There are things out there that you have no idea that you absolutely need to have. If you take photos on a semi-regular basis, and actually like to do something with them (share them, edit them, etc.), then Lightroom is one of those life changing, need-to-have items. I have to be honest, I originally did not seek out Lightroom; I received it from a friend as a wedding gift and decided to give it a shot. I soon learned how valuable this tool is. I know, I know – it probably sounds like this is an advertisement for Lightroom, but at the time of writing, I am in no way affiliated with Adobe. For what it’s worth, there are other programs out there that function very similarly (Bibble, for example), that may work as well or better for your workflow, but my familiarity is with Lightroom.
I decided to put together a list of reasons I find Lightroom to be so valuable to my workflow:
1. When I download photos to my computer, Lightroom can automatically create a backup file simultaneously. In full disclosure, the actual back up system creates a single folder with all the photos from that download, as opposed to the main download folder naming/organizing system that is more customizable (downloads the photos into folders by date, or however I’d like). If I had the choice, the back up files would use the same folder naming system as the main download location, but it’s still a very nice function that saves me a ton of time.
2. Lightroom makes it very easy to go through the photos and label them. I can rank them by stars (1 through 5), give photos different “colors” ( for example: label a photo red to indicate family, blue to indicate an artistic photo, etc.), or simply flag photos that are keepers and/or photos to delete.
3. Lightroom has various tools to let me compare and narrow down similar photos to get the best shot out of a group of similar photos. I can highlight any number of photos and have a “candidate” photo that I compare each of the other highlighted photo to one at a time and replace the “candidate” photo if one of them is better. From there I continue until I narrow it down to the best shot. Another comparison option allows me to highlight a number of photos and look at all of them tiled on the screen at the same time.
4. I found Lightroom’s interface to be very easy to learn and use, and the tools available for editing cover a vast majority of the post processing I typically do. Each editing parameter has multiple adjustment methods (sliders, direct value input, etc.) so I can use the method that works best for my workflow. I can also copy the edit settings from one photo and apply them to other photos, which I have found to be useful in situations where the exposure and/or white balance may be off on a series of photos (using auto white balance on the camera in tungsten lighting comes to mind).
5. Editing photos in Lightroom is non-destructive, meaning that editing a photo does not actually alter the original file. Lightroom saves all the edits from all photos to a single catalog file, so I don’t have to save each version of each photo when I edit it, and since Lightroom saves as you go, you never have to actually tell Lightroom to save anything for you. I just make sure to back up my catalog weekly in case anything happens to my hard drive. The editing history for each photo is maintained, so I can always go back to modify or undo an edit. I can also have “virtual copies” of a photo where I essentially have multiple “copies” of a photo so I can make different edits to the same photo, yet I don’t have to create an actual copy of the original photo – Lightroom just keeps track of the separate edits.
6. Lightroom makes it easy to add metadata like keywords, copyright information, titles, and captions to photos. I have also found this feature extremely useful when the time and/or date is incorrect in the camera. I can take a batch of photos and correct the time/date by adding or subtracting the amount of days/hours/minutes/etc. that the camera was off to all of the photos simultaneously.
7. Lightroom allows me to add watermarks to the photos I export to help protect my photos from being improperly used and/or stolen.
8. Collections and Collection Sets allow me to organize my photos however I want them. The use of collections does not actually move files on your computer, the collections just “point” to where the original file is. This helps me keep track of which files I upload to different websites, keep my favorite photos of family members in one place, etc., while not having to change the location of the original file.
9. Using plugins, Lightroom allows me to upload directly to popular websites that I use such as Facebook, Smugmug, and Flickr. My workflow previously involved exporting files to my hard drive, uploading them to the website I wanted, and then adding titles and captions on each website. Lightroom allows me to upload the size I want directly, and automatically applies the titles and captions used in Lightroom to the uploads.
10. When I export photos, whether to my hard drive or a website, Lightroom has easy to follow options for me to pick the size I want, the amount of sharpening (and for what medium – screen, print, etc.), what to name the files, and many more options depending on the place you are exporting to. I have found it extremely useful to be able to batch process photos that need to be re-sized and sharpened, renamed, and uploaded to a website.
If (when) you decide to take the plunge, I would also recommend picking up a copy of an instructional book for reference. I found Scott Kelby’s Adobe Photoshop Lightroom [insert Lightroom version here] Book for Digital Photographers to be very useful for me. While the basics of Lightroom are pretty straight forward, it was nice to see some examples and learn some of the more advanced features as I became more proficient with the program.