How to Use Lightroom: Complete Guide Including Tutorials & Tips
Adobe Lightroom is the industry standard for editing images. It’s clean and simple-to-use interface means you can start editing today.
Love it or hate the subscription, Lightroom is here to stay. Why spend hours editing when you can do it all in a blink of an eye.
What is Post-Processing Software?
Manual focus lenses became Automatic. Now, we even have motion-tracking focusing. More and more images are digitally captured, manipulated and shared.
Millions of people around the globe have access to our images. All this at the click of a button.
Photographically, the analog world only had access to film. This needed developing and processing in a dark room. Then enlarging the negatives onto photosensitive paper.
There were very simple and basic ways to edit and manipulate areas. Either due to over or underexposure or correcting a perspective.
These methods called dodging and burning allowed the printer, limited, control over images.
All this gave way in the digital age, where digital cameras required a new workflow.
Image manipulation software such as Adobe Lightroom took over from the laborious techniques of the former times.
These programs allowed photographers and printers to work fast. they became more efficient. The images were instant.
In short, film cameras turned into DSLRs. Gelatin covered silver upon a plastic base turned into microchip sensors. And darkrooms turned into Adobe Lightroom.
Our complete guide will take you through all the tutorial and tips that you need. You’ll soon master the editing of your photos in Adobe Lightroom.
What is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom?
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is photo editing and file management software. It is a great tool for organizing images into folders and collections. It makes for easy accessibility.
It follows a no-nonsense layout. Substance over style. You’ll find it allows you to do 90% of your photographic manipulation quickly and efficiently.
By using a handy copy/paste method, you can change the look of hundreds of images at the click of a button.
Also, free Lightroom presets are available for specific ways to stylize your photographs. All these benefits make Adobe Lightroom the popular choice for image editing.
6 Important Things You Need to Know About Lightroom 6
There are still a few users out there clinging on to the last standalone Lightroom software. After Lightroom 6, Adobe decided to make the program open only through subscription. If you managed to keep hold of Lightroom 6, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee. But, it restricts what you can do with it.
For the six most important things you need to know about Lightroom 6, look no further.
Why We Recommend Lightroom Vs Alternatives
Capture One vs. Adobe Lightroom
The biggest competitor to Lightroom would be Capture One. Photoshop wouldn’t qualify as competition. They are different programs made by the same company.
Capture One comes from a company who specializes in medium format photography. Their first release came around the same time as Lightroom (2006).
Both programs house and organize RAW files. They also let you manipulate the images in non-destructive manners.
The differences start appearing in the fine-tuning of the images. One area being color management.
Lightroom uses HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance) sliders but Capture One goes further. It allows color adjustments in the shadows, highlights, and mid-tones.
But Capture One has been often described as finicky. some find it too powerful to be used as fast as a Lightroom alternative.
This article runs through all the benefits and drawbacks of both software packages. it will show you why Lightroom is the more popular and cheapest option.
Best Alternatives to Lightroom – Raw Therapee | Capture One | DxO | Darktable
There are many alternatives to Lightroom as a RAW converter. There are other programs you can use as image management or manipulation software.
Here, we will only compare programs that encompass all of these things. Just like Lightroom.
You might have your own reasons for not using Lightroom. Either the monthly subscription process or just being used to different software. Either way, there are alternatives.
For many years, Apple’s Aperture was Lightroom’s biggest competitor. Apple since then has decided to gut the program and create Photos.
So what are other companies doing? There are three, strong alternatives recommended by many different photographers. These are On1 Photo RAW, Luminar and Darktable.
As this article suggests in great depth, One1 Photo RAW is a complete photo workflow solution.
Luminar is great at processing but only lets you work with one image at a time.
Darktable is a free and open-source program. This is a great tool for people with a lot of photographs but no budget.
Lightroom Vs. Photoshop: What’s the Difference?
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop are, as you can tell, from the same company.
Lightroom even has Adobe Photoshop in its name, which should tell you a few things.
Photoshop has been the powerhouse of all digital editing since the 1990s. It can do anything. Because of this versatility, it has a steep learning curve.
