I love, love, love, keyboard shortcuts, and thankfully, so does Adobe! Sometimes, the keyboard accessibility of Adobe’s software is so great that you could, most likely, use the program with no mouse at all. I’m not suggesting that you do that, but by committing even a few shortcuts to memory, you can vastly improve your workflow and efficiency. This is especially true with Lightroom.
Lightroom has dozens of shortcuts, but listed here are a few of my most immediate go-tos and how I use them regularly.
BEFORE & AFTER
Shortcut Key: \
After you click through your Mastin Labs preset arsenal and settle on your favorite one for that image, press the backslash key, and say, “Whoa!” Press the key again to toggle back to your adjustment. As simple and even self-explanatory as this shortcut key is, the before and after toggle is invaluable.
CROP & STRAIGHTEN
Shortcut Key: R
We all use the crop and straighten tool a lot. I use it a ton because I often prefer a shorter aspect ratio than the given 3:2 frame of DSLRs and 35mm film. Whatever your reasons, if you shoot a lot, then you’re using this tool a lot! Make it easier on yourself and remember to press the “R” key. Bonus: For quick straightening, once you’re in the Crop & Straighten module, hold down the ⌘ key or (CTRL for PC) and drag your cursor along the horizon line (or whatever line should be straight and level).
Shortcut Key: L
There’s a chance that you may not even know that this tool exists. Have you ever wished or even gone to great lengths to see the image you’re editing without all of the distracting tools, sliders, and panels around it? I know I have, and when I found out that I could do it by pressing just one single key, it changed the game for me.
Press the “L” key, and it’s lights out! This shortcut toggles between a couple of options. The first time you press it, Lightroom darkens everything but your selected image by about 90%. Press L again, and it goes black, leaving nothing but your image to see.
One of the best things about this tool is that it works in both the Develop and Library modules. You can also continue editing and making adjustments with the Lights Out feature turned on.
Shortcut Key: N
Just as with the Lights Out tool, Survey Mode is another lesser-known Lightroom feature. I had no idea that it existed for years, and it was also a game changer to discover it.
This tool is meant to be used with multiple images. In either the Develop or the Library module, select two or more images that you’re interested in comparing or seeing together. Once they’re selected, press the “N” key. This toggles a display of all of the chosen images. While toggled, you can still add or subtract images in the selection, as well as change, flag, and rate.
Double click on any of the images to exit Survey Mode. You may also press “D” to return to the Develop module or “G” to return to the Library. Your selected images will still be highlighted.
Survey Mode also works with the Lights Out tool, letting you focus on multiple images at one time with zero noise or distraction around them.
Shortcut Keys: 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5
Even if you’re a diligent and disciplined image culler, sometimes it’s still just so hard to decide on the selects to send to clients. It’s especially hard to narrow down to just ONE favorite to add to the portfolio! Everyone develops their system for how to do this, but I’ve used the Lightroom star rating feature to help me for years.
It’s pretty straightforward. Press the number 1 key for one star, 2 for two, and so on.
The way that I typically use this system is:
One star for all images considered as selects. I then look at only the 1-star selections.
I give 2 stars for any that I like a bit more, and 3 stars for an even higher value.
If I look at only 3-star selections, I have really narrowed things down. A 4-star image is a decided select, and I give 5 stars to images that are ready for export.
The value of learning these shortcuts is difficult to overstate. These are a few of the ones that I use the most, and not all of them may be the perfect tools for you. Whatever it is within Lightroom that you find yourself going back to time and time again, there is probably a keyboard shortcut for it. Find out what it is, and commit it to memory. You’ll be glad that you did!