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Latest Articles on the Basics of Lightroom.

The Basics of Lightroom


Lightroom revolutionized image editing when it first came out and is still a necessary tool for photographers today.  Understanding some of the basics of Lightroom will help you to understand why it is so important to the modern-day photographer.


With so many software options to edit your images out there, you might be wondering, “why should I choose Lightroom?”  This is a valid question, especially considering that Photoshop is the oft-mentioned and far better-known editor.  In fact, if I mention Lightroom to any of my non-photographer friends, they have no idea what I am talking about.


However, if I say Photoshop, they instantly know what I am talking about and even have used the term as ‘verb’ before, stating things like, “that image looks photoshopped,” or, “you could just photoshop that for me, right?”


Photoshop was born in the era of film, and therefore to work on an image you had to use a film scanner to get the photograph into the computer to even have a chance to be edited with Photoshop.


With these hurdles in time, cost, and difficulty, you would only do this with a few images from a shoot.  Maybe those the client was planning to purchase, or those needed for a particular project on which you are working.


With the proliferation of the digital camera, everything changed.


Pretty soon all of your images were available to be edited with software on the computer, and in fact, the images you used to send to the photo lab for density and color correction, you now could handle yourself on your computer with Photoshop.


It was wonderful!  


The control, the availability, and the safety of your images (I can’t tell you how many times I had a professional photo lab call me to tell me they had ruined another roll of my film).  It was a new day in photography, and it was exciting.


The problem was, Photoshop was meant to edit one image at a time and to edit a full shoot with hundreds of images became incredibly time-consuming, to say the least.  Photoshop was not built to handle density and color corrections, cropping, etc…, of hundreds of photos in a short amount of time.


My workflow began to bog down and pretty soon, I was spending more time editing than I was spending taking pictures.  This dramatic shift became a huge problem for a lot of photographers who knew that shooting images brought in money while spending time editing them cost money.


Sure there were small fixes, I was able to speed up my workflow with Photoshop actions and droplets, but when you begin to use those types of automation, you lose control over the image.  Editing with actions and droplets is a one-edit-fits-all type solution, and anyone who has shot images in quantity know that this approach does not yield the highest quality of images.


There quickly became a need for a new piece of software.  One in which you could edit many images quickly and efficiently.  Because with digital photography, you shoot many, many more photographs than you did with film.


This is where Lightroom fits in.  


It’s the software that can do just that, edit a lot of images in a short amount of time.  Sure I still use Photoshop, but instead of using it to edit all of my pictures, I use it to fix, retouch, and creatively transform my images; exactly what it was meant to do.


For example, if I need to do swap the eyes of the chronic blinker in a family photo, this goes to Photoshop.  But the rest of the work on that image is handled in Lightroom.


So what makes Lightroom the way to go?  What makes it the option you want to choose to edit your images?  Well, I’m glad you asked, and below are the reasons why I think you should be using Lightroom to edit your images.



The Benefits of Lightroom



1. RAW File Format


Lightroom naturally handles RAW files, whereas Photoshop does not.


To use a RAW file in Photoshop, you must first convert it through Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) to a different file format, such as JPG or TIFF.  And guess what, ACR is a stripped down version of Lightroom.


So, in essence, if you are shooting RAW, you are editing them in ACR before you begin editing them in Photoshop.  Does that sound like a way to save time?  Not to me.  That seems like a way to continue a relationship with your computer instead of the people around you.


If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of shooting your images in RAW instead of JPEG, then it is time for you to learn!  I will not list out all of the reasons here in this post, but think of it like this; if you are a photographer that does not get your shot 100% correct in camera every time, then you should shoot RAW.



2. Cataloging & Organization


This is huge.  As a professional photographer, I shoot a ton of images. And with digital, I shot even more.  For these reasons it is incredibly important to have a place where I can keep my images organzied for quick recall. Have you ever lost an image? Thought you knew where it was on your computer only to realize that it’s gone? Lightroom helps to solve that problem by keeping track of your images for you.


image of lightroom catalog library module showing organization in lightroom


Lightroom keeps track of where your images are located at all times.  Think of the computer in the public library, the computer that replaced the card catalog.


This computer knows the location of every book in the library and gives you the ability to find a book by title, author, genre, year, category, etc.


Irreplacable, right?


Imagine that computer not being there the next time you go to the library. How would you find a book? It would be much more challenging. In fact, it would be so difficult that I would quit going to the library altogether just to avoid the hassle.


That computer at the front of the library is the equivalent of Lightroom with your images. With Lightroom, you have access to any image you’ve taken almost instantaneously.


keywording panel and keyword list panel in lightroom


Let’s talk about organization now.


