(This question was forked from How do I move deleted photos? . I did go through a few questions here that discuss Lightroom deletion workflows, but none of them answers my questions, so I'm asking a fresh question.)

I'm looking for a workflow in Lightroom that meets the following requirements:

  1. I use the arrow keys to navigate through the photos, using a shortcut to discard photos I don't like. (I don't want to mark the ones I want to keep; I want to discard the ones I don't want.)

  2. Once I discard a photo, I don't want it to appear in the list of photos as I use the back and forward arrow keys to navigate back and forth. This matters because I make repeated passes through my collection, discarding the worst ones at each stage. It's hard to select the best 10 photos out of 2000, as someone said in response to another question, while it's easy to reject the 50% of photos that are bad, and keep repeating the process till you end up with the best photos. This works only if discarded photos don't reappear when you use the arrow keys to navigate your collection.

  3. If I accidentally discard a photo, I want to press Cmd-Z to get it back. I often accidentally delete a photo when I'm in a hurry sorting through 2000 photos, so easy Undo is a must.

  4. Once I'm done whittling down hundreds of photos to a few dozen great ones, I want to permanently delete the discarded photos, and reclaim disk space. My photos are on an SSD, but even if I had a petabyte of storage, I don't want bad photos cluttering up my hard disc.

Is there a workflow that meets the above requirements?

  • Reject doesn't meet criterion (2).

  • Pressing Delete and selecting Delete from Disk doesn't meet (3).

  • Should I set up a keyword "Discard" and a custom shortcut to apply this to a photo? Or to move it to a folder? That still falls afoul of criterion (2).

  • The only option I can think of is to press Delete, and then choose Remove rather than Delete from Disk. When I'm done, use the Synchronize Folder action, and choose to apply a keyword Discard while adding the missing ones to the catalog. Then, select all photos labeled Discard and choose to Delete From Disk. This seems a little clunky, so I wanted to check if any of you can suggest an alternative. Thanks.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ reject works, if you set up the filter to view unflagged photos. undo the flag to bring it back. once you are done, you can filter view flagged photos, optionally review them, and delete forever. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 15, 2013 at 12:43

2 Answers 2


The answers per criterion:

  1. In LR go through the photos in the Library module with the Loupe view using the arrow keys. Hit X when you want to discard a photo.

  2. To keep the discarded photos from the list click the left and middle flag in the filter bar. I've added a screenshot showing the location of the buttons:
    enter image description here
    This hides the discarded photos from the list and shows the unflagged and flagged photos.

  3. If you pressed X accidentally you can hit cmd+Z to undo setting the reject flag.

  4. Once you're done, go to All Photographs, press cmd+Backspace and LR will attempt to delete all discarded photographs marked with a reject flag. It will show you the following dialog:
    enter image description here
    Press Delete from Disk and the discarded photos will be placed in the Finder Trash. Remember to empty the Trash to reclaim disk space.

Some additional remarks:

  • Click on Photo -> Auto Advance to make the arrow keys obsolete. When you use the U, P and X keys to unflag, flag and reject a photo the selection advances automatically with this function enabled. So you don't have to use the arrow keys anymore.
  • You can select multiple photos from the Grid or Loupe view and hit X to reject them simultaneously.
  • When you want to have the filter applied at start-up do the following:

    1. In the Library module go to View -> Show Filter Bar. The filter bar will appear above your grid view: enter image description here

    2. Click on Attribute and apply the same filters you did before (flagged + unflagged).

    3. Now click the little lock in the right corner of the filter bar, indicated with an arrow in the previous screenshot.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Nice write up. Exactly the same thing I do. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Nov 15, 2013 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. Exactly what I do too. I also saved the filter (called it "Non-rejected" or similar), so that I can reapply the filter every time I want to run through this workflow. \$\endgroup\$
    – Conor Boyd
    Nov 17, 2013 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. This works great. Just one nit: I have to re-apply the filter (to not show Rejected photos) when I restart Lightroom, say if I have to reboot my Mac for some reason. Is there an easy fix for this? In any case, this solves my problem, so thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26, 2013 at 5:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KartickVaddadi I've updated my answer. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26, 2013 at 10:03

You just need to combine Reject with the Filter Bar:

  • Click Attribute, then click the middle of the three flags (unflagged), and set the rating to "equals no stars". This filter shows you only those photos you haven't made a decision about yet.

  • Save this filter as a preset. I call it THE CHAINSAW, because it helps me cut a large block of photos down to the smaller set I can work on individually. The metaphor is of an ice sculptor, who does most of his shaping work with a chainsaw, rapidly removing unwanted material.

  • Open the folder or collection containing the photos to be triaged.

  • With your left fingers on the 1-4 keys and your thumb on the X key, rip through the photos, rating or rejecting each with a single keypress. Each time you press a key, that photo will disappear while the filter is active. Pressing Cmd-Z undoes the rating or rejection.

    (LR 5 currently[*] has a bug where undo might give a black screen instead of the previous photo, but a quick left-right arrow move will bring it back. Or, just re-rate it correctly. LR will apply the rating to the invisible photo correctly.)

See my answer here for more detail on my system, which I think matches your needs.

[*] LR 5.3 RC, and all prior versions

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. This seems a little more complex than I need right now, but I'll keep it in mind. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26, 2013 at 5:44

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