You know, I spend a lot of time looking at the “pieces” of Lightroom. It’s easy to teach things a few small pieces at a time because that’s how people like to read about it and reference it. But sometimes we need to look at things from the top down and get a good feel for how the process works, from start to finish. Let’s look at it, step by step.
Importing the photos to the computer is the first step that we have. I don’t actually use Lightroom to copy files from the memory card to the computer – I prefer just dragging and dropping them in. However, it still rquires importing them into Lightroom. I will import them without moving the files (which I’ve already copied to my computer’s desktop) and render 1:1 previews as a way to edit faster.
Rendering 1:1 previews on import is an important tweak I make in the import stage to allow for faster editing later.
Next, we move to culling – the process of choosing which photos to keep. I do all of my culling from the Library module. When I’m on a laptop, I use Loupe view to show only one large photo, while using a bigger monitor lets me use grid view with large previews. When I’m photographing, I usually fire a short burst, so knowing what photo is next helps me make a good choice about which photo to keep.
Using grid view with larger previews is a good way to handle culling. Here, I’m using flags to show that all of these photos are keepers that I will deliver.
When culling, my preferred system for the majority of my work is to use the flag system. “Keepers” get flagged as pick, and non-keepers get no flag all. I turn on caps lock on my keyboard, and start the culling process. Leaving caps lock on is going to cause Lightroom to automatically go to the next photo as soon as I make a flag decision. I use P on the keyboard to flag, and U to skip a photo. (U is the keyboard shortcut for unflag, but even if a photo isn’t flagged, it will move to the next one. Another choice is to use X to “flag as rejected”, but I don’t like doing that.)
Developing photos is where I spend the majority of my time. Each photo requires a little different treatment, but the general order of things is to adjust exposure and then move from there. That means not only adjusting the exposure, but also working with the highlights and shadows sliders as well as the blacks and whites.
The first thing in my workflow to adjust is always exposure.
From there, I might work with clarity, the tone curve, post crop vignette, color sliders, and basically whatever it takes to get the photo shining. Again, the key here is using the tools you need to achieve the look you want. You have to envision what the photo needs (confidently!) in order to nail the process. We don’t use Develop tools for the sake of using them.
When all of our photos are edited, it’s time to move to exporting the images. There are tons of things to tweak in the export process, but when I’m thinking export, the main thing that I’m thinking about is “where are the images going?” If these are high resolution images that I am delivering to a client, I will export them differently than if they are just going on the web.
To get started with exporting, select a series of images and then right click and choose Export.
The big difference is how big we want to export our images. Sending them to the web means that we don’t need to export them as large as they are out of camera. I might make images for the web 1000 pixels long on the long edge with 72dpi. If I’m exporting to deliver to clients, they’re getting the full size images to do with as they please. Again, every situation is going to call for something a little different, so we have to understand how to use the tools we are given.
What questions do you have about the standard order of things in Lightroom? Where do you get stuck in Lightroom, and how can I help you to beat that? Check in with a comment if you need more help.