Lightroom is an incredibly powerful tool for photographers, but it can also be a little intimidating at first. You’ll get the most out of Lightroom when you are using it correctly and not making a few common mistakes. If you are new to Lightroom, or just looking to get ore out of it, take a look at these common mistakes to see if there are some things that you can fix.
1. Not Adding Photos to Collections
Lightroom’s capabilities for organizing your photos are equally as powerful as it’s capabilities for editing and developing photos. Collections are one of the cornerstones to proper organization in Lightroom, but it’s sometimes easy to overlook the need to add photos to a collection when you are importing them. Get in the habit of adding new photos to a collection immediately after and import (or select the catalog during the import process) to avoid potential problems. If you don’t do it right away you may find that you need to go back through all of your photos to find what you are looking for.
My personal routine is to decide what collection photos should belong to before importing, and if they need a new collection I’ll create that collection before importing photos. When everything is neatly assigned to the right collection it makes your work in Lightroom so much easier.
2. Mistaking Catalogs and Collections
Although Lightroom’s Library Module is great for organizing your photos, it is kind of confusing to most new users. One common problem is confusing catalogs and collections. Most Lightroom experts recommend that you keep all of your photos in one catalog. In the early days of Lightroom users would experience slowness in the program with large catalogs, but in recent versions that has mostly been eliminated. Searching for photos is much easier if everything is in one catalog because you can only search one catalog at a time, so there are compelling reasons to go with the single catalog approach.
Within your catalog you will use collections as the main structure for organizing your photos, and you can also use collections within other collections. For example, you could have a collection for each year, and then inside that yearly collection have other collections to organize your photos taken throughout the year.
So if you are in doubt about how to organize your photos, just use one catalog and focus on organizing your collections within that catalog. With the one catalog approach you really don’t even have to think about catalogs because all of your photos will go in that one catalog.
3. Not Adding Keywords to Your Photos
Keywords are one of the most powerful ways to organize your photos so you can find them later. It’s also easy to overlook the need to add keywords until it comes time to search for something. Get in the habit of adding keywords to all of your photos at import, or immediately after importing. So when you import photos you should always add them to a collection (create a new collection for them if needed) and add keywords. Those two simple steps will go a long way in improving your organization and efficiency.
4. Not Weeding Out the Bad Photos
If you are importing hundreds or maybe even thousands of photos at a time not all of them are going to be winners. Some will be out of focus, poorly composed, badly under or over exposed, or unusable for one reason or another. Yes, Lightroom does make it possible to salvage some photos that initially do not look great, but you’ll always have some that can be deleted. Eliminating the photos that are of no use to you will decrease the number of photos that you have in Lightroom and will make it easier for you to photos on the good ones.
Lightroom has functionality that makes it easy to do this. In the Library Module switch to loupe view and scroll through each new photo using the arrow keys. Use the keyboard shortcut “P” to pick any photo that you want to keep, and use the keyboard shortcut “X” for all of the bad photos that you want to reject. Once you have gone through all of the new photos that you just imported, go to Photo > Delete Rejected Photos to delete them.
5. Not Using Keyboard Shortcuts
Lightroom has a ton of keyboard shortcuts that can help you to save a lot of time. Each module has it’s own keyboard shortcuts, so the ones that you will use will depend on the module that you are working in. And Lightroom makes it really easy to see a list of these shortcuts. From any module simply hit Control (on PC) or Command (on Mac) and the “/” key to see a list of the available shortcuts. Make note of the ones that you could use the most frequently and get in the habit of using them. You’ll be amazed at how much time you can save simply by using keyboard shortcuts.
6. Not Using Lens Corrections in the Develop Module
Lightroom’s Develop Module includes a set of tools for lens corrections, but these are often ignored. While they usually won’t make dramatic changes to your photos they can help to eliminate some issues created by a lens, such as distortion. Simply ticking the box for lens profile corrections will automatically apply some basic corrections, as long as Lightroom is able to identify your lens.
In the Basic section you can also tick the box to remove chromatic aberration. You can also adjust sliders manually to correct distortion and vignetting if that is an issue with your photo.
7. Not Using Develop Presets
Develop presets can save you loads of time in your editing workflow. You can purchase presets (like ours) or create your own. Whichever works for you is fine, but be sure that you are taking advantage of presets in one way or another.
8. Not Rating Your Photos
Lightroom allows you to rate each photo as 1 – 5 star, or you can leave the photos unrated. If you use the star ratings it makes it simple and fast to find your best photos. You don’t need to rate every photo, but get in the habit of at least rating your best photos and you’ll find that the ratings can really help with organization. To use the star ratings simply use the keyboard shortcuts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 to give your photos a certain number of stars.
9. Moving to Photoshop Too Quickly
Many photographers have more experience with Photoshop than Lightroom, and as a result they tend to move to Photoshop for many reasons. While early versions of Lightroom were more limited in terms of editing photos, Lightroom now offers just about everything you will need for the majority of your photos. You can use the spot healing tool and adjustment brushes for re-touching photos, and Lightroom 6/CC now even allows you to do HDR and panoramic merges as well. Unless you are doing advanced photomanipulation of removing a background you can probably stay in Lightroom 99% of the time. Get to know the tools that Lightroom offers and you’ll find yourself doing less bouncing between Lightroom and Photoshop, and you’ll work faster.
10. Not Establishing a Consistent Workflow
Everyone uses Lightroom a little bit differently. You need to establish your own workflow for importing photos, organizing them, developing them, and exporting them. Once you have an established workflow you will save a lot of time and all of your photos will be nicely organized.