Adobe Lightroom 4: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Adobe Lightroom 4

Photography is about capturing the moment. However, those moments can be improved later. Shooting in RAW format in your camera allows you almost limitless improvements using Adobe Lightroom, now on version 4. At first, this software may appear to be intimidating. It's designed for serious amateur and professional photographers, after all. (If all you want to do is crop or fix red eye, it's probably more than you need.) It also integrates with PhotoShop for even more complicated editing. If I'm not processing an HDR set of photos I'm likely using Trey Ratcliff's great Lightroom presets or some of my own.

Here are some tips for beginners.

1. Learn how to import your photos. Lightroom works on a database and workflow system - you have to import the photos before you can do anything with them. They're imported into the Lightroom Catalog, which will be the first thing you see when you open the program. On the left side of the bottom is an import button. You can either set a destination folder or just click "Add" to bring in all your photos in the folders they're already in. Make sure to use Copy to get files from a card.

2. If you're in a hurry, just use the Quick Develop function, especially if you're processing an entire batch of images. You can crop or adjust exposure on an entire folder of photos at once - so if all the pictures you took at that sporting event came out too light, you can fix them all, in one go, without worrying about numbers.

3. Use other people's presets. One very important thing newcomers to Lightroom can benefit from is free presets that more experienced users have made available. These allow you to set a ton of effects in just one click - they might not always work, but everything done in Lightroom can easily be redone. Again try Trey's presets, you won't be sorry. In fact I've used some of his presets to develop entire batches of baby photos I've taken. 

4. Be careful with your raw files. It's always best to convert to.dng, because Lightroom stores changes in the XMP file, not the image itself. This is fine until you send the photo to somebody else - they may not be able to see your edits. Use the import option to convert your files to.dng. Play around and see what works well for you. Mostly I keep everything in RAW and then I export as a high quality JPEG. So again, there are multiple ways that work. 

5. Don't move imported images except by using Lightroom. The temptation to just open the folders and move files around is very high - it's quicker, especially if you don't have the software running. However, if you do this, Lightroom will lose track of your files and not be able to open them.

Lightroom is a powerful tool with a great workflow, especially if you happen to take a lot of photos at a time. It can be intimidating, but once you know how to use it, it will save you a lot of time and aggravation.