What is Adobe Lightroom?
If you’re asking that question, you’re in the right place. You’ve found part one of a six-part Adobe Lightroom tutorial for beginners.
In this session, you’ll learn (click to jump to each section):
- What is Lightroom?
- Program Layout
- Importing Photos
- Rating Photos
- Filtering Photos
- Reading the Histogram
Return weekly for more installments, all graciously provided by Udemy‘s expert instructor Phil Ebiner.
Throughout this 6-part Lightroom guide, you’ll learn all of the basics to get started with editing photos in Adobe Lightroom. You’ll even learn some intermediate and advanced techniques to make your photos look amazing.
Lightroom is a photo management and editing application designed for photographers. You’ll be able to organize, edit, export, and share your digital photos with this tool. While there are many other photo editing applications out there, Lightroom does a superior job of allowing photographers to efficiently and powerfully edit their photos.
To understand any computer program, the first thing you should be comfortable doing is navigating. Let’s go over the layout of Lightroom.
At the very top left is your file menu. While most of the options in the file menu are able to be chosen through the application windows and buttons, you may find it easier to just find what you’re looking for in the file menus. For example, to export photos, which we will discuss in depth later, go to File – Export.
Near the top right are module tabs, including Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web. We’ll be covering the Library and Develop modules in this tutorial. Click on the module button to open that editing module.
On the left are organizational panels, including your Navigator, Catalog, and Folders panels. Basically, this is where you will import and organize your photos for editing.
In the center is your preview window. This is where you will see the work you are doing while editing and preview photos.
On the right are panels that change depending on what module you are in. If you are in the Library module, the right panels include more information and metadata about your photos. In the Develop module, the right panels include all of the photo editing tools.
At the bottom is the filmstrip of photos that shows the set of photos you are working on. In the Develop module, select the photo to edit via the filmstrip. At the top of the filmstrip are viewing options and filtering options, which we’ll cover below.
The first thing to do when using Lightroom is import photos. A key difference between Photoshop and Lightroom (for those of you who have used Photoshop) is that when you import photos into Lightroom, you are only opening the photo file and not creating a duplicate of it. Any edits you make in Lightroom will be attributed to the original photo file itself. There is an option while importing photos for Lightroom to copy the photos to a new location so that you don’t edit the originals.
To import your photos:
- Click the import button at the bottom left of the Library module.
- Find the folder that contains your photos using the Source panel on the left.
- In the middle preview panel, select all or some of your photos to import by checking the box next to each photo that you would like to import. You can also press the Check All or Uncheck All button to quickly select or deselect your photos.
- In the right File Handling panel, check the Add to Collection box.
- Create a new collection by clicking the + button next to the Add to Collection text. Creating a new collection for your photos is important for organizational purposes. A window will pop up where you can name the collection.
- Click the Import button on the bottom right.
The Library module opens up with all of the photos that you have imported.
On the left, you can see that you are viewing photos from Previous Import. Click theCollections drop-down menu to see the collection that you just created, which includes the same photos as the Previous Import catalog. Now that you’ve created a collection of photos, you can also find them in the Collections panel.
After you’ve imported photos, the next step is to rate the photos so that you know which photos you’ll want to edit later on. To go through your photos one at a time, press the Loupe View button at the bottom of the preview window. It is second from the right, next to the Grid View button.
Now you can scroll through your photos either by clicking them in the filmstrip below, or by using the right and left keys on your keyboard.
Lightroom has a five-star rating scale. How you rate your photos is up to you. Typically a photo rated at five stars is better than a one-star photo.
For simplicity, use the following rating scale:
- 5 stars: An amazing photo that you love
- 4 stars: A great photo that you like
- 3 stars: A decent photo that you still want to edit
- 2 stars: A bad photo that might be a duplicate, slightly out of focus, and doesn’t make the cut
- 1 star: A terrible photo that you should probably just delete
To assign a rating to your photos, click the star rating button at the bottom of the preview panel. Note that you must have only one photo selected in the filmstrip. You can also easily add ratings to your photos by pressing the corresponding number on your keyboard (1-5). This keyboard shortcut will apply the star rating to that photograph.
Go through all of your photographs and give them a rating.
After you’ve rated all of your photographs, you’ll be able to filter your Collection according to your rating. This will help you easily find only the best photos that you’d like to edit.
To filter using the star ratings, click the Filters menu at the top right of the filmstrip. There are a variety of ways that you can filter your photos. To filter according to your ratings, click the Rated option.
A five-star rating scale appears, and you can select the number of stars you want to filter out. For example, you can click the third star and filter out any photograph with a rating of two stars or lower.
You can even change how you filter the ratings by clicking the greater than or equal to button on the left side of the star scale. You can change how it filters toRating is less than or equal to or Rating is equal to.
Before diving into actually editing photos, it is important to know how to read the photo’s Histogram, which appears in the top right of the Library and Develop modules.
What is a histogram?
A histogram is basically a graph that visually represents the exposure of each pixel in your image. On the left side of the graph, the blacks and shadows are represented. On the right side, the highlights and brighter areas are represented. The middle section includes mid-tones. The higher the peak in each section means the more pixels at that exposure.
The graph goes from 0-255 (0 being black and 255 being white). Each tone is one pixel wide on the graph. In Lightroom, you can see in the histogram how individual colors are exposed. In the histogram above, notice that there is a big spike on the right side. This shows that a portion of the image is overexposed.
How can we use the histogram?
First, we can tell if the image is well exposed. If the graph has pixels going from 0 to 255 (from black to white) without any crazy spikes, then you have a well-exposed image. While editing a photograph, pay attention to how the histogram changes. If you are editing an image too dark, the histogram will show a spike on the left end of the graph. If it is too bright, there is a spike on the right end. If a photo already has a histogram with spikes on either side of the graph, this is not good because the data in these spikes can’t be recovered.
Remember when you can ignore the rules.
As always, remember when you should ignore these rules. Some pictures that you want to take will have completely underexposed parts of the frame that will result in a spike. For example, night photography – pictures of the sky will often have pure blacks. Sunsets will sometimes have pure whites (coming from where the sun is). Just because you know what the histogram is telling you to do, doesn’t mean you should follow it.
The histogram is yet another tool. You’re the artist.
—end of lesson one—
Be sure to read the rest of the series:
- Basic Photo Editing Tools
- Intermediate Photo Editing Tools
- Advanced Photo Editing Techniques
- Using Adobe Lightroom Presets
- Exporting Photos from Adobe Lightroom
This Adobe Lightroom tutorial, What Is Adobe Lightroom?, originally appeared on Udemy and is used by permission.