How to Import Photographs in Lightroom

In our previous Mastering Lightroom series articles we covered what Lightroom is and how it works. We also took a quick tour around Lightroom’s working environment. After highlighting the basic function and capability of each Module, it is now time to talk about them individually more in-depth, starting with Library Module. Before we can actually start using all Library tools, however, we need images to work with. That is why our first step is to learn how to import photographs in Lightroom. I will be using the latest (at the time of writing) version, Lightroom 5, to guide you through the process of Importing images. Virtually everything but Smart Previews is equally applicable to earlier releases.

How to Import Photographs in Lightroom

Importing Photographs

Lightroom is a catalog-based photo manager and post-processing tool. That means in order to start working with photographs, you need to first Import them into your Catalog. Importing is a very simple, straightforward process done using the Import window. To start the process of Importing photographs, launch Lightroom and then click “Import…” at the bottom of the left-side panel in Library Module. Alternatively, you can Import photographs by selecting “Import Photos and Video…” from File menu (Ctrl+Shift+I for Windows users). This will open the Import window for you to choose source directory, image files, destination and other details.

A side note: by default, Lightroom should automatically launch and ready itself for immediate Import as soon as you connect an external storage device to your computer, such as a camera or memory card. If it does not or should you want to change this behavior, go to “Preferences…” in “Edit” menu and check or uncheck the “Show import dialog when a memory card is detected” box in the General tab. I find this a particularly useful option, yet nonetheless disabled it immediately after installing Lightroom on my computer due to a simple irritation. Lightroom would launch its Import dialogue even if I connect a simple USB flash drive which I use for general files and documents, not photographs I need in my Catalog.

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Lightroom Modules Explained

In our two previous Lightroom articles, I explained what Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is and how its catalog-based file management and post-processing system works. Now that we are done with the basics, it is time we move to something a bit more practical. In this article, I will introduce you to the Lightroom environment. You will learn to understand the most notable elements of its user interface – Lightroom Modules. I will explain what the seven Modules are used for and how to switch between them. This article will also outline some of the basic tools within each Module. Hopefully, this article will help you see Lightroom’s full potential and understand that it might be more than enough of a post-processing and image management software for most of your digital photography needs.

Lightroom Modules Explained

1) What is a Module?

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has a very extensive list of tools available. It may not be as powerful as Photoshop for certain things, but when it comes to anything photography related, the latest version of Lightroom has some of the best built-in capabilities for image editing. Naturally, Adobe had to figure out a way to ensure all the functionality is conveniently accessible, and yet not overwhelming at the same time. So instead of dumping everything into one place and creating a mess, they came up with the concept of Modules.

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Lightroom Catalogs Explained

You may have heard about Catalogs before as there are two main opinions among photographers. Some think Catalogs are the best way to work with images. Others remain skeptical and prefer to access and manage their image files directly without a catalog-based management tool. But what exactly are Catalogs? What are the strengths of database driven catalog systems and are there any downsides to this approach? In this article I will talk about Catalogs and explain the benefits and downsides of such post-processing and image management systems. I will also show you how to create and efficiently manage new Lightroom Catalogs.

Lightroom Catalogs Explained

1) What is a Catalog?

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a catalog-based post-processing and image management software. For someone new to such photo managing approach it may sound complicated at first. Simply put, a Catalog is a Lightroom-specific database file. Employing a database system means Lightroom does not work with the original files directly. Instead, it stores information about them – along with rendered previews – in a set of files that make up a Catalog. The list of such information includes metadata, filters, rating and adjustments you may have applied to a specific photograph inside Lightroom. The actual image file is not stored within the Catalog, only information about the adjustments and an image preview. Image files themselves remain wherever you decided to put them in the first place before importing into Lightroom. As a result, whenever Lightroom prompts you to back up your Catalog, it does not back up the actual images. Only the relative information stored in that Catalog is copied.

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What is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom?

Post-processing is an unavoidable, inseparable part of professional photography today, be it photojournalism or fashion photography. Because of that, choosing the right software tool for post-processing your work efficiently is as important as having the right camera and lens combination for the job. It is no surprise that demand for such flexible and powerful software is met with some serious contenders. One of such contenders comes courtesy of Adobe, a software development company best known for its powerful graphics tool Photoshop. Nowadays Photoshop is widely used by photographers (hence the term “to photoshop” applied to almost any sort of image editing), but it is not intended strictly for photographers – it has a much broader user appeal. For photographers, Adobe has developed a somewhat different piece of software called Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. As the name suggests, Photoshop blood runs in the family, but Lightroom is vastly different from its bigger brother. In this article, I will explain what Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is and why it’s such a great choice for aspiring photographers.

