When you use Lightroom’s Library module to edit – as in decide which ones to develop – your photos you can use either Survey View or Compare View to compare similar images.
This usually happens when you’ve been working the subject and as a result have a selection of images to choose from.
It also applies to portrait shoots, where you only want to develop some of the photos from the shoot, not all. In both cases Survey View and Compare View help you find the best photos to send to the Develop module.
What’s the difference between Survey View and Compare View?
The difference is that you can compare as many photos as you like in Survey View, but only two at a time in Compare View.
The main advantage of Survey View is that you can quickly identify which photos are keepers and remove the ones that you don’t want from the selection.
The only drawback is that the more photos you look at, the smaller they are displayed on the monitor. Compare View, on the other hand, lets you compare as many photos as you want, but only displays two of them at one time on the screen.
Let’s look at the differences more closely.
This is Grid View. Here you can see that I have 15 similar portraits. How would you choose which are the best ones for developing in the Develop module?
If you select all the portraits and go to Compare View (use the ‘C’ keyboard shortcut) you get something like this. Compare View lets you compare two photos at a time.
If you go to Survey View (use the ’N’ keyboard shortcut) you can see all the photos together.
If that’s too many photos on one screen, an alternative is to select fewer photos to compare in Survey View.
How to use the Lightroom Survey View
Start in Grid View and select the photos that you want to compare.
Use the ’N’ keyboard shortcut to go to Survey View, or click the Survey View icon in the Toolbar (press ’T’ to reveal the Toolbar if you don’t see it).
The most selected image (that is, the first image in the selection that you selected) is marked by a white border. Click any other photo in the selection to make it the most selected image.
Any assigned flags, star ratings or color labels are displayed underneath the photos. They are also shown in the Toolbar.
If you move the cursor over a photo you can assign a flag, star rating or color label by clicking on of the icons underneath. You can do this in the Toolbar as well.
If you’d like to view a photo at a larger size just click on it (to make it the most selected image in the selection) and press the Space bar. Lightroom shows you the photo in Loupe View. Press the ‘Esc’ key or use the ’N’ keyboard shortcut to go back to Survey View.
You’ll also see a white X in a black square in photo’s bottom-right corner. You can click this to remove the photo from the selection. It disappears from the screen and Lightroom rearranges the remaining photos to fit the screen. If you click it by mistake, use the Undo shortcut (PC: Ctrl-Z, Mac: Cmd-Z) to bring the de-selected photo back
You can rearrange photos by clicking and dragging. This works as long as you are working with photos in a Folder, Collection or Collection Set. It doesn’t work with photos in a Smart Collection, or the All Photographs or Previous Import Collections found in the Catalog panel.
Survey View in a new window
Once you’ve selected the images you want to compare in Grid View, you can click the Second Window icon in the Filmstrip to open Survey View in a new window. If you have two monitors you can drag the window to the second monitor to open Survey View there.
Selecting photos in Survey View
The easiest way to mark the keepers is to Flag them as Picked by pressing the ‘P’ key or clicking the Flag icon underneath the photos. For this to work you need to make sure all the photos in the selection are unflagged before you start (you can do that by pressing the ‘U’ key).
If you are sorting photos for developing in the Develop module, it’s a good idea to send the flagged photos to a new Collection so you know exactly which ones you’ve chosen to develop.
As you can see Survey View is very useful for comparing photos and finding the best ones quickly and easily. If you have any questions about Survey View, let us know in the comments. And if you’d like to learn more, these tutorials show you how to use the other tools and features in Lightroom’s Library module.
The next steps
If you’d like to learn more about Lightroom I suggest you sign up to our Introducing Lightroom free email course (see below).
Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module (2nd edition).
My ebook Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module introduces Lightroom and shows you how to use the Library module to import, organize and search your images. It covers everything you need to know in depth – I even show you how to use Lightroom mobile to view your photos! Click the link to learn more.