How to Create a Panorama in Lightroom

A while ago, I wrote an article explaining how to use Lightroom with external editors. Since then, I’ve been asked specifically about merging panorama images. In this article, I will show you all the steps you need to take to successfully merge a panorama and have it back in your Library with minimal fuss. I will be using Lightroom 5.2 and Photoshop CS5, but the process is virtually identical with (reasonably) older versions of both software tools. This tutorial will focus on the process of stitching a panorama image while using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as the heart of your post-processing and image management workflow.

How to Create a Panorama in Lightroom

If you are new to panorama photography, the best place to start is by reading our “Panoramic Photography Tutorial”. Manual panorama stitching technique will be discussed in a separate article.

1) There is a Catch

We start, unusually, with a problem. As a RAW file converter and photo manager, Lightroom has limited functionality when it comes to graphical editing. In fact, all its great flexibility is concentrated within the two mentioned main functions of the software. In many other respects, Lightroom is not the best choice. For example, I can edit 98% of my wedding photographs with Lightroom alone, no problem. However, the two remaining percent happen to be Brenizer method panoramas. This is where things, at first glance, get a bit more complicated. As I am sure a lot of you already know, you can’t stitch panorama images with Lightroom alone. If you didn’t yet know this and stumbled upon this article hoping to find a different answer, I am sorry to disappoint you. It lacks such functionality at its core. There is, of course, a workaround. What Lightroom can’t do on its own, it can do with the help of external editors and plug-ins. Panorama stitching happens to be one of those holes you can fill in quite easily if you own a Lightroom-compatible panorama stitching software which, in my case, is Photoshop. So, in order to create a panorama in Lightroom (sort of), you need to export those files to an external editor. Photoshop has a very powerful Photomerge tool for just such occasions, but the problem remains. You need to own another piece of software to perform such a task. I find that perplexing.

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Using Filename Template Editor in Lightroom

As any reader of our previous Mastering Lightroom series articles will know, one of the biggest strengths Adobe’s popular RAW converter has is presets and templates. With its emphasis on speed, Lightroom allows you to create a preset or template for more or less anything, from Metadata, to slideshows or book design. I have already talked about the super-useful Develop Presets. In this article, I will show you how to use Filename Template Editor so that you learn how to name your images as quickly and efficiently as possible.

How to Use Filename Template Editor in Lightroom

1) Why Should You Use the Filename Template Editor?

As with all other kinds of templates and presets you can find in Lightroom, filename templates are there for you to make managing and working with images easier. With the Filename Template Editor, you can create several naming templates and include as much or as little information as you want. What sort of information? Well, more or less everything from the metadata of that image – date, equipment, keywords etc. In addition to that, you can also include a custom text field.

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Lightroom Lens Corrections Explained

Since Lightroom version 3, Adobe has been providing a Lens Corrections sub-module within the Develop Module to correct various optical issues commonly seen on all lenses. It is a very powerful and complex tool that can be applied to one or many photographs with a couple of quick steps, potentially saving many hours of post-processing time. In this article, I will explain what the Lens Corrections sub-module is, how it works and how you can effectively use it to correct optical issues in your photographs. I will also show you a method of adding a lens profile manually, if you have unsupported lenses in your arsenal.

1) What is Lens Corrections in Lightroom?

Lens Corrections is a tool within Lightroom’s Develop Module (hence I often refer to it as a “sub-module”) that allows fixing such lens problems as distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting and perspective correction “non-destructively”, without leaving Lightroom. The beauty of the Lens Corrections feature in Lightroom, is that just like any other setting, lens corrections can be copied from one image to another, applied to hundreds of images at once, or can be set up as an import template, automatically applying corrections to images during the image import process. Keep in mind that lens correction is not a simple fix that applies to any lens – corrections are lens-specific. Since each lens model is designed with a unique optical formula, lens corrections must also be uniquely customized for each model. For example, one could not take a lens correction from the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G and apply it to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4G just because they share the same focal length and maximum aperture. Adobe staff spends time working with a number of different lenses and they continuously add support to new and existing lenses when new versions of Lightroom are released.

