Lightroom Tips & Tricks
This page contains helpful hints pertaining to the use of Lightroom
Beta One and Two
that have been picked up from other users, Adobe's development team, or my own
Beta Two – Feb, 14, 2006
Beta Two of Lightroom has just been released today. The major upgrade in the program, and the one most needed to make the program truly usable during the beta period, has been the addition of a Crop and Rotate tool.
The implementation is very elegant, allowing rotation by twisting the image with the mouse, or via a slider. Cropping can be as desired, or via fixed or custom aspect ratios – very handy if precise sized prints need to be produced, such as to fit in pre-cut mattes or frames, or for a magazine layout.
Hierarchical Keywording is also an exciting addition to Beta Two. For example, let's say you have created files with keywords such as Animals, Wildlife, Domesticated, Dogs, and Elephants and a few other as seen below. By dragging and dropping you can nest these as follows...
Searching for "Animals" will display all files containing any of these words. Searching for Wildlife will display only Elephants and Monkeys. Searching for Dogs will show Golden Retrievers, but not Cats or anything below Cats.
In addition to dragging and dropping categories to within other categories, when a new one is created it can be nested as a "child", as seen above. New Keywords can be created on the Keyword palette or by typing the word into the Keyword field of a photograph. This will enter it, as well as create a new category. If it already exists the word will be auto-completed, saving typing.
There is now improved XMP interoperability between Lightroom and some other programs. This means that Metadata changes made within either program be read and written to the other, though there are currently limitations as to which programs this works with and which data fields are supported.
Less profound, but equally useful for many, is the ability to add music to Slide Shows. Just create a new playlist in Itunes and then point to it from within Lightroom's music selection window.
The Print module has added the ability to include paper size, orientation and target printer to Print Templates, greatly speeding up repetitive printing tasks. This eliminates once and for all the dreaded printer settings memory loss that Apple has never been able to solve on Macs.
Lightroom Beta Two is also a Universal Binary, Adobe's first. This means that it will run natively on both PowerPC based and the latest Intel based Mac computers.
Finally, a new training video has been added to the Adobe Lightroom web site.
NB: If you have a Library which was built using Beta One, be aware that the library database structure in Beta Two has been changed. The first time that you start the new version of Lightroom it may take quite some time to build the new library.
And, as always with a new Beta release, read the accompanying documentation carefully. There are even a few more new features not mentioned here. Also, experiment! There are also a lot of as-yet undocumented features in Lightroom, and finding and exploring them is fun.
At this point Lightroom lacks the ability to save multiple versions of a file. This will come eventually. But in the meantime, here's a simple way of creating the equivalent of different versions of the same file.
When you have a file looking the way that you want using the various Develop tools, simply save a Preset with all of the settings checked (Check All). This will add it to the Presets Browser window. You can now Reset the file back to its original state (or any other state) by clicking on the named Preset in the Browser window. (File 2353 Grayscale and toned – for example) will instantly reinstate that version. Other variations of the same file can be similarly saved.
The only downside to this approach is that it will eventually lead to a huge Browser Presets collection if used frequently. Guess we'll need nested or hierarchical Presets as well.
Monochrome Conversion – Jan 30, 2006
Mac users who have started experimenting with Lightroom will likely have fallen in love with the program's Grayscale Mixer and Split Toning. (Windows users will be able to see what the fuss is about as soon as Lightroom Beta becomes available for their platform).
I do a lot of monochrome work, and the ease of use and flexibility provided by these two functions are superior to any other monochrome conversion tool or method that I've yet seen. But, if creating a B&W image is something that you have decided to do well-after your raw conversion is completed in another program (such as Camera Raw or Capture One), Lightroom can still do the job. That's because just about everything that Lightroom can do to a raw file it can also do to a JPG, TIFF or .PSD file!
Pass your mouse over the image to view a monochrome version
Above is an example of an image which, though it works in colour, I was curious to see in B&W. Rather than go back to the raw file to use Lightroom's Grayscale Mixer and Split Toning, I simply loaded the .PSD file that I'd been working on in Photoshop back into Lightroom.
Clicking on the Convert to Grayscale button or the Grayscale Mixer tab's check box does the trick, and if the Auto function is engaged a tonally optimum rendition is presented.
In this case I darkened the Yellow a bit and then seasoned to taste with a Preset that I have created called Warm Brown, which can be seen by passing your mouse over the large screen representation above.
The point of all this is not to simply recap some of the Grayscale capabilities of Lightroom, but to remind you that these can be applied to just about any type of file, at any time, not just raw files.
One Library, Two Computers – Jan 30, 2006
Beta One of Lightroom only allows there to be one Library active at a time, and has no ability (yet) to merge separate Libraries. This is problematic if you have both a desktop and a laptop computer. You come back from a shoot with your new shots having been worked on within Lightroom while on location, but have no way of using the laptop's Library as part of your main Library. What to do?
