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10 Lightroom Tutorials Every Beginner Photographer Should Take
“I can fix that in Photoshop.” If I had a dime for every time I heard that from a fellow photographer, or even from myself, well, I would have a whole lot of dimes. Photo editing is a fact of life if we want to get the most out of our images. Adobe Lightroom is one of the most popular editing programs for digital photos. Beginners wishing to learn the software can access a large collection of free tutorials online.
What Can We Expect to Learn from Lightroom Tutorials?
- How to load our camera RAW files
- Correcting common mistakes
- Changing white balance
- Batch editing
- Converting file types
- Organizing our Lightroom catalog with keywords
- Adjusting colors and the tone curve
- Installing and using Lightroom presets
- Using the Lightroom sliders and dropdown menus
- When and how to use Adobe Photoshop (when Lightroom isn’t enough)
Lightroom is perfect for cataloging and editing our images, taking us beyond the snapshot and into the realm of art in our photography. We can buy Lightroom classic or subscribe to a Creative Cloud version.
Since Lightroom is one of the most used programs, the amount of tutorials, even video tutorials, available online is large. As with any full featured program, there is a learning curve. The many free Lightroom tutorials will teach us very quickly how to use the software. Several of the best tutorials on YouTube will even show us what it looks like to use the controls. Besides video tutorials, many of these are available as PDF downloads.
How to Load our Camera RAW Files
Once we get beyond the snapshot phase of being a beginner photographer, we start learning the benefits of shooting in RAW as opposed to JPEG. I like to compare JPEG to drugstore prints, and RAW as film negatives or slides. There’s nothing wrong with the prints we picked up from the one-hour lab, but with the film negative we can create some truly outstanding art.
With our camera RAW files, we first need to get them into our computer or mobile device (yes, there is a Lightroom mobile option). Depending on our equipment, we can load from the Creative Cloud, from a memory card, or directly from camera.
Correcting Common Mistakes
I like to think of this as tweaks. Maybe we weren’t paying attention to a particular detail of our photograph. Perhaps the subject is a little dark, or there is a distracting small background problem in an otherwise great image. Free Lightroom tutorials will show us the easiest way to fix or adjust these small issues.
Exposure fixes are one of the more commonly addressed issues for novice and amateur digital photographers, but even a well-established professional photographer will often find themselves in need of this tweak. This is one reason why it’s nice to know how to make the most out of our camera RAW files. RAW gives us a lot more digital information to help us work with an image file. There is nothing wrong with photo manipulation or post processing. From Ansel Adams and Man Ray, to modern digital masters, photo processing is one way a serious photographer can get the most out of their images.
Changing White Balance
White balance is important enough to be its own subject. In JPEG, changing the white balance can be a little bit problematic, but it’s doable. With a RAW file and Adobe Lightroom, changing from indoors to outdoors is a fabulous one-step process. Free Lightroom tutorials can also show you how to fine tune the colors.
This is one of the best features of Lightroom. Wedding photographers, real estate photographers, landscape and nature photographers–all photographers with dozens or hundreds of images can benefit from the fantastic batch editing capabilities available in Lightroom.
Many of the basic presets and adjustments can be accomplished across whole folders of images. Exposure, white balance, keywords, labeling, and many more functions can be completed with batch editing. It’s a big time saver for anyone with a lot of images that need processing. Adobe tutorials are also available to show some of the basic functions of their programs.
Converting File Types
Camera RAW files may be preferred for our own use, but few printers or online applications accept them. So, we will usually need to convert our photographs into more common file types. JPEG and TIFF are two of the most common formats, but Lightroom converts to many different file types, providing you with a range of options.
File type conversion can be accomplished using batch editing in Lightroom CC and Classic versions. Lightroom editing tutorials for this process are easy to find.
Organizing our Lightroom Catalog with Keywords
Catalog organization is another outstanding feature of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Even a novice photographer soon has folder after folder of photos piling up somewhere. One of the most difficult things to do is to locate a specific image (or small group of photos) buried within a cluster of folders. Thankfully, we have Lightroom with its library module for creating smart collections.
Either by means of batch editing, or with individual images, we add keywords to our pictures. Then, when we need to find that sleeping tiger to post on Aunt Millie’s Facebook, or all of the group shots for a client’s wedding, we simply use the catalog search feature of Lightroom. It’s a wonderful feature for working professionals and other serious photographers. This one feature alone justifies the cost of any version of Lightroom.
