Photography
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How to use Lightroom (and not be scared of it)

Kid jumping on bed © Karine Kong Photography, All Rights Reserved.jpg

Between projects, I’m slowly but surely uploading all my pictures into Lightroom, a software that allows you to edit your photos but most importantly to file them.

This is, for me, the biggest advantage of using Lightroom as it allows you to file all your pictures by keywords, rating (1* to 5*) and create folders and collections within your massive catalogue to find a specific picture quickly, even if you don’t remember what month or year you took it.

So for instance, if I tag this image of Mila above in Lightroom with keywords “Mila”, “tutu” and then create two mini collections with the same keywords, I will be able to see at a glance, all the pictures of Mila or tutus I’ve taken over the years.

I can even narrow down my search and have all the images in one folder with the keywords: “tutu”, “mila”, “happy vibes” rather than separate folders.

This is very useful when I’m looking for content for my 3 Instagram accounts (which you may want to follow ;-)

4 tips on How to use Lightroom (and not be scared of it)It is also a quick way to find specific images to feature in an article on the blog or to send to a client.

Another example here….

I tagged the image above with the keywords “Alice”, “Knitwear”, “Dune of Pyla”. So if I need images of jumpers for an article about knitwear, I can pull all my pictures featuring a jumper in a split second like this one which I took last year and posted last night on People from the sea.

LIGHTROOM TIP 1:

The important thing is to enter your keywords properly when you import your photos into Lightroom.

I have a set of generic keywords like “bedrooms”, “kitchens”, “interiors”, “fashion” ” portraits” then a set of keywords specific for my portrait photography: “women’s portrait”, “women 40+”, “faceless”, “closed eyes”, “corporate”, “kids” and a set of ‘mood’ keywords like “happy vibes”, “weekend”, “moody”, “autumn”.

Don’t forget to add cities and the name of your model.

For instance, if I take a picture of my sister Elodie on holidays in Hossegor, I will use the keywords “Elodie”, “portrait”, “family” and the city “Hossegor” as the main keywords and may add other keywords like “swimwear”, “happy vibes”, “portrait”, etc.
Since I take a lot of pictures from my sister, it will help to narrow down my search by entering “Hossegor” as a keyword. Then, within my collection, I can add other keywords like “happy vibes”, “portraits” and then Lightroom will only bring up the pictures of Elodie with these keywords,

LIGHTROOM TIP 2:

If photography is becoming your passion and you may even consider becoming pro, I strongly recommend you start using Lightroom early on to avoid going through the backload of pictures you’ve taken over the years.

So far, I have uploaded over 30,000 pictures and that only covers the last 18 months. My first goal is to upload, tag, rate and sort out all the photos I’ve taken since 2015.

Once this mammoth task is done, I will tackle the previous years.

LIGHTROOM TIP 3:

Don’t be scared of using Lightroom.
As humans, we are generally afraid of change or trying new things and that’s ok and that’s also when we need to give ourselves a kick in the butt to move forward…

I’m a perfectionist and I like my work to be thorough so when I decided to go pro this year, for me it meant doing things properly and making sure, I knew the basics: how to use my digital camera on manual mode (last time I really did photography I was a teen and digital didn’t even exist), understanding the light, ISO, aperture, knowing the basics on Photoshop, learning to edit my portrait the most natural way etc…

In times of doubts and lack of confidence, I find reassuring to know that I have the basics covered. It’s a bit like a Writer who will tidy up her desk before sitting down and facing the blank page. It is a way of binding time but it also helps with the nerves and the stress :-) 

So when I started looking at Lightroom, it completely freaked me out.
I spent hours reading about pros & cons, Lightroom Vs Photoshop (which is a false debate since both are complimentary) and finding excuses for not using it.

Most of my excuses were time, cost and whether I could I call myself a proper Photographer to justify investing in this new software (that inner negative voice again…). However, I kept focusing on the cost.

I had purchased Photoshop two years ago, which you may know, is not exactly cheap and I kept telling myself that I couldn’t invest in Lightroom…until I realised that money was just an excuse. I was just too scare of the unknown. Once I realised that, I decided to take the plunge and start using Lightroom.

Within 4 weeks of using it, I couldn’t believe how this software had improved my life. It was a major time-saver on selecting the images after a photoshoot.

Before using Lightroom, I used to download my 300 pictures or so into iPhotos and select them one by one. A process which was tedious and hugely time consuming as it would take me a good 2 or 3 hours!
Post Lightroom use and I now download them onto an external hard drive, then upload them into Lightroom with keywords and then go through the selection in 30 minutes top.

LIGHTROOM TIP 4:

To make your selection even quicker, here are a few tips I learnt recently.
Click the touch “F” for your photos to appear full screen, which will allow you to see quickly if they are in or out of focus. Then click the touch “X” to mark the ones you want to delete later and then “F” for those you want to keep.

Double check the pictures you’ve rejected and if you still don’t find them good enough, delete them from Lightroom and your hard drive to free space. Then focus on the ones you mark to keep and start giving 1* to the ones that really love. I’m really stingy with my stars. I give 1* to my pre-selection, 2** to my client’s selection and then 3*** if they are really my Best Of. You can also rate with colours.

Conclusion

10 months down the line, I can’t see myself NOT using Lightroom. It has improved my way of working by 300% and now I’m getting into learning how to use the editing part, using Presets and even creating my own presets which is fun and help me to achieve a visual coherence on my photos and have my own style.

So I realised that this article is not going to be of interest to everyone, especially if you’re not into photography, but I came across this old picture of Mila in her tutu I took in 2015, while importing some old pictures into Lightroom and it was such a joy to see this shot again that I felt this would be useful to some of you. xoxxo

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4 Comments

  1. Louiseshaddick says

    Very interesting and very helpful. My husband and I are keen photographers and have 100000s of photographers dating back to 2005 which really need proper filing, not just stuffing on the cloud. Thank you

    • I’m glad you found it useful. I lost so many pictures of Mila when Mila was a toddler and my laptop crashed that now I’m on a mission to file everything properly and save them onto hard discs

  2. Janelle says

    Thanks for sharing this!! I’m still at the “should I invest the $$ for it, are my pics worthy enough”….blah blah!! I’m really interested in the editing side of it…may need to take that leap of faith now 🤔🤔!! xx (may I ask what camera uou currently use? Thanks again x)

    • Yes I’m starting to edit a lot more in Lightroom things like the white balance, highlights, contrast etc and then send the pic over to Photoshop to mask a few spots and lines or get rid of something in a landscape picture which is distracting from my subject and doesn’t add anything to the picture.
      The camera I use is the one listed at the bottom of the article, a Canon EOS 5D MKIII, much bigger and heavier than my previous EOS but you get use to it quickly.

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