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4th March 2020

Boost Your Photo Editing Workflow with These Essential Lightroom Hotkeys

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Adobe Lightroom offers numerous keyboard shortcuts to help speed up the editing process. Although it will be beyond the capabilities of most users to remember them all, committing a dozen or so of the most useful Lightroom hotkeys to memory will save an enormous amount of time. In this post I share a few of the Lightroom shortcuts I use most often in my own  food photography editing workflow, so you can incorporate them into your own.

Boost your photo editing workflow with these Lightroom hotkeys

Why Use Lightroom Hotkeys?

Laboriously working your way through endless drop-down menus and pop-up windows is tedious. But the advantage of Lightroom hotkeys is not just a matter of preserving your sanity; it’s also a question of professionalism. When food photography is your job, every minute counts.

And, as the saying goes, time is money. So time wasted in Lightroom can also swing a potentially profitable job to the wrong side of the balance sheet. This is particularly the case at the start of your career as a food photographer, when budgets are often tight and the line between a profitable and loss-making job can be very fine indeed.

Here are my favorite Lightroom hotkeys for when working in the Develop Module.

Want to grab them to have on hand any time? Download my free Lightroom Hotkeys guide!

Crop Tool 

Lightroom’s Crop tool offers numerous keyboard shortcuts for saving time. Of these, I regularly make use of a good half a dozen or so.

Shortcut: Go to Crop Tool

Hotkey(s): R (Mac/Windows)

Wherever you are in Lightroom, pressing the hotkey R will take you directly to the Crop Tool in the Develop Module.

Shortcut: Switch Between Landscape and Portrait Crop

Hotkey(s): X (Mac/Win)

Once you’re in the Crop window, pressing the hotkey X will let you switch between horizontal and vertical cropping, maintaining the original aspect ratio.

Shortcut: Constrain Aspect Ratio

Hotkey(s): A (Mac/Win)

Pressing Lightroom hotkey A toggles the lock on the aspect ratio, allowing you to either preserve the aspect ratio of the file you are cropping or to manually select any shape and size of crop you wish.

Shortcut: Crop to Same Aspect Ration

Hotkey(s): Shift A (Mac/Win)

Holding Shift and A together allows you to zoom the crop window to any size you want while still retaining the original aspect ratio.

Shortcut: Cycle Guide Overlay

Hotkey(s): O (Mac/Win)

Lightroom offers various overlays (grids, golden ratio, thirds etc.) to help with composition while cropping. You can quickly cycle through these options by repeatedly pressing the O key.

Shortcut: Overlay Orientation

Hotkey(s): Shift O (Mac/Win)

And, finally, hitting Shift and O will allow you to quickly toggle the orientation of the overlays.

Want a quick guide to save these shortcuts for easy reference later? Then Download my free Lightroom Classic Hotkeys Guide for Food Photographers

Before/After Previews 

While Lightroom has dedicated Before/After buttons at the bottom left of the Develop module, there are also a number of quick shortcuts to make accessing the Preview options much simpler and more effective.  

Shortcut: Toggle Before/After

Hotkey(s): \ (Mac/Win)

Hitting the backslash (\) key will show you the Before image on a big screen; hitting it a second time will show you your After image equally large. Very handy!

Shortcut: Left/Right

Hotkey(s): Y (Mac/Win)

Want to view your Before and After versions of the image together, split between left and right? Hit Y.

Shortcut: Top/Bottom

Hotkey(s): Opt Y (Mac), Alt Y (Win)

This shortcut will make the split horizontal rather than vertical.

Professional food photographer, Lauren Short, sitting on a sofa holding her camera and looking at her laptop during the photo editing process.


Shortcut: Move Slider Values by Larger or Smaller Increments

Hotkey(s): Shift while using = or + or (Mac/Win)

Rather than struggling to adjust sliders with your finger, mouse, or trackpad, tapping the up or down arrows while pressing Shift will permit you to make much more precise adjustments.


