Getting Started with Adobe Lightroom CC Takes Some Forethought
Thank you for listening to episode 44 of The Photo Flunky Show. In this episode, Lee and I talk about our very different styles of using Adobe Lightroom CC.
You may find out that much of what you've learned becomes irrelevant if you don't need the benefits of the systems and techniques that we're taught.
A Tale of Two Lightroom Users
When I first saw how she used Lightroom, it was almost blasphemous to me. Her style goes completely against the grain of every bit of Lightroom training I've ever seen.
Yet, it really works for her.
When I thought about it, Lee's style makes a lot of sense. It saves her time by eliminating steps that she doesn't need. It saves her money because she doesn't have to buy a bigger computer or more storage for her photos.
On the other hand, I'm meticulous about my Lightroom CC organization. While I don't follow every convention I was taught, I can find what I need rather easily.
I've also invested a lot of time and money to make my system work.
The difference is because of our purpose. Lee shoots for family memories. I have some of that, but I also shoot for business purposes. Listen to this episode to see which style of getting started with Adobe Lightroom CC is right for you.
Adobe Creative Cloud – If you don't have Adobe Lightroom CC, I recommend getting the Photography Plan that includes Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99/month. This is my affiliate link, and I appreciate your support of The Photo Flunky Show if you use this link to buy. It adds no cost to you, but provides me with a small commission to help support the costs of running the site and developing new articles.
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THE PHOTO FLUNKY SHOW: Episode 44
Welcome to the Photo Flunky Show, Episode forty-four.
Today we are going to talk about getting started with Lightroom. I know a lot of people listening to this are already using Lightroom and you’re kind of getting into it, but I wanted to have a conversation for folks who are just getting started with Lightroom; even if you’ve been using it for four years!
William: Hi, welcome. My name is William Beem.
Lee: Hi, my name is Lee Beem.
William: And you’re the one who has been using it for four years.
Lee: Yes, I have.
William: We are going to have show notes available at williambeem.com/episode44. And of course you can find a transcript of the show there for free and there are links to subscribe to the show at photoflunky.com. So if you want to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or Blubrry, just go there and we’ll hook you right up.
OK, let’s go back to my premise now. This is kind of a beginners – not even guide to Lightroom – but kind of like why do I even want to bother with Lightroom in the first place. So let’s start off with that. Why use Lightroom? I know I’ve got my views on it, but tell me, when you were getting started with your photography you didn’t start with Lightroom. You were using other programs.
Lee: Actually, I was using nothing. I used nothing for a couple of years. I think I was misled and just fell for one of the older mistakes that new photographers make, where I believed that if I didn’t get the picture right myself, that I was cheating.
William: So it was cheating to use Lightroom and just so everybody knows, your use for Lightroom isn’t organization. It’s for post processing.
Lee: It’s for post processing and eventually I think I came around after joining some photography discussion forums and I realized that you don’t have to manipulate your photos to make them look like something that isn’t real. Lightroom will enhance when your camera just couldn’t quite capture what your eye was able to see. Not necessarily Lightroom; you can do that on various programs.
William: Well, basically what you were looking for in post processing was what it really should be. It’s to finish the photo.
William: You do as much as you can in camera and then you still need to finish it because every digital photo still needs sharpening. It’s probably going to need some kind of contrast adjustment and a few other things, depending on what the photo is.
Lee: Yeah. And although I had a DSLR, I only shot in jpegs. I had no need for RAW files, so why waste the space on the camera?
William: OK, so eventually you went through some different programs. I think you went through Topaz and a few others. Were they not doing what you needed them to do or was it not convenient? How did you get from other programs to using Lightroom?
Lee: I did trials on a number of them based on recommendations. There were a few which you recommended to me. There was nothing wrong with the software. But I eventually settled on Lightroom because it seemed to cover the bases for my requirements and the most important thing was I found it very easy to use. It didn’t take me long to get into doing what I needed to do.
Now there are many other capabilities within Lightroom that I never touched on, but they were surplus to requirement at the time. Maybe they still are. However it was easy for me. I looked at it and tried it out during the trial period and realized I can work with this; I can use it. It made sense.
William: And other than watching some online videos, you didn’t really have any training for it.
Lee: I didn’t have any training for it. What I did learn, and that was sadly for Topaz Labs, which I probably would have ended up buying … I learned the hard way that you should go through the tutorials before you download the free trial because I’m pretty certain it was Topaz Labs where I downloaded the free trial and I believe I had 30 days – I don’t recall now – and I hadn’t gone through any tutorials.
