Lightroom

[Author’s Note: Please see the first Author’s Note on the main Links page.]

I use Adobe Lightroom for several reasons. First, to manage my photos. I used to shoot primarily slide film and I discovered early on that I needed a good way to catalog and locate slides or else my system of shoeboxes would quickly become unwieldy. I adapted a system I found described in ‘The Leica Manual’ in the early ’70s. When I started shooting weddings and portraits in the ’80s, they fit right in with no changes. That system with a very few minor modifications I re-adapted for digital photography in 2003 to utilize computer filing systems. Lightroom took one look at my digital picture warehouse and moved right in. It didn’t ask me to change anything, not even to move the desk over by the window. The exact layout of my filing system I’ll leave for a future post.

My second reason for using Lightroom is that it allows me to complete 98% of what I need to do without switching to any other program. The occasional tweak in Photoshop accounts for the other 2%.

The third reason is that everything Lightroom does is non-destructive. If I ever feel dissatisfied with something, I can just go back to my original and start over. Furthermore, if some magical new piece of software comes out some time in the future, I can always return to my original Raw file.

I am currently using version 3. I upgraded on November 1, 2010 after using version 2 for about 2 years. Most of what you will find in the links below works the same in either version although version 3 produces better results when viewed at 100%.

Update January 10, 2012: Adobe has just released the beta for Lightroom 4. Laura Shoe posted a review of the new features here. I do not plan to install or use the beta version at this time. I will wait for the official release. I’ll clearly label any new links I post that refer only to version 4.

Here are some links to Lightroom tutorials, tips and techniques I’ve found particularly useful. Most of these are specific to version 3 but may also apply to earlier versions.

General

If youre new to Lightroom 3, I recommend you start with the experts at Adobe. They have produced a whole series of videos on the ‘Learn Lightroom 3’ channel of AdobeTV. Many feature Julieanne Kost and her blog, The Complete Picture, also has a long list of well-written and very nicely produced video tutorials for both Lightroom and Photoshop. They feature clear screenshots you can easily follow on your own screen so be sure to use the expand feature to watch in full screen mode. Here’s a quick one from Julianne on toggling screen modes. And another that shows how to move a photo from Lightroom 3 to Photoshop CS5 and back again almost seamlessly.

Here’s another from AdobeTV demonstrating some of the new features in Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Matt Kloskowski is also one of my favorite Lightroom gurus. He writes a blog called Lightroom Killer Tips. Matt wrote an article called 5 common slip-ups everyone should read. Read the comments for even more that were submitted by his followers.

There are many other decent Lightroom tutorials on the internet. Some cost; others are free. Here’s the first episode of a free set. You can click on the author’s name at the end of the tutorial (before the reader comments) to access the additional episodes in the series.

Personally, I prefer to use books rather than read tutorials off my computer screen. This has several advantages. You can make notes in the margin, highlight whatever you think is important and even add bookmarks and sticky notes. You can skip the stuff you don’t need and come back to it later. You can read and run Lightroom on your computer using your own files to try things out. One of my favorite Lightroom books is this one by Scott Kelby. Spend the extra ten bucks and get the spiral bound version which is much easier to use.

First you need to set up your preferences. Here’s a video to get you started.

heninger fotographik has a lot of different tips and many blog post that feature links to other Lightroom advice.

After you’ve become somewhat familiar with the operation of Lightroom, you might want watch this video to set up the camera calibration for whatever camera(s) you use. Personally, I use an X-rite Color Passport like the one shown in the video when I need to be concerned about exact color reproduction. X-rite provides the external software you will need as part of their package. After you have your calibration settings, this video shows you how to use presets to apply them automatically during import.

Photographer’s Toolbox has designed several plugins for Lightroom that may be useful for some users. There is one called Keyword Master which many stock photographers will find particularly useful.

You might like to turn a collection of your favorite photos into a book. This plug-in provides an interface from Lightroom to the Blurb.com publishing tools. The new LR4 beta has this feature built-in.

At some point you may find you have a lot of clutter and junk you created but don’t need anymore. A little spring cleaning can help reclaim a lot of hard drive space. Here’s an article to help you send some of it out to the curb.

Library Module

Two different approaches to using Smart Collections to control your Lightroom workflow, by John Beardsworth and by Tom Harrison.

This video discusses what to backup and why. But it’s a bit sketchy on when. My philosophy is to make sure I have new files uploaded ASAP and backed up to an external hard drive before I reformat (ie. erase) my memory card.

Matt Kloskowski has a good video on using external disk drives.

Here are several good articles on catalogs and backups from Laura Shoe: 1. Avoiding Lightroom-Generated Headaches and Heart Attacks; 2. I Would Cry If I Lost the Work I Did Today; 3. Working on Two or More Computers With One Lightroom Catalog; 4. Moving Lightroom Work Between Laptop and Desktop Computers; 5. How To Move Your Lightroom Catalog.

