Two Tools to Improve Your Photo Editing Efficiency

Two Tools to Improve Your Photo Editing Efficiency

Have you ever kept track of the amount of time that you spend editing each month? I was shocked the first time that I did. Realizing how much of my time that editing was consuming caused me to search out ways to be more efficient, and this is what I found.

I am a wedding photographer, which means editing thousands of photos each month. I enjoy editing, but the amount of time I was taking was causing burn out in my work and killing the other areas of my business. I had to find a way to optimize my speed. There are many things that I have done since then to cut down on wasted time while editing, and here are two tools that have helped me along the way. These two purchases are some of my favorite pieces of equipment that I own.


Although they are simple tools, I had never considered using a multimedia controller for editing. If you are unfamiliar with what a multimedia controller is, basically it is a tool with several controls that allow you to program the buttons to perform a keyboard shortcut or other computer function. You can customize these controllers however you want. After some research, I purchased Contour’s ShuttlePro v2. This controller has 15 buttons and a couple of dials. For me, this tool is used exclusively for Lightroom. To set it up most efficiently, I wrote out my most used Lightroom tools and assigned them to each of the controller’s buttons in a layout that made sense to me. Getting used to this tool was a slow adjustment at first, but after only a day it was second nature.

This tool is handier than you would think. While editing, my left hand rests on the controller and my right hand controls the mouse. Nearly all of the shortcuts I would ordinarily enter are now done instantly with a single click of the controller. I no longer have to stop and think what the shortcut is for that function. This $100 investment was well worth it as it has saved me hours in editing time.


In my research, I also wanted to find a tool to increase productivity in Photoshop. You have probably heard of Wacom tablets, and many of you likely have one. Several people encouraged me to buy one, and it hasn’t disappointed. It is honestly one of the best purchases I have ever made. The use of the pen has not only improved my accuracy using tools in Photoshop, but it has increased my speed in editing as well. I purchased Wacom’s Intuos Pro Medium. This particular product comes with the pen and the tablet, which includes eight buttons and a dial. 

Following the process that I used with the ShuttlePro, I wrote out my eight most used functions in Photoshop. I then assigned each button to those functions. Not every tool in Photoshop has a shortcut, but you can apply a custom one if it doesn't. To do this, go to the Edit menu and find the option for Keyboard Shortcuts. I assigned a keyboard shortcut to all of my most used tools and then applied those shortcuts to my tablet’s buttons. I chose things like the flatten image command, the camera raw filter, and open Nik filters. The pen even has a few buttons of its own, which I assigned to right-click and to undo. It might not sound like much, but there is a great deal of time saved in not searching through menus and being able to do what you need in one simple click.

I will admit the tablet was much harder to get used to. It felt so foreign at first. Even after a few days, it was still difficult to use. However, after about a week it was completely normal and now it feels so odd to try and use a mouse when editing a photo. If I had to choose a favorite out of the purchases that I have made, this tablet might be it. The ability to zoom in or change the brush size with the dial, have my favorite functions available at one click, and be so precise with the brush tool has allowed me to get rid of the keyboard and mouse for the majority of my work and save a great deal of time in doing so.

These two tools have a cost, both in time and money. However, as someone who has a large number of photos to edit on a weekly basis, these tools have allowed me to decrease my time spent on editing considerably, allowing me more time for other areas of my business. I can say both of these tools have easily been worth the cost and are among the best purchases that I have made as a photographer.

Log in or register to post comments


Jay Jay's picture

I read an article last year on the Shuttle and bought it. And promptly hated it for its lack of buttons and usefulness (which is very little). Get the Behringer X-Touch midi controller, it's way superior. 9 lit rotary buttons that also does push click, and 16 buttons that light up, plus a slider. And a 2 memory bank, which lets you use it for a second set of macros, for a total of 52 assignments. Uses free open source midi2lr to do the mapping and the controller itself is right at $50. Watch the set up and use of it from a guy who configured it for his LR and it's pretty impressive:

Add some grip tape or velcro strips to certain knobs or under certain buttons, and you can zoom through culling and editing by feel alone, never needing to look at the thing to do it.

Joshua Kolsky's picture

Yes definitely this! Its amazing everything you can do with just this tool once you have it setup.

Jay Jay's picture

Having access to everything you could possibly want in Lightroom with this is mindblowing (though i think the guy in the video setting up 2 of them is way overkill, as most everything i need uses one bank.) For $50 bucks, it's pretty amazing.

Rix B's picture

Thank you!

Jay Jay's picture


I'm skeptical that for most things such a tool will be quicker. I think the appeal to such a device is simply having something more tactile than a mouse and keyboard. This reminds of this episode of Star Trek Voyager.

Jay Jay's picture

Being able to set stars, reject and select images, advance back and forth, adjust exposure/darkness/contrast/temp (i adjust exposure and highlight at the same time with both hands)... and being able to do all of this without leaving a control surface, and more importantly, without taking your eyes off your screen- yes, it'll greatly speed up your workflow. Add the seconds it takes to do it the way you normally do, and multiply that by the average number of photos you edit, then try it with a controller you've optimized for LR.

Everyone's workflow methods are different, but for me, it shaves hundreds and hundreds of hours a year off my editing time. (Btw, without those controllers, Kirk can't fly the ship) ;)

I use a 20 button gamer mouse, lots of actions, macros, custom settings.

Learn to type.

Rix B's picture

If you are looking for an affordable tablet, the Huion brand is a good one to look at

Nick Viton's picture

+1 Huion

Fritz John Asuro's picture

I'll stick with my Razer Orbweaver versus the ShuttlePro.

Scott Mosley's picture

I use an 8bitdo classic NES style controller for culling, so much fun!

Motti Bembaron's picture

To those who look for drawing tablets but find Wacom (very) expensive, it is important to mention there are a couple companies with fantastic alternatives. One of those companies is Huion.

For example, the Huion WH1409 13.8"x 8.6" Giano is $159 (as opposed to $299 acom). You get a wireless tablet with twice the active area and twelve express buttons.

Youtube has tons of reviews on those tablets and others.

I have the Gaomon PD1650. For around $100 more (than the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium) I have a screen tablet.