Mastering the Basics : Adobe Lightroom

Learning a new software application can be overwhelming – especially when that application is Adobe Lightroom with its rich set of features and functionality. In those instances, it can be best to master the basics before attempting some of the more complex functionality.

Ryazan, Russia - July 11, 2018: Adobe Lightroom Classic, software logo on the official website of Adobe.

Assuming you are already familiar with post-processing concepts in digital photography, and are working with the desktop Adobe Lightroom Classic, here is an overview of everything you need to master just the basics of Adobe Lightroom.

Understanding the catalog

The single most important thing to understand about Lightroom is that it is a non-destructive software application. Everything that is “done” to an image in the application does not affecting the underlying file even though the changes will be displayed as they will look in the final result.

Adjustments are “stored” in a catalog and then “applied” when an image is rendered out. So the first you need to do to start to work on an image is to import the image from your local drive into the catalog (from the Library Tab).

When you are happy with your edits and are ready to “apply” then to the image, your must export the file out. This has the effect of applying the changes made in the Design Tab and attaching the metadata you’ve entered in the Library Tab (both explained below).

The second most important thing to know about Lightroom is the importance of the catalog backups. You can control the frequency of the back-ups and the physical location to write the files under Lightroom-Catalog Settings. Failure to maintain catalog back-ups can result in the loss of all the adjustments you’ve made within Lightroom that weren’t rendered in a file.

And finally, it is important not to move the physical location of your images or rename the file outside of Lightroom – doing so will result in the catalog not being able to link to the original file rendering all your edits useless. Always move and rename using the information in the Library Tab.

Library Tab

The Library tab is where you will find the Import and Export buttons. The Folders navigation area on the left side will show you all the folder locations and files that Lightroom “knows” about. If the files you want to work on are not present, you must import them into the catalog. Files and folders with a ? are areas that Lightroom “thought” was there, but were moved or renamed outside of the tool.

The right side of the tab is for managing Keywords and Metadata. All information entered here will be applied to the file upon Export.

Quick Tip: Copy Keywords and Metadata by selecting multiple files to work on at once, or use the Metadata – Sync Metadata menu option. Use MetaData Presets to create a metadata template to facilitate reuse.

Design Tab

The Design tab is where all the image adjustments are made. On the right navigation panel, the Histogram is displayed along with the properties from the original photo. The tools underneath, from left to right, include the Crop Overlay – Spot Removal– Red Eye Correction – Graduated Filter – Radius Filter and Adjustment Brush.

Adjustments tools are grouped into Basic (White Balance and Exposure), Tone Curve, HSL/Color (Hue Saturation and Luminance), Split Toning, Detail (Sharpening and Noise Reduction), Lens Correction, Transform (Upright), and Effects (Vignetting and Grain).

The left navigation panel displays and controls effect Presets (for Color, Creative or B&W filter effects) which can be applied to the image with a single click. The History panel displays every action that has been performed on an image. Actions can be undone by clicking on a previous state; which will return the image to that state. Further edits will be applied from that point forward.

Quick Tip : You can select multiple files to work on or use the Settings – Sync Settings menu function.

Once you become familiar with these basics features, the wealth of functionality of Adobe Lightroom will be at your fingertips.

Photo credits: Sharaf Maksumov.

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