What is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

1) The RAW File Format

The first thing I ought to say about Lightroom is that it’s basically a RAW converter. But for someone new to Lightroom, software and digital cameras in general, the statement is hardly informative. That is why before we dive into Lightroom, it’s best to talk about RAW file format and what a RAW converter is. Don’t worry, it may sound a little complicated, but it is all actually rather simple to grasp.

1.1) What is a RAW File?

RAW image file is also known as digital negative and this title can give you a pretty good hint. Simply put, RAW file is information gathered directly from a camera’s image sensor without any sort of digital adjustment. In order to photograph in RAW format, you need to set it in your camera settings (even some point-and-shoot compact cameras have such a feature). Usually you can find it among image quality settings in camera menu.

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Wedding Photography Tips: Synchronize Your Cameras

Due to popular demand, we are starting our new series of articles on commercial wedding photography. Since I have been helping out my wife with her wedding business, being a second shooter during weddings and engagement sessions, I have been writing down some helpful tips, which I am planning to provide on Photography Life. These tips range from very basic things like preparing for the wedding day, to complex setups involving specific situations, like setting up flashes indoors. Our first wedding photography tip is about properly synchronizing time on cameras when working with second shooters and assistants. If you have been commercially photographing weddings, you might have already been frustrated to see photographs from multiple cameras get mixed up when you import them to an Aperture or Lightroom catalog. It is not pleasant to see ceremony images mixed with images from the dance floor and it is certainly not fun to try to go through hundreds, if not thousands of photos and sort through them one by one. Gladly, there are workarounds to situations where it had already happened, which I will share with you in this article. First things first, let’s talk about the proper way to synchronize time between multiple cameras.

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How to Properly Synchronize Time Between Multiple Cameras

The easiest method that works every time for us and many others, is to have each person hold his/her camera, get into the camera menu and set specific time. On Nikon DSLRs, for example, time can be changed via “Setup Menu”->”Time Zone and Date” or “Setup Menu”->”World Time”->”Date and Time”. Once time is set to an exact hour, minute and second, everyone in the party must press the “OK” button at the same time. This will make sure that the timer starts at that exact time on every camera. If you use two cameras yourself, just set the time on each camera, then press the OK button simultaneously. The idea is to have the time set exactly the same, second to second, across all cameras, so that shots appear in proper order later. The set time does not have to match real time. As long as all cameras have the same clock time, your images will appear in correct order when post-processing them later.

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Mastering Lightroom: Post-Processing Portraits

Many of our previous Mastering Lightroom series articles focused on specific Lightroom 4 features and tools, as well as ways of using them in your everyday workflow. I’ve explained how to use the Basic Panel and talked about the Tone Curve in great detail. We’ve also learned how to use External Editors, Spot Removal Tool and Virtual Copies. However, simply learning what each feature does is not our goal with these articles. After all, theory makes sense only when put to practice. In the end, we want to teach you how to actually edit your images, start to finish, no matter the subject or scene or desired result. We want you to be able to use what Lightroom has to offer without thinking about it, just as we should use our cameras and lenses. Learning what each tool does individually is essential, but what matters in the end is how we make them work in conjunction with one another. Perhaps then it is time to shift away from features and theory for a while and move towards editing images to achieve desired look in practice? There are many aspects of Lightroom we haven’t covered so far. Many tools, options, modules and tabs yet await our attention. But this time, instead of explaining specific settings, we will do some simple portrait post-processing focusing most of all on color and tones.

Mastering Lightroom Basic Portrait Post-Processing

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use External Editors

In every Mastering Lightroom series article, I mention certain strengths of this, in my opinion, superb piece of software. Only every now and then do I find something small to complain about, as I have in my “How to Manage Presets” article. I strongly believe Lightroom offers more or less everything needed to process a well captured image and offers plenty of powerful yet simple photographic tools. However, as our readers have wisely noticed in the comments section of my “How to Use the Spot Removal Tool” article, on rare occasions these tools may not be powerful enough. Here comes another strength of my favorite photo processing application – flexibility. You can use other programs to do what Lightroom can’t, and then go back with the processed image to its familiar and simple environment. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will show you how to use external editors with examples provided using the most popular and capable you can buy – Adobe’s own Photoshop.

How to Use External Editors

1) What Software can be Used with Lightroom 4?

