9 essential tricks for batch editing in Lightroom – speed up your workflow


Adobe Lightroom library module in grid view

It’s no secret that I’d rather be photographing than editing, so if there’s a way for me to speed up my post production workflow, you can be sure that I’ll use it! That’s why batch editing in Lightroom is without a doubt the best thing since sliced bread!

Batch editing photos speeds up post production workflow so much, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of this Lightroom feature.

What is batch editing?

Batch editing, also called batch processing, is a quick way to process photos by applying the same edits to multiple photos at once. You can apply just one or several edits across all selected photos with just a couple of clicks.

When can’t you use Lightroom batch editing?

This might be stating the obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. With most of these batch editing tips, you need to bear in mind that they apply to similar photos taken during a shoot.

It makes sense that if you edit an image for a particular setting and lighting, it will have a particular set of edits. So you can sync the edits only to other images taken in that setting, with that lighting.

The exceptions are post-crop vignetting, batch editing presets. We’ll get to how and why later.

8 images that can't be batch processed because of changing light

This was a 2 hour natural light shoot. The light changed during the shoot from sunny to very overcast. It was also a constantly changing background, because of the nature of the shoot. As a result many batch editing functions weren’t possible across all photos.

Example of three portraits that can't be batch edited together

These are from 3 separate shoots, but I used the same lens, camera, flash and light modifier for all shoots. The difference is the background, time of day, time of year and different natural light. Again, batch editing these would not be practical, as you can see from the basic editing settings below.

Lightroom basic panels for 3 different shoots

My 9 most used Lightroom batch edits are:

  1. Tone curve
  2. Basic – white balance, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, texture, clarity, dehaze, vibrance, saturation
  3. Color – color profiles, HSL, color grading, calibration
  4. Masking and spot removal
  5. Cropping
  6. Post-crop vignetting
  7. Noise reduction
  8. Sharpening
  9. Batch apply presets

Yes, you read it right – you can apply a preset to all your photos at once! It works a little differently from the other batch processing methods, so I’ve left it to the end.

Synchronize settings of Lightroom batch editing with all boxes cleared

How batch editing in Lightroom works – the steps

Once you know how to use batch editing for one aspect of post production, it’s really easy to do it for the other editing functions, because the method is largely the same.

Follow these steps for the first 9 types of batch edits in the Develop Module:

  1. Process the first image in a series of similar photos
  2. In the filmstrip, select the processed image
  3. Hold down shift and click on the last image in the series
  4. All the images in between will now be selected
  5. At the bottom of the right hand panel, click on “Sync” (if in the Develop Module) or “Sync Settings” (if in the Library Module)
  6. Click “Check None” (it’s good practice to clear any possible check boxes this way so that you don’t accidentally copy across other settings)
  7. Select the setting you want to copy
  8. Click “Synchronize”

If the images you want to batch edit aren’t next to each other, it’s just as easy:

  1. Click on your processed image
  2. Hold down Command (or Control if on a PC) and select the similar images you want to batch edit
  3. Then follow steps 5 – 8 above

Now let’s get into the details of when, why and how to use each of these Lightroom batch editing tools.

Tone curve sync settings for batch processing in Lightroom

1. Tone curve

I used to edit photos in the order that the panels appear in the Develop Module, starting with basics, but I now apply a tone curve first. So it’s also the first bit of batch editing I do when processing a shoot.

It’s also one of the easiest batch edits you can do in Lightroom.

Basic adjustments checked in menu to batch edit

2. Basic panel batch edits

This is a game changer for speeding up workflow.

If you do no other type of post production, the Lightroom Basic panel batch edits are essential. Especially for wedding photographers, who take a huge number of photos over the course of the day and evening.

Just make sure that the light and exposure are the same for all the photos you select.

This is also why you shouldn’t use Auto White Balance – it will change from one photo to the next. You can’t batch edit the white balance in a bunch of photos with different white balance settings.

Now is a good time to point out that you don’t need to check every one of the boxes under a main one to sync settings just check the main box.

Also, if you want to batch edit, for example, just the highlights and shadows settings across a group of images, then select only those boxes.

Check boxes for batch editing color in Lightroom sync settings

3. Color

I’ve grouped the color settings together, because you need to be aware of the same things for all these settings, but you definitely don’t have to do them all together.