It is an understatement to say it can be confusing. Not only does it cover all photography needs. But anything graphics related.
All types of visually creative work go very well with the Photoshop interface.
Lightroom, in this case, is the younger sibling. It maintains professional processing tools but adds speed to the mix.
With LR, you can work fast, applying changes to hundreds, if not thousands of images.
Lightroom meets most photographers’ needs, and 9 out of 10 use it for all editing needs. The 10% who need more would use both, by editing in LR and then exporting to PS.
Photoshop is best seen as an image editing device. Lightroom as an image management tool.
Organization in Lightroom
The file management system in Lightroom is very simple to use. After some time playing around in the Library module, you will feel right at home.
Importing, moving and organizing your photographs using a no-nonsense platform is a blessing.
Folders and images are imported at a click of a button and then moved using the drag-and-drop method.
Collections and keywords are very handy. Each image can have many words connecting them all.
These can be found later alongside other images in the same vein. Similarly, with collections, you can create folders with specific tasks.
These can isolate all your best images from those trips to Iceland, found across many folders.
Everything is saved in what is called a Catalog. This is where all the information on your editing is saved.
Lightroom creates a default Catalog that it loads from each time. This allows you to create others to divide different workflows or subject matters.
How to Organize Photos in Lightroom
How you organize all your photos, in general, could denote how you should organize them in Lightroom.
What works is to separate all images into folders on an external hard drive.
These folders are all dated and named, in that order. An example would be 2018.02.02 -Budapest Parliament.
These folders are imported into Lightroom, which keeps the titles we use. This allows us to keep track of where everything is.
They are all located on the left of the Library Module and can be found very quickly.
This also helps when it comes to adding keywords, which is a great tool for organizing and searching images of the same theme.
Doing all this keeps all my images uncluttered so I don’t waste time.
You could effectively throw all your images in one folder on your desktop, and import that.
From there, you could add folders, colors, tags, flags and ratings to separate them.
The Library and organization are very versatile and the system comes down to you and how you want it
This article runs through what you might benefit from and gives you tips along the way.
How to Organize Photos in Lightroom:
Organizing your images in Lightroom should be the first thing you do. A clear and concise catalog will help cut down time editing.
By taking the time in the beginning, you can set up some great practices. These will be the templates of how you deal with your images and sessions. Start by adding keywords to every image that comes through Lightroom. That way, a quick keyword search will let you know where the image is.
How To Import Photos into Lightroom: A Beginner’s Guide
Importing photographs into Lightroom can be done a few different ways.
First, there is File>Import Photos and Video (or Ctrl + Shift + I). Both of these take you to the import page where you add the photographs to your Catalog. If you have Show import dialog when a memory card is inserted selected in preferences, then the import screen will open automatically.
Another lesser-known way would be to create a folder on your Hard Drive that you will use only with Lightroom. This can be set up to automatically import images that are placed here.
This option can be found at File>Auto Import. This can be handy for your workflow. But this folder will not automatically import folders – only images.
Understand The Lightroom Catalog System in 10 Minutes
If you are familiar with computer software, the Lightroom catalog is an SQLite database. If not, it’s not a prerequisite.
The database part is important as it basically states that your library of images is just like a physical library. Each book relates to a card with information on it.
This is how the Lightroom organizational system works. Everything is accessible through tags, keywords, and even searchable file or folder names. The catalog is a collection of all these card or photographs. Other catalogs can be created, but these should be limited to a few situations.
The speed of the program shouldn’t be affected by hundreds of catalogs that you have in one place. having all your images in one place is a bigger benefit than having many catalogs with a few files on each. You might want to separate work photographs from your family snaps. So having two different workflows would make sense.
Other tips and information can be seen in this article and will help you understand the catalog in minutes.
How to Create Collections in Lightroom: A Step by Step Guide
Collections in Lightroom are a great way to keep your photographs neat and tidy. I personally use them when finalizing a project I have been working on.
After editing the photographs down to an idea number, I tag them using a green label. When I create a collection, I go for the smart version. This allows me to tell the collection to look into this folder, and only show those with a green label. This makes it easy to delete the ones I no longer want and find these images again if need be.
