How To Build A DIY Lightroom Gamepad Controller For 1 Buck

cull-topI’m a true believer in “laziness is the mother of all invention” and also in “cheapskate is the father of all DIY” – just kidding! My name is Ori, I am an avid DIYer, an electronics (and photography) hobbyist and I’ve got the biggest junk collection you can imagine. Nothing makes me happier than justifying the use of the whole room it takes up. To my wife, that is.

This is a story of how a fun day of carting with my team at work turned into a DIY “Cullinator” for Adobe LightRoom with a Foxconn gamepad that the IT department dumped  (and I happily salvaged) and some sharewares I coaxed to cooperate with one another.

So we were indoor-carting the other day. I was there, as always, with my Nikon D60 and my (incompatible) SB80DX strobe, trying to get all artistic with long exposures and motion zooming while also letting my friends experiment with my DSLR and having fun seeing the look on their faces when they realize they have to put their eye up to the eyepiece…

Anyways, lighting conditions were really poor, very uneven, high iso, with moving targets, a kit lens and a flash that doesn’t even talk iTTL with the camera – a disaster in the making. I came home to discover I have to postprocess 99.5% of the 200-odd photos we all took. I wish I had a ‘cullinator’… hummmm… I do have a gamepad somewhere, don’t I? Yes! This is going to be fun! Googled “macro for lightroom” and I find ‘Paddy’.

Paddy is a wonderfully helpful plugin for LR, I’d say even essential for every pro that uses LR in their workflow. It allows you to assign shortcut keys from the keyboard, mouse, external keyboard or external MIDI controller to any operation in LR, not only for culling but also moving sliders in the development module. BINGO! Best of all it’s donationware – totally free for 50 days and then donate a minimum of 1 cent. I will donate a few bucks but if I were a pro, it would totally be worth $20-$50 just for the time it saves. Pro or not, gamepad or not, if you use LightRoom, install it now – you’ll thank me.

Paddy does a whole lot more than I use it for including macro recording and playback. Major features of paddy – to quote from the website:

  • Editing pictures in Lightroom with iPad
  • Keyboard Hotkey access to all development sliders and most Lightroom functionality
  • Hotkey application of Development presets in Library and Develop module
  • Midi controllers – use physical Faders and rotary encoders to move Lightroom sliders
  • Midi instruments – use a keyboard to move sliders
  • Voice recognition and tagging for Lightroom
  • Relative Presets for all important sliders (“increase temperature by 1000″)
  • Macros
  • Support for external keyboards, including the Logitech G13, the 58 keys Xkeys professional, XK-60 and XK-80 keyboards used by many commercial solutions.
  • if you can map keys to your USB additional keyboard, Paddy can pick it up


In this screenshot from paddy’s ‘assign’ window you can see the exposure(-) slider being assigned the key combination shift+3. All the LR controls are selectable from the hierarchy on the right with LR sliders having 3 configurable step sizes (I use “large” for most of ‘em).

 How To Build A DIY Cullinator For 1 Buck

Here you can see LR exposure set to -0.60 after hitting shift+3 a few times. Yeah, yeah, I really ought to get myself some strobe gels, I know. And a compatible strobe. And a new camera.

Installing Paddy with windows 8.1 and LR 5.3 wasn’t so smooth. Finally I did a manual installation and copied the whole Paddy plugin folder to the C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Modules\Paddy.lrdevplugin   directory and LR loaded with it successfully when started through “run as administrator”.

Super! So now I’m left with only one teeny tiny issue. I wanted to use my gamepad remember? Alas, Paddy somehow does NOT support gamepads (MIDI-Yes, Gamepad-No. Paddy devs, if you are reading this wake up and smell the coffee!) so I still need something to emulate keystrokes from a gamepad.

Googling around again, I discover Xpadder and JoyToKey  and while Xpadder is more graphically appealing, it costs $10 while JoyToKey is shareware, fully functional for free and with a registration fee of $7. You guessed it, I opted for the latter of course!

JoyToKey is a joy to use (pun) and to install – you simply unzip it into a directory of choice and add it to the start menu or whatever you call it in win 8. Run it and every button/stick you press will be highlighted and you can then assign it to a key stroke or key combination. JoyToKey also features some extra tricks like auto-repeat, analog joystick ranges, toggle on/off, toggle between keys, long-press thresholds and even a full mouse emulator. Cool stuff. You also need to start JoyToKey through “run as administrator” for it to work with Paddy.

How To Build A DIY Cullinator For 1 Buck

So here you can see JoyToKey in action. The main screen has my “Lightroom” profile (it can detect and assign different settings to different programs) highlighting ‘Stick1-down’ assigned to left-shift+3 combination. When I push the stick down, together with paddy, it will now reduce exposure in lightroom. Works like a charm.

How To Build A DIY Cullinator For 1 Buck

This is the JoyToKey assignment window, it has several advanced features, for example auto-repeat and setting a key sequence (such as DEL, left arrow, Enter which I use to delete the really bad stuff forever). There are even more options on the other tabs.

Making it all work together after installing Paddy and JoyToKey is straightforward – install both, reboot and  it just works – but you must remember to start both LightRoom and JoyToKey through “run as administrator” (at least in windows 8) otherwise Paddy won’t communicate with LR and JoyToKey won’t pass keystrokes to Paddy.

