As photographers, part of our creative process happens in image developer software. The most popular among them, by far, is Adobe Lightroom. Many consider the instinctive control of the program a core skill in photography.
Thus, many educators offer courses on using Lightroom, from beginner to pro level. Today, I’m reviewing Decoding Lightroom by Contrastly, which aims to be a complete all-inclusive tutorial on the matter. Let’s see what it offers and whether you should consider purchasing it.[This is one of several dozen photography education products we’ve reviewed. Click here to see how it compares on our comparison page.]
Decoding Lightroom is a 5-hour long video course. It promises to teach you everything Lightroom Classic CC has to offer (even its “secret” features).
Furthermore, it’s advertised to be teaching not only how, but also why to do editing and its specific steps.
About the Creators
The course is brought to you by the team of Contrastly, a photography education website. It’s presented by Adam Welch, a landscape photographer and adventurer based in Tennessee, the US.
His beautiful images and great knowledge about Lightroom give a great first impression.
Who is it For?
Decoding Lightroom is fit for every experience level. But it’s best for beginner to intermediate-level photographers, or those who are not new to digital imaging but new to Lightroom.
The Decoding Lightroom course is available for purchase at $48 from Contrastly.
The course consists of 22 episodes, totalling at around 5 hours in length. They are the following:
- 1 – Walkthrough & Overview of Lightroom Classic (9 minutes)
- 2 – Importing Your Images (25m)
- 3 – Understanding the Library Module (19m)
- 4 – The Develop Module & Basic Development (22m)
- 5 – All About the Tone Curve Panel (21m)
- 6 – Working with the HSL Panel (11m)
- 7 – Mastering Split Toning (8m)
- 8 – Working with the Detail Panel (10m)
- 9 – Understanding the Lens Correction Panel (12m)
- 10 – How to Use the Transform Panel (11m)
- 11 – Working with the Effects Panel (11m)
- 12 – Using the Calibration Panel (8m)
- 13 – All About Presets and Profiles (19m)
- 14 – Using the Map Module (9m)
- 15 – Creating Photo Books with the Book Module (10m)
- 16 – How to Use the Slideshow Module (15m)
- 17 – Understanding the Print Module (13m)
- 18 – Mastering the Web Module (12m)
- 19 – Working With Local Adjustment Tools (25m)
- 20 – How to Export Your Photographs (16m)
- 21 – All About the Texture Slider (17m)
- 22 – Extras, Tips & Tricks (15m)
As you see, Decoding Lightroom does indeed cover pretty much everything there is in the program.
Additionally, you also get to download all the raw images that Adam works on throughout the course. A short cheat sheet about some less-known tricks and tips is also attached, as well as many presets created by Contrastly.
The entire course is available to download, so you can watch it anytime and anywhere, no matter if you have internet or not. Of course, you can also watch it from your web browser on Contrastly’s website.
Decoding Lightroom was shot in 2018 but has been updated in 2019 with the Texture slider. This leads me to believe that we can expect continuous updates, which is a positive thing.
Where Decoding Lightroom Excels
Now, let’s see the things I most liked about Decoding Lightroom.
Structure and Clarity
Lightroom is quite a complicated topic in terms of teachability beyond the basics. Adam has found a way to structure the course’s content so it’s straight-to-the-point and easy to follow.
Episodes build on each other, but you’re not bound to keep the recommended order of watching.
Decoding Lightroom is impressively transparent and easy to learn from.
Adam’s enviable creative skills and signature editing style raise the quality of the course significantly.
While it’s not really trying to teach style and taste, the course does so to an extent by showing a little of Adam’s approach and thought processes.
The images are beautiful, and you, too, will learn the toolkit to make similar edits.
Even though it seems straightforward to me, not every course provider offers their raw image material for downloading.
Contrastly does, and I find this really useful. You can import the images into Lightroom and follow along precisely.
This way, you won’t get confused due to differences in the source material.
Of course, you need to experiment on your own, too. This is necessary to develop quick instincts and a firm style in the long run.
Updates and Community
As mentioned, the course is getting updates from time to time. You can watch them free of charge.
Contrastly also has a Facebook group. It’s primarily for their customers – although not limited to them.
Areas to Improve
While not obstructing the value of the course overall, there are small inaccuracies in Decoding Lightroom.
As an example, Adam mentions from time to time that Lightroom stores virtual copies of your images and not the originals.
This is not entirely true and may cause the viewer to believe that Lightroom is in effect duplicating the original files and editing those.
In reality, it’s only storing previews and the edits themselves, not actual uncompressed image files. Virtual copies are different: they are used to make differently edited versions of a single image.
I’m sure Adam’s aware of this, he should have paid more attention to using the right phrases. Similar, minor errors can be found throughout, but there’s only a handful of them.
The course is advertised to answer two questions: how Lightroom works and why you should edit your images in certain ways.
The first one is perfectly explained. Decoding Lightroom is indeed great in showing how Lightroom works down to the slightest detail.
However, I’ve felt that the “why?” part is not answered fully. There are short sentences across the course giving advice on stylistic considerations and the purpose of image editing.
But there’s no dedicated chapter or section for it, even though it’s quite a significant thing. I would’ve loved to hear more about it, especially from Adam, who has a recognisable, well-developed style.
The production of Decoding Lightroom has left me indecisive whether to mention it here or further up at the positives paragraph.
On the one hand, it’s very consistent and cohesive, maintains its quality across the entire length, and has several other strong points.
For example, screen recordings are especially great. They are probably recorded in 4K, so they maintain high resolution even when zoomed in to specific panels of Lightroom.
However, the footage of Adam talking is less impressive. It’s well lit, but shot close-up and pretty tightly, a bit uncomfortably so. Audio quality, while not bad, is not fantastic either.
The course is quite loosely edited. Parts in which Adam makes funny but easily avoidable mistakes are not cut out. This makes it feel slightly rushed, although not terribly.
The website uses an embedded Vimeo player. There are English subtitles available.
However, Adam speaks fairly slowly. I’ve missed the option to speed the videos up (or down) a bit – this is a basic feature in many other courses.
I’m sure it’s not a complicated thing to implement. This would make it easier to quickly recap the points, as well as to fast-forward the parts you might already know. Many viewers would appreciate it for sure.
Lightroom education is a crowded market. Almost every provider offers a Lightroom course – it’s the most popular niche along with photo education for beginners. Let’s see just the two most notable:
SLR Lounge offers a 7-hour long A-Z video course on Lightroom editing for $129 or as part of the Premium subscription. You can get a copy of the Adobe Lightroom CC Training System here.
Decoding Lightroom is a great, resourceful course, a good deal for $48. If you’re looking for concise education on Lightroom’s features and editing mechanism, you won’t go wrong.
ScoresWe’ve reviewed several dozen photography education products using the same scoring system as this one below. To learn more about how this works and how each product compares to each other, click here: Best Photography Courses and eBooks.
|Value for Money (20)||15|
|Ease of Learning (15)||13|
|Production Value (15)||11|
|Community and Learning Support (5)||5|