Free Lightroom tutorials will show you how to implement catalog organization most efficiently, and offer helpful guides and tips about best labelling practices and techniques. You’ll benefit from what others have already tried by watching a few different tutorials.
Adjusting Colors and the Tone Curve
Now we’re getting into what many think about when discussing post-processing. It is actually easier to do than many realize. Some of these adjustments can completed in batches, others need to be worked on as individual files. Needless to say, it can be intimidating to get started on this aspect of image manipulation. Even long-time professionals can get a little anxious about it.
Many free Lightroom tutorials dive deep into this subject. There are so many talented people willing to share their knowledge and expertise. One of the nice features of Lightroom is that the editing is nondestructive. In other words, you can never ruin the original file unless you specifically try to. So, playing around with the tone curve or the hue and saturation of various colors can all get reset back to zero. If you don’t get it right the first time, you can simply start over. One trick I’ve learned is to watch Lightroom tutorials on my tablet while I’m working in Lightroom on my computer.
Installing and Using Lightroom Presets
How many e-mails do you get offering free or low-cost Lightroom presets? I receive several each week, sometimes multiple offers per day. I subscribe to a lot of forums and channels about photography, so my e-mail address is on dozens of lists by now. I don’t worry about getting too many emails to handle, that’s what spam filters are for.
Presets and plug-ins are actions and settings already worked out by someone else, then imported into your own version of Lightroom. The presets can apply to almost any function in the program. Popular presets are for portraits, weddings, landscapes, and real estate photography. Presets can be used to adjust exposure, color, white balance, keyword cataloging, file types, backgrounds, and much more. Presets and plug-ins can be for batch editing or for individual images.
It can take a while to work out which setting will work best, how much to move this or that slider, what percentage to type in, what control to use, and so on. Using presets gets us into the ballpark quickly. Often times, with certain presets, I don’t have to tweak anything at all.
But getting to know and understand what each setting requires a bit of a learning curve. That’s what makes using presets such a good idea for many photographers. A free tutorial may come with a preset package purchased. A lot of packages are also available for free from various sources. Besides the video tutorials, I also like to print off any available instructions or make a cheat sheet. This helps my workflow run even smoother and faster.
Tutorials for Using Lightroom Sliders and Other Controls
The controls of Adobe Lightroom are easy to get used to, but finding a basic tutorial will jump start your introduction to photo editing software. Instruction books are a great resource, but sometimes you simply need to see live action demonstration. This is an area where YouTube tutorials excel. By doing a search on YouTube, you can find a tutorial for every Lightroom tool.
When and how to use Adobe Photoshop (when Lightroom isn’t enough)
As wonderful and full-featured as Lightroom is, it can’t do it all. Certain types of actions aren’t available in Lightroom. Have no fear, Photoshop is here!
Adobe Photoshop is what most novices typically think of first when photo editing is mentioned. It’s one of the most full-featured programs available and has been around in one version or another since the 1990s. Available for Mac or PC users, there are also mobile platform options available. If you decide to access Lightroom by means of the Creative Cloud subscription, Lightroom and Photoshop are both included. Some other programs and perks come with the CC subscription model as well.
What can you do in Photoshop that you can’t in Lightroom? Panoramic stitching is one, and HDR processing is another. In addition, Photoshop expands on some of Lightroom’s existing tools, allowing for advanced adjustment and fine tuning.
Another great feature in Photoshop is the ability to adjust and control actions in different layers. For example, you can adjust the background in just one layer, while controlling header elements in another layer. The actions of one layer do not affect the other layers.
The learning curve in Photoshop is steep, so it’s very important to explore the vast number of available free tutorials. But make sure the tutorial matches your version of Photoshop. There are some video tutorials and PDF files for Photoshop that are older than my favorite concert t-shirt.
Enjoy the adventure!
Whether you’re a photographer for the money, for the fun of it, or a mix of both, it is a demanding and rewarding craft. Learning the tools and how to use them well will only enhance your skill set and enjoyment of photography.
If you consider yourself to be a novice or a beginner, please keep growing in your abilities and in your love of this art form. In time you could even market yourself or your images. Give it a try, there are tutorials for that, too!
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