Lightroom for Beginners


Lightroom, some of you may have heard of it, some of you not. Once you get past the "Importing" and "Exporting" you will find that it is some of the best software for editing and organizing images! Unlike the maze of Photoshop, Lightroom can make your images look PRO super quickly, no matter what level of photographer you are!

Even if you aren't a photographer but have thought "hmm I would like to crop this image or brighten it up a bit", this is the software for you! This is software for everyone.

TIPS! Before you get started..

  • If you ever do something that you don't know how to reverse, pressing ctrl+z will undo to the previous the step. Keep on repeating this action until you revert to the place you want to be at!
  • Lightroom automatically saves everything when you are working and never over an original image 
  • You can undo anything you don't like easilly at any stage

And Maybe Most Importantly...

  • Once you have Imported your images into Lightroom, do not move the folders location on your MAC or PC! Lightroom works from virtual images, if you move the source the images will disconnect from the Lightroom files and you will need to find and attach them again! (It can be a frustrating process) The best way to move a folders location, once images are imported, is through Lightroom itself.


1. Make sure that your images are in a folder on your computer/external hard drive, and that you are not going to be importing directly from a camera card!

2. Import Photographs Into Lightroom

File > Import Photos and Video... Select the folder and images you would like to import from the menu on the right :)

  • Make sure you have selected to just "Add" the images to Lightroom and not "Copy" or "Move" from the options in the middle of the menu.
  • Make sure you are adding the images to the Catalog, the pictures should automatically go there once you click "Add" only!

and then click import!

TIP! It's good practice to import all of your photographs, even the bad ones! As it's much easier to go through them all in Lightroom



3. Start Selecting Your Favourites

Now that you've imported your images you can start going through them and deciding which ones to keep. The best way of doing this is by firstly "Rating" them using stars.

  • Simply click number 1 - 5 on your keyboard to add a star rating to your pictures!
  • I always start on number 1, and slowly as I go over the images 2 or 3 times more as I rate them higher and higher until I have got a strong selection.

After you have gone through all the images you want to you can see your selection by changing the "Filter" option on the bottom right corner. Select "Rated" and then click on 1 star or higher to filter through your images more or less.

4. Zoom Zoom Zoom

If you want to zoom in to a picture click on the image or press the space bar! Good for quickly checking if the image is in focus or not :)

You can adjust how much Lightroom zooms into the picture by clicking on this arrows drop-down menu and playing with the ratios.


5. Start Developing your Image

Click on "Develop" found on the top right above the image. You will see the Histogram which is not important at this stage, so just hide it by clicking on the little arrow!

6. Start Editing Your Picture!

Use the Basic tools on this bar to start editing your image! The way I always edit is always along the lines of:

  • Adjust exposure, usually a little brighter like +0.12/+0.22
  • Add a tiny bit of Contrast +0.14 (Quite often I add none at all). Be careful, you don't want to make your photograph look sweaty, with too much contrast your photograph can quickly look armature. 
  • Bring down the Highlights (you never want your highlights to lose detail, this helps keep everything together)
  • Potentially lift some shadows
  • Add a little black to the blacks. Often I use this tool instead of Contrast.
  • Adding a bit of Clarity +0.20 can give the photograph a great feel too!

TIP! Remember that every photograph is different. You cannot just follow instructions but use your eyes in this visual world and see what looks best! Compare your retouching with photographs that inspire you.

7. Crop and Straighten your Photograph

A fairly self-explanatory tool!

  • Click on the lock symbol to release the Crops Aspect Ratio
  • or look through pre-set Aspect Ratios by scrolling through the drop down Menu by clicking on "Original"
  • Click inside the shadow area of the image outside of the cropping zone to angle your image differently
  • Drag the Cropping tools borders to change the size and shape of your cropping area!

 Click Enter when you are done or right click and "reset crop" if you wish.

8. Compare your Before and After

Toggle through your options by clicking on the number 1 Icon in the bottom left corner to compare images side by side or one by one.

Now you are ready to Export your Final Images! Or...

Retouching Part II

If you really want to move your way around Lightroom, learn how to use these super simple tools too!

9. The Gradient Tool

This amazing tool can quickly help to brighten or darken half of an image, change colour, tone, saturation, detail, clarity etc.. or adjust the image edges.

I mostly use this tool to initially balance out lighting:

  • If half of the image needs a little lifting in the shadows
  • If I want to create a vignette effect around the edges of the image

Simple add the gradient by dragging the gradient tool with a mouse from the outer edges of an image, play around with it's size, angle, and intensity to get what you are after! If you don't like the gradient, simply click backspace while the gradient you don't like is selected.

10. The Brush Tool

This tool is similar to the Gradient Tool, but more precise! As it is in a brush form, you can paint and change details anywhere - from creating vignette edges to starting to contour the face. However, as much as I try to do as much as I can in Lightroom, it is certainly not as controllable and precise as Photoshop. 

I use this tool as much as I can to even out my image from any distracting shadow or highlight areas as well as occasionally desaturating areas that are too saturated!

Here is an example how you can use the Brush tool more precisely, I used the tool to brighten up unflattering shadows on the face:

Tip! Whenever you want to change the brush size in Lightroom or Photoshop, use the keys "[" and "]" as a shortcut!

11. Heal Tool

  • Adjust your brush size and cover over the area that you would like to fix
  • Move the second ring (That automatically appears) to a clear area that you would like it to sample for the healing
  • Click Enter when you are happy! Or backspace if you are sad (and want to get rid of it) :(

Use the tool as much as you want to clean up your photograph from distracting elements!

Lightroom's Heal tool is quite good, but for fine work and skin retouching Photoshop is much better. Lightroom is just capable of quite basic healing, but it certainly can make a quick difference!



9. Export your images

Highlight all the images you want to export (Either ctrl+a for all, or keep the ctrl key down while selecting images throughout your folder)

  • Go File > Export
  • Choose your image exports location. I normally choose the same folder I imported from and put in a new Subfolder
  • Rename your images quickly, in order (looks totally pro for clients), or keep the original file name.
  • Choose your file format, most likely JPEG, export at the optimum quality. Colour space as sRGB unless you know your profiles!
  • You can batch resize your images here too

- For generous WEB images a long edge of 1200 pixels and Resolution: 94 is great

- For printing images make sure your resolution is at 300.

  • On top of normal Sharpening I may do, I also like to Sharpen for Screen a Standard amount :) 

And that's everything you need to know! Click Export and go to your sneaky little folder and find you wonderfully edited images waiting for you.



A simple edit that enhances the image, and it is now ready to be working on in Photoshop if necessary!