Shortcut: Create Snapshot

Hotkey(s): Cmd N (Mac), Ctrl N (Win)

Once you’ve edited an image to a point where you think that it works, but still want to be free to explore other editing options before deciding on the final version, Snapshots are a great way of saving your settings. Hit Cmd N on a Mac (or Ctrl N on a PC) and Lightroom will save a retrievable version of your current settings, so you can instantly get back to the exact same point again later down the line.

Clipping Indicators

Shortcut: Show Clipping

Hotkey(s): J (Mac/Win)

Pressing the Lightroom shortcut J allows you to view any areas of your image that might be clipping, with blown-out highlights displayed in red, and clipped shadows shown as blue.

Shortcut: Temporarily Show Clipping

hold Opt while moving slider (Mac) hold Alt while moving slider (Win)

Alternatively, when adjusting sliders such as the Whites, Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, or Exposure controls, hold down Opt (Mac) or Alt (Win) and you’ll get to see in real time any clipping that’s occurring to your file.

Lauren Short, a professional food photographer and educator, stands behind her camera tripod as she photographs some cupcakes a table.

Local Adjustments

Shortcut: Overlay Color

Hotkey(s): O (Mac/Win)

By default, the Adjustment brush will overlay as red. While this works fine for most editing situations, it will become a lot less clear if you’re ever faced with editing an image that is itself predominantly red. To change to a more convenient overlay colour, hit O.

Shortcut: Cycle Through Overlay Color

Hotkey(s): Shift O (Mac/Win)

To cycle through the available overlay colors, hold down Shift while pressing O.

Now a few handy hotkeys that will help you tweak your masking for much greater precision and speed.

Shortcut: Increase Brush Size

Hotkey(s): ] (Mac/Win)

Hitting ] will give you a bigger brush…

Shortcut: Decrease Brush Size

Hotkey(s): [ (Mac/Win)

…while [ will make it smaller.

Shortcut: Constrain Brush to Straight Line

Hotkey(s): Shift while clicking or dragging (Mac/Win)

And if, like me, you struggle to control your brush when drawing straight lines, you’ll likely find this Lightroom shortcut super handy: hold down Shift while clicking or dragging a brush and it will be forced to produce only perfectly straight lines.

Shortcut: Toggle Auto Mask

Hotkey(s): A (Mac/Win)

Lightroom’s Automask feature really speeds up the selection process. But you won’t necessarily want it on all the time. Hitting the hotkey A toggles this feature super quickly, saving you from having to go into the brushes window in order to manually turn it on or off.

Edit in Photoshop

Shortcut: Edit in Photoshop

Hotkey(s): Cmd E (Mac) Ctrl E (Win)

And to finish off, a shortcut I make a huge amount of use of; and so will you if you often switch back and forth between editing in Lightroom and Photoshop, as you can save a lot of time by quickly pressing the Edit in Photoshop hotkey.

Phew, we made it! Those are my favourite Lightroom Classic keyboard shortcuts I use all the time to make my workflow quicker. I’ve put all these shortcuts into a convenient guide for you, so you can print it and keep it right by your computer, or keep it saved for easy reference:

For more photo editing tips, check out my recent post on editing colour in Lightroom along with 5 big Lightroom mistakes (and how to avoid them).

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Dyanne Kruger
4 years ago

Love Lr hotkeys! One of my favorite Lightroom hotkey tips it seems few know about: When using the Spot Remover tool (Q) and you click on a spot you want to clone or heal – Lr automatically chooses a nearby spot (the same size as your brush). The tool is exceedingly smart and 99% of the time it chooses a matching replacement. But sometimes it doesn’t choose the best replacement. SO.. If you hit the “/” hot key – the tool will automatically move to a new suggested replacement circle. By repeatedly clicking the “/” hotkey, the replacement circle will… Read more »

4 years ago

Love this post Lauren! I knew most of these, but the snapshots (which I make a ton of) hotkey will be such a time saver for me! Same for the edit in Photoshop.

BTW, when you do edit in photoshop, do you edit as a psd?

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