I ended up having a lot of heavy commitments for a few weeks and I was left with just over a week to use it. I still had to figure out how to use it while I was trying to test it out and it was just overwhelming. I would come home from work, I had other demands in the home and I ran out of time. So I kind of learned!
William: My own approach to Lightroom was later than probably a lot of other people who were on the same path as I was. I was into Aperture. Apple had Aperture and quite honestly I always thought Aperture was a superior product to Lightroom in terms of organization and it was much faster. Lightroom is not nearly as fast as Aperture was for processing photos.
I know other people use Capture One that is very fast. For some reason Adobe just hasn’t built Lightroom to be as fast. They have improved it over what it used to be and it’s faster now. For a number of years the post processing engine inside of Aperture was better than Lightroom, but I’d say that when Lightroom 4 came out Adobe took the lead and they had a better post processing engine since then.
Of course Apple has since discontinued Aperture so to me it’s really the only choice. I’m happy with Lightroom. I wish it was a little bit faster, but you’re right, the workflow for doing post processing is rather simple to go through for basic adjustments and for 95 per cent of the photos, that’s probably all I need.
Lee: It is all I need. I mean I’m not able to go and clone things and work in layers and masks – well you’ve got your little masking things with the brushes and gradients – but you don’t have as many features; nowhere near as many as what you have with Photoshop. However that was the selling point for me. I had Photoshop Elements before that and I didn’t use it.
In fact I gave the good old CD away to somebody. I said, “I’ve paid for this, have it, it’s yours, it’s wasting my time and making me mad.”
William: It would have made you madder had you used it.
Lee: Oh, OK. Good. Everybody said that was the easy straight forward thing and I hated it. So I was hesitant.
William: They do say that and honestly I really hate Elements.
Lee: When I got Lightroom, I was hesitant, but it was very what I like to call “Idiot Proof.” I thought it was very easy to use.
William: I am actually much happier and I think it’s easier for me to use Lightroom and Photoshop together than it would be to try and do anything with Photoshop Elements. But that’s getting us off the topic here.
So your whole decision was simply because the post processing was better. You had no desire or need for organization and for a lot of people that’s what they want to do and it’s almost the premise it’s built upon. It’s not just the post processing, but how to organize your photos.
But you’ve got a different take on that.
Lee: Well it’s not so much that I have a different take on it. It kind of didn’t matter to me. I never anticipated that I would be taking that many photos that it would matter. It sounds stupid and it probably is, but at the time I needed something that would post process my photos, I wanted something that I could afford. This was before Creative Cloud. I believe that was in 2012? It came out just shortly after that. But it did what I needed it to do and it was affordable. I had no need for anything else.
Bear in mind that Photoshop was costing a whole lot more before Creative Cloud. So that was almost or pretty much, out of my budget.
William: Yeah, Lightroom was affordable at roughly $150, but Photoshop you would probably spend $650 because you didn’t have Creative Cloud where you could pay for it on a monthly plan or what they have now with the photography plan that bundles Lightroom and Photoshop together. Basically for $120 a year you can Photoshop and Lightroom.
Lee: Yes, that was not cheap and I think CS5 was the current version at the time that I got Lightroom, which was Lightroom 4. I bought the license for it.
William: The reason that you weren’t really interested in organization was because of your workflow. You take your photos, you come back and you process them immediately.
Lee: I do.
William: So you go through and you decide which photos you are going to keep and those you process, and everything else gets tossed.
Lee: It does. I wipe the card and I’m done.
William: No regrets.
Lee: Do you know, you don’t regret what you forget.
William: OK, I’m good with that. And the reason this fascinates me is because I am the opposite. I go out and take my shots and the last thing I want to do is come back and sit down and post process them right away. I load them all up into Lightroom, I tag them, I organize them and do my copyright registration; even all the ugly ones. If I bump the shutter and take a picture of my ankle I’m registering that with the US Copyright Office.
Lee: This is going to amuse you and probably drive you nuts, but I noticed today that somewhere along the line – and it seems to be since before we even got married – my camera’s date and time is out by about 15 months and I don’t know what the time is out by. So I don’t even have the time and date correct on my stuff.
William: In every other aspect you are the most organized person I know. And I am the slob.
Lee: But I’ve got a creative side and I think that’s what kind of balances me out. I think that’s what helps me keep myself sane. And my creative side lets me not get too caught up in everything being just so. And I really am the complete opposite when it comes to anything creative. I am haphazard all over the place and that is my style.
William: See I’m meticulous about my creative side. I have got everything organized the way I want it to be, I’ve got it tagged with key words. I’ll let it sit there for a while, but then I can easily find it inside of Lightroom because of the way I do things with key words. Then I can decide I’ll post process what I need.
