As you develop your Lightroom workflow there are few things that will make you more efficient than incorporating more keyboard shortcuts. I wanted to share a few of my favorite tips for speeding up the process of separating the wheat from the chaff.
Clear the Screen
The first part of the tip is about maximizing your screen real estate to focus on just your photos and not the Lightroom interface, so to really clear the decks press the Shift+Tab key to collapse both side panels as well as the Module picker and Filmstrip (you can press Shift+Tab again later to bring them back). You may as well enter full screen mode too by pressing Shift+F until the top menu bar is hidden (and again, pressing Shift+F will cycle you out of full screen mode too). If the Library Filter bar is in your way you can press the \ (backslash) key to hide it, and then hit the T key to hide the Toolbar. Now you can be in Grid view of the Library module (press G) and only be looking at your thumbnails.
The key to speeding up your culling process is to enlist Lightroom in automatically advancing you to the next photo after you’ve made a decision about whether to keep or reject a photo. There are a couple of ways to enable this. The first is to go to the Photo menu and check Auto Advance. Yes, even in full screen view you can move your cursor to the top of the screen and the menu will pop up after a couple of seconds.
The alternative is to leave the menu unchecked and just enable Caps Lock on your keyboard. I like using the menu option so that if I need to type in a caption or keyword I don’t enter it in all caps. The choice is yours.
Now you are ready to make some choices about which photos to keep and which to delete. Using the keyboard shortcuts for flags in conjunction with Auto Advance makes this process fly. There are three shortcuts you’ll want to memorize. The first two are pretty well known, which are P for pick flag and X for reject. The third is less well known, but just as important; U for unflag.
- P = Pick
- X = Reject
- U = Unflag
The reason U is so important is Auto Advance. When Auto Advance is enabled it means that as soon as you apply a flag (or color label or star rating) Lightroom automatically advances focus to the next photo in the sequence.
Armed with those 3 shortcuts and Auto Advance you can very quickly move through a shoot making decisions about which to keep and which to reject. However, when you get to one that you are just stuck on the fence about that is when you pull out the U shortcut, which I think of as a skip key. Every photo starts as unflagged, so pressing the U key keeps the photo unflagged, but it triggers Auto Advance to move to the next photo. I think it is more important to keep moving forward at this point then to get bogged down hemming and hawing over whether to reject or keep in the first pass.
If I skipped any photos during that first pass I bring back the Library Filter bar (backslash key), and configure it to only show Unflagged photos by clicking the Attribute button to display those options, then right-click the Flag icons and choose Unflagged Photos Only. Now only the photos I skipped appear, and I can run through them quickly using only P or X to make a decision.
You might be asking, what if you need to zoom in to check focus? Good question. Here’s a quick way to do that, and you can learn a new shortcut. With a thumbnail in Grid view selected, press and hold the Z key. You will zoom in to 1:1 in Loupe view and the Hand tool will be active for panning around the photo. Keep holding the Z key down while you do this, and when you are satisfied release the Z key and you will jump right back to Grid view. Give it a shot.
If you really need to spend some time pixel peeping or checking for sensor spots, then here is a more in-depth option. Select the photo you want to zoom in on and press and release the Z key to zoom to 1:1. Now, while zoomed in, press the Home key if your keyboard has one, or if it doesn’t you might need to press a combination of keys to simulate the Home button. On my Mac laptop I hold the fn key and press the left arrow button and it does the same as the Home key on my Windows machine, which is to zoom my view right to the top-left corner of the photo. Once you are in the top-left corner you can sweep over every pixel in the photo by repeatedly pressing the Page Down button (on my Mac I press fn and the Down Arrow), and with each press of the button Lightroom moves the view down to see the next section of the image. When the view gets to the bottom of the photo, another press of Page Down (fn+Down Arrow) and it jumps over to the top of the photo one section to the right of where you started. You can work your way through the entire photo this way just by pressing Page Down. It works in reverse using the Page Up (fn+Up Arrow) button, and you can even jump to the lower-right corner by pressing the End (fn+right arrow).
When you are all done with the zoomed-in inspection just press Z again and you will return right back to Grid view where you can press on with finding your keepers. Hope that helps!
Rob writes the “Under the Loupe” column for Photoshop User Magazine, and is the author of many photography related books.