Quick Start Guide to Adobe Lightroom

quick start guide to adobe lightroom - library module

I’d planned for this post to go live back in November — but life (i.e. illness) got in the way and it took a backseat in the chaos leading up to the holidays.

So … Adobe Photoshop Lightroom … which we’ll simply refer to as Lightroom or LR (the letters on the desktop/app icon). This tutorial is starting out in the 4.0 version because that’s what’s on my workhorse laptop that I use to do blogging & final image editing for the blog.

I also have the 5.0/CC version on my newer laptop which I’ll refer to in future how-to installments. But for this tutorial, these steps work in either desktop version. I haven’t used the iPad app version that I’ve recently installed on my iPad mini, but whenever I do get around to giving it try, I’ll review it in a future post.

Today’s tutorial isn’t in-depth editing based, but is critical and important steps that new users would be like I was the first time I opened the program … “Uh, how do I get started?!?!”

Disclaimer: I had to dig through my external drive to find a small folder of images since my workhorse laptop is low on internal space — so the images that are visible in the screenshots after the first one aren’t the best example of my photography, they’re mostly test shots plus the ones a wedding guest was helping trigger a remote for at my BFF’s wedding ; I do all my large batches of LR proofing on my newer laptop now, especially as my smallest memory card is 16 GB and I have a piddly 8.3 GBs left on this laptop …

And because I realize its hard to see some of the text on these screenshots at the size they’re reduced to for column width, I’ve linked all of them to the full size versions (1280 px wide) so you can click on one to view it larger; it’ll open in a new window so you can see refer to this post at the same time.

Step 1: How To Import Photos

To get started, you’ll need to open up Lightroom. Once it has loaded, click on the File menu, then click on “Import Photos and Videos” (the option I’ve noted with the red lines below).

Below, in the area to the left side of the screenshot, you’ll notice a list of directories. LR will list any drives (your internal hard drive, external HD’s, and USB flash drives) that are connected. For the ease of moving between computers while editing at home and on the road, I store all of my RAW and JPG image files on portable external HD’s. I used to use the larger external HD’s that required a power source, but the portable plug and play versions hold as high capacity for as low (if not lower) price.

Also, you’ll notice my file naming system for folders … I note which folders are raw files to make it easier to sort through when I’m viewing my folders outside of LR and Photoshop.

Once you’ve selected the folder of files you want to edit, a grid of images from said folder will load up in the center of the screen. All of the images are defaulted to have a checkmark. If you don’t want to import all of the images — say you have three weeks of images in that batch and only want to import the ones from today at this time — uncheck the ones you don’t want to import. You can see them below behind the pop-up screen I’ll explain next …

Step 1A: Embedding Metadata (aka your copyright information!)


Metadata. That’s the info that’s embedded in the file — in addition to details on camera settings that your camera embeds, it can also be your copyright information. I have a preset set up with mine already (look to the right side of the screenshot above, there’s a box under the “apply during import” drop down that says “metadata” … click that dropdown menu and choose new.

Give your metadata preset a name. For this example, I named it “test setup.”

Then you’ll scroll down to where IPTC Copyright is. Fill in the necessary details. Make sure that copyright is selected on the status dropdown. If you’re in the U.S., your work is copyrighted at the time you create it.

Fill in the other blanks — for my files, I have my name, my URL, and the All Rights Reserved for rights usage terms as I don’t want others using my photography for their financial gain. You can also add the year by your name and I’ve seen others who’ve included next to “All Rights Reserved” the additional phrase “no reproduction without prior permission.”


You’ll then scroll down to the IPTC Creator section and fill in your full information. While my address is not visible in this example, you can put your mailing address here (I use a PO Box address on mine), then your phone number (if you’re comfortable including it), email, and your website.

Once you’ve done that, click create.


Now, double check that your metadata preset is selected (see where I’ve indicated with the red lines on the right).

Then click the import button.


This is what it’ll look like when its importing your images. Once all of your images have imported, move on to step 2 below …

Step 2: Getting Started in the Library Module


To get started, double click on the first image you want to start with. You’ll notice there’s two menus on either side of the image. The one on the left lists the drives/folders, collections, and the edit history within the Library module. On the right, the main items we’re concerned with are the Quick Develop section (featured above) and the metadata settings section (featured below).


To make sure your new metadata preset imported as it should have, go to the menu on the right and scroll down to the metadata section. You’ll notice above that it has the file name, folder, metadata status, and then your copyright information.


Scroll a little further down and you’ll see the image dimensions, exposure details, focal length, ISO, and camera/lens details.