For setting the configuration it is helpful to use a table as below. You think about the function first, and often its inverse too, then select the buttons or joystick directions you want to use for it. You then select a suitable hotkey that won’t override any important LR hotkeys (I chose shift+numbers and shift+Fkeys although I’m not positive that these aren’t allocated by default. I don’t really care though because I’m not touching the keyboard remember?). Not all functions need to be setup in Paddy, you can setup JoyToKey to directly emulate existing shortcuts in LightRoom such as Ctrl-Z to undo.

This is a table of the functions I used:

Function(what you need in LR) Shortcut(define in paddy/J2K) Gamepad (define in J2K)
Temp ( – , medium) Shift – 1 Stick 1 left (left analog stick)
Exp ( + , large) Shift – 2 Stick 1 up (left analog stick)
Exp (  – , large) Shift – 3 Stick 1 down (left analog stick)
Temp ( + , medium) Shift – 4 Stick 1 right (left analog stick)
Shadows ( – , large) Shift – 5 Stick 2 left (right analog stick)
Highlights ( + , large) Shift – 6 Stick 2 up (right analog stick)
Highlights ( – , large) Shift – 7 Stick 2 down (right analog stick)
Shadows ( + , large) Shift – 8 Stick 2 right (right analog stick)
Reset all (revert) Shift – 9 Button 9 (stick 1 press)
Auto tone Shift – 0 Button 10 (stick 2 press)
Sharpen ( + , large) Shift – F1 Button 6  (right index finger)
Sharpen ( – , large) Shift – F2 Button 8 (right middle finger)
Noise luminescence ( + , large) Shift – F3 Button 7 (left middle finger)
Noise luminescence ( – , large) Shift – F4 Button 5 (left index finger)
Red eye tool + panel Shift – F5 Button 1 (right thumb)
Toggle zoom 100% Z (default LR, no paddy) Button 2 (right thumb)
Split screen before/after Y (default LR, no paddy) Button 3 (right thumb)
Crop (need a mouse…) R (default LR, no paddy) Button 4 (right thumb)
Undo Ctrl – Z  (no paddy) Hat down (left thumb)
Redo Ctrl – Y (no paddy) Hat up (left thumb)
Right arrow à (no paddy) Hat right (left thumb)
Left arrow ß (no paddy) Hat left (left thumb)
Delete BkSpc ( no paddy) Button 11 (center)
Confirm delete from disk Left arrow + Enter Button 12 (center)

Plug your settings in and you’re good to go!

Any mention of a cullinator will never be whole without an epic photo of the author relaxed in a sofa while culling his pictures on the computer…. I just upped the ante.


About The Author

Ori Elyada, hardcore DIY and amateur photographer can put together one and one and get 11. His day job is an analog chip designer but the real fun starts when everyone goes to sleep…
  • Ron Uriel

    Man… when geeks meet photography… 😀 lol

  • Joy Zhang

    what a crazy awesome idea!

  • oded

    Hack the gamepad to be waterproof!

  • Taeer Tirosh


  • Gene S

    I bought a Logitech cheapo gamepad from Amazon for $19.99 and it comes with a Win 7/8/8.1 compatible program that allows custom key setup. It’s simple and so easy to use when culling a large selection of photos (like a wedding or high school sports event). Here’s the link to amazon…

    • ori elyada

      That’s a fair price indeed however without Paddy I believe you can’t control LR development module’s sliders amIright?
      I may be using the term “culling” too loosly. I’m not only selecting pics but also fixing basic exposure/WB/noise etc.

  • ashcake

    I’m struggling to get Paddy to work with LR 5.3. It keeps selecting the wrong setting or not adjusting anything at all.

    Development seems to have stopped in November last year. I hope the dev doesn’t abandon it.

    • ori elyada

      I’m using paddy 5.2Beta2 and LR 5.3 in Windows 8.1
      Make sure to install Paddy like I explained above and “run as administrator” both LR and JoyToKey.
      I’m no IT expert and it did take some experimentation to get it right but this receipe workes for me and hopefully for you too.
      Let us know what you did to get it right.

      • ashcake

        It works! I disabled Lightroom’s secondary monitor view, restarted Lr and voila :). I’ll email the dev to add it to the initialisation sequence.

  • Jeffrey French

    I believe there is a company out there that has created a dedicated LR gamepad, and the software drivers to run it. It’s obviously not quite as DIY, but it would probably fix some of the bugs y’all have been mentioning.

    I’ll have to look up the web address later. Cool idea though!

    • ori elyada

      I believe you are referring to “cullinator”, they are referenced and linked in the text.
      I was aware of their existance and product which were my inspiration for this DIY solution. Not being a pro photographer myself, there’s only so much (or, rather, so little) I’m willing to pay for saving an hour or two of work on the 2000 or so pics I take a year.
      Indeed, I very much prefer putting 6 hours of work into a DIY solution that costs me practically nothing while having fun at it!

  • Kora

    Wow! Super cool!!

  • Andrew Sible

    I have to say I’m intrigued. I’ve never thought of that and while I tried paddy with a Midi fader (it worked ok but glitched a bit and I had a fader without motors…so it wasn’t too handy), now I’m tempted to give this a go! I think for smashing through ratings during a cull it could be really useful and ergonomic with the right controller.

  • ori elyada

    Be sure to let us know how if it works for you too