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.
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, presets are available for specific ways to stylise your photographs. All these benefits make Adobe Lightroom the popular choice for image editing.
The great thing about Adobe is that it offers 30-day trials. free of charge.
There are a few plans to choose from for photographers. Either opt for Lightroom CC (classic) and 1TB of cloud storage for $9,99.
Or for the same cost, you can trade in the 1TB for 20GB. This gives you both current versions of Lightroom and Photoshop too.
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.
There might be large, unanswered questions lingering around in your head. For example, will it recognize my new camera?
For the six important things you need to know about Lightroom 6, look no further.
Why We Recommend Lightroom Vs Alternatives
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.
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 a 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.
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 you organize all your photos, in general, could denote how you should organize them in Lightroom.
What works for me, is to separate all my 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.
I find this works best for me as they are all in order of date, and tells me what is in each folder.
These folders are imported into Lightroom, which keeps the titles I use. This allows me 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.
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.
The last thing you want to do is spend long periods of times searching for that one image of your family.
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.
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.
For a few other ways to import images, have a look at this extensive article on what you should think about when importing.
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.
Collections in Lightroom are a great way to keep your photographs neat and tidy. I personally use them when finalising a project I have been working on.
After editing the photographs down to an idea number (15 for live concerts), 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.
Lightroom’s recent versions have 7 different modules:
- Library – You can organise all your images, add keywords and metadata. You can also organise 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.
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.
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.
For all the help you’ll ever need on batch processing, read our article here.
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.
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.
And for good reason. 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 here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have a play around with an image or two to get used to how they work. You’ll soon notice which areas affect and change.
We have looked at making local adjustments to whole images. But what if you want to change a small part or select a single subject from an entire image?
This is where brushes and masks come into play. With brushes, you can select areas that need some adjusting, and change accordingly.
These areas could benefit from adding exposure or bringing down the color to make it less distracting.
There are many possibilities, from graduated to radial filters.
You can basically use any of the tools (and more) found in the develop panel on the right.
These can also be copied and pasted to other images that have the same problem. This cuts down on editing time, leaving you free to capture more images.
Nothing is easier to remove in Lightroom than red eyes. It even has its own specific area in the Basic part of the develop panel.
Red eyes come from the direct flash reflecting the blood vessels in your subject’s eyes. Lightroom is here to help.
Select the red-eye correction tool, drag the area over the eye and then release.
This is solved automatically. But a little tweaking might be needed. In this case, read our article for the best way to approach this solution.
Lightroom is a great tool for resizing an image, cropping or adding local adjustments. Sometimes, you’ll need to edit the subject matter too.
Seeing your image on a big screen can be a huge help. You’ll see straight away if an image is slightly out of focus.
If you are witnessing this problem; Don’t Panic! There are ways we can help it. Luckily we have a powerful sharpness tool at our fingertips.
For sharpening your image, we have all the information you need.
Blurring backgrounds can be a very important tool. If the background is distracting attention from the subject, this is the article you need to look at.
The adjustment brush in the develop module is where you will start. The idea is that you paint the area you want to be affected.
Then the ‘sharpness’ and ‘clarity’ sliders are what you bring down to achieve the desired effect.
One way of making this very easy is to turn on the ‘show selected mask overlay’ feature. This is before you start painting with the brush.
This will show you what areas will change when you play around with the sliders.
The presence panel can be found at the bottom of the ‘basic’ area in the develop module. This area covers Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation.
Clarity is basically a contrast tool, but for mid-tones. This is great for adding a punch to your image without making it look unnatural.
Vibrance and Saturation make the colors more or less powerful. This helps create overall balance in your photo
This article tells you in greater depth when to use Vibrance and Saturation. Also, what effect they will have on your photographs.
Converting your color to black and white photography in Lightroom is very easy. It is literally a click of the mouse.
You’ll find the ‘black and white’ tab in the adjustments panel in the develop module. Voila! But you will find the picture isn’t as powerful as it was in color.
This is because color photographs work on different aspects than the black and white alternative.
Here you need to focus on contrast, texture and light to separate the foreground from the background.
The image needs tweaking to get the best benefits. But our article will help you convert and adjust as necessary.
Instagram images are often filtered, and sometimes, to death. It’s easy to do, as the smartphone application has it’d own editing area.
If you aren’t looking for that Instagram feel, there are other ways to edit your images. Lightroom is a great tool for these images.
The benefit is you can resize your images to the famous square format. Presets also help to batch process images to retain your ‘style’.
One of the problems with digital photography is you lose all the aspects that film photography gave you.
Stepping into a darkroom, the smell of chemicals and waiting eagerly for a print to develop. You also miss those interesting contact sheets that Magnum was famous for showing.
Luckily for you, there is a way to replicate this using Lightroom 6. When printed, they offer you a great preview before you print the images in a larger ratio.
Distortion is a common problem in photography. Wide angle lenses are especially prominent with distortion.
Even your perspective, either shooting upwards or downwards, can create some deformation of your subject.
Luckily, Lightroom has a specific tool that can fix these problems.
The lens correction area of the right-hand panel in the develop module is the place you need to navigate to.
This correction can be done automatically if the lens you are using has a profile. If not, you can choose to correct the imperfection manually.
Our article gives you all of the tips, and examples, you need to understand how to correct lens distortion.
If you want to know more about lens distortion, we have an article for that too.