The only time I really process something right away is if I need it for an assignment. Like if we go out and shoot something and that’s a bit of a joke because we shot something a month ago that I just processed today.
But you know what? Today was the day that I needed it for the assignment. Otherwise I have got photos that I took years ago that I still haven’t processed because they are there when I need them.
Here’s the example. I’ve got another site where I want to do a story on Las Vegas. It has taken me multiple trips to Las Vegas to take photos to get all the information I want for the story. There is no way in the world I could just pick my photos right then and then know if they are going to fit into a story that I haven’t even developed for the next four years.
Lee: Hmm, see I have to do that immediately.
William: We’ve got different approaches. I really rely upon all of the organizational features within Lightroom. Also within the post processing.
I agree with you. The workflow is really simple. As a matter of fact, I can tell you almost every photo I touch I’m going to start off with kind of the same thing.
I start off with lens correction.
Lee: I do, too.
William: Then I go down to camera calibration and I move the blue slider over to about +25. Then I go to basic and I start at the bottom …
Lee: Wait, wait wait. Why do you move the blue slider?
William: Because it really helps the colors. Especially with skin tones. Blue, for some reason beyond my intelligence, just really makes the colors pop a bit more. I know you hate that word “pop”, but I move the blue slider over and it gives some presence to the colors.
Lee: I understand the colors popping. I hate it when people say they make their photos pop. So you’re OK.
William: I’m talking about colors. I won’t pop any photos.
Lee: No popping photos.
William: But then I go through the shadows and highlights and things like that, all I’m doing is holding down the shift key and double clicking the title and Lightroom will automatically make a decision of where your highlights and shadows and other things should be. I’ll still go back and tweak it if I need to, but most of the time it gets it right.
I will then go up and hit the contrast and I’ll go down and pull up some vibrance and maybe a little bit of clarity and nine out of ten times that’s all I do with a photograph.
I don’t put that on a preset because the sliders are going to be a little bit different each time. But I start with that and it just gives me a really nice, vibrant photograph.
From there I can decide if I need to remove dust spots. Do I need to do Upright? Do I need to take it to Photoshop?
Lee: I don’t have dust spots. I’m lucky with my cameras and lenses.
William: Well this is the other part of me where I told you I was a slob. I have dust spots all over my camera.
Lee: I do use sharpening and I always do a little bit of noise reduction, because I find the raw files always seem to need some sharpening.
William: Every photo needs some sharpening. Depending on what you’re shooting, you may need some noise reduction and again, for me noise reduction, if it’s something I’m going to put on a website, whatever is in Lightroom is perfect. If it is something I want to do for a portfolio, I’m probably going to take it off to one of the programs that I use. Maybe a vignette.
Lee: I actually like that. But I never use a preset for a vignette. I always go down the controls in Lightroom and do my own because I like to mess with the shape, the roundness and the feather …
William: I’ll do that as well and maybe if I need to, I’ll put on a radial filter where I want to draw the eye and I want it just a little bit brighter. Maybe half a stop to three quarters of a stop.
Lee: I’m starting to enjoy the radial filter and when I say I always have, I always think I’m going to use it selectively, but I am enjoying it almost in favor of a vignette now. One thing I was thinking today when I was working on something in Lightroom and thought I wish that Lightroom would let you move the center of the vignette over across where you want it. The radial filter will do that, but every time you use it you have to … it’s a little bit awkward still. I find it’s not as smooth and straightforward as what I would like.
William: It’s such a simple thing. So many plugins will allow you to say please center it here. Adobe, why have you not given us that simple little thing in Lightroom? All we want is some way to say: Place center here.
Lee: I do not know and the funny thing is that I’ve got a free app on my iPhone and it lets you move the vignette center point. So it’s weird.
William: One of the things we are talking about with getting started with Lightroom and one of the reasons you may want to go with it is exactly what we’ve been talking about. It is very, very simple to go through and take your photos from your raw shot and turn it into something with great presence, great clarity, great contrast, great color – or your black and white if that’s what is what you’re looking for.
And within minutes!
Lee: I was going to say quick. Being nice and quick is the best part. I do not want to sit and spend thirty minutes on a photo. I mean, to me that is unthinkable.
William: Although for me the organizational capabilities are there. I still like Aperture a bit better. When I get into Lightroom I will have maybe four or five folders under my Lightroom folder for my photos. I’ve got one for portraits, I’ve got one for travel, one for family, maybe something for Orlando with the Disney World stuff and that really covers most of what I’m doing.
I think I’ve got another one for events because we do some event photography. Everything goes in those folders and some people, that drives them crazy. They say, how can you find your photos?
