We’ve still got quite a lot of catching up to do and this time Adobe grabs our attention with the release of new Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom versions (which basically is the converter only in a separate package and with some added functionality for processing masses of files quickly). Version 8.4 of ACR and 5.4 of Lightroom bring the usual updates – new camera and lens support, some bug fixes and a few new features on top of that. Happily, Photoshop CS6 users are not left out and their ACR can be updated. That said, only new lens/camera profiles and bug fixes are part of the update, whilst new features seem to be reserved for CC only. Clearly, Adobe wants you to move to CC, but does not yet blatantly force you to do it by ignoring “older” software completely – at least until ACR 9 arrives.
As I was working on the “Composition in Photography: Assignment Discussion” article and upcoming Lightroom Crop Tool article last night, I came across a feature in Lightroom that I had not previously used. I love it when that happens. Realizing that the software tool I enjoy using and find to be very versatile is actually even more functional than I thought, is pure joy. In this article, I will teach you how to quickly check your composition in Lightroom against known rules and guidelines, such as the Golden Ratio or the Rule of Thirds (and, yes, these are indeed two separate things), by overlaying the image with them.
How Does It Work?
Basically, Lightroom allows you to overlay any image with several different guidelines, called Crop Grid Overlays. To do that, select the image you want to check against one of the available guidelines and engage Crop Tool, which is found right below the Histogram. Alternatively, you can hit the “R” key on your keyboard. Once the tool has been engaged, notice that the selected image is already overlaid with the default Rule of Thirds Grid Overlay. Hit “O” on your keyboard to toggle between all 7 available Grid Overlays. Use “Shift + O” (Windows PC) to rotate the guidelines. You can further customize the behavior of the Overlays (or Guides) by selecting the Crop tool to enable the settings in the Tools->Tool Overlay and Crop Guide Overlay menus.
Lightroom has become a very essential part of the workflow process for many photographers, including myself. I cannot imagine managing my photo catalog without Lightroom and I use it every day for my photography needs. In fact, 95-98% of my post-processing work is done in Lightroom and I only occasionally use Photoshop for advanced photo editing / retouching, which not only simplifies my workflow, but also decreases the amount of time I spend on post-processing. Over the past few years of using Lightroom extensively, I have come up with efficient ways to store, organize and access photos on my computer, so I wanted to share a few tips with our readers on how I do it for both personal and professional work. Although there are many ways to organize images, this particular method has been working great for me (and many others that have been reading our site for the past few years). If you are looking for a generic guide on doing this without any third party photo software like Lightroom, then please read my older article on “how to properly organize pictures“.
1) Where do you store your pictures and how?
The first question is, where and how do you currently store your pictures? I used to store all of my photographs in various subfolders of my hard drive (commonly in “My Pictures” or “My Documents”), but after I got into photography, I decided that it was best to keep all of my photographs in the root folder of my PC’s hard drive that I use solely for storing photos and small family videos. Hard drives are really cheap nowadays, so creating a properly organized and redundant storage for your photography needs does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
Over the last several years operating this site, I have been incredibly lucky to meet many talented photographers from all over the world. Some I met face to face (whether in my workshops or other gatherings / conferences), while others I met and interacted with online. One interesting pattern that I noticed in the majority of photographers, and I am talking about the ones that understand light, composition and proper technique, is that they often lack the key component of completing the image and making it successful – post-processing skills. It turns out that most of us spend our time learning our gear and how to take good pictures, but we fail to take that beautifully captured photograph to the next level and make it look amazing by enhancing it further in post-processing. Yes, camera technique, light and composition are all extremely important and those are certainly key ingredients that each of us needs to learn and eventually master, but we need to understand that a captured photograph is just the beginning of making the image. What happens to the photograph after it is taken, is as important as the process of capturing it. I have seen many photos that would have looked breathtaking, had the person put some extra effort into making it work. Even worse, I have seen so many examples of great photos that get slaughtered by very poor post-processing techniques and ugly presets.
How many times have you seen an overdone HDR, over-saturated, over-sharpened, over-contrasted, over-recovered, over-preset, over-insert-any-photoshop-term-here mess? Unfortunately, I have seen too many. The worst examples are what I call “forced photos”, where the photographer takes a terrible image and thinks that it can look better when post-processed. So much time and effort is spent on making a terrible photo look absolutely horrendous. How do I know? Because I have done it many times myself.
