Want to Get More Out of Lightoom? Try These 5 Features

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Lightroom is an awesome tool for organizing and editing photos, but some of its useful features and functionalities are easy to overlook. In this article we’ll take a quick look at 5 useful features that you may not be using.

1. Smart Collections

While Lightroom’s features and functionality for processing and editing photos are amazing and extremely useful, its organizational features are really what sets it apart. Lightroom’s catalogs and collections organizing structure can be a little confusing at first, but once you understand how it works and you decide on your ideal workflow, it can be amazingly powerful. (If you’re no familiar with Lightroom’s catalogs and collections please see this article.)

Lightroom actually has two different types of collections that you can use to organize your photos: regular collections and smart collections. With regular collections you will create the collection, give it a name, and choose which photos you want to add to it. For example, a wedding photographer may create a new collection for each wedding and then add the photos to the collection when they are being imported. With smart collections you will not be able to manually add or remove photos from the collection. Instead, you will set the criteria for the smart collection and photos will be included or excluded in the smart collection based on whether they meet that criteria.

Lightroom gives us a lot of different options and possibilities for smart collections, but this organizational method is often overlooked. To set up a smart collection you will click on the icon to create a new collection:

Then select “Create Smart Collection” and it will open the window shown below.

From here you will be able to set up rules that will be used to determine what photos will be included in your smart collection. You can set it to require a match to all or any of the rules. If you set it to “any” a photo will be included in the smart collection if it matches one or more of the rules that you set up. If you choose to require a match to “all” it will only include it in the smart collection if it meets every one of the rules that you set up.

You can choose things like the rating of the photo, the flag or color label used, the label text, the date of the photo, the camera used, the lens used, the shutter speed, the aperture, the location, any other metadata, and more. There are all kinds of possibilities here. For example, if you sometimes use a specialty lens like a fisheye you could create a smart collection that would automatically include all photos taken with that lens. Or maybe you use a particular color label to mark your photos that are part of a sequence to be stitched for panoramas, so you could create a smart collection based on that color label.

How you use smart collections is up to you and what works best with your workflow, but most Lightroom users could benefit by taking advantage of smart collections in one way or another.

2. Virtual Copies

You can easily create a virtual copy of any image, which can be handy for a few different reasons. One scenario where I find myself using virtual copies a lot is when I already have a photo edited in a way that I like, but at some point I come back to it and I want to experiment with some different settings or technique. I find the easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is to create a virual copy of the image and then work on the virtual copy so I can leave the finished photo in its current state. Sure, you could edit the existing photo and use snapshots or the history panel to revert back to the other version, but I find it to be a little easier just to have two different versions of the photo instead. That way when I am quickly browsing through a collection I can see both versions of the image and I don’t need to go in and see if there are any snapshots.

To create a virtual copy all you need to do is right click on the photo and then select “Create Virtual Copy”. When you are browsing you can identify a virtual copy by the corner that appears to be folded over, as shown below.

3. Snapshots

While I like using virtual copies, snapshots can also be extremely useful. By creating snapshots during your editing process you will be able to go back later and access the photo at that exact stage without needing to go back through the history and try to find the right spot. You can create a snapshot at any time, and you can have multiple snapshots for a photo. To create a snapshot simply click on the icon shown below.

By default, as shown in the image above, Lightroom will use the date and time for the name of your snapshot. To make it more useful give it a descriptive name of the state of the photo and it will be easier when you need to go back and find the right snapshot.

4. Sync

It’s very common that you will have several photos taken in the same location, same lighting, and of the same subject. It could be a portrait session that includes a string of 10 photos that all very similar, a still life session with many photos of the same subject in the same light, several wildlife photos taken in very quick succession, or any other string of multiple photos that are very similar. Most likely you will not be keeping or using all of these similar photos, but in order to know which one you like best it can be helpful to see them all edited. But you don’t want to take time processing 10 different photos just to immediately wind up getting rid of 9 of them. The sync button is the solution.

In Lightroom’s Develop Module when you have multiple images selected on the film strip you will see the sync button appear.

Clicking the sync button will apply the settings from the first photo to all of the other selected photos. So if you have 10 very similar photos you can go through the process of editing the first one, then select all of the 10 photos on the film strip, click sync, and those settings will be applied to all of the selected photos. Now you can see the edited version of each photo and decide which one is best.

5. Quick Develop

I love Lightroom’s Develop Module, and most of my time in Lightroom is spent there. However, when I’m not in the Develop Module I am most likely in the Library Module. Did you know that from the Library Module you can also do some editing and developing? The Quick Develop settings allow you to do basic editing without ever leaving the Library Module. You can apply a preset, convert to black & white, adjust the white balance, adjust the exposure, adjust the contrast, and more. If you’re in the Library Module and you want to make some simple changes it can be faster to use Quick Develop than to move over to the Develop Module.

If you are not currently using these five features/functionalities of Lightroom try them out and see how they can impact your workflow.