Lightroom Lessons Learned

First a BIG thank you to the 75-80 members of the Oakville Camera Club who came out to hear my introduction to Lightroom 5 talk last night.

It’ a little daunting for a presenter when he knows he’s got people in the crowd who don’t know anything about photo editing and these folks are sitting in the same room as people who know Lightroom inside out and some who know it better than I do !!

I can tell you as a presenter it’s a shock when you ask the attendees to put up their hand if they currently use Lightroom and 60 to 70 per cent of the hands go up.

So we do the best we can and the members of the Oakville Camera Club were gracious (as always), connected to the talk and asked great questions.

One question I could have answered better was one about using Photoshop as an external editor (You had to be there as I couldn’t get my external editors to work as my computer didn’t think I had built Smart Previews — see below — and refused to open even though all was fine at my last class a week ago.) and I said that when you save your image in Photoshop it comes back to Lightroom as changes to the data file. Well it does and, more importantly, a TIFF image is actually added to the folder of RAW images that you’ve manually imported to your hard drive. I should have emphasized the TIFF (a RAW format) more. One of the experts in the front row rightly corrected me but I’m not sure everyone heard his excellent explanation.

Which brings me to the biggest issue most people have with Lightroom and that’s how to set it up.

Here again is my recommendation:

First import your RAW or JPG images manually to an external hard drive folder marked by the year (2014) and into a sub folder named for the event (Mary’s wedding). Now make a duplicate of the 2014 folder and all the folders inside it on a second external hard drive. So you have your original, untouched, unedited images in two external hard drives. That’s pretty safe. If you’re concerned about the security of your images you could load a copy of the images to DropBox (if you have the space) or one of the other online storage sites (which you pay for). You can also burn a DVD (or several) of your images.

Only now do you fire up Lightroom and in the Library module you use Lightroom’s navigator (column on left side) and find your original image folder (Mary’s wedding and all sub folders if any) and then click the import button. At the top of your screen click on the option ADD as you’re adding a reference to the original images to the Lightroom catalogue which is being created.

You can determine which size of JPGs you want to load (minimal loads relatively quickly and 1:1 previews take more time) and if you think you might wish to edit your images at anytime when you’re not going to be connected to your external hard drives click Smart Previews (which again will slow the upload and increase the size of the catalogue) which allows for editing without connection to the original images (a new feature of LR 5). When you reconnect the hard drives the data file changes you’ve made in the field are re-associated to the original images.

Once you’ve imported your images to your external hard drives using your computer’s operating system (This is a whole lot fast than letting Lightroom do all the heavy work of moving images from a camera or memory card to your computer. LR will also create a copy of all the imports in a second location of your choice if you decide to ignore my recommendation.) then always use Lightroom’s Navigator panel in the Library Module to move your original image folders around if you decide you need to change where the original reside. If you use your operating system and manually drag images or folders around, Lightroom won’t know what you’ve done and will present you with a big ? and will be unable to edit your images until you reestablish the Lightroom – Images connection manually. Best to use your operating system to bring the images in and Lightroom to move them around from then on.

I did get asked several times whether or not I thought Lightroom was the best photo editor for them.

Of course the answer is it depends.

It depends on whether or not you’re editing thousands of images from weddings you’ve shot or vacations you’ve had. Then Lightroom is the best IMHO because you can edit, search, develop, print or export images really really quickly if you use the presets and collections features.

If you’re editing fewer than a 1,000 shots a year or so, then any decent photo editor will do (Photoshop Elements, NX Capture 2 which was just discontinued by Nikon, IPhoto, Aperture and there’s a ton more).

Here’s my recommended 10-step workflow:

  1. Import the RAW or JPG images into LR.
  2. View rapidly all the images adding a one STAR rating for keepers. (This normally takes 2000 images down to 500-700.)
  3. View the one-star images and rate the keepers with two STARS. (This normally bring the 500-700 images down to 200 images or less.)
  4. Make a collection of all the two star images.
  5. Bring all the two star images into the Develop module.
  6. In the Develop module I crop, fix the white balance (try auto first) and using the histogram I start with exposure and work my way down the right-hand column of exposure changes.
  7. Before I adjust any sliders I will click Auto in the exposure section and / or use a development present from SEIM filters (Seim has free samples. i own everything this guy has made as they speed up work and often provide insight and inspiration into what I could do to my image. Best all the preset packs are relatively cheap.) and others.
  8. If necessary or desirable I’ll edit the image using an external photo editor (This includes Photoshop which I own and all the NIK editors which are excellent.)
  9. I’ll then export the image (usually as a full-size JPG to a folder on my computer’s hard drive) for subsequent emailing, printing or web gallery viewing.
  10. Once I’ve edited all the images I save the completed and burned JPG folder to my two external hard drives and if these are precious images I will burn a DVD and likely add them to my SmugMug and Flickr sites for save keeping.

Finally I want to thank the Oakville Camera Club’s executive for the warm email which was waiting for me today in my inbox and to the members of the Oakville Camera Club who took the time last night to attend (some came from as far away as Guelph) and to say thank you in person. It was a very nice conclusion to a great evening for me.

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One Response

  1. I enjoyed your talk last night at the OCC Peter and picked up a few tips even though I use Lightroom extensively. One point would strongly reinforce in regards to importing photo files manually with the ADD option is to make sure all the files are copied from the memory card to an external hard drive. Another club member (who shall remain nameless) was inserting his memory cards, importing with the ADD option then erasing and reusing the cards! When he asked me why all of his old photos has questions marks in Lightroom he was not too happy with my answer. Today he imports using the COPY mode.

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