How does Lens Corrections affect images? Take a look at the following image sample:

Move mouse over to see before and after Lens Correction

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Image Management in Lightroom

One of the key areas that we will be focusing during our upcoming post-processing workshops, is image management and its effect on your workflow process. Unfortunately, many of us end up using Lightroom just for editing images and might not be aware of the powerful filtering and image management tools built right into the software. Before I started using Lightroom, I used to have a very messy folder structure in my computer, with images residing in multiple folders and several drives. I never really bothered to organize images in my file system, because there was no good way to do it – most operating systems cannot even properly read image EXIF data and lack built-in functionality to effectively sort through thousands of images. After discovering Lightroom, I was able to finally organize all of my images in my computer and once I developed a good methodology, I have been using the same process successfully for many years now. I wrote a detailed guide on this a while ago in my “how to organize images in Lightroom” article, where I go into more details on the import process. In short, if you have a messy folder structure today, I highly recommend that you organize it as soon as possible. Not only will it save you from a lot of headaches when searching for a particular image, but it will also standardize your workflow process and make your backup process simple.

I recorded a video earlier today, where I demonstrate the image management capabilities of Lightroom and talk about why you should be managing your files directly from Lightroom rather than your operating system. Here is the video:

For those that cannot watch the video, I will soon be updating my article on organizing images in Lightroom for the latest version and include many of the notes from the above video.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments section below. I hope you find the above video useful and I hope it will motivate you to re-organize your photo library.

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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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Q&A Session

Updated: 07/07/2013

Happy Sunday everyone! New week is about to start so I thought I’d run this Lightroom Question & Answer session. For the next few days (depending on how active you are) you are welcome to ask any question you like about Lightroom and I will do my best to answer them! Each time a question is posted by you in the comments section below, I will update the article as soon as I come up with the answer. If there are any questions very specific to a certain case, I may answer them in the comments section. Specific, to-the-point questions will be answered in this article, while questions requiring more extensive explanation will be covered in separate articles in the future. I know many of our readers know a lot about Lightroom and you are most welcome to participate. If you are new to Adobe’s Lightroom and find it difficult learning what’s what, this is the time and place to ask for help!

Lightroom Q&A Session

Questions about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Here are some of the questions I have been asked already in no particular order. I will update this list with new questions as soon as I find an answer to them.

  1. Can you rename photographs within Lightroom?

    Yes! Lightroom is not just a post-processing tool, it is also a very powerful photo manager. Even so, this particular function isn’t as apparent as one might hope. To rename source photograph, go to your Library Module and choose “Rename Photo…” from Library menu (or hit the F2 key).

  2. How to cancel color toning with adjustment brush and gradient tool?

    Resetting color effect or virtually any other effect or slider in Lightroom is very easy. All you have to do is double-click on the name of the effect or adjustment slider. Alternatively, you can cancel the color effect by dragging color marker to the very bottom of the color selection box. This has the same effect as setting Saturation of that color effect to 0.

  3. Can you hide Edit Pins in Adjustment Brush, Spot Removal and other tools?

    Hitting the H key with the tool engaged will toggle between visible and hidden Pins. This is especially helpful if you want to see the effect on small areas that would be otherwise covered by Pins. Alternatively, you can hit “T” key to toggle tool panel and choose from there.

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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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Most-Used Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts

Almost every function in Lightroom has a specified keyboard shortcut for quicker access. Using keyboard shortcuts is a great way to speed up your post-processing significantly, but memorizing all of them can be quite tough. You can view these Module-specific keyboard shortcuts by selecting “<…> Module Shortcuts…” from the Help menu at any time, or by hitting Ctrl + / on your keyboard. Mind you, as many as there are of the shortcuts listed in this table (shown for the Develop Module below), there’s actually more of them. You can find all the Lightroom 4 shortcuts in Adobe’s Help page for both Mac and Windows, while Lightroom 5 shortcut list should be available shortly.

Most-Used Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts

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