So you just installed Lightroom, now what?
You could spend some time just playing around and learning through doing, but if you’re looking for a nudge in the right direction here are a few simple concepts that I wish I’d thought about before starting my own Lightroom journey – hopefully it helps you! Five things you should know about Lightroom before you start:
#1 Your organizational strategy
This might not seem important at first, but Lightroom is an amazing organizer of your photographs if you choose to use it as one. So before you start haphazardly uploading photographs into your Lightroom catalog try to come up with some sort of basic organizational strategy first.
Some ideas for organization include:
Organizing by date, by location of shoot, or by specific events. Think about your style of photography and the subject matter you plan on shooting. For example a wedding photographer would probably want to organize by date/bride-groom name, where as a wildlife photographer may organize by location/animal.
Lightroom has many different tools for organizing your photographs from colors, star rating and flags. You could for example use flags as a simple yes/no option to quickly cull images, while colors could be for various states of post production workflow (i.e. blue is for images that need to be processed and green is for images that are finalized and shouldn’t be touched).
This might sound overwhelming at first, but if you get into this habit early on, it will simply become a part of your Lightroom workflow, and trust me an organized Lightroom library makes things a lot easier when you’re dealing with thousands of photographs.
#2 How you want to import photos
This is a simple question, but one that you should know the answer to before you get started with Lightroom. When you first open up the import dialog box you’ll be asked whether you want to Copy as DNG, Copy, Move, or Add. Knowing the difference between these four options will help you make the best choice for your workflow. So here’s the Cliff’s notes version:
- Copy as DNG – Converts the file type to Adobe’s .DNG format. Read all about Adobe’s DNG format here.
- Copy – Retains the original file type of your image (on your computer or memory card) and copies it to a new location on your computer or hard drive.
- Move – Moves the image from one place to another on your computer (or from the memory card).
- Add – Adds the image to a Lightroom catalog without moving its physical location on your computer or copying it.
For a more detailed look at importing photographs in Lightroom check out: Quick Tip: Importing to Lightroom Made Easier
#3 How to use the Lightroom Develop Module
Now that you’ve got your organizational strategy situated you’re starting to get into the fun stuff, before you go all hack and slash post-production on your first photograph it does help to learn some basic fundamentals. Here’s three quick points to get you started.
- Learn what the basic tab does – The basic tab is the workhorse of Lightroom it is what will bring your image to life. At a minimum master these five Lightroom sliders and you’ll be on the road to successful image processing.
- Learn the art of local adjustments – Once you’re comfortable with Lightroom’s basic tab you’ll probably want to move onto learning things like how to apply adjustment brushes, graduated filters and radial filters to your images. These tools function in much the same way as the sliders within the basic tab, however, they allow you to have more isolated and local control over your images.
- Learn the finishing touches – Finally within the develop module you’ll want to learn a bit about the finishing touches that Lightroom is capable of providing. Things like the clone/heal tool, sharpening, and noise reduction are a good place to start. You may also want to learn about how to remove chromatic aberrations and correct for lens distortion as well. These types of tools are subtle, but powerful, and really will bring the entire image together as a final printable work.
#4 What are presets and how you should use them
While you may be tempted to start with presets it’s better that you learn your basic tab and various other tools first – why? Simply because all presets are created from these settings so once you learn those settings not only will you know a lot about the presets you’re choosing, but you’ll also be able to create your own.
When it comes to presets think of them as a starting point, not a finished product. Learn how to use them to speed up your workflow by creating your favorite looks within a preset, then applying what you know about the various sliders in the basic tab to fine tune the results.
For more info on Lightroom presets: A Concise Guide to Lightroom Develop Presets
#5 What your export settings should be
Here you are, ready to export your first photograph from Lightroom, and just when you thought you had everything figured out, this screen pops up. What do you do now?
First you’ll want to remember that Lightroom doesn’t save your processed images, only the instructions of how to process them, that’s why you need to export (export = “save as”) a file out of Lightroom. This image is separate from the original camera RAW file, and as a result will need its own name, and place of organization.
You’ll want to determine what file type and size you’re going to export, and whether or not you want Lightroom to automatically add a watermark to your photographs. These things are all going to be preferences for your own work and there’s no right or wrong way to go about doing it, but you should learn about the implications of each before you start exporting hundreds of photographs.
What else would you tell someone who’s just getting their feet wet with Lightroom? Leave us a comment below and let us know!
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