Lightroom isn't just great for professional photo editing - it also has many great options for showing off your photos to clients, friends or family. Whether you want to sit someone down in front of your computer and play them a slideshow or create an impressive interactive web gallery, Lightroom has the tools to help you, no experience necessary.
Below we'll walk through the basics of setting up both custom slideshows and web galleries in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. Though much of the process is straightforward, there are plenty of advanced settings to get lost in. Let's get started!
Slideshows are one of the absolute best ways to show off your photos to a client. Giving them an online album to click through is great for when they really want to examine the images, but for that initial presentation, nothing beats sitting back and watching the photos go by with a little music in the background. This makes the event much more emotion-driven and is almost guaranteed to push up the level of excitement during that all-important first impression.
Selecting the Slideshow Photos
The first step for setting up a slideshow in Lightroom is to choose the photos you want to include. It's likely that your various libraries will have thousands of photos in them and no one wants to sit through a presentation that long so it's best to carefully select your favourite images.
The easiest and most flexible way to decide what goes into a slideshow is to first set up a collection. To do this, select the "Library" module at the top right of the screen. Then find the "Collections" dropdown, click on the little plus button in the top right and select "New Collection." Name the collection "Slideshow" or something similar so you remember the purpose of that specific collection.
Once you have a collection, all you need to do is drag photos into it. You can click and drag in one at a time or make large selections and drag them in all at once. To remove an image from the collection, just select it and hit delete (make sure you're inside the collection first). Don't worry, this will not remove the image from your library, only the current collection.
If you don't want to create a collection manually, try out a Smart Collection. These allow you to build collections based on a set of user-defined properties.
You can create Smart Collections based on a huge range of different variables including rating, caption, filename, and/or whether or not the file has been modified inside of Lightroom. You can also combine rules to create complex selections.
Smart Collections make it easy to keep track of the files that are important to you and consequently perform actions on those collections such as creating slideshows or galleries. These can be a huge timesaver, so be sure and create a few just to get a feel for how it all works.
Working With the Slideshow Module
Once you've built your slideshow collection, select it in the Collections menu and then go the the Slideshow module at the top right of the screen (you can also select different collections from within the Slideshow module). This should bring up the interface below:
Most of the important controls for this module will be on the right side of the screen. Lightroom provides you with lots of customization options so you can really tweak the slideshow to your own preferences.
Many of the controls here are pretty self-explanatory. The best way to learn them is to just dive in and play with them to see how they affect the preview in the middle, but we'll walk through the important stuff so you know what's available.
Frame, Stroke and Shadow
The first few options, shown below, are Zoom to Fill Frame, Stroke Border and Cast Shadow. Since full-screen slideshows are ideal for viewing photos, you might be tempted to check the "Zoom to Fill Frame" box. However, be wary of this option as it will cut off significant portions of your images. This is usually acceptable on horizontal images but is severe enough on vertical images that it typically ruins the photo.
The Stroke Border and Cast Shadow commands are exactly what they sound like. Grab the sliders to increase either setting and remember that some color schemes may prevent you from seeing the results.
Next up is the Layout setting. This essentially just controls the size of the image preview, but does so in a roundabout way. What you're really setting with the sliders is the size of the gap between the image and the outer edge.
You can edit the sliders individually but this tends to produce some really weird results. For most uses, you'll want to link them all together and adjust all the borders around the image simultaneously.
Identity Plates, Watermarks and Text Overlays
Under the layout settings, you have two very similar settings: Identity Plate and Watermarking. The difference between the two is mostly that the identity plate can go anywhere while the watermark is restricted to the image. To illustrate, here's an example of an identity plate setup to be positioned below the images in the slideshow.
Alternatively, here's a preview of an image with a watermark applied. The Lightroom watermark settings are quite flexible and allow you to set up either text or image watermarks and adjust them as a percentage of the overall image size.
If you just want to throw some one-time text on the slideshow without setting up watermarks or identity plates, hit the "ABC" button at the bottom of the screen to add a text overlay. The options for the overlay appear under the watermark settings. You can adjust the font, opacity, shadow, etc. so the overlay looks just how you want.
Backdrop and Title Screens
The backdrop settings allow you to change the appearance of the margin around the photo. The background color and image settings obviously do exactly what you'd expect them to do and Color Wash is just a fancy way to say that Lightroom is going to add a gradient to the background.
The Title options allow you to create a slide at the beginning and end of your slideshow that are either blank or contain a custom Identity plate.
If you don't really care much about the appearance of the slideshow, you can skip all the way to the bottom where you will find the Playback settings. From here you can set a soundtrack, adjust your slide duration, set your photos to a random order and more.
