Learn Lightroom Introduction - part 2

In part 1 of this Introduction to Lightroom course we looked at the the photography workflow and how Lightroom supports this. We also reviewed important Lightoom tools to import, sort and label images. In this article we will look at keywording, processing and finally outputting images in print. If your keen to make sense of the huge number of features in order to better learn Lightroom, start by reading both of the articles.

Keywording

Having imported your images to the Lightroom catalogue and applied a star rating it’s time to add keywords to help you when searching for images in the future. Keywording is an important process because it allows you to quickly find you images at a later date but it’s also vital to help other people find your work on the internet and if you supply one, in a stock library.

Here are some of the ways you can add keywords to your images in Lightroom:

  1. You can add keywords and (some) Metadata at the time of import as we discussed in the previous article.
  2. Through the Keywording Panel (see illustration below) where there is a drop down list called “Keyword tags”. When “Enter Keywords” is selected from this list it is possible to type keywords directly into the Keywording panel. Any keywords entered are then stored for the images you have selected.
  3. Using the “Keyword List” panel which shows all the keywords that have been used previously and which are available. If you hover the mouse cursor over a keyword in this list you will see a tick box appears to the left of the keyword. Clicking this tick box will apply the keyword to the currently selected image or images. You might also notice that any keywords you entered directly to the Keywording Panel will also appear in the Keyword List for possible future use.
  4. You can use the Keyword Suggestion panel to suggest keywords to you although this really depends on you creating sets of keywords that might be useful e.g. for Landscape Photography. Click on a keyword in the list and it will be applied to your selected image or images.
  5. You can work with the Painter Tool or spray can (you might remember this from the previous article) where keywords are entered and then using the spray can you click on the images the keywords are to be applied to.

Figure 1: Enter Keywords Panel

Figure 2: Hierarchical Keyword list

If you are at all serious about keeping control of your images and submitting these to clients such as Stock Libraries I suggest you invest a little time in establishing a controlled vocabulary. This is a set of keywords that you use to describe your images and only these keywords are used. Lightroom supports the use of a controlled vocabulary and provides a great hierarchical keyword list which you can create. For example you might select the keyword Seascape and other keywords such as Sea, Ocean, water etc. would be added automatically if they are in the same hierarchy. Lightroom is extremely powerful in this respect but it is an advanced subject which I intend to cover in a later article.

Once you have finished keywording your images you will then be able to include these in the searching and filtering. For example it’s very easy for me to find all images which have been submitted to Stock Libraries, that have a rating of 2 stars or higher and have the keywords sunset, sea and Formby in their meta data.

Searching and Sorting Images

When you are in the Library module of Lightroom you have access to a very powerful sorting and searching tool. This appears as a toolbar at the top of the screen and allows the images on screen to be filtered based on “Text, Attribute or Metadata”. You just need to select from the options in the toolbar and then click on filtering criteria from the lists provided. It’s best to try experimenting to understand all the options this provides.

When searching on Text you can search for text you specify such as file name and keywords. Attributes allow searches on information such as star rating and label colour. Metadata allows for searching on things such as Camera, Lens and Date the image was taken (see illustration below).

Once you have specified your filter the thumbnails are updated so that only those meeting your criteria are listed. When you want to remove the filter and return the display to showing all images just click on the “None” heading in the search toolbar.

Figure 3: Filtering images based on Metadata

Processing and Developing Images

If you are familiar with the Adobe RAW converter in Photoshop you shouldn’t have any problems using the Develop module in Lightroom. Simply make the adjustments in the panel on the right and the changes will be displayed on the preview. When you are happy with your image select to export the image as follows.

Figure 4: Main screen in the Develop module

Lightroom provides some basic adjustment tools but they are remarkably effective in producing almost finished, or in some cases finished work. Two of the additional editing tools I find most useful are the Gradient Filter and the Adjustment Brush. These appear as the two right most icons just below the histogram.

Figure 5: Icons for the additional editing tools

Below is an example of the panel that appears when you select the Gradient Filter. You can select how the gradient tool will affect things such as exposure, brightness and clarity etc. Once you have adjusted these simply drag out a gradient on the screen. Above the start of the gradient the changes are applied at full strength. Below where you drag the gradient there is no affect and in between the effect is graduated to help blend the effect. This is similar to using an ND Grad filter but you can also lighten areas as well as darken them together with many other options.

Figure 6: Options for controlling the Gradient Tool

The gradient tool is great where there is a large area that you want to adjust such as the sky. If the area is irregularly shaped or spread out and requiring more localised control, the Adjustment Brush may be a better option. This is very similar to the Gradient Tool but you can brush the effect onto different areas of the image. With both of these tools you can create multiple brushes or gradients each with different characteristics. To do this just click the “New” option and then set up the characteristics (e.g. Exposure, contract etc).

