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Lightroom Classic for Absolute Beginners - Part 1 - The Library

You took thousands of pictures on vacation but don't want to keep them all? Not sure how to best organize your photos? You have just downloaded Lightroom Classic, opened it for the first time and are completely overwhelmed?

It was the same for me at the beginning. I started with Lichtroom 2, so it was a little clearer. Still, it took me a while to get a good workflow. Of course, this requires a bit of practice and use of the app, which is inevitable even with a good tutorial. However, a tutorial can shorten this time.

Attention: There is also a slimmed-down cloud version of Lightroom. It's called Lightroom CC. There, all photos must be uploaded to the Adobe Cloud, but can then also be edited on the smartphone or iPad. Adobe's naming is really confusing here. My tutorial only applies to the desktop version, Lightroom Classic. There the images are saved on the hard drive and can then be edited with the software.

This series is intended to make getting started with this great program a little easier. In part 1 we take care of the library module completely. This is the part that is opened right after the start and in which the images are managed. There will be a part in this series for each module.

In Lightroom, modules are the interfaces for various tasks. The menu for selecting these modules is at the top

1. The library module - overview

The library module is basically divided into three columns:

  • The left column (green) contains the folder structure of the hard drive, the collections and the publishing services.
  • The middle column (yellow) shows the images in the currently selected folder.
  • The right column (blue) contains information about the currently selected files, e.g. a histogram, a few basic editing tools, keywording and metadata.

Before we can start cataloging images, however, we first need a few images in the catalog 😉

2. Import images into Lightroom

To do this, simply click on "Import" at the bottom left. Then the import dialog opens (see above). There, inserted memory cards or connected cameras always appear in the upper left corner. Underneath are the hard drives of the computer. In the middle, the images at the selected source are shown.

At the top, above the images, there is an important area where you can choose how the images will be added:

  1. "Copy as DNG" - There the images are converted into DNG raw files and then copied to a new location
  2. "Copy" - Here the pictures are copied from the memory card or hard drive to a new location.
  3. "Misc." - Here the pictures are moved from the memory card or hard drive to a new location. They are then no longer available at the old location.
  4. "Add" - Here the pictures remain in their old location and are only added to the catalog.

In the right column there are some important settings for the import:

Previews create

In most cases I would recommend “Standard” to you. 1: 1 previews make sense if you know that you have to assess the sharpness of each image precisely and that there is a little time between importing and editing the images, because Lightroom then creates the previews in one go during the import process. If you only want to zoom in on a few images, the standard previews are sufficient, the 1: 1 previews are then created when zooming.


Smart previews create

The smart previews are one of the best features in Lightroom. If you create the smart previews, you can keep the Lightroom catalog with the preview files on your computer's hard drive, but you can transfer the RAW files from the camera to external hard drives. Even if you disconnect the hard drive, you can continue to work with the smart previews. In addition, the smart previews significantly improve the performance of Lightroom. So you should check this box urgently.

Possible duplicates Not import.

This point goes without saying and should almost always be activated.

File renaming

Here you have to find your own way. Since I already had the situation that the camera reset the file names when the card was formatted, file names suddenly appeared twice and were overwritten the next time they were imported. Since then, all files have been renamed during the import according to the following scheme:

"Year (four-digit) - month (two-digit) - project name (without spaces and umlauts) - sequence (three-digit). File name"

Example: "2017-03-Fashion-Shoot-001.cr2"

You can also create templates for this. You can do this with "templates", then "edit ...".

Because of the better compatibility, also in 2017, I do without special characters and umlauts.

While dit Import process apply

Editing presets can be used here during the import. This saves you a lot of time later when editing, as you don't have to click on the preset for every image. I mostly use a preset from VSCO-Pack 01 (Kodak Portra 800), which reproduces the analog film of the same name and which I have set a little weaker. [Edit 02/05/2020: VSCO has discontinued the production and support of Lightroom presets. Alternatively, for example, you can use the Classic Film Presets from The Classic Presets to use. I interviewed the head behind it here]

For the beginning you don't have to use one here, as long as you don't know exactly where to go with the processing. The VSCO presets are usually a good starting point and work a bit like an Instagram filter, but you can set everything more precisely later.

