How to copy settings in Lightroom Classic in 4 steps (plus 2 unknown tricks)


I’ve often wondered why you would copy settings in Lightroom Classic rather than “synchronize” settings. So I looked for the answer online, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Now that I’ve figured it out, I realise that it’s actually a really clever tool. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First I’ll explain how to copy settings in Lightroom Classic so that it makes sense when I show you how it differs from syncing settings and when to use it. Plus, I discovered two hidden tricks that nobody is talking about, so I’ve included them too.

How to copy settings in Lightroom Classic

2 ways to copy and paste settings in Lightroom

In the Develop Module there are different ways (long and short) to copy and paste settings:

  • Long – use the mouse to click a button, a menu in the top bar, or right click
  • Short – use keyboard shortcut keys

Copy and paste keyboard shortcut keys

I’m a big fan of using keyboard shortcuts to speed up workflow in Lightroom, if you are too you’ll want to know what is the shortcut key for copy and pasting in Lightroom:

  • Shortcut key for copying settings: Command + Alt +C (Mac) Control + Alt + C (Windows)
  • Shortcut key for pasting settings: Command + Alt +V (Mac) Control + Alt + V (Windows)

At first this might not seem like a time saver, but when processing hundreds of photos, the fewer mouse clicks you perform, the faster you’ll process.

If these shortcuts sound familiar, it’s because these are the same keyboard shortcuts you’d use to copy and paste in any other program, like Word, Excel etc.

But there’s an even faster way of copying and pasting to multiple photos that nobody seems to know. I’ll show you how in a moment.

Further reading: 28 essential Lightroom shortcuts that will speed up your workflow

Lightroom interface with active photo
To make the edit obvious on our example image for this Lightroom tutorial I’ve taken the white balance all the way to the right, turning the photo blue. This is the edit we’ll copy to other photos

How to copy settings in Lightroom Classic

You can copy settings from one photo to another or from one photo to many photos at once, depending on which method you use. Here’s how to copy and paste settings in 4 easy steps

Copy button in Lightroom Classic

Step 1 – Select copy settings

Once you’ve made edits to an image, with the active photo selected in the Develop Module, open the copy settings window, aka dialog box. Do this with either the copy shortcut key (Cmd+Alt+C) or click the copy button at the bottom of the left panel.

examples of how to select copy settings in Lightroom

Step 2 – Select edits to copy

Select the develop settings to copy by checking the relevant boxes. But read this first…

To avoid accidentally copying settings you don’t want to copy, I highly recommend first clicking the Check None button to clear all the check boxes. Then check the boxes of the develop settings you want.

Or select all the edit settings within a collection of check boxes by checking the title box. You’ll see that the check boxes are grouped by panels. The check boxes under the Basics relate to the sliders and editing tools in the Basic panel of the Develop Module, like white balance, exposure, etc. Likewise Detail, Lens Correction etc. You can also uncheck the whole panel by checking the title box.

If you’re sure that you want to copy all the develop settings, including crop, click the Check All button. This is also handy if you want to check almost all develop settings as it’s easier to check all and deselect a few than to manually check most boxes.

Now click the blue copy button to copy selected edits.

Develop module showing previous button change to sync button
On the left, the Lightroom Develop module interface showing one image selected in the film strip and the “Previous” button in the right panel. In the screenshot on the right multiple images are selected and you can see the “Previous” button now reads “Sync”

Step 3 – Select images to copy settings to

To copy your edits across a series of photographs, or just one image, select the individual images or series of images that you want to copy them to.

To select multiple images you can either:

  • Select a series of consecutive images – click on the first image, hold down the shift key, click on the last image in the series.
  • Select multiple images not next to each other – hold down Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) then click on the individual images you want to copy the settings to.

Paste button in Lightroom

Step 4 – Paste settings to selected images

You have three options to paste copied settings from an edited photo to your selected images ONE IMAGE AT A TIME:

  1. Click Settings in the menu bar at the top, then select Paste Settings from the drop down menu
  2. Click the Paste button at the bottom of the left side panel in the Devleop Module
  3. Or use the keyboard shortcut (Cmd+Alt+V) to paste selected settings

With the batch of photos selected click on one photo at a time to make it the active photo to copy settings to. The active photo will have a lighter gray surround than the other photos.

How to use mouse to copy settings
How to use the mouse to right click and then batching copy and paste settings to multiple photos at once using the drop down menu.

UNKOWN TRICK NO. 1

To paste copied settings to MULTIPLE IMAGES AT ONCE (fastest option when batch editing):

  • Right click your mouse
  • Scroll down to Develop Settings
  • Then in the next drop down menu select Paste Settings

Now the edit settings of your original photo will be copied across ALL the images you selected.

Undo drop down menu in develop module
How to use the top menu bar to undo a previous action. Or you can use Cmd Alt Z (Mac) Cntrl Alt Z (Windows)

Undo or Reset images in Lightroom

If you realize that you copied settings to a photo you didn’t want to copy them to, like with other programs, you have the most used keyboard shortcut key to undo what you’ve just done. It’s Command + Alt + Z .

Or do it the long way by clicking Edit in the menu at the top and then selecting Undo from the drop down menu. Life saver!

