Photographers face an uphill task at the end of a shoot to sort out their pictures. Using a positive editing process in Lightroom has transformed my editing and particularly speed up my ability to turn supply clients with the selected images quickly after a shoot.

Positive editing process

positive editing process

Using survey mode to find the image that grabs your attention first (click for larger version)

positive editing process – more rewarding and faster editing
In the past I used to find the good pictures by first identifying the rubbish ones, I now call this negative editing. It’s like a slap in the face every time you consign another picture to the reject pile. At the end you filter away the rubbish to see what’s left and then maybe do another round of negative editing. Positive editing is the process of simply finding the best pictures, the left overs are rejects automatically.

With the number of pictures being taken the number that never see the light of day increases. If you take 800 pictures and only need 40, you need a 5% success rate. It’s much more rewarding, and faster, to spend time just identifying the best 5% rather than eliminating the the worst 95% to leave the good stuff.

At the recent Oxford Fashion Week catwalk shows I used positive editing to help speed up my selection of images from each fashion catwalk show. Shooting up to 800 pictures at each nights event and needing to supply images for Oxford Fashion Week for their social media and PR use as soon as possible after each event.

Lightroom keyboard shortcuts speed up the edit

I make a selection of images of a model on the catwalk, this might be as few as 4 pictures or  as many as 12. Then press the N key for survey mode (or N-up mode as I remember it). I also hide the Lightroom side panels using <SHIFT> <TAB> to give me the most free screen space. My screen is set for 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution, and 12 pictures is plenty, if you have less resolution then you might need to see less pictures each time.

In survey mode I simply look for a picture that jumps out from the set of images, if it’s caught my eye there must be something about it – composition or content. I then hit the P key to pick that image. I’m not zooming in to check focus on any images at this point in the process.

Then it’s a press of the G key to return to the grid to be able to select the next set. There you press <CMD> D to deselect the previous images and select a new group of pictures. Press N to go back to survey mode and make another pick.

Assuming I have 800 pictures and show about 8 to 10 on a typical screenful I’ll need to hit the P key 100 times at most.

Once this initial cull is completed I simply filter so that only the picked images are shown. At this point I will usually quickly check focus on the images, removing the pick flag by pressing U (unflag).

After this I know that I have good – eye catching pictures and they are in focus. I quickly look to see if there are any of these that are better than similar others and add a star to the best. Then I filter on the starred images and that’s my selection to get quickly processed in the develop module and batch exported with the required logo on the corner and sized for 1500 pixels on the long edge.

Lightroom keyboard shortcuts you should know

  • G = switches to the Grid or Library view
  • N = Survey mode (or N-up mode as I remember it)
  • P = Pick an image and add the pick flag to it
  • U = Unpick an image
  • <SHIFT> <TAB> = hide the side panels from the view allowing the maximum space for pictures
  • <CMD> D / <CTRL> D = deselect images


See some of my pictures in this post about Oxford Fashion Week

About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag