How to Setup Lightroom Catalog and Useful Keyboard Shortcuts

I wanted to share my best practices when it comes to setting up your Adobe Lightroom Catalog because I think it's very important to start off on the right foot when editing, backup and archiving your photos. Lightroom is an incredible photo editing program that has a ton of features which can become very overwhelming when you are first starting out. I have studied and mastered how I use Lightroom to edit my photos and I wanted to share with you how I prefer to setup my Lightroom Catalogs along with some of my favorite Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts.

I will preface this post but saying that I wouldn't know anything about Lightroom if it wasn't for Jared Platt's Creative Live course Lightroom 101. I bought that course and watched it 3-4x's in a row to truly understand how to setup my catalog and edit my photos as efficiently as possible. I would highly recommend checking out his catalog of courses on Creative Live. I met him once at WPPI and thanked him for helping me and changing my editing workflow process from top to bottom.

How to Setup Your Lightroom Catalog

No. 1 - Create a NEW catalog for each and every job you photograph. Think of a Lightroom catalog as filing cabinet and your photos are the "files" inside. You want to keep all of the folders and files inside one filing cabinet at a time. If you were to keep all of your photos inside the same catalog, archiving and and keeping track of your "files" (aka. your photos) is going to become a hassle and you could get the dreaded question mark (Folder Missing Icon) inside of your catalog. To keep everything organized, I create a new folder for each client and create the same file set inside their folder which includes a Catalog, Images and Print folder. When I am done organizing, editing and exporting the images and have delivered them to my clients, I will archive them to my backup drives and within time, deleted them from my computer. If I were do this while only using one main catalog, I'm going to have a hard time keep track of all the photos that belong to each job. For me, it's peace of mind knowing that everything is in ONE place and can be easily opened, archived, and worked on anywhere without ever missing important photos. 

No. 2 - Turn on Automatic Backups and Write the XMP data for Each Catalog. After you've created your new catalog you should immediate turn on two important functions of Lightroom every single time.

It seems like a no-brainer but turning on Automatic Backup's every time you quit Lightroom is just a extra level of protection for your files. Sometimes catalog's get corrupted but if you've turned on this feature, you can simply go into your Catalog > Backups Folder and simply unzip the last saved backup and start working as if nothing happened. It's 100% worth turning on and takes only a few seconds to complete once you quit the program.

Open Lightroom > Go to the Lightroom Menu > Catalog Settings > In General Tab > Backup > Choose Every Time Lightroom Exits from the drop down menu.

Lightroom Catalog Setup Tips - Automatic Backups

When you are editing photos inside Lightroom (and hopefully your are shooting in RAW) all of the changes you make to the image don't actually touch the image. What's happening is the data is being written to the "sidecar" file which is the XMP file. The XMP data writes on top of your photo like a piece of vellum. It's only a layer that can be easily removed however, Lightroom doesn't automatically process these changes while you are working. Why? I have no idea so you have to tell the program to do this for you thus saving you time and energy if the program were to crash and you lost all your work. Nobody wants that!

Open Lightroom > Go to the Lightroom Menu > Catalog Settings > In General Tab > Metadata > Check the box next to "Automatically Write Changes to XMP". 

Lightroom Catalog Setup Tips - XMP Data.jpg

No. 3 - Build Your 1:1 Previews for every catalog - I'm sure you've heard of Smart Previews when importing your photos into Lightroom. It renders a faster preview of your image so you can edit faster BUT it's still not the fastest. It can still take time to render each image inside of Lightroom thus slowing down your editing time. Your images can look pixelated until Lightroom catches up and processes the file. I find that when I make the Smart Previews upon import, I still need to build my 1:1 Previews to have my images load instantaneously with absolutely no lag time. 

After your images have been imported successfully into Lightroom, select all the images in the Library Module. Next, go to Library Menu > Previews > Build 1:1 Previews. It will take a while for the previews to load so I will go make myself a cup of tea or respond to emails until the process has completed. Once it's done you are ready to edit your images without any rendering or lag time in editing. FINALLY!!

No. 4 - Keyboard Shortcuts - Oh my goodness, Lightroom has a million shortcuts that will become second nature to you the longer you use the program and sometimes they change them on you without warning, which is the worst! 

Keyboard Shortcut: SHIFT + R - REFERENCE VIEW
My favorite keyboard shortcut is the Reference View. You must be in the Develop Module (D key) for this to work. The Reference View creates a split screen inside the Develop Module for you to do a SIDE-by-SIDE edit without having to use the pop up window option anymore. Once it's selected, you can drag your Reference photo on the LEFT and on the right, you can edit and toggle between photos to match your REFERENCE image. It never moves until you drag and drop a new REFERENCE image to use. Seriously, it's the BEST shortcut ever for hybrid photographers like myself or anyone looking to match images. 

