In a world where we’re constantly surrounded by beautiful images online, on social media, in ads and commercials, photo editing has never been more important. Being able to take a good photo and make it even better or “perfect” is not only a marketable skill, but one that’s always in demand.
This is where Adobe Lightroom was born to do—literally.
Lightroom is widely used by photographers to manage and edit large numbers of photos. Though the beta version was released in 2006, it had been a work-in-progress since the early 2000s. Adobe has been improving and adding functionality ever since.
In this overview, you’ll learn about what Lightroom is, what it can do, the essential features, and where to purchase and learn it if you decide to add it to your skill set.
What Can Lightroom Do for You?
Lightroom is a critical tool for photographers and other creative professionals who handle many images on a regular basis. It has the ability to efficiently organize and handle many photos with ease, as well as perform bulk edits to a group of images.
In other words, it will make your photo processing workflow more efficient but still maintain the same quality of work.
What is Lightroom?
Adobe Lightroom is a popular application for organizing and editing photos. With abilities to store, organize, and edit photos quickly but professionally, the program is a must-have for photographers.
Although part of the Photoshop family, Lightroom was designed specifically for photographers with a focus on editing images, not designing creative artwork. There’s a desktop app, Lightroom Classic, and a newer cloud-based program called Lightroom that have similar features.
The fact that there are two versions can be confusing if you’re unfamiliar with the program. Below is an explanation of the major differences between Lightroom Classic, the original Lightroom app, and Lightroom, a newer web-based version of the app.
Lightroom was designed so photographers would have one integrated app to download, manage, organize, and develop photos in a single place. The focus of the program is on photography, not designing creative artwork.
Lightroom Classic, the original app, comes with all available features and is preferred by professional photographers because of the capability to store photos locally. Because of this, file backup is not automatically included, although most professionals who are storing files locally manage their files with external hard drives. You can still utilize cloud sync to add and see your photos across devices, but the originals aren’t stored in the cloud.
The program offers the ability to manually input keywords, which makes it easy to customize how you search for them. You can also ensure that photos aren’t incorrectly categorized.
Lightroom is a newer, more simplified application. It was designed to be “intuitive and streamlined” for the user.
It doesn’t have all the features of Lightroom Classic, but it may be a good choice for those who use several devices because it’s web-based and easy to use. It’s essentially a faster, pared-down version of Lightroom Classic.
There is no local saving capability, but backups occur automatically to your Creative Cloud storage, so there’s less of a chance to lose progress on an editing project. The program also offers an auto-tagging feature, as well as intelligent search to make finding and organizing your photos quick and convenient.
Photographers are the primary audience for Lightroom, but it can be used for photo editing within any industry. If you need to edit a large number of photos, or want to edit photos but don’t need all the bells and whistles Photoshop offers, Lightroom may be the ideal tool for you.
Essential Features of Lightroom Classic
Lightroom is a dynamic photo editing tool that can make your workflow more efficient while still allowing you to do professional quality editing. It’s a bonus that many users, especially photographers, find it easier to learn than its cousin Photoshop.
These 5 features are essential to explore as you become familiar with the program.
Photo Library Organization
Within the Library tab in Lightroom Classic, you can manage your photos in a number of ways. You have the ability to import and organize photos, as well as add keywords to them for searches.
The organization options are key in Lightroom because they allow you to categorize, rank with star ratings, create folders, and make searchable large numbers of photos. That makes it much easier to locate the images you love (which can denote with high star ratings) and get to work on them right away without having to dig through potentially hundreds or thousands of photos trying to remember the one you wanted to work on next.
It’s also helpful when you want to work on multiple images at the same time because you can identify them through search.
Lightroom was developed for photographers, so it’s probably no surprise that developing and editing photos is one of the areas it excels at most.
Within the Develop tab, you can edit and improve your photos. There are options to fine-tune brightness, contrast, color, crop, and sharpen images, among other standard photo editing adjustments. There are a few retouching tools for making edits such as removing small elements, but the primary focus is editing itself.
With a side-by-side before and after style display, you can make the changes you want and compare to the original without having to go back and forth between tabs or windows.
Batch Photo Processing
Another area Lightroom shines in is batch photo processing. The program was created for this purpose.
When you upload images into Lightroom, you can go through and delete the bad ones and ones you don’t want. You can also make changes to multiple photos at once. For example, if you have a group of photos that all turned out darker than you’d hoped, you can lighten them all at once instead of one at a time.
Being able to make the same change to multiple photos at once saves time and energy in your photo editing workflow.
