while holding down the Ctrl (Cmd on Mac) key, click on the other photos you want to select.

When you have selected more than two photos, you can press the “N” key. This will bring you into Survey View, where you will only see the photos you have selected. I use this feature often when I am initially culling my photos. Being able to view a limited number of images helps compare them and then select the best one.

Compare viewing images in Lightroom

If you select only two images, you can use the “C” key to bring you into Compare View. This can help you see the differences between two very similar photos. You can view the images side-by-side, full size, and you can zoom in. When you are zoomed, you can use the hand tool to drag around and view different parts of the photos. Both images will move together when you do this. You are also able to change the Candidate image using the arrow keys at the bottom right.

Viewing images with Loupe View

Viewing images in Lightroom using Loupe View allows you to see them much larger. Loupe View gets its name from the magnifying loupe used to view slides and negatives on an old fashioned lightbox. To switch to Loupe View from Grid View, use the “E” key or the spacebar.

Old Fashion Loupe and Lightbox

When you are in this mode, you can view other images in Lightroom by using:

  • The arrow keys
  • The scroll wheel on your mouse (when you are not zoomed in)
  • Or the film strip panel

You can zoom in on an image using the slider under the main panel. Or you can hold down Ctrl (Cmd on a Mac) and use the scroll wheel on your mouse. Once you are zoomed in, you can use the hand tool to move the image around.

You can also choose to show a Grid overlay on your images in Loupe View. This option is at the bottom right. If you cannot see one of these options, click on the triangle to the lower right to bring up the panel to display the available tools.

Viewing images in Lightroom Develop Module

The Lightroom Develop Module is where you make adjustments to the way your photographs look. In this module, it’s’ good to be familiar with some of the ways you can view your photos.

One of the functions I use the most in the Develop Module is the “\” key. Hitting this backslash key will show you what your original image looked like prior to you making any adjustments. This helps you see what you are doing and guide you towards further steps you might take.

Another similar option is to use the “Y” key. When you’ve made some changes in the Develop Module, hitting the “Y” key will bring up your original image alongside one with the changes you have made. Once again, when you are zoomed in, you can move the images around in tandem using the hand tool.

Before and After Viewing images in Lightroom

Viewing image information

One more handy tip is to use the “I” key to bring up a display of image information about the photo you are currently viewing. This will show you EXIF data from the image.

You can control and change what you see. To do this, go to View in the top menu and then click on View Options. In either the Loupe View or Develop option panel, check the boxed for the information you’d like displayed.

options for viewing images in Lightroom


I hope you’ve picked up at least two or three useful tips from this article. I’m sure there are many more ways of viewing images in Lightroom. Please share some of the techniques you employ in your regular Lightroom workflow.

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Kevin Landwer-Johan
Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan is a photographer, photography teacher, and author with over 30 years of experience that he loves to share with others.

Check out his website and his Buy Me a Coffee page.

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