With Library Module holding such a large collection of tools, tabs and panels, there is no other way to write a proper, thorough overview article but to split it into several parts. In the first article, I did my best to talk about the left-side panel (or the Navigation Panel, if you like) and all its capabilities in detail. In this article, we will focus on the center section of the Library Module – mainly the Image Grid/Loupe View, and the Toolbar.
The center section of the Library Module shows the images that you’ve navigated to using the left-side panel, and provides the main way to review image files. There are a lot of things you can do using just this one section, so please bear with me while I try to explain it all. We start with the Image Grid, which basically dominates the center section of the Library Module.
1) Image Grid/Loupe View
This part of the Library Module is used to review the images, but its capabilities extend far beyond simple image display. One of the better things about it is the choice of Grid View and Loupe View modes. Loupe View is also present in Develop Module and basically shows a large preview of a selected image, but the Grid mode allows you to see several images at once and you can change the size of thumbnails to fit more images for quicker browsing, or less images to see them better. We will get to that a bit later. What matters now is that it basically makes the Film Strip redundant in Library Module as the Grid View is so much more practical to use.
In the previous Mastering Lightroom series article, “Lightroom Grid View Options”, we learned how to set-up Cells in Grid View so that they display the information of your choice. Grid View options are only available in Library Module, but that is not the only view mode available in Lightroom. In this article for beginners we are going to learn how to set-up Loupe View, which is available in Library Module and is also the default and only view mode in Develop Module.
In Lightroom, image information, such as Metadata, can be overlaid on a photograph in some Modules. It helps you find out information you might need at a glance, such as aperture and shutter speed at which that particular photograph was taken. Such information can be overlaid in Grid and Loupe View modes in Library Module, and Loupe View mode in Develop Module. In this article, I will discuss the Grid View options, which are available in Library Module only. Loupe View mode, which is available in Library and Develop Modules, will be discussed in detail in a follow-up article.
Lightroom Grid View Information Overlay
In Grid View mode, the additional information display modes are called Grid Extras. The Grid Extras are further split into Cell Extras, as there are two types of Cells – Compact Cells and Expanded Cells. You can set different information for both types of Cells and toggle between them by hitting “J” key while in Grid View mode. Doing so will toggle between bare Cells that show no Grid Extras at all except for Color Label; Compact Cells that show Flags, Star Ratings, Quick Collection Markers, Thumbnail Badges that show whether that particular file was edited, and an additional piece of information of your choosing; and, finally, Expanded Cells that show more additional information that you can specify, such as file dimensions, date the photograph was taken on and so on.
A side note: a Cell is the area that surrounds and contains image thumbnail along with additional information in Grid View mode, but is not the thumbnail itself.
I remember describing Photoshop’s versatility and sophistication as both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, it is a very powerful piece of software with so many different and versatile tools, its capability is only limited by the user’s skill. On the other hand, such complexity can also be overwhelming and detract one’s attention, slow down simple tasks. This trait, to an extent, is also shared by Photoshop’s little sibling, photography-centered Lightroom. Although it is that much more specialized, there’s still a plethora of tools, panels and tabs which can, at times, make the post-processing experience somewhat… messy.
Thankfully, it would seem the team of developers behind Adobe Photoshop Lightroom are trying to do their best to make Lightroom as simple and fast as possible. Thus a certain amount of customization is available. You won’t be able to completely redesign the software, but getting rid of some things you find unnecessary is very much possible. In this article, I will give you some tips on how to purify your workflow and hide some of the functionality that you might find yourself rarely using, so as to not get detracted from the things you use most.
A side note: read our “Lightroom Loupe View Options” and “Lightroom Grid View Options” articles to learn how to toggle and customize information overlays, which help you learn the most important information about a specific image at a glance.
As I’ve said time and time again, Lightroom is all about speed. And that’s the beauty of it. You can do so many things without actually needing to save the images as JPEG files on your computer, you hardly ever need to Export them at all. In this article, I will show you how to use Lightroom’s Email Photo function so that you can send any image in your Library by email without ever leaving Lightroom environment. It is quick, simple and very easy to set up, so if you’ve never used the feature but tend to send image files by email frequently, you should definitely try it out.
On our way to mastering Lightroom, we have already learned how to successfully Import images into your Catalog, work with Filename Template Editor and even understand how Lens Corrections work, among other things. Yet someone new to Lightroom will notice that we’ve missed several vital steps in our attempts to explain the software from start to finish, and so it is time to get back to those steps. In this article we will talk about one of the two most used Modules in Lightroom – Library. More specifically, we will overview the functionality of the left-side panel, the rest of the Module will be covered in two upcoming articles shortly afterwards.