A good question, this. As of late, I’ve found my photography changed in such a way I rarely, if ever, need to use something other than Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, but if such an occasion does present itself, I know I have enough choice. First and foremost, Lightroom supports the all-powerful Photoshop, which itself is likely enough to satisfy your every need when editing images. If Photoshop alone is not enough, remember the huge library of amazing specialized plug-ins you can find for it, including Google’s very capable Nik Software and the (rightly) popular Topaz Labs products (which we have plans to review). In other words, you may use Photoshop and, through it, all the plug-ins you can find and purchase or download as freeware.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Add Film Grain

With mainstream days of film long gone, one would expect all the disadvantages it had on offer to be rid of for all times, as well. Digital is all about clean, high quality images now. Contrary to such an assumption, however, film has not left our everyday lives without a trace. A trace that is even more noticeable now that photographers got used to the differences between the two “religions”. Now, I say “got used to”, but the truth is plenty of photographers got bored of the sterile digital look and thus would seek ways of livening it up (instagramed anything lately?). One notable featured of photographic film has always been grain. Although, like high ISO noise in digital world, it was a result of increased light sensitivity and as such, an undesirable degradation of image quality, film grain was loved even during the past era of photography. Reasons behind it would make a fine discussion – in short I would say that grain was simply organic and beautiful – but one to be had with a pint of beer in hand and complimented by laughter and warm fire light. Instead, we will concentrate on actually applying film grain, or what is closest to it, with digital photographs. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will explain how to add film grain to your images. You will learn how to increase the size of grain, make it rougher or smoother and also hide high ISO noise (or make it more appealing) with it without the need of applying noise reduction.

How to Add Film Grain

1) What is Film Grain?

In essence, it is the chemical equivalent of digital high ISO noise, or, rather, the other way around. As film sensitivity went up, the amount and character of grain increased, just as ISO noise levels increase as you push sensor sensitivity to light up. Noticeably, film grain became visible at much lower sensitivities than current digital noise. Certain film of 400 ASA/ISO would already show visible graininess, and producing fine-grain film of 400 value was no small feat. Understandably, there weren’t any ISO 12800 equivalent films. One of the most sensitive films, the wonderful B&W Ilford Delta 3200, rendered so much grain, it would be thought quite unusable by some all-modern, technical quality junkies of digital era who have never been familiar with film aesthetics. Some prefer to see Delta 3200 as 1600 film pushed one stop during development. Think underexposing an image and correcting exposure by one stop in Lightroom with Exposure slider.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Tether Your Camera

Lightroom is a very flexible image management and processing software, but apart from powerful tools and settings to enhance your photographs, it also offers features that help you during the actual process of photographing. Have you ever felt that, even with the constant resolution and physical size growth, camera LCD screens just aren’t big enough for comfortable image viewing in the field? Luckily, Lightroom offers a way to import photographs and review them as you shoot. This function, called Tethered Capture, is especially useful for studio photographers who don’t tend to move about too much. It can be equally useful for landscape photographers, too. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will explain how to tether your camera. This allows you to import images directly into the Lightroom 4 environment for quick and comfortable revision as you photograph.

How to Use Tethered Capture

1) When Should I Use It?

The best time to use Tethered Capture is when working in a less active environment. For example, studio and landscape photographers, who tend to bring their laptop computers along on a shoot, will find it to be very simple and fuss-less. However, wedding photographers, who tend to move all the time and change their shooting position, would find Tethered Capture to be annoying at the very least. Who’d want to photograph a wedding with a USB cable strapped to the camera constantly, and through it, a laptop? You’d need an assistant just to have that laptop lugged around behind you! In many other situations, Tethered Capture can make reviewing images that much more pleasant.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use Virtual Copies

As all previous versions of Adobe’s popular photography management and post-processing software, Lightroom 4 offers catalog system. Such a choice has both positives and negatives. One of the positives is non-destructive editing, which basically means the original image file remains intact no matter what you do to it within Lightroom environment (you can, however, delete the file entirely if you wish so). A side result is a very useful feature called Virtual Copies. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will explain how to use Virtual Copies. By the end of the tutorial you will learn how to copy, delete and compare them, as well as see different situations when creating a Virtual Copy can be very useful.

Mastering Lightroom: How to Use Virtual Copies

1) What are Virtual Copies and Why Should I Use Them?

As the name suggests, Virtual Copies are copies of an image file created virtually. In other words, they are copies created within Lightroom environment only. Creating a Virtual Copy does not copy the source file physically. Lightroom only stores editing information within its catalog. Among other things, such an approach also saves disk space (you only need to store information about the adjustments, not both that and a copy of the RAW file itself).

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