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Photography

Getting Started With Adobe Lightroom: The Photo Workflow

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This post is part of a series called Adobe Lightroom Workflow: Import, Edit and Beyond.
Lightroom Workflow: Data Setup & Import Essentials
This post is part of a series called Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for Beginners.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Quickstart Beginner's Guide
Lightroom Workflow: Data Setup & Import Essentials

When you first got into photography you probably weren't thinking much about your digital image workflow. Then you really caught the photography bug, and several years (or maybe weeks!) later you've taken thousands of images. If you're anything like me, these pictures are pretty disorganized. This tutorial shows how to use Adobe Lightroom to tame your photo collection and get the most from your pictures.

Catalogs & The Non-Destructive Difference

If you've used photography programs like Photoshop before, the biggest difference you'll notice with Lightroom is the Library. The first time that you open Lightroom, you'll be working in a catalog. Think of catalogs as Lightroom's organizational metaphor: like a ledger, as you import images to Lightroom they are added as entries in the catalog. When you then make changes to an image, the original image file is preserved as master copy.

In Photoshop, we can save our progress using TIFF or PSD files - layered Photoshop documents that include the image and all of the changes to the image. This is called a "non-destructive" process because it preserves the original image. However, these files tend to be pretty large: often too large for sharing online or sending in an email. They are also meant for use only with Photoshop and a handful of other programs.

If we save finished images in a smaller, compressed image format, like JPEG or GIF, we've applied a destructive edit. The changes we've made are saved permanently and we can't revert back to the original image.

Catalogs and non-destructiveness are the two crucial features that define Lightroom as an all-purpose photo management and digital imaging system. With this system, we can manage an unlimited number of pictures and make an unlimited number of changes without any loss of quality.

Made of Modules

One of the key differences in the structure of Lightroom is that it is divided into a series of modules. The modules are unique workspaces that allow you to interact with your image collections in different ways. This set of modules makes Lightroom a nearly-complete photo editing and image processing suite.

Lightroom Modules
Lightroom's modules are unique workspaces for interacting with your images in differing ways.

From a workflow perspective, Lightroom's modules divide the post-production process in a straightforward, logical way. You can take images from start to finish simply by switching modules.

The various modules are shown in the upper right part of the application. Click the name of the module make it the active module.

Library

The Library module is for getting your image collection organized and tagged. As your collection grows, you'll need to add information about your images to your images to keep them organized, and this is the place. Lightroom's Library provides all the tools you need to manage your pictures and stay sane.

Lightroom Filtering Tools in Library Module
The Library's grid view allows you to view many images simultaneously and apply filters for just the images you're looking for.

The Library module is full of tools that help you tag and add meaning to your collection of images. Common tasks in the Library module include culling images to remove unwanted photos, tagging images with keywords, exploring images in different views, and sorting images into groups.

Lightroom Library Module Tools
The tools in Lightroom's Library module are truly effective for managing an image collection. From left to right in the above screenshot, we first see four options for viewing our images, ranging from a grid view to a before and after effect. Lightroom also gives us flagging options to choose our "picks" from our collection, star ratings, and color labels. All of these tools can help us add meaning to the photos in our collection and enhance navigation of our favorite images.

Develop

The Develop module is where image-processing happens. With a full set of tools for correcting and adjusting images, you'll probably spend much of your time in the Develop module. Photoshop just might get jealous!

Lightroom Develop Module
The Develop module in Lightroom is home to the image adjustment and editing tools that are essential to post-processing.

On the right side of any module is a series of panels that contain tools for modifying the image. In the Develop module, these sliders are used to adjust the image. Each panel - stacked vertically on the right side of the Develop module - allows us to adjust a different aspect of the image, such as the exposure, color settings, or sharpening.

The bulk of my work occurs in the Library and Develop modules. The rest of the modules are worth checking out, but many other photographers I've spoken to note that their habits match mine, taking images from start to finish in these two modules.

Map

The Map module is designed to help you visualize where your images were captured. If your camera adds GPS data to your images, you can load your images in the Maps module and see them automatically placed on a true to life map. If your camera doesn't add the GPS data automatically, you can still drag and drop images on to the map to note their location.

Lightroom Maps Module
The Lightroom Maps module is an incredible tool for visualizing where the images are made. It's a great tool if you want to track and maintain the best places to make photos.

One great feature of the Maps module is that it can help you locate where your best images were made. Consider building a location database where your image locations are housed.

Book

In Lightroom 4, Adobe added the ability to create and print photo books via Blurb, an on-demand printing service. This is a tool that Lightroom offers for creating a printed copy of the images in your catalog. The beauty of this system is that you can layout and print, all without leaving Lightroom.

The Lightroom Books module is an amazing tool for adding images to a book layout and printing with Blurb directly from within Lightroom.

Although the Book module is not something that I frequently use, it could certainly come in handy when you want to create a special occasion book or deliver a beautifully created keepsake to clients.

Slideshow

Another great client-driven tool is the Slideshow module, used to put together slideshows of any image in your catalog.

The Lightroom Slideshow Module
The Lightroom Slideshow module is a completely customizable set of tools to create slideshows of the images in your catalogs. Whether for your own use or for clients, you've got enough options to tweak the slideshow to your liking.

I'm sure you can imagine the uses for slideshows, whether it's in-home showings with clients or impromptu vignettes at a wedding reception (imagine wowing your clients with shots from earlier in the day.)

Print

The Print module is great for taking your images from digital to tangible using your own photo printer. With advanced layout, cropping, and placement options, the Print module is a full suite for handling this.

The Lightroom Print module
The Lightroom Print module is designed to help place your digital images on layouts to make tangible copies of your images.

One of the more impressive features of the Print module is Lightroom's ability to "soft proof" your images. This simulates what the image will look like when it's printed, accounting for differences in screen-to-paper adjustments.

Web

With the Web module, Lightroom can render HTML templates and images from your catalog into a page ready for publishing to the web.

Lightroom Web Gallery
The Lightroom Web Gallery is used to create web-ready collections of your images that can easily be pushed to a server for easy viewing.

Even if you're a skilled web designer capable of building your own sites from scratch, this module shouldn't be overlooked. I've frequently used this module to push quick previews to my clients.

These modules all add a new function and way to interact with our images. The key is that we never have to leave Lightroom, whether we are applying adjustments or sending images out to the web.

Wrapping Up

In this intro to Lightroom 5, we've taken a look at what makes Lightroom unique as well as all of the modules inside of it. This suite of modules is a completely immerse experience for photographers, capable of handling images from start to finish.

Are you using Lightroom yet? What modules and features do you want to learn more about?

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