How I Sped Up My Lightroom Workflow

I had one of those editing sessions yesterday. You might know what I’m talking about – those that take an hour or more to only get through a handful of photos. Last night, it was my own fault – I was trying out new techniques and trying to integrate them with what I already do.

I’m not a fan of sitting in front of the computer for hours editing. I’d much rather shoot photos, play with my girls, dig the dirt in my garden, bake something yummy, work on my daughter’s quilt, and maybe grab a bowl of popcorn and catch up on movies. You get the point. I always look for ways to speed up the process – thank goodness for Lightroom’s sync button!

A while back I learned some shortcuts for Lightroom and Photoshop hoping it cured some of my time issues. I never realized then how long it takes to move the mouse or pen all the way to the tool bar, panels, or menus. It’s crazy when you think about how many times you travel across the screen. After so many, time adds up from that simple movement, a click, then another movement to the desired tool. Seriously it adds up. 

My Absolute Favorite Lightroom Shortcuts


Once I learned, and my muscles remembered, my favorite shortcuts (I rarely look at my keyboard), my processing workflow sped up. I still don’t use every shortcut, nor come close. Maybe one day I’ll be a processing superhero. The ones I use though save me loads of time. I’m sharing my favorite Lightroom shortcuts with you today. I’m saving another post for Photoshop because the shortcuts are different and I didn’t want to overwhelm you. 

The best part though? At the end is a cheatsheet for you. I found it’s super helpful to pin up on the wall to reference as you learn.

My Absolute Favorite Lightroom Shortcuts

Z – Zoom – This one saves the most time for me. I keep a left finger laying on the z while my right hand does it’s work with the pen. I am constantly zooming in and out, especially when I use the adjustment brush. Before I started using this shortcut, I moved to the navigation panel and clicked on 1:1 to zoom, both when I wanted to zoom in and zoom out. Wow! That definitely took way too much time. Now, I just press Z then use the spacebar to drag around the image then press Z again to zoom out. I love two handed editing! I do want to note that if you aren’t using a tool in the develop module, you can click on the picture and it’ll zoom to 1:1 and clicking again will zoom out. If you’re using any of the tools you need to press Z to zoom, so I press Z every time for consistency’s sake.

Spacebar – Move a zoomed photo around. Most of you may know this but it sure did take a long time for me to figure out. I used to go up to the navigation panel and drag the little box around. Once again my thumb hovers on the spacebar while a finger rests on the Z as I use both of these so much.

S – Soft Proofing – I check skin tones through the soft proofing numbers. I used to check the box in the bottom bar, then check the skin, see I needed to make a change, uncheck the box, make the change, click the box, check the skin again until I finally got the skin where I wanted. When I learned about the S shortcut I think the heavens opened and dawned light upon my computer. Talk about saving time! Now when I check and adjust skin tones, I hold a left finger over the S and toggle back and forth as needed. 

Ctrl/Cmd Z – Undo – I think I knew this from the get go but it’s definitely a life saver for quick go backs. In Lightroom, hitting Ctrl/Cmd Z multiple times will keep undoing your previous action, which is different than Photoshop where it will toggle the last action on and off. In Photoshop, you have to hit Ctrl/Cmd – Alt/Opt – Z to get the same – only a slight difference.

K – Adjustment Brush – I use it a lot so this is definitely helpful. You can toggle the brush on and off by pressing K.

[ – a smaller brush size – the brackets decrease and increase your brush size quickly!

] – a larger brush size

Shift-M – Radial Brush

M – Graduated Filter

Q – Spot removal – Not my favorite tool in Lightroom, but I use it on small items. Otherwise I go to Photoshop.

R – Crop tool 

Shift – Hold this down to lock in the proportion of your crop. Lightroom is smart and locks it if you do it all the time, but sometimes the lock isn’t on and it’s much faster to hold down shift and click and drag to crop than it is to go to the crop panel then click on the lock.

O – Cycle the crop grid overlay

Ctrl/Cmd ] – Rotate a photo right – because every now and then I like the look better.

Ctrl/Cmd [ – Rotate a photo left

Ctrl/Cmd ‘ – that’s Control or Command and the apostrophe – Create a virtual copy. I often do this if I want to create two versions of the same photo. Then I can compare the two photos side by side.

Ctrl/Cmd Click – Grab a couple or more photos. I use this to compare two photos, send to Lightroom, or export.

C – Compare – I do this after selecting the two photos, then I compare them side by side.

Y – Compare the before and after. You can look at the before and after then press y again to get back to the full screen photo.

1-5 – Assign a rating to a photo – I only use ratings, not colors or picks.

Ctrl L – Filters on/off – So useful when I open the Develop module to work on my rated photos!

Ctrl/Cmd – Shift – E – Export a photo. Self explanatory I hope. I don’t have to go up to the menu, hit File, then find Export, and click. 

Ctrl/Cmd E – Edit in Photoshop. Otherwise I used to right click on the photo, then choose the option to open in Photoshop. So.Much.Faster

When I first learned shortcuts, I left a cheatsheet on the wall next to my monitor, which helped for quick checks.  That cheatsheet though had all the shortcuts in Lightroom, which is daunting. You only need to learn the ones you’ll use most often. Then go on to learn the others if you feel like it. I didn’t want to overwhelm you so I only included my absolute favorite shortcuts.

Lightroom Shortcuts

Click the image to download the cheatsheet in pdf! If you do please share!


My Absolute Favorite Lightroom Shortcuts Revealed

Once you grasp shortcuts, you’ll speed through your processing. It takes a little practice and time, but it becomes second nature so don’t give up! Down the road, I’ll talk about my favorite time saving tools in Lightroom like the tat tool and the spray paint! For now, I’m moving away from the screen and off to play with my girls!