This article is a step by step guide to creating collections and how your workflow can benefit from them.
How to Master Your Lightroom Workflow for Better Photo Editing
Lightroom’s recent versions have 7 different modules:
Library – You can organize all your images, add keywords and metadata. You can also organize folders and create collections, quickly add presets or share to your favourite sites.
Develop – Here you’ll do most of your processing. You have two viewing modes, loupe or before/after.
Map – If your photographs already have GPS information, they will add themselves to the applicable areas on the map. Otherwise, you can drag and drop them wherever you’d like.
Book – This allows you to design and create a book layout. Drag and drop images from your collections and folders, working from cover to cover.
Slideshow – You can turn your images into presentations. There are layout ideas, overlays and backgrounds that can be applied. Also, music can be added alongside fading and timing of your project.
Print – This gives you presets and layouts to quickly manage your photographs for printing. Resolution, media types and colour management can all be defined here and sent to a printing business, without leaving your chair.
Web – Here, you can work on images exclusively for the web. There are templates and presets that you can use to create an attractive gallery for your website. The information can then be exported and dropped into your server to create the same style on your site.
Lightroom is great at so many things. Yet, you won’t need all the tools all of the time. It is possible to hide panels so that you can see the image better and focus more on it. This is especially handy on a laptop. It stops the image being overshadowed by tools and panels you won’t soon.
Another great tip is changing the overlays when cropping images. The standard cropping tool shows you a grid, which is handy for straight lines like horizons.
But by pressing ‘O’ on the keyboard while in the cropping area, you can cycle through presets. You can use the golden ratio or diagonal lines instead.
15 Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts to Seriously Speed Up Your Workflow
Everyone has their own workflow method. After photographing a live band, I already know what my final outcome should look like. I want to finish with more or less 15 images, from a mixture of close-ups and wide shots.
In order to get that, I might take 200 photographs of the band. This allows me to capture them in all sorts of ways. Lenses and positions give me different perspectives.
When I’m editing, I usually go through the images, quickly picking the ones I like. I’ll then look at them closer after the initial pre-edit. The only way I can do this quickly and efficiently is by using keyboard shortcuts.
Starting from the first image, using the loupe viewing mode, I press the right arrow key to go through all the images from that shoot. As I go along, I use numbers ‘8’ and ‘9’ to give me green and yellow tags. If I see an image that I really like or want to use, I will press ‘5’ to give the image a 5-star rating.
When I get to the end, I can filter all of the things I have applied. Green for ‘keep’, yellow for ‘good but not the best’ and 5-stars for ‘exceptional’.
After this pre-edit, I can further edit down the images I have selected. This could be 30 out of the initial 200.
I do this by taking away the applied tag. When I have the images I want, I can then easily delete the images with no tag. This will be around at 170 images, leaving 30 images to keep.
This article gives you all of the possible keyboard shortcuts you might use in your day-to-day editing.
Lightroom Tips & Techniques in the Develop Module
The develop module is the area where most of the editing magic happens.
Here you can do small, local adjustments such as increasing exposure or correcting the light balance. Or you can do something a little heavier. Such as applying masks to increase the hue of a specific area.
Here, we will go through many adjustments we can do in this module.
How to Batch Edit in Lightroom
Lightroom is great for many different reasons. It has a great organization structure, allows keywording and gives you the change to edit your images. Personally, I use Lightroom to batch process images. This means editing multiple images at the same time.
This is really handy for editing as it saves a lot of time. Best used for sessions where the setting, white balance or light conditions are similar.
Definitive Guide to Adobe Lightroom’s Develop Module – Colour Temperature and Presence
When it comes to photographing a subject, your camera sensor processes everything in RGB; Red, Green, and Blue.
This concerns the light reflected from your subject. These colors have dramatic effects on the final color of your image. You might find that you will have to tweak the white balance. After all, you want the white areas a little bit more natural and real. Also, you might find that the color of the photographed objects is either a little too colorful or not colorful enough.
These things can be changed by using the HSL sliders or the Vibrance part of the editing panel.