I said, very simple. When I import them it goes into the last import collection. You select all your photos and then you add tags to them. So we went to Animal Kingdom and I would have tagged those photos with Animal Kingdom, I’m going to tag them with Walt Disney World and anything else. They are going to go in that folder for import, I can find them immediately.
I may need to go back later to get original photos and say this is a character of King Louis at Animal Kingdom, because King Louis and Baloo came by and slapped my hand the last time we were there.
Lee: Yes, they did!
William: Well that’s easy to find. I can find any Animal Kingdom photo in Lightroom within seconds because I know the tag. Other people like to use collections and I hate collections. Collections are just like a big bin that doesn’t really give you enough to filter what is inside of them. Tags do a much better job of that. I’m getting a little off topic here.
Lee: I do use tags. I actually like tags. I use them differently to you, though.
William: Tags are very simple. They are simply text that describes what the photo is about or what is in the photo. They are searchable terms. So to me tags far exceed the benefit of collections. And you can make smart collections based off of tags. So if I need to quickly see all of my Animal Kingdom photos and I made the smart collection because I have to work with it and pull some things out, then I’ve got a temporary collection with a smart collection and when I’m done I can get rid of that and I haven’t lost any of my photos; I haven’t lost any of my material that helps me organize it.
Lee: Another reason that we handle our things differently is you do different things with your photos. You are actually using them for a purpose when you use them. My photos are taken as memories of an occasion, so my stuff is organized not in Lightroom, but in the destination folder which is where it ends up. Once it is processed, it’s done. That is my memory. I did it to the best of my ability at the time and that is it and I’m done.
William: I think that is a key point with this discussion. We are talking about getting started with Lightroom and why you may want to use it. All the training that I see takes you through pretty much the same process. You’ve got to organize your photos, you’ve got to build collections, you’ve got to build collection sets and I think that is really untrue.
It has helped me to understand what those processes are and we’re not even talking about getting to maps and books and printing modules or something like that. We are talking about stuff that every photographer has to do. You’ve got to be able to store your photos, the ones you want to keep, and you’ve got to be able to process your photos. That is the core of Lightroom.
And we do it differently because as you said, we have different purposes.
Lee: We do. And don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that my way is better. In fact, I didn’t start out this way. I did start out with the advice on tutorials of having things organized. I changed my laptop and the short story is stuff happened and I never really got things sorted out again.
William: But that brings me back to the point though. Not everybody needs to follow the same process. All the training that we see has this cookie cutter approach to how you work with Lightroom and what works for one person or one set of users may not be applicable to others.
So if you are looking at Lightroom and you are thinking, I just want to process my photos with it, I don’t want to do the organization, if that works for you that’s great.
Lee: Yes. It works.
William: See that’s what you’re saying. If I’m not keeping all those other photos, why do I need to manage them.
Lee: That’s right. For me I think where things might become challenging and where I might live to regret it is if I were to change what I was doing with my photos and at a later stage suddenly my workflow changes and my needs and requirements change, I am going to have a problem.
William: Yeah, but if your workflow changes, it’s going to be from that point forward. You are not going to be looking at old photos for a purpose that you don’t even know of today.
Lee: You know, you’re right. That is true.
William: You haven’t lost a thing. You are working with what you need up to today and you’ve disregarded stuff that you tried, but it was really irrelevant to what you needed to do.
Lee: It was. There are probably photos that are sitting in some delete bin now non existent that maybe could have been saved now, that I didn’t have the know-how to do at the time. But you know, you can’t save everything. You cannot save the world and not every photo is something you are going to go back and look at.
Save your keepers, look at your special things and sometimes you’ve just got to take what you like and walk away. It’s the end of a day.
William: Well, you’re saving yourself a lot of money too. I mean, for example I do save my photos and I want to save my photos because I do look at them from time to time. But look at what I spend. We are sitting at a desk where I have the Raid Array. It’s got sixteen terabytes of storage. Sitting next to that is another Raid Array with sixteen terabytes of storage to back up the first Raid Array. So I’ve got over eight terabytes used space and I’m backing that up and I’ve got generations of the backup. I spend a good chunk of money putting all that together so that I can store those photos. They take a lot of space. Granted, I’ve got a lot of iTunes movies out there too and music.
Lee: I would like everyone to know my husband is very proud of the fact that I’m a cheap date.
William: She’s a wonderfully cheap date.
Lee: I don’t compromise on quality.
William: No, you don’t. But you also don’t spend money where you don’t need to and this is one of the things with getting started with Lightroom. Right at the outset, know what you want to accomplish. There are a lot of features in Lightroom. They are not applicable to everybody and just because you’ve been told that this is the way to do Lightroom doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the way that you have to do it.
