Understanding Lightroom's Workspace

For those new to Lightroom, here's a quick introduction to the workspace.

| Lightroom
So you've purchased Lightroom, installed it on your computer and then you've opened it up and thought: I don't quite know where to start! Don't worry; you're not alone as I too was slightly confused by all the options, windows and modules when I first opened the software up!

As a result, I've decided to put together a very quick and basic introduction to the Lightroom Workspace. I say basic as if we were to cover everything available in the workspace in detail this would turn out to be a very lengthy tutorial. Instead, individual elements will be looked at in other tutorials further down the road.

While talking about other tutorials, if you have any topic suggestions or questions about Lightroom feel free to post them in the comments below or get in touch with the team via the contact us page.

Lets Get Started

Lightroom's organised into modules (something we'll explain later in the tutorial) and each module focuses on a specific part of the photographer’s workflow. The modules feature panels that contain options, controls and other functions that are specific for each section but the layout, generally, remains the same.

Useful Tip:  A handy feature of Lightroom is that the workspace will show whichever module, image and selections you were working with the last time you closed the software down.

Basic Workspace Overview

As Lightroom's workspace is customisable, your workspace may not look as our overview shows. We've removed the majority of the tools from the toolbar and have minimised the menus to make the workspace easier to view.
Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Lightroom

Number 1: Title Bar

This shows you which catalog is open and which module you currently have selected.

Number 2: Menu Bar

If you've used other editing software you'll be familiar with this feature which contains various menus all with their own options and commands.

Number 3: Top Panel

Here you'll see Identity Plate (to the left) which can be customised with your own text or graphic.

If you wish to edit the Identity Plate go to the Edit menu (on a PC) and select 'Identity Plate Set-up'. Tick 'Enable Identity Plate' and edit the text. If you want to use an image, select 'Use a graphical identity plate' and either drag an image into the space provided or find the image via the 'Locate File' button. There's also an option to edit the typeface for the module picker buttons to make your workspace unique.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Identity Plate

When Lightroom is processing, you'll see the progress of the process in this top panel, too. This replaces the Identity Plate when active.

On the right is the Module Picker which is used to select one of the seven modules available (you can press Ctrl + Alt and then select the number keys between 1 and 7 to switch between the modules on your keyboard). In each of the modules you'll see the main window, a film strip, plus left and right panels.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Modules

This is where you add images to Lightroom so they can be organised. In the left panel you'll find various options for organising your images as well as the Import button which is used to open images in Lightroom. In the right panel is a Quick Develop drop-down where simple edits can be made, plus options for adding / editing Keywords, Metadata and Comments. 

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Library module

This module contains several editing options. The right panel contains various tools you can adjust your images with while in the left column are Presets (see our tutorial on Presets for more information on what they are), the History panel where a list will be complied of all the changes you make, and Collections which is one of the many ways you can organise your images in Lightroom.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Develop module

The Map module allows you to view the locations of where your images were taken. It also offers a quick method for adding GPS data if your camera doesn't do it automatically. Metadata information, which can be edited, is found in the right panel while your image collections, saved locations and a navigator tool can be found in the left panel.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Map module

A new feature of Lightroom is the ability to create and export books. These can be uploaded to Blur and / or be saved as PDF files. See our tutorial on creating books in Lightroom for more information on this module.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Book module

With this module photographs can create slideshows to present a selection of their images within the software or they can be saved as videos, PDFs or Jpeg files. Editing options are found in the right panel while collections, templates and a preview option can be found on the left.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Slideshow module

Here's where you ready your images for print and a variety of tools are available that allow photographers to create custom prints. Similar to previous modules, there's a preview option, templates and your collections in the left panel while the right panel contains tools for editing your print (Layout, Guides, Image Settings etc.).

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: print module

Web galleries to display your images online can be created in HTML or Flash format in the module. Again, editing options are available in the right panel while templates, collections and preview options are available in the left panel. 

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Web module

Number 4 (a and b): Left and Right panels

We've already mentioned these briefly when giving overviews about each module. What's available in the panels changes from module to module, however as a general rule, the panel on the right is for making edits / changes and applying layouts while the left is more focused on organisation, presets and in some cases, previews. These panels can't be dragged around the workspace as you can with panels in Photoshop but they can be adjusted and even hidden if you wish.

To hide a panel, click on its outer edge where there's an arrow then click it again to make it visible. You can also hover your mouse cursor over the panel's edge when hidden to make it visible for a short period of time. When you move your cursor the panel will become hidden again.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Panels hidden

To resize the panel, place your cursor over the inside edge so the icon change to a two-headed arrow then click and drag to resize.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Wider panel

Panel Drop-Downs
Within the panels are smaller panel drop-downs that house various options. To make these visible, click on the name of the panel you want to work with and the menu will expand. Click again and the panel will be hidden.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Panel options
If you right-click in the left or right panel you'll see an option to Collapse or Expand all (depending on if you already have the panel drop-downs open). You can also hide all of the options by selecting 'Hide All'. If you don't want to see a particular panel you can untick it in this menu and if you want Lightroom to automatically close a panel when you open another, make sure Solo Mode is selected.

Number 5: Preview Area

This is where your project / image(s) will be visible. There's also a toolbar found towards the bottom of the preview area that contains tools which are specific to the module you're working in. In some modules, tools can be added / removed via the menu which is accessed via the triangle towards the end of the toolbar. For more information on what the tools in the Library module (show in the next image) do, have a look at our Ratings, Flags And Labels tutorial. In some of the modules, this same toolbar has various options for viewing the file(s) you're working with.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Toolbar

Number 6: Film Strip

The Film Strip is visible in all modules and it shows the images from the selection you currently have open. The Film Strip can be hidden just as we did with the side panels and images can also be re-ordered. If all of your images don't fit in the film strip you can navigate to those that aren't visible via the arrow to the right of the Film Strip or you can simply drag the bar at the bottom.

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace: Film Strip

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace:

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace:

Find out more about Nikon's products by clicking these links:
  • Learn more about the Nikon D4
  • Have a look at the D800

Understanding Lightroom's Workspace:

MPB Start Shopping

Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, MPB. It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.


Other articles you might find interesting...

19 Basic But Useful Lightroom Shortcuts For PC Users
18 Top Books For Learning Adobe Lightroom
Here's A Lightroom Workflow That's Well Worth Checking Out
How To Make Creative Profiles In Adobe Camera RAW
10 Top Lesser-Known Features Of Lightroom You Need To Know About
3 Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tips For Speeding Up Your Editing
14 Free Adobe Lightroom Autumn Presets For Photographers
How To Edit & Adjust Seascapes In Lightroom With The Help Of Presets


Rumdoo Avatar
Rumdoo 17
27 Feb 2013 7:33PM
After years of Elements, I do find the Lightroom screen baffling and hopelessly unintuitive. Unfortunately, for my tiny mind, your explanation is far too detailed and consequently of little help at this stage of the learning process. What my aforementioned shrunken brain needs to get started is not a description of everything but an illustrated step by step explanation of how to do one basic task, such as transferring images from camera card to (what??), opening in Lightroom, Raw processing and saving. Is such a tutorial on the cards please? Thanks
NikitaMorris Avatar
19 Mar 2013 1:08PM
Hi Richard,

We can create tutorials on the topics you have suggested. It would probably easier to read if each one was in its own article rather than put together in one.



You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.