If you've not thought about using Lightroom or are unsure why you should and want more information on what the software can do, we've put together a list of 17 features that make Lightroom a great tool for photographers.
Photo Centric Environment
Lightroom has been built around the workflow of Photographers. As Robin Whalley said in a previous article: "Lightroom provides great flexibility and power built around the idea of a simple generic workflow. Lightroom provides great tools to support every step of the workflow rather than being exceptional in just one aspect."
This doesn't stop it from working alongside other software, though, and you can easily jump to Photoshop to make a specific adjustment if you need to.
There are seven specific modules identified (Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print and Web) and not only are they presented in the order you'd expect them to be for creating a quick and smooth workflow, the tools are also in the right place under each specific module. What this means is you won't be searching around for specific tools you need and the tools you don't need at that particular point during your workflow won't be cluttering up your screen.
Rating / Ranking
Photographers are well known for taking lots of images and it can be hard to keep track of them all. However, Lightroom's ranking system is designed to make this job slightly easier. This, as the name suggests, allows users to 'rank' their images. There are several ways users can rank images which includes reject / keep flags, stars and colour tabs. Once images have been ranked users can then search for the ranking terms to show specific images such as images that only have a red tab or 4 stars.
Organise Images Easily
Once you've learnt the process, organising your photo library in Lightroom is easy and there are plenty of tools on offer that'll make the organisation process as in-depth or simple as you like. For example, you can rate images and add specific colour labels, flags and metadata to images as well as create collections which makes it easier to find images you've taken several months before. There are many other ways you can organise your images, some of which Robin Whalley covered in a previous tutorial
Keywording is never fun but Lightroom does offer a logical way to keyword your images so you can organise your image archive and find individual shots. This is a huge subject that's much too big to cover here but Robin Whalley has written a comprehensive guide on Keywording in Lightroom
that can be found in ePHOTOzine's technique section
Easy View And Sort By Metadata
As well as using keywords to find specific images users can use the Library Filter when in Library Grid view mode to search for specific images via the Metadata. This allows you to be very specific in your search, for example you could just want to see images taken in 2010 or ones taken on a specific lens.
These are places where information about your image files (and videos) are kept but the origianl file is not stored in the catalog, Lightroom just looks for the image file its located in on your hard drive. These catalogs store all the information that's related to your image so metadata, keyword tags, settings you've applied in the Develop module etc. are all stored here. In a nutshell, Adobe describe them as: "A database that tracks the location of photos and information about them."
All the information Catalogs store make it easier for the photographer to manage, organise and find specific images.
When you start Lightroom, you can set up a new catalog or choose a catalog to use. If you don't make a new catalog your images will go into the default catalog created by Lightroom.
Some photographers prefer to work with multiple Catalogs while others favour working from just one, both are fine, it just depends how you like to work. You can look at catalogs as workspaces for working with images.
Having photos geo tagged on a map will mean that you can easily find out where a particular shot was taken and it also gives you another, unique way to view the images you have in your collections. It also offers a quick method for adding GPS data if your camera doesn't do it automatically.
Any changes you make to an image in Lightroom won't be permanently applied. Even if you go back a week later you can still undo / change any edits you've made. The only time the changes are applied are when you export it from Lightroom once you've finished editing it. You can view all the steps you've taken during the adjustment stage in the History panel where all your tweaks and changes are stored in a list.
There's a very comprehensive collection of editing and adjustment tools available in Lightroom. Two that stand out are the Graduated Filter
and Adjustments brush which work hand-in-hand with each other. The Graduated filter has various applications, including balancing exposures while the adjustment brush give you more specific control over which areas of the image you want to adjust. Also, the tools are a lot easier to use than Photoshop's Layer Mask system which means if you're new to image editing, you may find it easier to get to grips with the tools on offer in Lightroom. We will be putting together tutorials that explain what the various editing / adjustment tools do in Lightroom so keep checking the technique's section over the next few weeks.
A great time-saving tool is the Preset options which with one click, allow you to apply certain settings / adjustments to your photos. Lightroom comes with several presets built in but you can also add your own. presets can be created for importing, developing and much more. For example, if you edited an image to give it a sepia feel you can save the adjustments you made to create the effect as a preset that can then be applied to other shots by just clicking the preset's name rather than having to go through the whole editing process again. Once you've applied the preset it's also adjustable so you can modify the effect for the specific image you're working on.
If you regularly use Photoshop you may have created actions which work in a similar way, although they aren't as easy to create as presets are in Lightroom.
Removing Chromatic Aberrations / Fringing
Lightroom 4's feature for removing chromatic aberrations is slightly different to previous Lightroom versions as Adobe have tried to make the task even simpler. You just have to open the Lens Corrections tab and tick Remove Chromatic Aberrations. You can then use the eyedropper tool to select the purple and green fringe colours that need correcting in your image.
Lightroom lets you see the before and after versions of the image you are working on so you can easily compare how the image looked at the start with the edited version to make sure you're heading in the right direction with the editing process. You can compare the images as whole shots either in portrait or landscape orientation or there are options to split a single version of the image so one half is the before version and the other is the after version.
You can also use this feature in the Library module to compare two images to see which is the better shot before you begin editing.
You can use other software such as Photoshop
to create and add watermarks to your images but to save time, Lightroom has the ability built in to its Export options. There is a basic Preset available or you can click on Edit Watermarks and create your own. This can then be saved as a Preset and applied to other images.
As Robin Whalley said in his article
on creating a photography book: "The new module is a great addition to Lightroom and provides integration to blurb or alternatively the capability to produce your book in PDF format. It’s simple to use and produces a remarkably professional product."
It also means that you don't have to spend time searching the internet for sites that can help you produce a book or find another piece of software that can help you with your creation.
If you have your own web site you can use Lightroom's web module to design and create photo galleries that can be used on your web site. A bonus is that you don't have to know anything about coding as once you've created your design Lightroom will generate everything that's needed so it'll work online. As with all Lightroom's features it's worth familiarising yourself with the Web module before you begin creating your gallery.
There's a backup feature in Lightroom that can be used to backup your catalog as often or as little as you like. It's good to get into the habit of backing up, especially when you've made major changes to a catalog. By backing up before you make your changes as well as after, you always have the option to go back to the original catalog is something goes wrong. It's also a wise idea to save your backups in a different place to your original catalog so you don't loose everything if a particular drive fails. Do delete old backups once you have a few newer ones as they do take up space and it can get confusing when you have too many saved. Do remember that backing up a catalog doesn't backup the actual original images themselves.
You can learn more about Lightroom
in ePHOTOzine's technique section