Lightroom Catalog Setup Tips - REFERENCE View

Keyboard Shortcut: SHIFT + F - FULL SCREEN MODE
I prefer to use my Lightroom screen to it's fullest capacity which means I do not want to see my menu bar (For Mac Users), my dock, the clock or any other apps while I am editing. So I love the SHIFT + F keyboard shortcuts. They allow me to toggle my screen from being able to see my menu bar, to completely hiding it. It's a great shortcut to help you max the screen space that you have.

There you have it! My favorite Lightroom Catalog tips and setup options I use just about everyday. I hope they were helpful and will save you time and peace of mind in the future. What are some of your favorite Lightroom Tips and Tricks? Any keyboard shortcuts you want to share? Please leave them in the comments below!

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Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Your Photo Editing

I recently received a question from Instagram about outsourcing their wedding photos with an outside digital editor. What did I think about it and would I recommend it? Well, there are definitely pros and cons to outsourcing your digital editing but I think overall, it's a smart investment for any wedding photographer who wants to maximize their time working in the field, meeting new clients and networking with vendors.

For myself, I put off finding a outside digital editor for a long, long time. Originally, I thought I would be giving up control of my photography and it would some how make me less of a professional photographer if I didn't edit my own photos. But then I found out I was having a baby and that perspective changed real quick!! I could no longer sit at my computer for hours anymore because I physically couldn't do it! I realized that I needed help and a digital editor was going to be the best option for me to continue to run my business with the same level of customer service post baby. Honestly, looking back, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made about my wedding photography business and I wish I would have done it much sooner.

As I began my search, I tried a full service editing house that was recommended by a friend. This type of editing service employs lots of digital editors who rotate through jobs and edit your work. After receiving my completed galleries, I soon realized that I wasn't happy with my end results. Unfortunately, I wasn't getting consistent results and had to re-edit my wedding catalog, which defeats the entire purpose of hiring someone else to do it for you. Next, I contacted a boutique wedding editor who works with a small number of clients each year and could give me one-on-one attention. After many consultations about my style, I decided to part ways with my new editor because things just weren't working out. I constantly had to re-edit my weddings which became very frustrating.  So, I began my search once again and this time I looked for someone who specialized in matching digital to film photography. Since I am a hybrid shooter, this is what really matters most to me. Someone who is OBSESSED with color matching as much as I am and I'm happy to say that I finally found the right match - HOORAY!! It took roughly 2-3 weddings for us to figure out our groove, but now my final lightroom catalogues come back perfect and I barely have to touch them. Of course I still do a final review of the gallery, make my black and white selects prior to exporting and delivering my images to my couple. I always cull and put my catalogues together before sending them out for editing. As the photographer, I know the order of events always recommend that the photographers cull their own images. I would never outsource that out to anyone. However, 0utsourcing my digital editing has been a HUGE benefit and overall time saver for myself and my business.

Pros vs. Cons

Pro - Time is Money - We've all heard the saying but it's true. Before I had a baby, I had a lot of time to edit my wedding photos on my own but after my daughter was born, that all changed. I was now paying for childcare and sitting at my desk for hours so I could edit my weddings was clearly the wrong investment for me. Outsourcing was the best solution for me and even thought it was another financial investment, I gained more time to focus on my clients, booking new weddings, marketing, meeting potential and current couples, taking more photography jobs and networking with vendors. This is a biggest pro because the time I would have spent editing, I can now grow and expand my business.

Con - It's Expensive - The biggest con is that it's expensive. It can cost you anywhere from .29 to .39 an image and if you have a large gallery, it adds up very quickly. Of course you can find someone who will charge you less but they might be as good, so be sure to do your research and ask for recommendations. 

Con - Finding the Right Person Takes Time - Just like finding your mate, it can take a lot of time to find the right digital editor for you. You might have to do a few trials with several different editing houses or boutique editors till you find the right match. 

Con - Fixing Your Work - Of course it's a bummer but it happens. If you send out your wedding gallery and it comes back less than stellar, you are going to have to still sit down to re-edit and fix your photos. If your editor doesn't offer re-edits, this is a waste of time and money for you. 

Outsourcing Resource Guide:

Editing House:
Shoot Dot Edit -
Raw Digital Film Lab -

Boutique Editors:
Edit Source -
Edited By Artists -

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