Light and image colors are the big things to watch out for before syncing any color settings. So make sure that they’re the same across your series of photos before you batch edit color.

Further reading: What is color grading – Lightroom color grading

4. Masking and spot removal

Again, I’ve grouped these two together, because you need to be careful with both of these batch edits.

Masks to sync to other photos in batch processing

Note the mask names that I applied also appear in the batch edit menu under masking, making it easy to select them.

Masking

Creating a linear gradient mask or a radial gradient mask (used to be called the graduated filter and the radial filter) and syncing the adjustments across similar images is ideal when your subject doesn’t move around too much. If they do move, however, it’s till faster to batch edit and then adjust per image, than to start from scratch for each image.

The brush mask (used to be called adjustment brush) is a bit more specific, so there aren’t many situations where I find this useful. The only exception is if I’ve adjusted something over a broad area (instead of using the radial or gradient masks).

Sync settings for batch editing masking

Spot removal

Copying the same spot removal edits across images is most useful for removing something from the background when you’ve shot with your camera on a tripod. It’ll be in the same place in each image, so syncing the adjustment over the series of images makes sense.

I wouldn’t use it in any other situation.

5. Batch cropping images

Cropping is one of the more fussy batch editing tools, unless you photograph with your camera mounted on a tripod. If not, you’ll have moved slightly for each frame, which makes copying the exact crop across to other images less effective.

BUT, aside from just cropping a little tighter than shot, I actually batch crop images more than I realise to:

  • Change orientation of a series of similar images
  • Straighten a set of photos

Original 4 portraits before batch crop in Lightroom

In this series of images the model’s shirt doesn’t look good (untucked on one side), so I cropped to change the orientation from portrait to landscape and applied the edit across all similar images.

4 similar portraits batch cropped from portrait to landscape

I have a bad habit of over-rotating the camera when photographing in portrait orientation, especially if I’m photographing in an odd position, like lying on the ground. Plus I’m fussy about images being straight!

The fastest way to fix a series of wonky images in Lightroom is to batch edit cropping.

How to batch crop images

After cropping the first photo I sync the setting across to the other images. Then I slightly adjust each one if necessary.

It’s a bit of a fiddle, but it takes less time than cropping each image from scratch.

3 protraits batch cropped in Lightroom for faster workflow

6. Post-crop vignetting

I use this Lightroom batch editing technique a lot! I often put a very slight vignette on my images to draw the eye in to the subject.

In the example below, I’ve gone heavy on the vignette so that it’s easy for you to see.

four similar portraits that have been cropped using batch editing

The beauty of this technique is that, as the name says, it’s applied post-crop. So, regardless of what you’ve done to the images and whether they’re portrait or landscape orientation, the same vignette settings will be applied across all selected images.

Could not be easier.

How cropping doesn't affect batch editing post-crop vignette

7. Noise reduction

Batch editing noise reduction in Lightroom is also a breeze!

Just make sure that you select photos needing the same amount of noise reduction.

8. Sharpening

I leave sharpening for last, because how much I sharpen an image depends on if I:

  • Cropped it
  • Applied noise reduction

similar portraits that can't be batch sharpened

It’s also a bit more fiddly than most Lightroom batch edits, because how much your subject fills the frame will determine how much sharpening you may want to apply. If you examine the edge detail of the below screenshots from the sharpen tool you can see that the close up one has more detail (naturally) than the other.

screen shot of sharpening tool open on two different portraits

So make sure to select the same type of images (in terms of how much they fill the frame) to batch edit sharpening.

9. How to batch edit Lightroom presets

This one will save you a ton of work if you regularly use Lightroom presets in post production. It’s so easy!

Instead of working in the Develop Module, to batch edit Lightroom presets you need to go to the Library Module.

Lightroom menu for batching presets

  • Select all the images you want to apply the preset to
  • At the top of the right hand panel under Quick Develop you’ll see Saved Preset
  • Click the two triangles next to the first box
  • From the drop down menu select the preset you want to apply

It’s that simple!

Leave a comment

If you have any questions about how to do batch editing in Lightroom, let us know in the comments.

Also, we love good news, so if these Lightroom editing tips have helped you to speed up your workflow, share that too.

Jane Allan

Jane is the founder of The Lens Lounge and a professional portrait photographer living on the “sunny” south coast of England. Obsessed with light and composition. Will put her camera down to go landsailing.

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