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Lightroom 101: Everything You Need to Know

Lightroom is one of the programs that all professional photographers seem to talk about, alongside Photoshop. Though it is a very popular program for editing, you might not know the first thing about it when you are starting out with post-production. Lightroom can help you to go beyond being an amateur and even approach professional-level retouching – and here’s everything you need to know to get started.

What is Lightroom?

Starting from the very basics, Adobe Lightroom is an editing program which you can use for your photography, as well as a digital library. It helps to organize your files and can streamline your editing process hugely, giving you tools for sorting and editing which don’t affect the base files in your document folders.

Lightroom has gone through a fair few incarnations over the years, but is now known as Lightroom CC because of its inclusion in the Adobe Creative Cloud packages. These are available through subscriptions which you can purchase for a monthly or yearly period, though there is a free trial available if you have never tried it before.

You might think that buying a program which seems as simple as Lightroom is a waste of money. Actually, appearances are deceptive in this case: Lightroom is a lot more powerful than you might think. It can serve as a replacement for Photoshop as well as working alongside it, and you can even plug in presets which help you to edit professionally.

Where can I get Lightroom?

To start with, head to the Adobe website. You need to check your URL to ensure you are on the official pages, as there are other sites out there which offer fake versions which will infect your computer.

Once you are on the official website, it’s easy to find the Creative Cloud options. In case they are a bit overwhelming for you, you will want to look at two main package options. You can either purchase just Lightroom, the whole Creative Cloud package, or the photography package.

The whole package includes options like Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, and so on, but you don’t need those for photography. Just go for the Lightroom-only package or the Lightroom and Photoshop package. You may notice that it’s a better deal to get them both together, so it’s worth giving that option a try.

Once you have your membership, you can start using Lightroom immediately. If you let your subscription lapse, you will no longer be able to sign in and use it, even though the program is downloaded onto your computer. You may notice this happening if you get to the end of your free trial without upgrading.

Why should I choose Lightroom?

Lightroom is a great choice for a lot of reasons. With Photoshop and Lightroom coming in one package for a lower price than buying one of them alone, it’s obvious that you should get Lightroom even if you were actually intending to buy Photoshop.

That said, why should you start using Lightroom either instead of or alongside Photoshop? Well, it’s a very good tool in many ways. One of the big advantages that it has over other editing suites is the ability to organize your photos. You can change their position in folders and create new folders right from inside Lightroom, and easily import them with proper organization.

You can change file names in bulk, rate images with two different systems to keep notes to yourself, and create an edited version of an image in Lightroom without having to save over the original.

While Photoshop may have more possibilities, along with more robust editing tools, that may not matter to you. If you don’t need to retouch for print quality, for example, Lightroom could provide more than enough tools to get the results you need. You can do it all in an interface which many find easier to use than Photoshop. You can also add in extra tools to help you with special effects, such as the ones on offer from Summerana.

One of the most useful aspects of Lightroom is that it can easily process raw files from your camera, allowing you to edit them without having to convert to a different file format first.

For photographers shooting weddings, family portraits, and similar work, there’s no need to go to Photoshop if you are comfortable with using Lightroom. Plus, if you do want to move on to Photoshop later, you will already have it as part of your Adobe package.

How do I get started using Lightroom?

Once you have Lightroom installed fully on your computer and you have opened it up for the first time, you will want to familiarize yourself with the interface and what it can do for you.

Your window will be split into three sections when you first take a look: the navigator on the left, which allows you to move through your folders and find images; the images themselves in the middle, with your current selection displayed there; and your editing tools on the right-hand side. There is also a photo strip at the bottom where you can see the other images in your selected folder.

You will also notice the following options along the top, to the right:

  • Library: your current screen, which allows you to select and find images
  • Develop: this is where you edit your images. You can also find the presets and snapshots, which are editing styles you can save and use time and time again – you will find your Summerana downloads here once they are added
  • Map: here you can add your photos to a map in order to geotag them
  • Book: if you want to turn your images into a book, you can easily format it here, then send it to Blurb for printing or download it for yourself
  • Slideshow: this is where you can create professional-standard slideshows right from your image folders
  • Print: if you want to print your images, this tool will help to ensure that everything is done at the highest possible quality
  • Web: here you can actually set up an HTML5 gallery using your images, which can be placed right onto your website.

There’s a lot going on in Lightroom, and this introduction only scratches the surface. When you have familiarized yourself with the screens, dive in and give everything a try!

Are you feeling inspired by all this Lightroom chat? Check out Summerana’s Dark and Moody LR collection!

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