Lee: True. My advice was coming from people who were doing something with their photos, usually in some either professional or partly professional capacity. Or on the road to getting there. And if I think about it now for somebody taking family snapshots and I wanted to know where Christmas 2010 was located, well it’s on my hard drive in a folder that says Christmas 2010, under photos, my pictures and family.
William: And you don’t have that many to go through so it’s not a difficult thing to do searches.
Lee: No, absolutely not. I export them with the little things that make sense to me. I have certain abbreviations. We’ve all got them.
William: On the other hand, I’ve got 10,000 photographs at Walt Disney World and thousands more of Las Vegas and other travel places. I’m never going to be able to just sort through a folder and find where is that one picture where that person was making a face.
Lee: I’ve got a memory and I’ll probably remember which year it was. So I’m going to narrow everything down.
William: That’s one of the things I find amusing. There are people who will specifically create a folder structure and Lightroom would do this for them in the big folders. They create folders for date and time and year.
Lee: Oh my goodness!
William: And I thought, you know there’s a date stamp inside the camera and if you would actually put the proper date on your camera you can use that.
Lee: I know you’re right. And I always used to do it.
I’ll tell you something about using the date as a way for filing things. We made our first ever vacation when Tové was little to Walt Disney World and I figured that I would name these things by date. So I had the dates from April and it started with the first day, which say it was April 8th. Every day just had its batch of photos in there and I thought it was so smart because I figured this was going to be our only trip. Well, we just ended up going back over and over again and after a few years of three week trips at a time, it gets a little bit harder to remember what happened on which day.
William: I can’t remember what I did at breakfast this morning. I’m certainly not going to remember what I did on vacation six years ago.
Lee: I did go back to fix it. So yeah, the date and time thing didn’t make sense. That was before post processing though. Once I did actually get that and once I had Lightroom and looked at it there were things that I learned just from having software, even if they were not applicable to me at the time.
William: I get it and from what you are doing, like processing them right away, throwing away the old stuff and then you have your finished stuff in the folder that’s named exactly what it was about. It makes perfect sense for you. I couldn’t work that way.
Lee: You’ve seen me. I went and took photos on Wednesday. Thursday morning I was up early, came back from my run, took my shower and that laptop was fired up, like I need to get these photos done.
William: You’re driven to that where instead, I am looking at other things and I’ll go back and finish those photos later.
Lee: I have got this thing – I used to have this saying: I hate ‘pending’. Anything that is hanging over me, do it, delegate or shoot it dead.
William: I don’t do that because I don’t mind something that is pending. If I don’t have a deadline for it to be done, I don’t have a need for it to be done right away; that has benefited me at times because I will learn new techniques. I’ll get new tools and by the time I have a need for that photo I may have a better way of doing something with it.
Lee: I understand that.
William: Or I may also learn a technique in Photoshop and say, oh I know what photo to use for that! I took this photo of a model and thought it was going to be a throw away. But now I can composite it over here in this scene and it actually works. I take this model over here, I put the background that I shot in Cuba and put them together, put a little shadow so it looks like she belongs there and think, “Hey, that works!”
William: I wouldn’t have done that and those photographs were taken years apart.
Lee: See that’s a different approach and you are smarter with that one. I get that.
William: For me.
Lee: For you, but you’re doing different things with your photos. I’m not showcasing my photos anywhere. Those are our personal photos and we keep those for ourselves. I am happy to share them, feel free to use them, please give credit – that would be really sweet and I’d be your friend for that – but I am not doing anything special with the photos, or important to someone else.
William: And that, honestly, is our lesson for today with getting started with Lightroom. Before you dig in and take all these courses or start looking and listening to other people telling you how you have to do it and this is the only way or this is the best way, know what you want to do. You may not need all of that stuff and with that in mind, I’m probably going to be starting to do more little tutorials and tips on Lightroom so in case you decide it’s something you want to do, hopefully it will be a resource for you. But in the meantime getting started with Lightroom, before you do anything, know exactly what you want to get out of it.
Thank you for listening to the Photo Flunky Show. Show notes are going to be available at williambeem.com/episode44. In fact, I’ve got a post that I wrote on why you should never create collections in Lightroom again. I’m going to put that in the show notes so you can look at that and see what I’m talking about with tagging and key wording and how that can benefit you.
We would love it if you would stay in touch with us on the show. You can reach me on Twitter. The show is @photoflunky and of course you can follow me at @wbeem on Twitter. And of course on Facebook at William Beem Photography; that’s my page. And of course we would love it if you would go to photoflunky.com and check out the links to subscribe. We’ll see you next week.