5 Ways to Reduce Your Editing Time in Lightroom


Maybe you're the kind of photographer who takes an abundance of photos for fun. Perhaps you're a wedding or portrait photographer who takes hundreds of photos during a single photo shoot. Whoever you are, it's very likely that you've heard of a process commonly known as efficient editing. This type of editing seems to belong to the artistic elite. These creatives appear to possess superhuman strength when it comes to sorting through images, choosing the best ones, and submitting them within a short amount of time. They seem to do this without losing a significant amount of energy, too. Though this idea might sound outlandish (I wouldn't blame you if you rolled your eyes while reading this introduction), it's actually not a myth.

What sets the “elite” apart from us normal folks is their understanding of editing programs. Their superhuman strength lies in the knowledge of shortcuts, in the use of batch editing tools, and in the understanding of pre-editing organization. Combined, these useful puzzle pieces of information transform a tedious editing process into a quick and easy part of a photographer's job.

Though there are many editing programs out there – such as Photoshop and GIMP – Lightroom is one of the most popular ones in the photography world. Thanks to its smartly organized modules, sorting tools, and color correction features, Lightroom is loved by many. Like any other program, it can be used in a variety of ways. Like any other program, it provides ways that can either tire you out or become your faithful editing companions. To get access to the latter, it's important to be aware of several Lightroom features. The tips below will enable you to understand Lightroom and its features better, turning you into both an enthusiastic editor and a smart time saver.

Don't import your least favourite shots

Deleting photographs in your camera is inefficient. Importing all of your results, whether you like some of them or not, will take a lot of time. The more photographs you import, the more editing time you'll lose. Photographs that are both RAW and large are especially slow when it comes to the importing process. If this seems like an impossible situation in which you have to lose either battery power or time, don't worry. You can save a lot of time by simply choosing not to import certain shots.

If you have images that are obviously unwanted (awkward poses, unflattering lighting conditions, lack of focus, and so on), untick them before you click on the Import button. To get a better view of your shots, adjust the size of the thumbnails by dragging the slider at the bottom of the window to the right (as shown below). The slider can also minimize thumbnails and help you review similar shots to choose the best ones. This process shouldn't take long, but it will allow Lightroom to quickly import focused, well-lit images which you can sort through later.

Make the most of the Library module

When I first began using Lightroom, I would often skip the Library module and work on individual photos in Develop mode. While this is great for photographers with few images to edit, it's not as useful a move for artists with hundreds of shots. The Library module contains an incredible tool called Quick Develop, which can be used to apply the same settings to thousands of photos at a time. These changes will appear within minutes, allowing you to enhance individual photos without working on the same settings over and over again.

If you have a set of images which were taken in similar lighting conditions, you can safely apply the same settings to them within seconds. All you have to do is select the images you'd like to edit and adjust the exposure, white balance, shadows, etc. You may notice several options for each settings – a single arrow followed by a pair of arrows. The former will subtly increase or decrease your chosen setting. The pair of arrows will provide more dramatic results; this is ideal for images that need heavier editing.

Familiarize yourself with handy shortcuts

You probably have smart ways of handling your phone. Shortcuts allow you to text, research, or find a video within seconds. These timesavers are ever-present in Lightroom. To access a short but sweet list of shortcuts, go to Help > Library Module Shortcuts, or simply press Ctrl + /. For a more informative list of shortcuts, check out this guide by Lightroom Queen.

The most important shortcut for me as a portrait photographer is toggle rating: this enables me to rate my favourite images by pressing any number from 0-5. Using the rating system, I can easily locate my favourite shots later on by going to Library > Attribute and highlighting the rating I want. Alternatively, you can reject unwanted photos by pressing X on your keyboard. Once you've sorted through everything, you can instantly deleted the rejected shots by pressing Ctrl + Delete. Both of these methods save a lot of time, though I find that the first option is easier for my kind of work. Each to their own!

Acquire Lightroom presets that match your style (or create your own)

You can view presets as instant color correctors which, when used properly, can make your photos stand out. Presets can be applied in Quick Develop to further enhance your workflow (Library module > Quick Develop > Saved Preset). Alternatively, they can be applied individually in the Develop module. Lightroom presets can be downloaded for free, bought, or created. If you experiment with various settings in the Develop module and like the results, you can reapply the same settings by saving them as a preset. To do this, click on the cross at the corner of the Presets section and select the settings you'd like to copy. Once you're done, you'll have a brand new preset to work with whenever you want!

Take breaks

It's easy to fall into the flow of editing and completely abandon your other needs. Set achievable goals for yourself (for example, take a break every time you sort through 300 photos.) Though breaks might seem like time wasters, they'll save you a lot of time in the long run. Continuously editing will mentally and physically exhaust you, which will affect your workflow and ruin your mood. Remember to take care of yourself even if you have a lot of work to do. By providing yourself with relaxation consistently, you'll appreciate the editing process and look at photos with a clear mind.

Now that you have a better understanding of Lightroom and its marvellous features, you're closer to becoming a more efficient (and less exhausted) photo editor. The more you use these tools, the easier your editing workflow will be. Along the way, you'll acquire an individual and organized way of working which will flawlessly match your style. As long as you remain open to learning, you'll go very far as an artist.

Best of luck to you!

About Author

Taissia is a professional photographer and educator.

Un-ticking shots before importing won’t work for me. I want to see the enlarged versions before deciding which are the cream of the crop so I’d rather import the lot and then add the ones I want to edit to a quick collection of my choice. I then edit the shots in the quick collection.

In that case, In the Import window, double-clicking on the first photo (or clicking the icon with the big square at the bottom, between to the icon with many small squares and the Select all button in the screenshot in the article) will show you the photo fit to fill the entire preview area, as opposed to the grid.
Now you can Select/Deselect this photo and use the arrow keys to move to the next. Rinse and repeat until done.

This is how I import every time. Literally takes me only a few minutes to cull a couple of hundred shots this way.

Great tip, John! This is also what I’d recommend for those who want to view enlarged versions. I hope this helps, Tobie!

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