Reset button in Lightroom

Or, worst case scenario, you can reset an image back to its original state before any edits were made by:

  • Clicking the Reset button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop Module
  • Or with the keyboard shortcut: Command + Shift + R (Mac), Control + Shift + R (Windows).
Previous button in Lightroom Classic
When one image is selected to paste settings to the button reads “Previous”

Another way to copy edit settings – Previous button

I don’t use this often, because there’s less control than with the first method, but it’s worth knowing as it can also save a lot of time in post production.

You can copy edit settings of the last photo you clicked in the Filmstrip to a current image with the click of a button. Just one button in the Develop Module.

  • Click the Previous button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop Module

As you can see, it’s one of the quickest ways to paste develop settings to a single photo from a previous photo. But be careful as it’ll copy ALL the settings of the previously selected image across to the next photo.

Sync button in Lightroom Classic
When more than one image is selected to paste settings to the button says “Sync”

Quick tip about the previous button

When you select more than one photo in the Filmstrip to copy the settings to, the Previous button changes to the Sync button. It then becomes more than just a one button operation, because clicking that opens up the synchronize settings dialog box where you need to select/deselect develop settings to sync, just like you would with the copy settings dialog box.

How to use right click mouse to paste settings
You can copy and paste settings in Lightroom library module almost as easily as in the develop module. The only tool you can’t use the is the keyboard shortcut method

How to copy settings in Lightroom Library Module

We’ve concentrated on copying and pasting settings in the Develop Module only so far, because this is where you’d do most of your editing. However, you can also copy settings in the Library Module.

  • Click Photo in the menu bar at the top
  • In the drop down menu that opens up click Develop Settings
  • From the next drop down menu click Copy Settings
  • As in the Develop Module, check the boxes you want to copy and click the Copy button

Lightroom Library module top menu bar

Now you’re ready to paste the edit settings to an individual image or batch of images. So, after selecting images to copy to:

  • Click Photo in the menu bar at the top again
  • In the drop down menu that opens up click Develop Settings
  • From the next drop down menu click Paste Settings

Or you can right click your mouse to copy edit settings to multiple photos at once in the Library Module, just like in the Develop Module.

Using menu bar to copy and paste edits
How to use the menu bar to copy settings in the Library module. Left screenshot: multiple images selected. Right screenshot: one image selected. When multiple images are selected click the Sync Settings button to paste edits (if not using the menu bar method). The Sync button in the library module is for syncing metadata, not develop settings.

Another difference between the Library module and the Develop module is the Sync buttons when multiple photos are selected for batch editing. Clicking Sync in the Library module opens the metadata dialog box.

To copy and paste settings in the Library module you need to click the Sync Settings button next to the Sync button at the bottom of the right panel. It’s confusing, because the Sync button automatically appears selected as it’s in light gray, but ignore it.

Keyboard shortcuts don’t work for copy and paste in the Library Module.

local adjustment tools
Local adjustments tool bar in the Develop module showing, from left to right: crop, healing brush, red eye reduction, masks

Lightroom edit settings you shouldn’t copy or sync

Whether you copy settings or sync settings from one photo to a single image or a batch of photos, there are a few settings you should be very careful about copying. I’d even go so far as to make a habit of checking that they’re not selected. They’re the local adjustments made to the source image, including:

  • Cropping
  • Spot removal (aka healing brush tool)
  • Local adjustment brush

The position of these edits will almost always vary from one photo to the next in portrait photography, even if they’re very similar photos. The only time they’ll be exactly the same is when both the subject and the camera haven’t moved from one shot to the next, like in product photography.

Further reading: Use the Lightroom spot removal tool for much more than spot removal

Why use copy settings in Lightroom Classic?

As I said at the start of this Lightroom tutorial, when I first learned how to use copy settings in Lightroom Classic, I thought, well that’s just like synchronize settings. Why have two tools that do the same thing?

The copy and paste settings method can do something really clever that synchronize settings can’t.

UNKNOWN TRICK NO. 2

You can copy settings from a photo in a collection or folder and then paste the edit settings into a photo that’s in a completely different folder or collection!

Before I discovered this I couldn’t batch edit photos across different folders and collections.

Although I photograph in several different places, I use many of the locations and light set ups over and over again. Using copy settings in Lightroom gives me another way to batch edit multiple photos without having to create a preset for every scenario. I love options!

Using Lightroom develop module menu to copy settings
How to use the top menu bar and drop down menu to copy settings in Lightroom Classic

Lightroom copy settings FAQs

While trying to find an answer to my question of why use copy and paste rather than sync settings, I came across a few frequently asked questions online. If you still have questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to this FAQ list.

If you change the settings on the original photo after syncing or copy and pasting edits, will it affect the photos you synced to it?

No. The only time one photo will affect the edits on another photo is when you tell Lightroom to do it with either the copy and paste method or by synching edits across one or more photos. Other than that, edits affect only the active photo, i.e. the photo that you’re working on.

Library module interface in grid view for copying presets
Library module in grid view showing how to copy presets in Lightroom Classic

How do you paste presets?

To paste presets from one photo to another, or across a series of photos, in Lightroom Classic you need to be in the Library Module and in grid view.

  • Select the photos you want to copy the presets to
  • To apply it, in the Quick Develop panel on the right, select your preset from the drop down menu next to “Saved Preset”.

Learn more about batch editing with presets here.

Leave a comment

If you’ve learned something new from this Lightroom tutorial, or have a question about any of my tips for how to copy settings in Lightroom I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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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