In addition, the metadata for all images of the import can be changed. For example, you can insert your copyright information there.

Third, you can assign keywords so that you can find the pictures again later.


Finally, you can determine the storage location to which the images will be copied. Speaking of copying: Above the images there is a bar in which you can specify whether the images should be copied, moved or simply added to the catalog but should remain in the storage location. If you choose "Add", however, you cannot rename the files. We'll save the option “Copy as DNG” for later on 😉

Now all you have to do is click on "Import" and your pictures will be added to the catalog.

3. Sort out images with Lightroom Classic

When sorting out images, an efficient workflow is extremely important. Who wants to spend a lot of time doing it? From the many pictures taken, the good ones have to be selected and the bad ones sorted out and later maybe deleted. Otherwise too many images will quickly accumulate and waste the hard drive.

Are you wondering why you should mark the pictures in the first place? It's easy, so you have a much better overview. In addition, the selection of images is also one of the creative parts of the photographic work. In reportage photography in particular, as in holiday photos, the story can be told much more clearly and distinctly; a strong image stands out more if it is not repeated almost identically five times.

Here, too, you should come up with your own system, and there are a few labels available in Lightroom for this purpose:

0 to 5 (buttons 0-5)
Unmarked, selected, rejected (keys U, P and X)
Red, yellow, green, blue, purple, custom, and none (keys 6--9)

Many photographers use the stars to select their images. For example 1 star for rejected, 3 stars for ok and 5 stars for selected. But I decided to take a different route.

Not only can you label with the keyboard shortcuts, you can also assign them with the mouse. There is a toolbar at the bottom of the middle column for this purpose. If you can't see them, just press the T key to show and hide them.

My Workflow when sorting out

For the pure selection I use the marking with the buttons P for "select" and X for "reject".

If a picture is particularly good, it gets 5 stars.

I use the colors for the processing status:

finished (key 8)
must be edited in Photoshop (key 9)
is not given to the customer (e.g. behind the scenes pictures; key 6

My method has a small advantage over the star method: When the project is finished, you can delete all sorted images with the key combination CMD / CTRL + ← (the delete key above the Enter key).

Filter bar

With the filter bar you can display all images with a certain attribute. These can also be combined. For example, all images with the marker status "selected" and 5 stars and the color blue.

I particularly like to use the filters for wedding reports, where there are always a lot of pictures. When editing, I just activate the attributes “selected” and “no color” (the gray square). All pictures that are finished (= green) are filtered out immediately when the color is assigned and I only see those that are not yet finished.

You can also filter the images according to metadata, for example according to the focal length used, the date, the flash status or the file type.

A little tip: If you use a zoom lens and maybe want to buy a new one, you can find out which focal length range you use the most: Simply click on "all photos" in the left column under Catalog, call up the metadata filter and set a field to focal length. Then you can see in which area you take the most photos. More on this in this article.

4. Metadata in Lightroom

The right column contains the metadata of the photos. Metadata are saved in the file and contain, for example, information on the copyright, the website of the creator, but also data on the camera, lens, focal length, ISO and aperture of the photo used. The recording time is also saved in it.

You can also assign and edit keywords. This will help later when finding individual files.

5. Conclusion

Hopefully that gave you a first impression of how to sort and catalog your images in Lightroom. Part 2 of my series of Lightroom tutorials for beginners is about image manipulation. If you are a bit more advanced, I would also like to recommend my articles 5 workflow tips for Lightroom and 10 keyboard shortcuts for a faster Lightroom workflow. If you have any questions or suggestions, please write a comment below. It would also be interesting what you liked best 🙂

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from Kai

Photographer | Blogger | (Guitar) nerd | Northern Lights Anyone can learn photography and I'll be happy to help you! For example with the tutorials here on my blog or on my YouTube channel.