The first thing I do once I import images is to go through them one by one and decide if its a keeper or not. To flag an image, click on P. It’ll add a flag to the upper left corner of the thumbnail at the bottom.


If you later decide you don’t want to include that image later, click on the U key, it’ll remove the flag.


You can also use color labels — which I’ve done when I’m working on a large batch of photos from different events or locations. The screenshot above lists the colors and corresponding number key that you click on for that color label.

To permanently delete an image, what I do is right click on it for options (its faster than going to this menu every time). I rarely permanently delete it from my hard drive unless its not salvageable. I instead choose the “remove photo from catalog” option. It removes it from LR but not your hard drive.


Next up, basic edits. Scroll back up to the Quick Develop section on the right sidebar. From the library module, you can correct white balance, auto tone the image, adjust the exposure, clarity, and vibrance. Compare the screenshot above to the previous one; you should be able to notice the difference between the “as shot” white balance and the “auto” corrected version.


Here I clicked to auto tone the image — its not a huge difference in this image, but sometimes it’ll bring back overblown details. Sometimes it’ll alter it a bit too much … this is when the Develop Module is a better editing option; I’ll cover the develop module in a future post.


Don’t like an edit. Either click on the Edit menu and choose the undo option … or just click Ctrl-Z.


Now, to save your images in collections by topic/theme/date/location to make them easier to find in the future if you want to go back and do a different edit to them, click on the Library menu. Click on the first option — New Collection (noted by the red line below it).

step16 A popup menu will come up — give your collection a name, then click create. ***Make sure you’ve highlighted ALL the photos you want to include in the collection before you create it. I’ve had to undo the creation of a collection many a time when editing late at night and only had a single image selected!


Now go to the menu on the left. Scroll down to where the collections are listed to make sure your collection is listed with the same number of images you’ve selected above.

Step 3: Exporting/Saving Photos


Once you’re done with editing images (whether in the Library module or the Develop module), its time to export them! Click on the File menu, then select the Export option (underlined above).


Note the items I’ve indicated above (click the image in order to view it larger in a different window/tab): Make sure its exporting to the Hard Drive option. Under location, select Specific Folder. At that point, you’ll click the Choose button to indicate where you want it saved. Since I save RAW files in one folder, I save LR edits in a second folder. Sometimes I create these ahead of time and indicate it when I choose where I want it saved. But sometimes I don’t, in which case you can designate a subfolder to be created by LR. As you can tell, the last time I did that was the Spinach Pizza Pocket recipe from last fall in which I unknowingly misspelled pizza. Whoops 😉


Next, you’ll scroll down to the File settings section. Make sure that JPEG is chosen — and stick with sRGB if you’re not editing these for a pro photo lab or designer! Choose 100 on the quality scale. Then go down to the Resolution box and enter 72 if you’re only planning to share images on the web; if you’re printing them with a pro lab, 300 dpi/pixels per inch is recommended. Last, on the Post-Processing menu, choose ‘Do nothing’ on the After Export menu. Then click Export.

Depending on how many images you’re exporting, the size of the files (the more megapixels your camera is, the bigger your files), the longer the export time. Take a break, grab a snack, or pop over to your browser to do some blog reading or post prep while you wait!

As visible just above the Post-Processing menu, you can watermark within LR. I’ve never used this feature as I usually do a bit more PP’ing in Photoshop and have watermark brushes set up there to do watermarks once I’ve resized everything for web use.

Questions? Want to know more? Let me know in the comments below!

If I manage to stay motivated and don’t forget until the last minute, I’ll get to work soon on another LR tutorial (for the Develop module) that I’ll share in late February or early March.

Linking up with Ashley and Libby for the Little Friday linkup.

  • Whitney - January 9, 2015 - 8:35 am

    Ahhh this is so helpful! Every time I use Lightroom I feel like I am starting all the way back over. It can be so confusing. Pinning this for future reference!ReplyCancel

    • Christina - January 13, 2015 - 3:55 pm

      Thanks for pinning the tutorial Whitney! I understand — LR is so different than the other Adobe photo editing programs, but once you become familiar with it, its so much easier to do quick batch edits!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Rose - January 11, 2015 - 2:45 pm

    This is super helpful, thank you so much. 🙂

    xx Nicole RoseReplyCancel

    • Christina - January 13, 2015 - 3:51 pm

      You’re welcome Nicole Rose 🙂 Hopefully I’ll get another LR tutorial for the develop module online next month if life doesn’t get in the way!ReplyCancel

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