Tips and techniques to help those who want to be more technologically savvy but may need a little more hand holding.


Lisa Niday - Sunday, July 08, 2012

It's true that the era of digital photography forever changed photography, but today photography has changed a great deal due to the advent of smart phones. The smart phones have proliferated the number of photographers and this will only continue to grow. I was amazed at my grandson's t-ball game when every parent had a DSLR. Since photography has spread and gone mainstream, I thought a discussion about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom might be in order.

If you were to put the Adobe Photoshop family of products in perspective by users, you would look at Photoshop Elements as the entry level consumer product. It has great tools and really helps guide you through the process of photo editing. You would compare this with iPhoto on the Mac.

If you are an aspiring amateur or professional you will most likely be a candidate for Lightroom. Lightroom allows you to organize and tag your photography so it's easy to find, correct your images and then publish them to photobooks, websites or print them.

Photoshop, of course, the industry standard for photo editing, also does many more things and for your average consumer is probably a bit much.

For most of you to make the most out of your point and shoot, DSLR or camera phone, you will most likely choose between Elements and Lightroom. If you have any experience in photography or aspire to, are shooting with a DSLR or are a professional photographer, then Lightroom has a lot to offer.

I have used Lightroom since its inception, it is currently at version 4. I am not a professional photographer but I do like photography and have a DSLR. I also was fluent in Photoshop prior to Lightroom. I now find I do all of my photography in Lightroom and go to Photoshop to do compositing or special features. Lightroom covers about 75% of my needs for photography. In my opinion, Lightroom is easier to use and has much less of a learning curve than Photoshop.


Lightroom consists of modules to allow you to work with your images. The library allows you to import, tag, sort and arrange your images or video. Develop is where you make any edits to your images. Map is new in Lightroom 4 and allows you to access the geotagging of your images if your camera supports this or allows you to arrange and tag images around the map coordinates. The book, slideshow, print and web are all modules for outputting or showing your photography.

screenshot of LightRoom Modules tab

Screen shot of Lightroom modules tabs.

Library Module

As mentioned above, the Library module is where you import your images and video, sort, tag and arrange the images. I am a big believer in applying keywords to my images which makes them easy to find for projects. I took a weekend and imported all of my digital images into Lightroom and tagged them. Now I know most of you may find this overkill but over the years, this has paid big dividends as I have done many different types of books or articles and needed to find the photos quickly. Once you have your images cataloged, then I just make it a habit to import them with the keywording and all the "work" for organization is really done. Lightroom can keep track of your images even if they are "offline". This means if you store them on CD's or DVD's, Lightroom will still find the images and render previews even when the disks are not in the computer. This is especially helpful as you get years of photography.

screenshot of Library Module in Lightroom 4

The Library module allows you to import, tag and sort your images.

Develop Module

The Develop Module is where you will perform most of your edits. Here's the really great thing about Lightroom, these edits are non-destructive. What does that mean? I can make edits (which are really instructions) which will be in file in Lightroom history as long as you have the file. The changes become "baked" into your image when you export the file. This gives you great flexibility. You can work with raw images, jpgs, tiffs or Photoshop files.

screen shot of Lightroom Develop Module 

The Develop Module allows you to control all types of edits to enhance your images and they are all non-destructive.

Some of the settings which can be changed in the develop module include exposure, white point, tone, highlights, shadows, blacks, saturation, vibrance, color controls, and noise to name a few.

 screenshot of Basic editing tabs in Develop Module

A screen shot of the basic controls for editing images in the develop module. There are more advanced controls as well.

Video Support

In the past two versions of Lightroom, Adobe has added support for video as well. In the latest release, you can not only catalog and tag your video, you can perform some minor edits. Edits include setting white point and tone or changing exposure or vibrance. You have to remember these are changes to the entire video. You can also trim the ends of the video, a very common task. You can also set the poster frame or export anything from the video to a still image. I personally have found video a bit daunting, but this gives me the basic functions to make my video usable and sharable.

screen shot of video editing in Lightroom 

Lightroom 4 gives you the opportunity to capture frames from your video and do some minor editing, a great addition to Lightroom.

The next 4 modules give you the ability the share your photos in several ways through photobooks, websites, slideshows or prints. You also have export functionality built in to go directly to Facebook, Revel or Flickr. There are also additional Lightroom export modules available for download on Adobe's website.

screenshot of publish services in Lightroom 

Various ways to publish your photos are built in to Lightroom but you can create custom export settings for your own settings.

Map Module

In addition to recording the time when a picture is taken, many smartphones and GPS-enabled cameras also now record location data. To make this information come to life, Lightroom 4 includes a dedicated Map module that uses Google Maps to let you organize your images in a new, visually informative way. If your camera doesn’t automatically record the coordinates of your images, you can easily drag and drop images to a location or define saved locations.

screen shot of Map module in Lightroom

The map module is new in Lightroom 4 allowing you to arrange your photos around locations or access the information around the photo location.

The Book Module

The book module is a new enhancement to Lightroom 4. This gives you the ability to create photobooks directly from Lightroom and is integrated with Blurb. I am in the process of creating my first photobook through Lightroom's module. I have created probably 15 photobooks using 7 or 8 different services so I have tried many. Thus far I am finding this easy to do. I will say if you want more "precanned" clip art to utilize this might not be your best choice. If you are creative and want the ultimate in control and customization I believe this might be the right choice for you. I will tell you no matter what service you use, you can always export your images out of Lightroom to any service, this just saves a step. Once I have gotten my first Blurb book back, I will update this column with a new post. I have high expectations based on Adobe's high standards and the fact they have waited a long time to integrate this tells me they were waiting for the tool which would meet the professional's high standards as well.

screen shot of Book module in Lightroom

Screenshot from the Book module in Lightroom. You can use an auto function or fully customize your book.

My intent is not to teach you everything about the program here, but to expose you to something which might be helpful if you are interested in enhancing and sharing some of the photos you are taking. Let me know if you would like to learn more and we could follow up with more detailed information.

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