I know that we all want to get on with developing our photos and brining the best out of them, but if we get this bit right at the beginning, then Lightroom will run efficiently for our PC, and we will have a smoother workflow process.
The aim of this walk-through is to help us set Lightroom up in a manner that is calibrated with our PC and monitor, and to ensure smooth transition when switching between Lightroom, Photoshop and back to Lightroom.
I am going to write as if you have no understanding of Lightroom. There may be some things here that you are familiar with and you may have other tips to share. Feel free to leave comments with your own tips and guidance.
I am no expert, I have been using Lightroom for 5 months and it is becoming more intuitive as my experience develops. Some menus are different on a MAC, but for this you will only need to find the Edit menu.
Some of this may seem a bit Techy, but once it is done, you shouldn’t need to do it again and it will keep your work flow smooth.
Library and Preferences
There are alternate ways to manage folders:- Our own way, using Bridge, or using Lightroom. However Lightroom will not create folders unless you export to a specific folder that you ask Lightroom to create.
As a beginner I would recommend using your own system. I do this so that I know where the originals are kept. I don’t move them once edited, because Lightroom remembers the file path in order to find photos at a later date. Heres an example of my folders
When you import photos into Lightroom it creates a virtual copy. So you’re not editing the original photo. You’re editing the copy, and then Lightroom creates a catalogue of those copies. It also creates an XMP side car file and places it next to the original image in your folder and looks like this.
This may sound a bit technical. Its nothing to worry about. As long as you don’t move folders around then Lightroom will find them and open them with the develop settings that you have made.
When you open Lightroom, the last folder/catalogue that you opened will appear and will look like this.
We are going to focus on the left of the screen.
The red arrow which points to file and edit are where we can import images and edit our preferences. The second red arrow is pointing to folders that you have previously opened in Lightroom. At the bottom of the screen you will notice an import and export button. If you use this button to import, then it will add images to the collection that you currently have open. It won’t move the photos around in your hard drive, they will stay in the same folder. However Lightroom will now have a catalogue with two separate series of images in the one catalogue. This is the difference between catalogues and folders. Originals stay in folders unless we manually move them. Catalogues have virtual copies and Lightroom creates a pathway so that it knows which folder to look in to find them. We will look at Import and Library settings in the next walk-through, but now we will set up Lightroom preferences.
Press Edit and then Preferences. You should now have a grey box appear that looks like this.
I have watched a few YouTube videos by Julieanne Kost and set my preferences up from her guidance. These settings are a good starting point.
Leave all check boxes blank for now.
This is an important box. Why – Lightroom is excellent for developing photos, however it is not so good at cloning and healing large distractions. There are times that we need to quickly pop over to Photoshop and then return the edited photo to Lightroom. The settings in section 1 will ensure that you can easily transition between Lightroom, Photoshop and back to Lightroom. We will discuss exporting in a future walk-through. Lightroom also gives us the option to export photos to other photo developing software and you can alter those preferences in section 2.
I leave most of this alone and have only altered the camera Raw Cache settings. The cache settings are Lightroom’s editing memory. The more space we can use the quicker Lightroom will operate. What size you set this too will depend on the speed of your computer and the amount of spare memory. With this in mind, when I set up my folders – I set them up on my D drive – it has more space for storage, so I have no pictures on my C drive which is where Lightroom operates as a programme. This means I have the 20G spare on my C drive. Only you can know how much spare memory you have – but I believe as standard Lightroom has this set to 4G. If you are unsure about your spare memory then leave this alone and allow the Lightroom preset to run as it is.
We don’t need to worry about any more of the preferences. Click Ok, go back to the edit menu and click catalogue settings, and this box will appear.
I have changed the Backup drop down, so that it backs up the catalogues every time that I exit Lightroom. The catalogue back up, is part of how Lightroom recognises where your photos are stored and what virtual changes have been made. Lightroom only edits virtual copies so having the catalogue backup means that if your computer crashes then Lightroom knows what it has done to your virtual photos. Photos remain virtual unless we export them – that’s for a future walk-through.
We are advised to back up our original images somewhere other than our PC and it is important to back up the Lightroom catalogue separately.
The red arrow points to the location of my Lightroom catalogue, so I find the catalogue and copy it to my cloud account.
Ensure Standard Preview size is set to auto – it will detect your screen resolution and ensure the preview fits your screen.
Preview quality – Medium is good if you are not running a fast PC with lots of memory, but if you have a good PC then set this to high. I have the 1:1 previews set to discard after 1 week. It doesn’t delete your image after one week, but it means the virtual image preview will be stored in your catalogue but NOT in your working memory, so your editing memory will not be slowed down with photos you have finished editing.
This is the standard setting. Keep it at this and we will discuss metadata in more detail in the next walk-through – Library Module. The library module is where we can begin to develop our photos.