A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Adobe Lightroom Introduction

April 29 2015

by Philip Northeast

Adobe Lightroom  is a comprehensive software tool for  managing photographs,  starting from the camera’s memory card,  through photo editing, to the final print or file.

Managing  digital photos with Lightroom  allows photographers to work in raw file format and include keywords, copyright, contact details, titles and captions.  These are not part of the raw file, but Adobe Lightroom  saves the data in its catalog. Lightroom’s powerful image management capabilities allow photographers  to store, and quickly find their images, in collections stored on their computer.

Adjusting a photograph in Adobe Lightroom

Adjusting a photograph in Adobe Lightroom

There are photo editing tools in Lightroom so photographers can adjust the exposure, crop the image and make simple corrections within Lightroom. This can simplify the photographer’s workflow as it saves transferring photographs between apps.

In cases where the Lightroom tools are not powerful enough, Adobe provided good support for linking external  editing apps into Lightroom. This applies to third party apps, not just those from Adobe, such as their Photoshop CC.  All editing is non-destructive, the original photo file, even if it is jpeg,  is preserved and any edits are only applied to output copies.

Lightroom produce versions of  photographs in many forms from digital files in different sizes and resolutions through to prints, books, and web galleries.

The Power of Presets

A benefit  of editing photographs with software is the automated assistance that speeds up a  photographer’s workflow. Photographers do not lose control over their digital photos as they can customise the software programs for the repetitive tasks, leaving more time for the fine adjustments.  The principle of the automation in Adobe Lightroom  is based on the photographer’s styles and settings that are stored in presets. Lightroom presets are stored, and are then applied to other digital photos, either singly or in batches.

There is no scripting language or complex recording of a macro, simply saving the current settings as a unique preset. This saves the tedium of filling out the same information, or repeating the same basic adjustments.  Another aspect of Lightroom presets is they can be combined with other operations to simplify the tasks for photographers. Presets allow photographers to choose when the preset pauses and waits for specific input for a set of digital photos. Presets are not the end of the process, just a good starting point.

Modular Interface 

Adobe Lightroom’s  interface is constructed in a logical fashion so it only displays the controls that are needed. One aspect of this is the modular layout where the workflow is broken up into stages:

Library   Develop   Map  Book  Slideshow  Print   Web  

Library module 

The digital file handling module is the heart of Lightroom. It starts when a memory card, or camera, is plugged into a computer. Lightroom analyses the memory card’s contents and then copies the selected digital photos into the file structure on the computer’s hard disk.

The library module in Adobe Lightroom is for managing photographs

The library module in Adobe Lightroom is for managing photographs

Part of this process is adding information in the Lightroom catalog about individual or sets of digital photos that is useful for finding and organising them.

The Library module is the initiator of just about every part of your workflow in Lightroom.   Photographers select digital photos in the Library module and then call other modules for processing or applying actions to the selected photos.  This can be adjusting a digital photo, or sending a processed copy to a file, printer, web gallery or slide show.

Once the digital photo is in the library photographers select and rate their digital photos using Lightroom’s extensive search capabilities.

All though it is not officially a separate module, the export function is a comprehensive dialog box for producing new versions of the original digital photo based on the Develop module settings.  The functions include choosing the file format, file size, quality and colour space of the new photo.

Develop Module 

This is where photographers make the detail adjustments for colour balance, exposure, noise reduction, and sharpening to their digital photos in Lightroom .   There are some minor editing tools for such things as cropping, levelling, removing dust spots and red eye.

Adobe Lightroom basic panel

The Basic panel in the Develop module in Adobe Lightroom


Lightroom does not alter the original image, instead the Develop module assembles a set of instructions on how to process the raw image file and previews this on the screen.  When a digital photo is copied or printed Lightroom  applies the adjustments to the output copy.  The original raw image data remains untouched.


This module enables photographers to sort and filter photos based on geographic location. For digital cameras with GPS units the location is in the EXIF data in the image file.

For images that do not have any GPS data then photographers can add it in Lightroom. One easy way is to drag and drop the thumbnails from the film strip onto the map location to record their position.

Lightroom map modules helps associating photos with locations

Lightroom map modules helps associating photos with locations

This enables photographers to find photos taken at a certain spot on eh map, or find where a photograph was taken.

The Lightroom  map module uses Google maps so the computer needs to be online to use this facility.


This Lightroom  module creates photo books, with emphasis on templates that suit the popular print on demand publisher, Blurb. Lightroom manages the inclusion and formatting of text, ranging from captions for each photo, to more extensive text for more than a simple photo book.

Print Module

This module does more than send the digital photos to a local printer with facilities to choose paper size and numbers of copies.

printing from Adobe Lightroom

Page layout is flexible when printing from Adobe Lightroom

The print module has features reminiscent of a Desk Top Publishing suite where photographers can specify the position and size of an image box and then place a digital photo inside the box.  This allows multiple photos on one piece of paper with a small amount of text.  Photographers can create contact sheets showing thumbnails of a session or sophisticated posters and pictures for framing.

Slide Show and Web Modules 

Simple and basic slide shows and web galleries from photos selected in the Library module. These are ideal for quickly putting together a display of proofs for clients to view or enhancing your web site.

 Lightroom 6

Adobe have included a couple of new tools in Lightroom 6. Hiding in the photo drop down menu is Photomerge. This has an option to process selected files to produce a High  Dynamic range image.

On the waterfront at night HDR from three photos

On the waterfront at night HDR from three photos

Or you can stitch together a series of photographs to create a panoramic image .

Five photos stitched together to create a panoramic view

Five photos stitched together to create a panoramic view



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