5 Lightroom tools you aren't using (but probably should be)

If you are a photographer, Lightroom is likely one of your best friends. This one program is simply the best for accomplishing what most wedding and portrait photographers need in order to efficiently and beautifully do their work. 

I've been using this program for a little over three years and while I am in NO WAY an expert, I have found a few tools and tricks that I simply LOVE and can't live without every time I use LR to organize or edit my photos. 

Today, I'm sharing my favorite things in Lightroom with you! If you are already using them, rock on...but if they are new for you then I hope you end up loving them as much as I do!

best lightroom tools


  • Gradient Tool

  • Straighten tool (angle)

  • Sync

  • Smart Collections

  • Paint Can

First up...


This just might be my favorite editing tool. I'm not a huge fan of dated vignettes, but I love darkening (or brightening) the edges of images to really make the subject pop. 

Using a gradient tool you can control the direction of the effect, only apply it to one side, it doesn't have to be uniform (so it looks more natural) and you can "erase" some of the effect if it ends up on your subject. 

Below, the first image is a SOOC (straight out of camera) image and the second is the finished edit with a slight darkening gradient applied to both the upper right and left sides of the image. 


You can see in the screenshot below what it looks like when you have pressed O when using the gradient tool. It shows you where the effect is taking place. 



I can not shoot straight to save my life. I know that for some a little artistic "crookedness" is something photographers like, but in all honesty the type A in me comes out when I see a crooked horizon and I can't help but fix it. 

Luckily LR has the most awesome tool ever for people like me who love them some straight lines. Its called the straighten tool, and you access it by clicking on the crop icon and then clicking on the little thing that looks like a level and says Angle next to it. 

Then all you do is draw a line against the horizon in your photo and LR will auto straighten out your photo. It is seriously like magic. I used it also in the above photo and I drew it on the ground behind them where the tree is on the left hand side. Viola! 


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Sync is certainly one of the more popular features in LR but it's one that I don't think I had discovered until I had been working in LR for almost a year!!! Oh the time I could have saved if I knew about it sooner!!

Its very straightforward. You apply edits to one photo and then you can select other photos, click sync and then all of those edits will be synced across all of the photos you selected. Its an amazingly fast way to apply the exact same edits to multiple (even hundreds) of photos in literally one click. More in the video below! 


Smart collections are one more awesome way to organize photos in Lightroom in order to quickly find or group together photos that you want to have all in the same place. 

In each session you can rate or color code your photos or add keywords and you can group things that way, but if you want to create a whole collection of photos based on one of those labels you can do that in smart collections as well! 

For example, let's say you color code purple all of your behind the scenes shots from weddings. You can create a smart collection that will include all photos labeled with the color purple for super quick and easy access. Then you can export from there for a blog post or whatever else you might need them for! 



OK, last but not least, the paint can. You can find this in Library module in between your film strip and the photos. This is a way for you to quickly rate photos however you want to rate them. 

For example, I like to rate all of my "keepers" a 1 star. So I can activate the paint can, "load it up" with a 1 star rating, and then all I have to do as I am going through the photos is click on the photo I want to have that rating. No right clicking and choosing....it just changes the rating or label to whatever you have selected in the paint can. 

Then let's say I want to go through and label all of the ring shots with "red", I can load up the paint can with red and then click on every ring shot and it will change it to red. Brilliant! 


And if you are looking for a step by step tutorial of everything I included above, just check out the video below! I go over all 5 of these tools in LR and show you exactly how they are all done! 

  • Paint Can: 1:02

  • Straighten tool: 3:20

  • Smart Collections: 7:20

  • Gradient tool: 10:40

  • Sync: 18:05

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