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Mistakes to Avoid in Adobe Lightroom

Monday, May 18th, 2009 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

One of the best ways to learn in life is to make mistakes. It can be frustrating, perhaps humiliating at times, but if the lesson is learned, it is priceless. However, it is also possible to learn from others mistakes. Here are a few tips for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom that were learned the hard way, so you won’t have to.


The first thing to do in Lightroom is to import your photographs. Imported photographs are instantly imported into the category ‘Previous Import’. Bear in mind though that this is only a temporary catalog, and these photos will be replaced when you next import some more. With that in mind, it can get a bit messy if you have to import multiple sets of photographs and want to manage them all at the same time. If you want to keep sets of photos together, then the best thing to do is put them all into one ‘master’ folder before you open Lightroom. That way you can import them all at the same time. This means you can add keywords, as well as move and sort the photos all in the same catalog. Keeping the photos in a group will pay huge dividends later.

Remember, though, that Lightroom has now made a connection with these photographs in the folder. This is very important. Try your utmost not to severe these links. This means no renaming, moving or deleting your photos or Lightroom will lose them. If you do break the links then the picture’s previews will be viewable but it will tell you “The file named xxx is offline or missing”. If you moved the picture, find it. You can do this by right clicking on the preview and select ‘Find in Explorer’. Once you have found it select it and enable the “Find nearby missing photos” checkbox in case other photos were moved as well.


When you upload the photographs onto the computer, you may notice two copies of each. If you have been shooting in RAW do not think this is a mistake. In other words, don’t delete them! One is the RAW and the other is the sidecar. Any changes you make to the RAW are saved onto the sidecar, so you have both the original and the edited version. Therefore, make sure they always stay together. To make it easier and more manageable, it may be worth shooting in DNG (digital negative) if your camera is able, or converting the RAW to DNG in Lightroom. DNG means the edited photo now has the ability to stand alone, which saves having to drag two photos around. To do this make sure you choose “photos as Digital Negative (DNG) and add to catalog” when the Import Dialogue box appears while you are importing your RAW photos. Bear in mind, however, that DNG is an Adobe format so not all computers will have the ability to read it. Amateur photographers may find it more useful to edit the RAW and sidecar.

Efficiency and tidiness are all useful in Lightroom. As mentioned above, keeping your photographs in one group makes the proceedings much easier. Being able to move about quickly will save you hours. It is worth trying to use the shortcut keys to reduce your dependency on the mouse, which at times can be a bit slow. It may seem a bit weird at first but after a couple attempts you will be gliding around Lightroom like a pro, reaping the benefits. Here is a list of some shortcut keys.


g: grid view (library)
e: loupe (single image) (library)
d: move to develop module (to adjust exposure, white balance etc)
r: jump to crop tool
Ctrl + [or Ctrl -]: Rotate image 90 degrees (anti-/clockwise)
p: flag as pick
u: remove flag
x: flag as reject

Another benefit of keeping your photos in a group is so you can edit them at the same time. If you have photographs from the same shoot that need a similar white balance, exposure, recovery, fill light and blacks you don’t have to labor through each one individually. Select one and change the settings with either the Quick Develop tools in the Library module or switch to Developer module. Once you have completed this, right click on the image, select ‘Develop settings’ and then choose ‘Copy settings’. In the next window, select all the settings you want copied, and then highlight all the other photos that you want to share these settings. Right click on them then ‘Develop settings’ then ‘Paste settings’. Now go make yourself a cup of tea in the hours of spare time you have just created for yourself.

Whilst doing all this, keep in mind the general rule of navigation on the left and the keywords on the right. Although not always the case, it is worth remembering in the Library module. Don’t be fooled by the keyword check-boxes when you open the keywording or keyword list areas. These don’t filter your photos according to that keyword; they add the keyword to the photo. To filter according to keyword, click on the little arrow on the right of the keyword, then make your selection from there.
I hope these tips help your Lightroom experiences go much smoother and keep you with a full head of hair. It can be very frustrating at times but keep pulling through and remember the best thing to do with a mistake is to learn from it.

~Zahid Javali

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