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Adobe Lightroom offers ease of use as well as high functionality for novice users and professionals alike. Although many photographers use Photoshop for retouching, they continue to use Lightroom, not only as a global editor but also for its robust organizational capabilities.
Even if you’ve been using Lightroom for a while, you still may be confused about how to get the most out of the software.
Certain questions crop up again and again with Lightroom users. Here are some answers to your most common Lightroom questions.
Pardon the pun, but this is the “classic” question when it comes to Lightroom, especially with the changes and updates over the last couple of years.
The current “Lightroom” app was formerly known as Lightroom CC. This is a version that is heavily marketed by Adobe but is not necessarily the best version for the serious photographer.
Lightroom Classic is what used to be known as Lightroom CC.
Are you confused yet?
No worries, because this is the most common Lightroom question!
The current Lightroom CC stores your photos on their servers and charges you $10 per terabyte. If you shoot a lot, this can really add up quickly.
It also doesn’t offer you full functionality, like the ability to print from Lightroom or export files in any format other than DNG or JPG.
Lightroom CC also doesn’t contain the Map, Book, Print, Slideshow or Web modules. Essentially, it’s suitable for the entry photographer. Beyond that, you’ll find it won’t give you the full suite of tools you need.
Lightroom Classic, on the other hand, is the subscription-based model that you get with your photography plan.
Not only does this version give you great value, but it also provides you with the complete functionality you expect from a post-processing program.
To find out which version you currently have, just go up to –>Help in the top toolbar and select –>System Info from the dropdown menu.
The conversation about color space is a lot more lengthy than what can take place here, but you should be aware of the differences and those most optimal for what you’re trying to accomplish with your photography.
The most common color spaces are sRGB and Adobe RGB.
sRGB is the defining color space of the digital world. Anything involving digital graphics, whether it be video games or photographs, is built on sRGB.
If your photos will appear online, you’ll need to use sRGB. If you upload an image in AdobeRGB, it will look desaturated and dull because the browser will convert it to sRGB and do a poor job of it.
However, if you anticipate your work being professionally printed at all, you’ll most likely need AdobeRGB files. This is a color space developed by Adobe Systems and HP to be compatible with CMYK printers.
Stock agencies often request files to be upload in AdobeRGB because they can be converted to sRGB. Just note that the reverse isn’t true.
Both sRGB and AdobeRGB have the same number of colors but the range is narrower in sRGB. AdobeRGB has a 35% wider color gamut, which means prints will be more vibrant and saturated.
ProPhotoRGB encompasses the largest color space available and is ideal when using Lightroom with other programs like Photoshop to process 16-bit photos. 8-bit cannot use the whole available color range. Prophoto is also ideal if you are printing your photos with a professional printery that uses a printer that can print between 7-10 colors.
An important factor in keeping Lightroom running smoothly is to set it up for optimal performance.
One common Lightroom question is how to speed up Lightroom’s performance.
To start with, as with any software program, you should always make sure it’s updated and that you have enough hard drive space. You need at least 20% free space for Lightroom to run optimally.
Also, make sure your catalog is optimized. Lightroom continually updates the catalog file, but eventually, the data structure becomes less optimal over time. It has an “optimize catalog” option you can enable to improve performance.
To access this option, go to Lightroom -> Preferences and click on -> Performance.
Then click on -> Optimize Performance.
Set up Lightroom to back up on a regular schedule, and set it to optimize the catalog following the backup.
Another tip for improving performance is to import your files as DNG files.
DNG is short for Digital Negative. It’s a RAW file format created by Adobe.
When you convert a file into DNG, Lightroom adds Fast Load Data to the file. This results in a partially processed preview that allows Lightroom to render faster previews in the Develop module.
Adobe claims that a DNG file with Fast Load Data can load up to eight times faster.
Another benefit of converting to DNG files is that they are smaller files than other RAW formats and take up 20% less space on your hard drive.
To enable this Fast Load Data under your Lightroom Preferences tab go to -> File Handling and check off Embed Fast Load Data. Make sure you have DNG selected as the file extension.
Another of the common Lightroom questions is how many catalogs users should use, and often garners much debate.
Some photographers vehemently proclaim that you should only use one catalog, while others insist one catalog is an accident waiting to happen.
When you use one catalog, you risk it becoming corrupt from, for example, constant opening and closing the catalog. It’s actually a rare thing, but it has happened to me a couple of times.
The antidote to this is backing up every day and keeping only the last couple of backups so they don’t clog up your computer.
Catalogs can be a nice way to organize your images. You can, at the very least, have one for your personal photos and another for professional photos.
But you can also have one catalog by utilizing Collections. To me, the whole point of Lightroom is to keep you more organized, so this is a large part of the functionality of the program.
When you have several catalogs, you have to make sure each is properly backed up, which is tedious and adds to your workflow. Also, you cannot have more than one catalog open at a time.
So, in my opinion, it’s easier to back up and manage one master catalog and that you make the most use out of the Collections feature.
The key to success with Lightroom is to keep things as streamlined as possible. It functions as a powerful photo database, but a few missteps can result in a mess.
One of the most common Lightroom questions is where should I save my files?
I recommend that you have a hierarchical folder structure where you have a top-level folder, and in that folder, you have a folder for the year, month, and shoot name – in that order.
This folder structure will make it easy makes it easy to locate certain photos quickly.
It will also allow you to easily back up your photos or copy them to an external hard drive by copying the top-level folder
For example, if you want to back up your entire photo collection to another hard drive, it’s as simple as copying the top-level folder.
Despite how user-friendly Lightroom is, it contains a fair amount of complexity. Knowing all the ins-and-outs will help you get the most out of the software program. Hopefully, this article has clarified some of your most common Lightroom questions.