Chromatic aberrations are purple or green halos around subjects in the image. They are generally a lens problem and something else that can be fixed in the lens correction panel.
You might even just need to click a check-box to fix this issue.
If this doesn’t fix it, then the de-fringe slider is now your new, best friend. Move this along until it disappears. Simple.
As you’ve no doubt found out by now, using a high ISO will inevitably add noise to your image.
This might be just the gritty style that you are after, but if it’s not, you’ll want to remove it.
The problem with noise is that any process to remove it will affect the quality of the image.
This is because smoothing pixels removes fine details. Removing noise also affects the whole image, and can’t be masked or applied only to specific areas.
This process takes place in the detail section of the develop module, with the noise reduction section. It is helpful to know whether the noise is from luminance or color.
If you don’t know, you can use both sliders to determine which affects the photograph.
This article offers you more help in de-noising your image.
Special Techniques and Processes
HDR (High-dynamic-range) is the end result of three or more exposures fused together.
These types of photography are multiple exposure-bracketed images, meaning the three (or more images) all have different exposures.
This technique is used for scenes where there are dark and light areas with a lot of detail that you do not want to lose.
While in Lightroom, select the images you want to layer and click on Photo>Photo Merge. A preview window will open, giving a few options.
Auto Align needs to be checked if you were photographing handheld (not advisable). Auto Tone provides a good starting point for an evenly-toned image.
This article helps you know what to look for when merging photographs, and also what to do in case of any trouble-shooting.
To create a time-lapse using Lightroom, you first need to take a sequence of images. Typically, using a tripod and an intervalometer.
For an in-depth guide, see our extensive article here.
When you have all the images, import them into Lightroom, preferably into a separate folder. Go to the first image, edit it for exposure, sharpness and color management.
Ctrl/CMD+Shift+C copies all the settings. Select all the photos, and use Ctrl/CMD+Shift+V, to paste the settings across all of the images.
Select the collection of images and head to the slideshow module. You will need a template, which you can get here.
Select the template from the template browser. Then click export video, and choose the resolution you want.
It will take a few minutes to render the video, depending on the number of images.
Presets in Lightroom can add tremendous value to your work, and save a lot of time on your workflow.
They are pre-made settings to be added into and used exclusively in Lightroom.
Aspiring photographers, photographic editors and software manufacturers all make their own. They range from free to expensive.
Here is a link to 1064 free Lightroom presets – ready to use on your photographs. Follow the instructions below on how to install them.
Presets are a great addition to your workflow. This article will show you how to add ones you have found on the internet.
It will also show you how you can save your own. This lets you re-use them for all of your images, saving you time in the process.
Every now and again, you create an adjustment that is just perfect. It suits your landscape or street photography down to a T.
Knowing how to make a preset and save it means you have it ready to go. A click of a button and your image is ready for sharing or printing.
This is also a perfect method to batch process images of the same subject, time or location. Have it ready soon as to save you time.
The film ‘look’ to digital images is all the rage of late. It might have something to do with the time, energy and money it takes to photograph on actual film.
It is understandable. Why go through the whole process when you can create the look digitally. Personally, nothing is better than the real thing.
Saying that using Lightroom saves you a lot of time. Let it do its job and add those grainy color shifts to your images today. All you need is our article.
The Nik collection is a set of seven premium photo-enhancing filters. They can be used as Lightroom plugins, or as standalone editing software.
Each one of these tools is a whole digital darkroom dedicated to a specific technique.
Downloading the file was a little finicky. The download is available here. You get a free 7-day trial when you enter your email address.
The company DxO, who owns the software, then send you a subscription confirmation email. Clicking on this takes you to the website, which is where you would expect the download to be.
There is no link, no information and no tab for the Nik software. You will receive the download link in an additional email.
This article about Nik Collection gives you an in-depth look at how to use these tools. They operate small programs within Lightroom itself, so a little help is needed.
It also tells you exactly how the tools affect your images. Use them in adjusting your own images.
Export and Back-Up
Adobe Lightroom is different in the way that you don’t save images, but rather export them.
When you do, you can choose to keep the original file format or go for the standard jpeg. Others can also be used, but are less common.
PSD (Photoshop default) is an export file that is used with Adobe Photoshop for further editing.
TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) or DNG (Digital Negative) which was created by Adobe to act as a lossless raw file format.
When you export from Lightroom, the program creates a file that saves all of the modifications you made. This data comes from adjustments and adding metadata.
You can rename the images, place them in specific folders and even repeat the same process with a click of a button. This is instead of constantly re-opening the export dialog box.
There are many ways to export. By using the big button at the bottom of the folders panel in the develop module.
By clicking file>export, with a keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+E or even to set-up social media accounts such as Facebook and Flickr.
This is the area you want to learn about now, not when it is too late.
Backing-up your data is very important in every case. Hard drives can fail, computers shut down, mistakes happen.
Having a back-up means you can worry less and focus more on your photographic editing skills.
There are many systems to back-up your images. You will need to find one that works for you and your budget.
Thankfully the images are digital. This means you can copy them many times and store them in different places.
Organizing your photographs in Lightroom efficiently is a must. It is also one way you can keep control over your photographs.
If you use one catalog, it is easier to keep a link between it and the master files.
This article has great tips on what to do, what to look out for and possible situations that you can troubleshoot from.