First, a brief paragraph about what Adobe Lightroom is. According to Wikipedia, "Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a photo editing and management computer program... designed to assist users in managing large quantities of digital images and doing post-production work." You'll see how it can help you.
1. Organize Your Photo Collection!
I have a system for organizing my photos. Train photos go into a folder structure organized by railway - BNSF, CEMR, CN, CP, and so forth. If it's not a specific railway, it goes under General Railroad and into a subfolder by location. Each photo is named like this: "engine# location yyyymmdd photographer". I put my initials on the end of my photos.
This worked well enough and I still do that. In Lightroom, though, you can tag photos with keywords to really help you organize them better. It's up to you how far you want to go with this but I generally tag photos with two or three keywords. An example:
Now that I'm using Lightroom, it's so much easier and faster to find photos. Let me give you an example.
I stumbled across a photo of Napadogan, New Brunswick online and shared it on the RailsNB Facebook group. A discussion started and I wanted to share a few more photos of when I visited Napadogan back in 2007. It was easy to go to Lightroom and search for that.
It's important to realize that all of the metadata is searchable. Some of the photos above were picked up because they were tagged with Napadogan, some because they had Napadogan in the file name, and some because they were in a folder called "Napadogan Sub". If you want, you can limit what metadata it searches. You can also search by date, by camera type, by rating and a number of other criteria in various combinations.
3. Kickass Photo Editing
Adobe Lightroom has great photo editing built in. The Develop mode takes you to a very powerful, integrated photo editor. It's not quite Photoshop, but you can do a lot with the Develop mode. For example, I took this photo:
and tweaked it in Lightroom to this:
just using the Develop module. Lightroom 5 added the "healing brush", long a favourite of Photoshop users. It's handy to fix little problems in the photo or remove things like power lines.
I'm still learning things in the Develop module. My new favourites are the graduated filter and the radial filter, both of which I used in the edit above. Lightroom keeps a history of all your edits (see left column of photo below) and you can roll back to any previous edit at any time. It does not modify the original photo file at all.
4. Publishing Made Easy!
Once you've edited your photo, Lightroom makes it easy to publish your photo.
You can right-click on any photo and export it to a file. The power comes from building presets to publish it just the way you like. For example, I have a preset called Export to Web that does the following:
- Places the exported file in a known folder
- Sets JPEG image quality to 68
- Resizes it so the longest edge is 1600 pixels
- Sharpens it for screen viewing
- Adds my watermark to the bottom left corner
Lightroom also has Publish Services. These are for specific web sites such as Flickr, 500px, Facebook and so forth. You can just drag your photo(s) onto one of the services, and when you're ready, right-click and select Publish and Lightroom will take care of publishing your photo(s) there.
5. Mobile Editing
The latest version of Lightroom allows you to rate and edit your photos on your iPad or iPhone (sorry, Android not available.. yet) via Lightroom Mobile. This is a powerful extension of Lightroom so you can take it with you and work on your photos offline. It requires Lightroom CC (see below).
Another way to edit your Lightroom photos is via the Mosaic plugin for Lightroom. It is similar to Lightroom Mobile but does not allow editing the photo itself. However, it works with the regular Lightroom.
I'm Sold! How To Buy
Lightroom is sold in two flavours... Lightroom and Lightroom Creative Cloud (CC). The original Lightroom is like most software - you purchase it once and it's yours forever, at least until the next major revision comes out. Lightroom CC is a subscription service and you pay monthly forever to use the software.
There are pros and cons to both. Buying Lightroom outright is $149 US and you own it forever with no more charges. However, when Lightroom 6 comes out, you have to buy that again; there's no free upgrade between major versions.
Lightroom CC allows you to have the latest version, always, and also enables Lightroom Mobile as discussed above. You can sign up for Creative Cloud / Photography which gives you Lightroom and PhotoShop for $9.99 US/month.
I've purchased Lightroom but I am strongly considering switching to Lightroom CC when version 6 of Lightroom comes out. I really want to start mobile editing!
I hope this helps you decide whether you want to buy Lightroom. Personally I am a huge fan of Lightroom and I think it is the #1 photography tool for me.
DISCLAIMER: If you follow the Lightroom links to Amazon and purchase the software there, I get a small percentage of the sale. If you'd prefer not to, you can go directly to Adobe or purchase via your favourite retailer.