My solution was to move my Library to a small portable hard drive ( an 80GB Firelight ). This is now where my Lightroom Library lives, and will remain until a version of the program appears that is able to merge separate Libraries. It makes taking my entire Library with me at all times simple, and I plug the drive into whichever computer is needed at the time. Just make sure that each computer's copy of Lightroom points to the same external drive.
Printing – Jan 14, 2006
Printing to a PDF is one of the options available within Lightroom. And, except for the very largest prints, if you select Draft mode when printing to either paper or PDF, printing itself is very quick because Lightroom doesn't need to render the original image, instead simply using the largest of the preview files.
Another of Lightroom's printing capabilities is to treat groups of images as a single print job. These can be a multi-page contact sheet, even a series of images to be printed with the same characteristics at the same time. One problem that can arise though is if the printer runs out of ink, or stops for some other reasons, the entire print job needs to be repeated, forcing the unnecessary reprinting of a number of pages.
A simple solution to this problem is to print to PDF, and then using the PDF viewer's Print commands, simply print the pages that are still needed.
Lightroom wants to have its database located in User / Pictures / Lightroom (at least on the Mac version). The problem with this is that the size of this database can grow very large, very quickly – especially if one is allowing the program to create a "managed database". By this it is meant that the files are actually brought into Lightroom, rather than simply referenced at their original location. But, either way, it won't be long before the Lightroom folder occupies many gigabytes of storage.
If you are running Lightroom on a laptop, which never seems to have enough remaining disk space, or anything except a computer with the largest primary drive, you're going to find that sooner rather than later you wished that Lightroom was on another drive.
Here's a tip on how you can do just that, and can do it at any time, even after you've started to build your Lightroom Library.
Select a Folder Dialog
1 – Copy the Library to an external drive
2 – Delete the Library from your computer's main drive
3 – Make an alias for the new Library, (right click / Make Alias) and copy the alias back to your User / Pictures directory
4 – Rename the alias on your main disk to Lightroom (remove the word alias from the name)
5 – Restart Lightroom
Follow steps 1 & 2 above and then when launching Lightroom, hold down the Option key.
You'll see a standard file dialog (above). Browse to the drive and folder where you want the Library to go and click OK. From then on Lightroom will use this new location as the Library location.
This is also a nifty way of creating a back-up of your Library. Just copy the whole thing to another drive using the Finder. Then, if you ever need to access it, simply use this method to reconnect Lightroom to its Library, which is now in a new location. This also eliminates the need to have an alias file on your primary drive.
Canon 5D with 70-300mm DO IS lens @ ISO 640
Missing JPGs – Jan 12, 2006
When you import or ingest a directory that contains identically named raw and jpg files, Lightroom Beta One only displays the raw files. The jpgs will be copied, but they won't be visible within Lightroom. You can see them and access them from the Finder, of course.
The developers are currently discussing the best way in which to handle such files in future.
What part of the word "beta" don't you understand? – Jan 12, 2006
I've found it a bit curious that in early postings on various web forums some folks are complaining about missing features.
Well, stop for a moment. This is a beta release. What that means is that the program isn't finished. It won't be for the better part of a year. Some obvious things are missing (such as cropping), and other things are yet to be invented.
In fact, the whole point of releasing a beta program is to solicit user feedback and commentary. To write – I don't like Lightroom because.... is to miss the point of the exercise completely.
Adobe wants to hear what you want. What features and capabilities would make sense for you; would make your work easier, faster or better? Use the Adobe Beta Feature Requests Forum to let them know what you'd like to see. Help make Lightroom the program that you want it to be.
Repeat After Me – Lightroom is Not Photoshop – Jan 12, 2006
A curious phenomena is that many of the early online comments and critiques about Lightroom are that it is not more like Photoshop, or that it lacks Photoshop's capacities and interface.
Lightroom is an effort on Adobe's part to break away from the Photoshop paradigm. As useful as it has been for the past almost two decades, Photoshop is not necessarily the best program for handling photographic raw files that one could invent, if it were to be invented today. Twenty years ago, when Photoshop was conceived, photography was about film and chemical darkrooms. The early users of Photoshop (notwithstanding its name) were graphic artists. It's only been within the past 5 -8 years that Photoshop has become the tool of choice for many photographers, and it's only in the past few years, since Camera Raw and Bridge, that it has started to meet the needs of digital photographers.
Lightroom then is Adobe's fresh start. No, it's not intended to replace Photoshop. For many, Photoshop will continue to be the program of choice. But with its ability to ingest, sort, classify, keyword, organize, process, display as sideshows, and print, Lightroom is intended to put under one roof all of the tools that most photographers will need. It also is intended to do so with a smoother, more intuitive and more contemporary interface.
So instead of looking under the covers to see where Lightroom differs from Photoshop, let's turn our efforts toward helping to define a new way of working with our digital images.