Let me start out by saying: I love Lightroom. I do. When it came out I bought the first version for an introductory trial price and I have stuck with it ever since. It may not bake chocolate cookies and serve me fresh espresso, but it helps. It helps a lot. It confuses me when people say they don’t use Lightroom, especially when it comes to batch editing large numbers of files. So I decided to give you a basic run through how Lightroom works, a tutorial that starts with how I import and organise my files.
Take a wedding for example. On average I come home with about 1000 photos. I will then spent one day uploading, culling and sorting the images. Another day is spent batch editing all the remaining images, on average between 400 and 600 photos. I will then take two days to process and retouch a selection of around 50 to 70 photos that are mainly portraits and images for the album or prints. It takes another day to prepare and write a blog post about the wedding as well as creating a slideshow and at least one more day goes into exporting, archiving and preparing the images for whatever they are going to be used for, be it proofing for prints, uploading all images to an online gallery, selecting photos for an album design or a DVD for the client.
All of that is done in Lightroom. Using it for every single step on the way from uploading and organising the files to exporting a slideshow really streamlines my processing. And I know where all my files are, even 7 months later in case a couple decides it wants to have an album after all. I love being organised and Lightroom helps me to do that efficiently. See? So easy to love!
For everyone who feels daunted and intimidated by a whole new software: Don’t. It’s intuitive and forgiving. And there is help. First, go to Adobe and download a free 30 day trial version. This is a fully functional version of Lightroom 3 that will simply expire after 30 days unless you buy it. Then go and have a look at some very good introductional tutorials here and here.
On top of that I want to try and talk about the basic steps of using Lightroom the way I do it because it did take me a while to figure out what works best for me. If I can save anyone that time it’s worth it. Feedback would be greatly appreciated, by the way!
First off, some basic ground rules:
– I work with catalogues. Meaning I use a different catalogue for every big project, for example each wedding has its own catalogue. I also have one main catalogue for all other photos that I back up every three months. This keeps everything moving faster, back-ups are secured more regularly and I can easily go back to a specific project later on.
– Your presets and user preferences will be the same in every catalogue as they are saved on your computer’s hard drive and not with the catalogue. If I generate a preset that works with one wedding I am able to use it for the next one as well.
– Make sure you have a dedicated folder structure where you keep your photos. I use my internal hard drive for all current photos and move them on to an external hard drive once they are processed and my quarterly back up is due. Weddings and bigger shoots are kept on separate external hard drives. I have one external hard drive for work “in progress” as I am working on the wedding or project and once it is finished the entire catalogue including all the files gets moved to a separate hard drive as a back up. I also make sure that I always have my files in two places, one for working on them and one as a back-up.
– My folders are sorted by date first and then important events.
Let’s start with an import. Here I am importing files directly from my camera’s CF card. You can also import files from any hard drive or other medium.When importing from my camera I copy the files to the new directory. That way I can keep the files on the card until I have copied them to two locations to make sure every file is secure before I delete them from the card. You can also move files if you are importing from a hard drive for example and want to make sure there are no duplicates. That way the files will be moved by Lightroom from their old location to the new one. Or you can add the files without moving or copying them, meaning they stay in their original location. I do that with my scanned photos as they are already in their correct directory and don’t have to be moved.
One more thing in the import dialogue that comes in handy is the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates”. If you check that box (and I recommend you do) you will get a dialogue box warning you of files that won’t be imported due to being suspected duplicates. This works well if you are importing in two batches or have old files on a memory card and don’t want to re-import files that you already imported.
As I said before I sort my images by date. I have a “2011” folder on my hard drive and simply tell Lightroom to import my new files by date, set the date format how I like it and it will create a new folder with that date for the files I am importing.
Lightroom will then show the newly imported files in the “Library” module.
From there I sort my images into different collections. This makes it easier to view certain groups of images and helps me to find them at a later point. Simply choose all the images you want in one collection (or choose all by using ctrl.+a), click on the little plus sign above “Collections” and choose “Create Collection”.
You will then get a dialogue box where you can name your collection and check the box that says “include selected photos”. If you haven’t selected any you can drag and drop them into the collection at a later point.
And voilà, there is your new collection with your freshly imported images.
Next time I’ll explain how I sort and cull my images using the rating and flagging system. Please let me know if you found this helpful at all or if you have any questions.