As this article suggests, there are many ways that color can be changed. Either by help normalizing the scene or adding a kick to your images.
How to Resize an Image in Lightroom
When we capture images, we tend to shoot in the highest resolution possible. This comes from using sensors that capture a large number of megapixels. The more megapixels your camera sensor has, the higher quality your images are.
But, with large megapixel sizes brings a huge amount of memory being used. These large image sizes aren’t great for social media sharing.
Somehow, you’ll need to turn that 22 Megapixel image into something closer to 720 pixels. Here, you’ll need to use Lightroom.
For all the information you need on resizing your images, read our article.
How to Easily Crop and Straighten Photos in Lightroom
Cropping images can help with your composition. Making your image smaller removes and cuts out distracting areas of your photographs.
This also allows you to ‘zoom’ into a photograph and make a subject more prominent.
The crop tool in Lightroom can be accessed in the ‘basic’ area of the develop module, or by pressing ‘R’.
This tool is also great for straightening images that might have been photographed off-kilter.
This is a very useful tool and one you will find yourself going to again and again.
How to Correct Exposure in Lightroom
You might not need to be a lighting specialist or photographic professional to achieve a perfect exposure.
Your camera can get very close, but sometimes, your image will benefit from a little tweaking in Lightroom.
Either the whole image might need adjusting or a specific area.
Lightroom has an ‘auto’ button in the basic panel in the develop module. This might adjust a few other things, such as ‘contrast’ and ‘whites’.
You can also just move the ‘exposure’ slider by clicking and dragging it left or right until you feel happy with the result. This can also be done by moving the ‘whites, blacks, highlights and shadows’ sliders to focus on specific areas of your image.
The exposure might seem darker because the shadows are a little underexposed, for example. This article helps you understand what to look for and how to make the changes.
Definitive Guide to Adobe Lightroom’s Develop Module – Contrast and Tone Controls
Under the develop module, on the right-hand side, you will find the Tone sliders. This is the local adjustment panel. You will use this the most, as they will cover 75% of what you need in your images.
The standard tone sliders are Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks.
The exposure slider is used to add or subtract light. The contrast changes the tonal range and helps things to stand out a little more. Highlights bring down the exposure of the lightest areas. It does this without affecting the whole image. Shadows help to make the darker areas darker or lighter. This can push away unwanted detail or make it more visible.
The white and black sliders help to create pure white and black areas in your image. It will help naturalize your image better. Here is an in-depth account of what these local adjustments do. You can use it to get the best out of your images.
How to Use the Tone Curve
The tone curve represents the tonal range in your photograph.
The bottom left corner deals with shadows and the top right corner with highlights. This leaves the mid-tones are in the middle. These mid-tones are split further into light and dark areas. These are easy to adjust, you just need to know what you want to change.
For example, if you want to make the mid-tones darker, just click on the middle portion of the Tone
Curve. Gently drag it downwards. You will see the image change as you do so.
For more tips and guidelines for using this tool, have a look at this in-depth article.
How to Work With Shadows and Blacks in Lightroom
If highlights are the brightest points in an image, the shadows are the darkest.
These shadowy areas don’t have to be dark, black holes for your eyes to fall into. They can house some detail. The ‘blacks’ filter deals with the darkest areas of the photograph too, but in a stronger way than the shadow slider. Using this tool you can add or subtract exposure and therefore detail in these areas.
This helps to make them more defined while giving a more professional look. Plus, the shadow might have a beautiful texture or design to it that adds value.
Working with Colour Using HSL Sliders
Within digital photography, there are two areas where color is very important. First when you take the photograph, and second when you come to process the photo.
Both have different ways of dealing with these colors. Either in-camera or during post-processing.
In Lightroom, the color can be changed in a few different ways. Firstly, before changing anything else, make sure you are happy with the white balance. This can be changed manually or by setting it to auto and tweaking the result.
The Hue gives you the opportunity to replace entire colors in the image. These sliders leave other colors untouched. Saturation focuses on the strength of the color. Either by making the main colors stronger or surrounding colors weaker. Luminance deals with the brightness of a color. This is done by either muting it or making it stand out more.