The soundtrack settings are a newer Lightroom feature and still aren't quite what they should be. My biggest complaint here is that you can only set up one song for the slideshow. So if you have a lot of images, you're out of luck. It would be much nicer if you could select an entire playlist in iTunes or even set up a playlist right in Lightroom.
Further, Lightroom doesn't let you add in songs that you purchased from iTunes containing DRM. Because of these limitations, I usually just set up my music to play directly in iTunes and run Lightroom over it.
Templates and Exporting
As you can see, there are lots of different ways to set up a slideshow and it can be pain to change all these settings every time. Fortunately, you can easily create your own templates and even choose from a few pre-built options. These appear on the left side of the screen, opposite all the controls we just looked at.
After you're all done customizing your slideshow, you can either play it right inside of Lightroom or export it using the Slideshow menu at the top of the screen. I use this option often to export video slideshows for my clients, which I can then throw right into iMovie for further customization.
Photo slideshows like those above are great for presenting your work to clients that are physically present, but it's much more practical to be able to email someone a link so they can see your work online from wherever they happen to be. To get started with one of these, click on the Web module at top right of your screen. Before diving into a web gallery, make sure to setup a small collection of images just like we did with the slideshow.
Though Lightroom is professional-grade software, Adobe only expects you to be a professional photographer and fortunately doesn't require that you know anything about web development to set up a web gallery. This means that even someone with zero web experience should have little trouble creating a fancy gallery to show off their work.
The easiest way to get started with Lightroom web galleries is to check out the Template Browser. From here you can browse through over 30 different prebuilt gallery templates. With a single click, the gallery pops up in the preview area already populated with your photos.
Each template has various snippets of text thrown in as placeholder copy. Customizing these is a breeze as the live preview is also an editor. Simply double click on a line of text to change the contents (you can also change each item using the menus at the far right).
If you want to customize a template further, jump over to the controls on the right side of the screen. You can also skip the templates altogether and start from scratch here by selecting a Layout Style.
Lightroom 3 comes with five different layout styles. The possibilities for customizing these to achieve a unique final result are nearly endless but the underlying framework must be one of these five options.
The little bit that you should know about web development is that the fancier templates (the first four) will be less compatible across various browsers and user machines. This is because they use Flash, which is of course owned by Adobe. Generally speaking, Flash is widely accepted in the photography community and you can see it at work on nearly every photographer portfolio you can find.
However, remember that if you run into problems with clients not being able to view your slideshows, the "Lightroom HTML Gallery" is going to be your safest bet. HTML is the base language websites are written in and should be perfectly compatible with virtually any browser setup.
The Flash templates are admittedly much nicer looking, especially the new "Airtight" selection. There's a standard thumbnail version shown below in addition to a cool postcard version with smooth animations.
Setting Up Your Gallery
Each of the five templates has its own custom settings so we won't go through all of them, just know that it's basically the same process as we used on the slideshow above.
As an example, say we have the template below and we want to make it so that there are five columns of images on a black background.
To accomplish this, we first locate the grid settings and change them so that there are five images across. This is done by clicking and dragging to shift the highlighted areas in the little grid preview.
Next we find the color palette settings and change the background color to black. You'll want to watch out for any text or other items that get lost upon changing your background color and update those accordingly.
Continue this process to customize your gallery further. Lightroom is really flexible and allows you to change nearly every aspect of the layout's appearance.
Exporting Your Web Gallery
Once you're done with the customization process it's time to export your gallery. These settings are at the very bottom of the panel and allow you to tweak image quality, watermarking etc.
To get the images on the web, you'll have to set up the FTP settings. If you have a website, just throw it on your server and link clients to it directly or build a link into your site. If you didn't set the site up yourself, you'll have to consult your developer for the FTP information. Once you have the FTP information figured out, click the "Upload" button to place the slideshow onto your server.
If you don't have a website, don't be discouraged, there is still a way for you to have an online gallery. Cruise by Dropbox.com and follow the instructions to install the software on your computer. Dropbox is an awesome and free online backup/file sharing utility that you should definitely be using whether you want to set up a web gallery or not.
Once you have a Dropbox account, click the "Export" button in the Lightroom Web module and export the gallery to your Dropbox "Public" folder. Once it's inside your Public folder, right click on the "index.html" file and go to Dropbox>Copy Public Link (this is how it works on a Mac and may be slightly different on a PC). You can then paste this link into an email, tweet or Facebook post to show the gallery to your friends and family just as if it were on your own website.
That's about it! You should now be more than equipped to build awesome slideshows and web galleries that will blow your clients away. Again, all those settings can be daunting at first but when you dive in it's all pretty easy to achieve, so go open Lightroom and start playing with those sliders!
If you've built any Lightroom galleries that you want to show off, leave a link below so we can check them out! Also be sure to mention any other great solutions you've come across for building slideshows and web galleries.