Beginner’s Guide To Lightroom
This guest post is brought to you by Jane from Sleeklens. Enjoy!
Imagine someone telling you that with just a simple computer software, you can actually become a better photographer … Moreover, that all you have to do is practice long and hard in order to improve, as it is designed for photographers? Are you ready to take the next step in improving your skills?
Adobe Lightroom emerged in 2006 from the actual creators of Adobe Photoshop, and today it has created its own niche within the worldwide photography community. With its status as the crown prince of digital post-production, these days learning how to be a skilled Lightroom user is a must.
With the only aim being a 200% improvement of the post-production experience, Lightroom not only enhances digital photography, but it also teaches us many things regarding theories of composition and key elements for professional photographers.
Therefore, I would like to extend an invitation to join me on this journey to become acquainted with Adobe Lightroom.
OPERATING ADOBE LIGHTROOM FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME
The first thing you will notice after opening Lightroom is the Module organization scheme, which presents as tabs on the upper part of Lightroom’s user interface. In turn, each one of these modules are split into panels and tabs that contain all the necessary tools used for working on each task. Therefore, Lightroom preplans the user’s workflow, an improvement that by itself is enough to make users fall in love with this versatile software.
Lightroom will fully adapt to the way you work your projects and the creative skills you happen to have. Those variables will structure your workflow without you even noticing it at first glance.
PRESETS INSIDE LIGHTROOM
Don’t waste your time looking for a stack of great third-party plugins for Lightroom, as they don’t exist. Fortunately, you will find 7 or 8 of them, designed for very specific tasks that may not apply to the normal user workflow or which cannot be achieved using Lightroom’s native tools.
The reason behind this is that Lightroom doesn’t work within a plugin system the way Adobe Photoshop does. Presets are the main tools inside this software.
Presets can be defined as sets of instructions attached to Lightroom’s tools (usually by adjusting the parameters on sliders) in order to achieve a desired effect on an image. The good thing about presets is that you don’t even need to have a professional grasp on Lightroom in order to make them suit your needs. All you need to know is where to get them and how to install them in Lightroom’s install folder.
Several photography studios worldwide work as designers for Lightroom presets that we can use in our daily tasks, among them Sleeklens. With the sole purpose of making you a better photographer, they provide different bundles for application with images in categories, such as Cross Processing, Food, Portrait, Nature, Landscape, Vintage, etc. From there, select one of the preset bundles and Sleeklens does all the work!
LIGHTROOM CC VS. 6 – DO I NEED TO CHOOSE?
In 2012, Adobe made a huge change in their software acquisition system. Nowadays, we can acquire every software in the Adobe Suite by subscription. In this regard, we can split Lightroom’s version into two suites:
Adobe Lightroom 6
A lifetime-license version, which can be a bit expensive up front, but which will later cost almost the same as Lightroom CC. Updating the software will require an upgrade fee, although Lightroom 6 is the latest build available on market.
Adobe Lightroom CC
Lightroom CC can be acquired through subscription packages. The most popular one is the Creative Cloud Photography plan, which includes Lightroom CC 2015, Lightroom Mobile (for smartphones and tablets), and Photoshop CC 2015 for the convenient price of $9.99/monthly. However, for $19.99/monthly you can access to every single application on Adobe Suite.
The major difference between these two versions is actually their update frequency, Creative Cloud users often receive critical software updates before the Standalone users do. However, keep in mind that if you don’t pay the subscription fee on Creative Cloud suite, you won’t be able to use the software rather than looking at and editing already processed images.
LIGHTROOM WORKFLOW AND TOOLS
The way we work inside Lightroom can be defined as the user workflow, and applies to all users, regardless of their level. In this regard, we can set out some basic points about what a proper workflow looks like:
- Importing pictures: Through the Library module, access the Import window and browse through your media source to find the images you want to work with. Lightroom will recognize almost any format, even though it is best to work with RAW files, as you can get the most out of them.
- File info and Develop module: Be sure to check metadata info before switching to the Develop module, as you will need the lens info later on.
- Correcting White Balance: Before even considering making further adjustments, ensure that you are working with the proper White Balance values, as changing them later on will affect the complete feeling of the image.
- Basic Adjustments: By this I mean the adjustments applied on Highlights/Whites/Shadows/Blacks.
- Further Adjustments: These adjustments are the ones applied to Clarity (for bringing more detail and life into the image), Vibrance (to enhance the hue of an image) and Saturation (to determine how much tint the image has).
- Tone Curve: Optional. Usually used for advanced retouching.
- Split Toning: Optional. For changing the tint in certain parts of the image.
- Lens Correction: For correcting aberrations made by the camera. Remember to apply the correct camera profile to the image.
- Plugins: Optional. If you want to add more effects to the image.
- Print module/Export image: Either switch to the Print module (in case you want to print your post-processed image) or right-click on it to access the Export menu.
In case you want to work only with plugins, omit steps 2-6 and work with the plugins directly. Detail enhancement is optional in most cases. They are most useful in still nature photography as well as in Macro shots.
Lightroom has very few features that can be labeled as “tools”, since it works mostly with Panel-Sliders. However, for advanced adjustments that can’t be achieved with the sliders only, the following set of tools are available:
- Crop tool: For cropping areas of our image
- Spot removal: Pretty similar to the Healing Spot tool of Photoshop. All you need to do is to sample a certain area and then apply corrections where needed
- Red Eye correction: Just as the name suggests, for doing Red Eye correction on images
- Graduated filter: Creates a gradient area where adjustments made by you are distributed according to their position in the gradient area
- Radial filter: Works exactly the same way as Graduated filter, but according to a radius rather than a gradient area
- Adjustment brush: Works with exactly the same parameters as the previous tools, but allows you to apply the adjustments where needed
How good you actually get at Lightroom will depend mostly on your dedication, when it comes to practice. Practice, practice and more practice is all you need, in addition to some basic knowledge, in order to master it, since it has no hidden features like other software. Don’t give up, if you can’t get exactly what you want on the first try. Only time will tell how much you will learn from the very first time you decided to work with Adobe Lightroom. Good luck!