Many Photoshop users are not aware of the many advantages of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. In fact, many will tell you that they aren't really sure what it is used for and how it differs from Bridge. In this tutorial, we will explain a bit more about what Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is used for and will highlight 10 reasons that you should start using this fantastic app today. Let's take a look!
1. Fast Access to Your RAW Photos
Prior to Lightroom, photographers and photo editors had long complained that they needed a better way to view, organize, and edit their photos. If you have ever tried to sort through hundreds or thousands of photographs without using an application like Lightroom, you probably know what a tedious process it is. So having fast access to your RAW photos is probably the biggest advantage that Lightroom will offer you.
Lightroom has a smart way of linking the photographs to a catalog file, which only records the changes you make to them, but keeps the photos intact wherever they are stored. This saves a lot of processing power and storage space on your computer. You might end up having thousands or tens of thousands of high-resolution RAW photos in your catalog, but Lightroom will still be able to open it up in a couple of seconds and show all the photos together.
Since Lightroom 4 you also have an interesting option called Embed Fast Load Data under the Preferences > File Handling tab. Enabling this allows Lightroom to load Digital Negative (DNG) files even faster. The only downside of it is that it makes their file size a bit bigger. DNG is Adobe's own camera RAW file format, which is great for archiving.
Lightroom can convert all kinds of Camera RAW files into DNGs easily. Lightroom is part of Creative Cloud so if you are paying for the membership you are free to download the latest version to see out how it works.
2. Several Ways to Add Keywords
Keywords can save you a lot of time when trying to find specific photos, but it also takes time to properly add them to all your photographs. This is another area where Lightroom really shines. Bridge is good for keywording too, but Lightroom has so much more to offer. You can apply keywords while importing photos, you can add them to groups of selected images, you can apply them quickly with the Painter tool and you can even assign keyboard shortcuts to a set of keywords.
3. Geo-Tagging With Built-in Google Maps
This feature was introduced in Lightroom 4 and it opened up a completely new way of organising photographs by their geographic location. If you have a GPS device in your camera then you won't have to do anything as your photos will automatically be placed on the map in the Map module.
This module uses Google Maps but you have to be online to make it work. If you don't have GPS data saved in your photos you will have to place the photos on the map manually, but Lightroom really helps you out with its intuitive features and user interface. You can easily locate specific places on Google Maps' search engine and then you can place photos onto the map by simply dragging and dropping them.
You can even set up Saved Locations for places that you visit often, which will again save you time when tagging your photos. The great thing about manual tagging is that Lightroom will automatically write a lot of useful information into the metadata of your photos, like the Country, City and Sublocation. These all come handy when you are filtering your catalog.
4. On-Image Editing
A great feature in Lightroom is the On-image editing tool, which looks like a small circle with an arrow above it and another one below it. You can find this tool under the Tone Curve and the HSL / Color / B&W panels. By selecting it you can apply local adjustments by targeting specific parts of your photos. It makes the adjustments much more intuitive and more effective.
5. No Need for Saving
Another big advantage of Lightroom's catalog system is that you never have to save any of your changes as they are automatically saved into the catalog's database and they don't affect the individual photographs. This would already be amazing, but on top of this Lightroom also saves the history of every step of your editing process for each and every photo in your catalog. Saving the history is not even an option in Photoshop, so it is really nice to have this feature work automatically in Lightroom. You can even preview all of the steps of the History with the Navigator panel while moving your mouse over the steps.
6. Before and After Views
Being able to compare your changes with the original photo is crucial in image editing and this is another area where Lightroom really shines. In the Develop module you have 4 different view options that you can use to see the difference between your original, adjusted, and edited photo:
- Before/After Left/Right
- Before/After Left/Right Split
- Before/After Top/Bottom
- Before/After Top/Bottom Split
What is especially useful is the Split modes as they allow you to see the changes on one single photo and you can easily drag the dividing line around to compare specific parts. To do this you just simply need to click on the photo to zoom into it. When you are ready with comparing click on the image again to zoom out.
7. Filtering Your Catalog
We already discussed how Lightroom allows you to quickly add keywords and GPS data to help you categorize your photos more efficiently but Lightroom also allows you to quickly filter and search through your photos very easily using the filter feature in the Library Module.
You can enable the filter menu by going to the View Menu or by pressing Backslash (\). Once enabled, you will see 4 columns which you can use to refine your search by adding criteria. You should start from left and keep adding filtering options to the columns on the right until you have refined your search enough to see the photos you were looking for.
It is also good to know that you can save your filtering results as a Collection so you can find them much easier the next time you need them. You can also turn a single keyword into a filter by simply clicking on the little arrows to the right of keywords in the Keyword List panel.
8. Virtual Copies
Previously, we talked about the fact that Lightroom doesn't change the photos, it only records the amends separately into a database. Based on this technology Lightroom offers a great way to save several different edits of the same photographs using Virtual Copies. The biggest advantage with this is that you can save a lot space on your computer, as you don't need to duplicate files whenever you want to compare different edits.
9. Editing Video Files
Even though Lightroom is mainly for cataloging and editing photos it also offers video editing features. Don't expect anything advanced like Adobe Premiere, but it still does a good job if you only need to trim and correct White Balance or the basic Exposure of your videos. Don't try to use the Develop module as you will only be able to use Lightroom's Library Module in the Quick Develop panel to edit your videos.
10. Creating Photo Books
Introduced in version 4, Lightroom now allows users to create photo books with the photos imported into their catalog, and even purchase prints of them using an online publishing service called Blurb. This built-in layout editing engine is great for anyone who wants to include an extra service like providing professional printed photo books for their clients. You don't have to learn another application like InDesign, you can do everything directly in Lightroom. This feature is a big plus for wedding or event photographers.