What happens when you move files around outside of Lightroom? This video will help with that.

When Lightroom loses a photo it will display a large question mark in place of the thumbnail. Here’s a article to show you how to fix that.

When you import your pictures you need to be able to find them again. One way to do it is to add keywords to the metadata for each image. You can then use the Text library filter to find images based on keywords. If you also contribute images to a stock library, they will want you to keyword them so potential buyers can find them. Here’s an article that discusses building a keyword hierarchy in Lightroom. Another series of articles by Gene McCullagh shows how to build a keyword hierarchy then what happens to it when you export an image. He also has a related article on synonyms. If you’re feeling a bit masochistic, you also might like to explore the world of Controlled Vocabulary for image searching.

Here’s another tip from Matt Kloskowski. He did a video on the Painter tool. If you want to access the tool at any time (in the Library module that is), just press Shift-Option (PC: Shift-Alt). It temporarily switches to the tool (using whatever setting you used last). When you let go, it goes away.

LR3 has a new Publish feature you might like to try if you want to upload photos directly to places like Facebook or Flickr.

You can also export images from Lightroom for viewing on an iPad.

Develop Module

This video shows a nice example of a develop session on a picture. It’s worth a watch just to get the feel of putting things together.

Here’s a video that shows how to adjust exposures for a group of images all at once.

Matt Kloskowski explains the difference between the exposure and brightness sliders. And in this video tackles the difference between the exposure and fill light sliders.

Laura Shoe demonstrates a workflow for getting the most out of the LR3 Basics Panel. In this update she explains the new LR4 workflow in the basics panel and compares it to LR3.

This is a nice tutorial on Mastering the Histogram with a lot of advanced techniques and information. We often hear the advice “expose to the right”. Laura Shoe has two articles, part 1 and part 2 and a video that ties demonstrates this and ties it together in Lightroom.

Here’s a brief tutorial on dealing with high contrast images.

This video demonstrates using the HSL panel.

This article demonstrates using the tone curve.

Adjustment Brush Basics Part 1 and Part 2. And a video o demonstrate how it works. Another video shows how to use the adjustment brush. And here’s another article on local adjustments. Here’s a short article from Rob Sylvan. There’s a reason there are so many articles on this feature: it’s important. And a handy Tweet from @Lightroom: “When using the Adjustment Brush or Graduated Filter, you can Option/Alt and press the Reset button to reset all sliders to zero” which is usually the best place to start. And here’s another example that uses the adjustment brush to fix a specific problem. Julianne Kost has a list of keyboard shortcuts for the adjustment brush.

Another video from Laura Shoe demonstrates how to use the spot removal tool. It has some tricks I didn’t know that made some types of changes much easier. Laura also came up with a trick that allows you to put one spot removal fix over top of another.

Here’s a video that shows the gradient tool in operation in both black & white and color.

Understanding and using the Lightroom sharpening tools is very important but it can also be confusing. Why are there four sliders? What do they do? Which one(s) do I need to use for this picture? Here’s a detailed article that explains it all. And a sharpening article from Laura shoe that also explains the four sliders. Here are some useful sharpening tricks. And an interesting article on sharpening techniques from Outdoor Photographer magazine. The Clarity slider is also closely related to sharpening.

The History & Snapshot features arise from Lightroom being non-destructive. Here’s a video showing how to use them.

Ten photo editing tips from a pro – you might find some helpful advice there – I use some of them but not all the time.

Juliane Kost demonstrates using a second window when related creating a set of images.

Matt Kloskowski has some interesting develop presets you can download free. Here’s one for The ‘300’ Look.

Do you want to try black & white? Checkout this review of a complete set of black & white presets you can use to simulate many different film, paper and toning combinations plus some antique processes.

Slideshow Module

Here’s a nice video demo of the slideshow module.

Print Module

Julianne Kost put out this video on AdobeTV that teaches almost everything you need to know about the print module. In a second video she teaches some advanced tips and techniques in her blog.

Eric Chan, one of the Lightroom 3 engineers, shares his insights on getting started with inkjet printing.

This video show some examples of using the print module including how to use overlays for producing posters and album pages.

This video on borderless printing in Lightroom also contains some handy tips on using page layout.

Using custom print templates (Matt Kloskowski). Here are two different approaches to making 2011 calendars, using a single image and using multiple images. Both are based on custom print presets and templates you need to download. They’re free but you could also create your own if you’re feeling ambitious and want to design something original.

Here’s a nice two part video tutorial on setting up print packages. Part One and Part Two. This is a particularly useful feature for event photographers, like wedding photographers, who might want to sell prints at an event.

Laura Shoe shows you how to make a photo collage to use for your desktop wallpaper or screen saver.

Web Module

Setting up and using the Lightroom 3 Publish Services for Hard Disk, Facebook, Flickr and SmugMug.

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