When people talk about Lightroom, they’re often sharing all the things you should be doing when it comes to actually *editing* your photos.
But what you don’t hear a lot of is how to set yourself up for success on Lightroom from the beginning, before you even get to the nitty gritty of editing.
Take it from someone who has uploaded well over 50,000 photos since I started using Lightroom. It's better to put habits and systems in place EARLY ON so your photo catalog isn't a hot mess later!
Here Are 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Getting Started With Lightroom
#1: Not organizing your catalog/photos with keywords
If you’re just getting started with Lightroom, you may not be aware that you can apply keywords to every image you import into your catalog. You may not think this is important, but imagine 10,000 photos later trying to search for that one shot of a cat on the street in Marrakech, Morocco. It’s a lot easier to type in keywords like “cat” + “morocco” than scroll through thousands of photos to locate it.
You can batch apply keywords to your images automatically during the Import process -- see image below for reference.
For travel images it’s super helpful to use keywords pertaining to your destination and get specific with both location and subject. For these images of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque for example, I’ve given all of the photos the following keywords so they’ll show up in various search results:
Keywords: Abu Dhabi, UAE, Middle East, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Mosque, Architecture
This organizational system allows me to not only find images easily from a specific location, but also search by categories if I’m writing a blog post on a more general topic like the Middle East or cool architectural sites.
#2: Not determining a consistent rating system
Lightroom has various ways that you can rate photos in their program:
- P flags an image as a pick
- Numbers 1-5 give a corresponding star rating
- Numbers 6-9 add a color border around your images
Finding a system that you like and getting in the habit of rating all of the photos you import into your Lightroom Catalog right away will save you TONS of time sifting through selects in the future.
You can choose your own system (for example: 3 stars = Good, 4 stars = Great, 5 stars = Top Select) or you can overlap rating systems. Overlapping rating systems is helpful if you shoot for clients where they may have different selects than you. For example, you can note your client selects with P, note your own with stars, and then search for the ones that feature both to narrow down your top picks!
#3: Moving image folders around after you’ve imported them to Lightroom
This is a no no. Once you’ve imported images into Lightroom, it doesn’t like it if you move those images out of their original folder. This is why it’s important to develop an organized folder system on your external hard drive now so that you’re not tempted to re-organize later. If you don’t do this, you’ll likely get “image not found” errors and have to re-locate them later, which is a pain in the booty. Trust me.
#4: Getting lazy with backing up your photos
If you avoid ONE THING - make it this one. All of these other tips are fixable (though annoying) down the road, but losing all your images from a trip due to a failed hard drive isn’t. Get in the habit of backing up to a second hard drive during your initial image transfer for your camera and stick with it.
#5: Making basic edits to each photo individually
When I first started using Lightroom, I didn’t realize that specific settings could be copy and pasted onto multiple images. So if I had a bunch of underexposed images from a shoot day, I would go through and individually brighten each one so that I could then make my selects. Can you imagine how much time I wasted?
If you find an awesome preset you like or just need a small adjustment made to a group of photos, simply right click on the photo with the adjustments you like and scroll down to Develop Settings > Copy Settings. Then select all the images you’d like to apply the settings to and do the same thing but select Paste Settings. Voila!
So, tell me, were you making one of these mistakes?
It's OK, it's happened to the best of us.
I hope these tips set you up for success as you continue to improve your Lightroom skills in the future!