In addition to these basic editing tools there are lots of other options you can use to produce your image including things such as cropping, adding or removing vignettes, correcting lens distortion and chromatic aberration as well as sharpening. If you are interested in sharpening your images I have already produced a tutorial which can be found on ePHOTOzine or on my website (www.lenscraft.co.uk).

Another nice touch in the Lightroom development module is the use of presets that appear on the left hand side of the screen. Simply select the image you want to work on and then move your mouse over a preset in the preset list. As you do this the navigation panel at the top left of the screen will update to show a preview of what the preset will look like if applied. To apply the preset simply click the preset once. Lightroom comes with quite a lot and it’s also possible to save your own presets for use later. A number of sites also have readymade presents that you can download for free such as On One Software who provide 190 free presets.

Lightroom and Photoshop

Finally I should mention that Lightroom gives the option to export images to other applications such as Photoshop where you can edit them further until they are ready for distribution/output. This again is a source of confusion. The approach I follow is to complete my basic adjustments in Lightroom and then for my better images (those with two stars or above) I export to Photoshop for final editing. Editing in Photoshop adds extra time to my workflow so I only do it with my best files where I think the investment will pay off.

When I first started exporting to Lightroom I found the TIFF files I exported would end up in the same folder as the RAW file which can be confusing. I now tend to export my TIFF files to a separate working folder where I can open and process them further. When I have finished editing them in Photoshop I again save them as Photoshop PSD files with all the layers still in place, saving them to a Master File archive. I try to keep the original RAW file and any variant TIFF/PSD files separate.

Output to Slideshow, Print or Web

The final step with your work is to output it to either digital or printed media. To help you learn Lightroom better I will assume you want to print your finished images and leave you to explore the slideshow and web output options.

An essential step in the print process is to Soft Proof your image. The ability to soft proof images was introduced in Lightroom version 4. When you selected the Print module the currently selected image is displayed in the preview and the many options available appear down the right hand side of the screen as seen in the illustration below.

Figure 7: The main Print module screen

At the top of the right hand panel there is an option to select the “Layout Style”. Currently there are three options “Single Image/Contact Sheet”, “Picture Package” and “Custom”. Selecting one of these will determine the options available in the right hand panel although “Custom” is almost identical to “Picture Package”. We will take a look at the “Single Image/Contact Sheet” options, some of which you will find under the other layout styles.

The “Image Settings” panel provides for some common (very useful) tasks such as zooming the image to fill the page and rotating the image. There is also a useful “Stoke Boarder” on this panel which places a boarder around the image and allows you to select the colour and thickness of the line. This can be a nice way to finish an image especially if it will be hung without a mount e.g. in a quick frame.

The “Layout” and “Guides” sections allow you to size and place your images on the paper very precisely. Continue down the screen and you will reach a “Watermark” option. Checking this will allow you to print your image with a watermark which can be very useful if you are producing a proof for example. To the right of the checkbox is a drop down menu which provides the capability to edit and create your own watermarks. When you select this a new dialog will open that allows you to create and save either a text watermark or a watermark from a picture file.

Figure 8: Creating a custom Watermark

Finally at the bottom of the panel there are some important options to control the printing under the heading “Print Job”. The first option here that people often miss is that you don’t have to print the finished file to a printer but can also output to JPG which is a useful feature if you want to send an image proof by email.

Further down you can select the resolution as well as the sharpening. Sharpening may seem like a bit of a blunt instrument here (please excuse the pun) but it is important. This is output sharpening and is intended to counter the softening effect printing an image has. You should have done any sharpening before you reach this point. The sharpening levels here are just “Low”, “Standard” or “High” and no preview is provided. For most images “Standard” is fine. Ensure you also select the correct Media type i.e. Gloss or Matt as this will affect the printing/sharpening.

Finally you have the “Color Management” options.

Figure 9: Selecting a printer profile

Colour management is a large topic so all I will say here is that you have the option to allow the Printer to manage the colour of the print, in which case Lightroom will switch off its colour management during printing. Alternatively you can select a specific printer profile which might be one you have had created for your printer and paper combination such as in the screen shot above. If you do select a printer profile here then you MUST switch off the colour management for your printer in the print driver. If you don’t do this you can get some very strange and frustrating results.

So that’s the whistle stop tour to help you learn Lightroom. We have only just skimmed the surface of the package and if you want to continue your learning, there are many more articles and tutorials on Lenscraft.

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