Staying with the library analogy, just as someone needed to enter in all of the book titles, authors, genres, years, etc., into that computer, so must you enter in some of this info for your images.  Each image file has a small embedded set of information that includes things like the date the photo was taken, the type of camera, the lens used, and the exposure settings.


All good info, but the real magic comes as you use keywording, ratings and color coding to identify the specifics of the images.  And if this is done consistently, searching for images later becomes a breeze.




3. Working on Previews


In Lightroom, you never touch the original file. Instead, you work on a preview of the original file. By working this way, you never touch the original, and no amount of editing will ruin any image you’ve taken.


If you don’t like what you’ve done with editing, simply undo what you’ve done or return to the original.


No matter how many edits you’ve made in Lightroom, your original image is never touched and always safe.


When you import your images into Lightroom, the software creates previews for every image.  These previews are small, screen resolution files that are light on their feet and quick to edit.  This process keeps Lightroom swift and nimble and allows you to edit your images much more quickly.


When you’re finished with your edits and ready to take your photos to get prints, you export them from Lightroom, giving you an edited version and the original of the file.





4. Syncing Settings Across Multiple Images


four images inside lightroom library module with sync button


Syncing is the real strength and power of Lightroom.  Syncing allows you to copy and sync all the edits from one image across many. This allows you to edit a single image, and copy those edits to as many images as you want, saving you the time of editing each one individually.


In the image below, notice how all four of the pictures look very similar and are shot in the same location under the same lighting condition. These images are ideal candidates for syncing.


4 images of a girl in lightroom that are close up headshots


Fix one and sync the adjustments over all the images.


4 images of a girl in lightroom that are close up headshots all edited to show the power of syncing in lightroom


For four photos, syncing may save a total of one or two minutes but multiply that by thousands of photos, and you can see how it can save so much time.


Whether there are 2 or 2000, it doesn’t matter.  Those settings will move across all of the images, and the previews will update with the new settings as if you editing each one of them individually.  This makes syncing an incredible time saver.




5. No Need to Save


Have you ever been working along on a document and had something go wrong with your computer, erasing all of your hard work because you forgot to hit save?  I know I have.  In Lightroom, you will never hit save again, as all of your changes are remembered as soon as you finish it.


Each small change you make to an image is immediately recorded to the preview, making the save button obsolete. Adding to this awesomeness, Lightroom also keeps a full history of all the changes, allowing you to revert to any step in your adjustments at any time. Even years later.





6. Presets


preset panel in lightroom


Presets are an incredible way to edit your images quickly and efficiently.  Presets allow you to apply to any image a saved set of editing instructions with one click.  You can download my Starter Pack of presets right here for free! This starter pack will let you see the true power of what presets can do for you.


There are also many other types of presets where you can set default instructions for different tools.  By setting a preset, you can recall those settings again and again with one click, again saving a lot of time while editing.


And so many other reasons:


Virtual Copies -quickly and easily make additional previews of any original image allowing you to edit each preview differently.


Easily Compare Before and After– readily see the before and after of an image with the click of a button or by hitting the \ key on the keyboard.


Lightroom Mobile -now with Smart Previews you can edit your images in on your iPhone, iPad or other device with Lightroom Mobile.  Remember how Lightroom edits previews, not the original file?  Well, that preview is much, much smaller and can fit easily on your mobile device for quick editing.  Now you can edit anywhere at any time without your computer or laptop.  It is amazing.


Create photo books, slideshows, and web galleries -all of these things can be done right inside Lightroom.  No need to edit the images in one program and create a book in another. Do it all in Lightroom.


Hopefully, you can see the benefits of using Lightroom!  It is an incredible piece of software and should be on everyone’s computer. Adobe has a free trial for the software here, and if you like it you can purchase it outright or simply buy the subscription plan (Lightroom CC) which includes Photoshop as well for $10 a month.  That’s a bargain if you ask me.


And, if you are looking to learn Lightroom, take a look at my Lightroom Hero Quick Course.  It will help you to start editing like a pro.






If you are serious about digital photography, whether professional or hobbyist, learning and using Lightroom is essential.  It will allow you to take your images from snapshots to professional looking images in record time.  


This portion of my site is dedicated to helping you learn Lightroom and better your image editing skills, so look around and find some articles or courses to help you do just that.


The Awesome-ness of Presets

Presets are small sets of editing instructions that you apply to your image with one click. They allow you to speed workflow by reducing repetitive tasks and getting creative fast.


A great preset pack to help you get started.


image of bride and groom walking through field with sun flare

Add flare to any image with one click!


bride and groom snuggling in snow

Click to see all of the preset packs available.


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