As you’re editing in Lightroom, all the changes are made in a non-destructive way. What this means is that if you ever change your mind and decide you don’t like the edits, or you want to revert them, you can at any time.
Even if you’ve made a dozen (or more) edits, you can always go back to the original. This is convenient in cases when you might be working on a set of photos and you want them to have a similar theme or mood. If the one you’re working on doesn’t quite hit the mark, you can always go back and start over or tweak some edits you did along the way.
It’s also convenient if you want to use originals for other projects later on.
Integration with Other Adobe apps
Adobe applications integrate well with each other, and this is always a strength when it comes to creative projects.
Lightroom is commonly used with Photoshop, as Photoshop has more creative capabilities than Lightroom. The integration is seamless, though, and you can easily edit in Lightroom and move to Photoshop to add any creative touches you might want. Lightroom also has a companion app, Lightroom mobile, with which it pairs well.
Although Photoshop and Lightroom are often used together, Lightroom can also integrate with other apps in the Creative Cloud to fit in wherever you want it to be in your creative workflow.
History of Lightroom
Adobe has been an industry leader in the photo editing world since Photoshop came out in 1990. It’s been an industry standard since then, and continues to be one of the most powerful and flexible graphic design tools on the market.
But in the early 2000s, Adobe began to realize that photographers didn’t always need all the added features in Photoshop, but they did still need to edit photos. In 2002, Mark Hamburg, who was the senior architect behind Lightroom, demonstrated an early version of what’s now called Lightroom Classic that took three years to develop. Hamburg then collaborated with Thomas Knoll, one of the creators of Photoshop, and they came out with “Shadowland”—an early version of Lightroom.
It wasn’t until 2006 that Adobe released a beta version of Lightroom on Apple Mac computers. They used the user feedback to keep developing the program. In July of the same year, Lightroom was released for Windows. In February 2007, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 was first released to the public. Upon release, Lightroom became a part of the Adobe Creative Suite package.
Fast forward to 2013, when Adobe rebranded Adobe Creative Suite to a cloud-based set of apps called Adobe Creative Cloud. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC was included in the new Creative Cloud offering. This is what’s now called Adobe Lightroom Classic.
In fall 2017, Adobe launched the new, cloud-based Lightroom. A pared-down version of Lightroom Classic, this new program offered a streamlined and faster way to use Lightroom features.
Today, both apps still remain in use: Lightroom Classic, the robust desktop app preferred by photographers, and the cloud-based Lightroom, a quick and convenient way to edit photos from any device that has the internet.
How to Purchase Lightroom
To use Lightroom, users need a subscription from Adobe. There are several package options, or you can subscribe to the app individually. There’s also a mobile app for editing on the go.
Adobe offers two Photography packages which include Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, Lightroom, the Lightroom mobile app, and cloud storage space. You get the same applications in each package. The difference is the amount of storage. For $9.99 per month, you can get 20 GB of storage included with the apps. For $19.99 per month, you can get 1 TB of storage. These packages are ideal for professional photographers because they’re cost-effective but still give access to the two powerful photo editing tools you’ll utilize most.
There’s also the option to purchase Lightroom on its own for $9.99 per month. It comes with 1 TB of storage and is a cloud-based program—not the desktop program. This could be a good choice if you don’t really use Photoshop but frequently edit photos and therefore need more storage space.
If you need other Adobe applications in addition to Lightroom and Photoshop, the Creative Cloud subscription may be a smart choice. At about $53 per month, the investment may seem costly at first; however, if you use several tools on a regular basis, the all apps plan will save you money in the long run because you won’t have to pay separate subscription fees each month.
How to Learn Lightroom
If you’re ready to learn Lightroom, there are several choices of where to start.
You don’t necessarily have to go “back to school” to learn this software. You can begin learning the basics free online through Adobe. They have in-depth tutorials that will guide you as you start becoming familiar with the software. Even if you’ve used Lightroom before, Adobe has classes that could help you grow your skills even further.
When you’re ready to take the next step and get a more advanced understanding of the program, Noble Desktop offers a paid Lightroom course. There’s a Photo Retouching Certificate and a Digital Photography Certificate for those looking to gain more credentials. Both include Lightroom in the curriculum.
Adobe Lightroom is a convenient program for photographers looking to make their workflow more efficient. With a focus on organization and photo editing, it’s simpler to learn than Photoshop, with many of the same features for making image adjustments. If you’re a professional who handles many photos on a regular basis, this tool is a must-have.