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What is Adobe Lighroom?

Updated on August 31, 2015


Adobe Lightroom
Adobe Lightroom | Source

What is Adobe Lightroom?

What is Adobe Lightroom? In simple terms Lightroom will import your images from your camera's memory card, organize them, allow you to edit them and then will let you export them in different sizes and formats.

When you import your photos to your computer hard-drive, you can use Lightroom to add keywords so that you can find them later very quickly. I add the year, location and who is in the photo plus other keywords that depend on the use of the photo.

Lightroom can be used to edit photos. As a professional photographer, I can do about 95% of my photos edits in Lightroom - the balance go into Photoshop for very specific work. You can adjust exposure, color, turn the image into a black and white image, straighten a horizon even remove objects from the photo!

Exporting the photos may not sound important, but, this allows you to export for use on social media or to crop and format for printing. And you can have presets for each of these (and many more) options. I can edit photos and then export in a batch for the end user.

Need more explanation?

How I use Lightroom

It may help if I explain how I use Lightroom. We shoot our photo sessions in RAW file format. This file format captures more information but results in larger file sizes and requires that we process the images through software - like Lightroom - before they can be used. For years I shot using jpg file format and the images captured are still great images. For most situations, jpg files are fine. Lightroom takes the RAW image file from the camera's memory card, imports it onto the computer and in the process converts it into a digital file format that Lightroom can edit. If you shoot in jpg, it will import in jpg format.

During the import process I can tell Lightroom where on the computer I want it to store the files. What is great about Lightroom is that it doesn't store the image files inside of Lightroom, but can put them wherever you want them to be. Maybe you use the default file structure for your Mac or PC, then Lightroom will put them in your Pictures file so you can find them. I can also have Lightroom add in keywords to each image file. If the images are all of the same subject I typically add the year, location and basic subject - we will come back to this. Then Lightroom will import the images, process them how I tell it to, add in the key words and put them on my computer where I want them.

Next in my workflow is a scan and cull through the images - seeing what I want to keep or delete. I go through each image and if I don't want it, I just mark it for deletion. When I have reviewed the entire session I bulk delete those files that I marked. I don't like deleting in camera, the screen is too small for me to see what I have actually captured and I would rather delete from the computer - that is just my preference. I can also rank the photos using a color rating system or a star rating system or a flag system. If I do this while doing my initial cull, I have also identified what I think are the best images from a shoot. These are the images I start to edit first. If I have a series of almost the same image, I will pick the best and then later I will often go back and delete the ones that I didn't use - this frees up space on my computer hard drive.

With the images culled through, I will start to edit or develop the files. This is one of the best features of Lightroom. Lightroom uses a non-destructive editing process. That is a fancy term to say that Lightroom doesn't actually edit or change your original image, rather it keeps a side file with the editing instructions and then applies these instructions to the file. This is great if you want to be able to go back and edit the image again at a later date and change the look. An example would be that if you edited the file to black and white in another program, if it changed the file you couldn't go back to a color image. With Lightroom you can.

Editing can be as simple as just slightly adjusting the exposure, or brightness, of the image. Or you can go into great depth and take out object that you don't like in the photo - ever had a power line or light pole sticking out of someone's head? Adjust the white balance - you know that funny blue or red tint to the image. You can also do some amazing editing once you learn how to use the program. If you are a landscape photographer, see my blog link "Editing Landscape Photos in Lightroom" for more information about how to use Lightroom for editing landscape photos.

Have you ever remembered taking a specific picture but can't find it on your computer? The more pictures you take the bigger this problem gets. One section of my image catalog is over 20,000 images - imagine trying to find a specific photo there! As I am editing images I add in keywords, including names and other details that will help me find the pictures later. Now if I want to find a picture of my wife and I in Dublin, I can, with just a few key strokes.

Lightroom also allows you to export your images in many different formats and sizes, again without destroying the original image. For web or electronic use, I use a 72 dpi setting - or 72 dots per inch. This is a typical setting for a computer monitor and images look great on the screen. For actual prints I use 300 dpi, the standard for printing. Why do this? If the image is for the web, exporting at 72 dpi and a smaller size allows it to load quickly over the internet. For a printed image I want the highest resolution possible. I have built presets that will export an image in the format I want and can even have it add a watermark - that little studio logo - in a corner or across the image if I want.

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Is Lightroom for Everyone?

In a word, yes. Lightroom is a program that is useful for everyone. Even for the home user who operates with a basic point and shoot camera, Lightroom is a great program. So, what is Adobe Lightroom? It is a program that will let you organize you photos and find the photo of your Great Aunt in all those files on your computer. You can also edit the photos appearance, as little or as much as you like and then you can export them in a format that works great in email or other web applications.


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