How To Use Adobe Lightroom: Beginner’s Guide

A comprehensive guide on how to use Lightroom including different modules, importing, exporting and organizing images, etc:

If you are looking for power-packed software that can make the photographer in you go crazy, Adobe Lightroom is the right choice. Its simple interface is meant to help you do three main things:

  • Sort the images
  • Post-process them, and finally
  • Export them to another device or drive.

What Is Adobe Lightroom

Website: Adobe Lightroom

How To Use Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is software for photo editing that also allows you to sort them and export them in any size you want.

Adobe Lightroom is like the darkroom for photographs minus the arduous techniques of the times before. Here, in this article, we will take you through how to use Lightroom and Lightroom presets, and everything else you need to know about it.

How To Use Lightroom

Let’s take a look at the three main functions of Lightroom below:

#1) Sorting

When you import the images to Lightroom, you can also see their location on your system on the left-hand side of the screen. The images on your computer will not automatically show up in Lightroom. You will have to import them. You can even mark the images for an easier location if you think you might want to find them in the future. You can give it a five-star rating, or add it to a collection, etc.

#2) Editing

Lightroom is extensive enough to help you get by seamlessly with its post-processing features. It covers basic adjustments and also allows you to make local edits like adjusting a certain part of the image selectively and leaving the rest as it is.

#3) Exporting

Sometimes, you might need to shrink the file size of the couple of images you are trying to email someone. With Lightroom, you can send 1000-pixel photos at 20% compression, instead of 4000-pixel photos at 0% compression. This means you can send more photos and in better resolution.

The original copy of the images you have exported remains on Lightroom. What you export is a copy and the software will not allow you to save the changes without changing the name, location, or file type of the edited image.

Also Read =>> Best Alternative To Photoshop

How To Import An Image

To add a photo from your system or other devices to the catalog, follow the steps below:

#1) Click on the ‘Import’ icon at the bottom-left corner.

Click on the ‘import’ icon at the bottom-left corner

#2) It will open the import dialogue.

#3) Select where you want to import from.

#4) Pick the photos you want to import.

#5) Select how you want to import it from the top bar:

  • Add: If you want the image to appear in the lightroom without actually moving it from the actual location.
  • Move: It works best if you want to add the photo to the lightroom catalog and move it to a different location on your device as well.
  • Copy: Select it when you want to add a photo to the catalog and move it somewhere else on your device without deleting it from the current location.
  • Copy As DNG: It is a lesser-used option that allows you to copy the file in DNG file format.

#6) From the right-hand side, select where you want to put those photos.

#7) Click on the import button.

how you want to import it from the top bar

Modules Of Lightroom

Lightroom has 7 different modules, each carrying unique functions and purposes.

These are explained as follows:

#1) Library Module

This module is where you organize and manage your photographs. You want to import, organize or sort your pictures, you will get all the help here, in this module.

Library Module

On the left-side panel, you will find all the navigation options to access and browse your current catalog either by the source folder or collection. Use the folder tab to manage the folders and copy or move the files. And if you want to publish the images online, look at the bottom left-side panel for “Publish Services”.

The image display is in the center with a resizable grid for viewing the images by hitting T to toggle. Above the filmstrip, you will find some other view and filter options. Click on the rectangular grey box to view one image at a time. Flag the images you like and want to keep in the lightroom. To view the images you have flagged, go on the filter and click on the flag.

Library Module

If you don’t want to keep a photo from the selected one, click on that image and press the U key to unflag that image and it will be gone from your collection.

#2) Develop Module

Apart from the Library Module, photographers use this one plenty as well. The tools here are tastefully and practically laid out specifically tailored for image editing. The preset tabs are on the left-side panel to speed up the workflow. In the same panel, you will also find some basic functions like switching between different collections.

Similar to the library module, there is a Filmstrip at the bottom with some filtering options.

The panel on the right is loaded with tools for you to create post-processing magic. And on the top of the panel, you will have access to the histogram. Right under the histogram, you can see area-specific tools for local cropping and adjusting.

Develop Module

You can also play with color adjustment with the HSL/Color panel further below. Moving down are the sharpening tools. And then there is the Lens correction option that you can use for distortion and hues.

You can also play with the transform tool a little which is located below the lens correction option. And then, you can try the effects and calibration options from further below. And when you are satisfied with the edits you have made, you can compare the before and after versions to see the difference and get an idea of what else you want to do with the photo.

Below is the edited image. You will see a rectangle marked by two Y’s side by side. Click on it to see the before and after images.

Develop Module options

#3) Map Module

This is one of the modules that are less used. With this module, you can geo-tag your pictures. And if your camera is already capable of geo-tagging, this module allows Lightroom to read the tags and pin the exact location on the map.

For the map module to work seamlessly, follow these steps:

#1) Select the images you want to open.

#2) Then go to catalog settings in the Edit menu.

Map Module

#3) Go to the Metadata tab and check the box that says lookup city, state, and country of GPS coordinates to provide address suggestions.

Now, go to the map module.

If you have clicked pictures with a device with built-in GPS, you will see those images tagged on the map already like as shown in the image below.

device with built-in GPS

To manually geotag the images, select the images you want to geotag from the filmstrip, find on a map where you had taken these photos, and drag and drop them to that location. You might not be able to geotag the exact location of the images, but that’s okay. Try to be as closer to the location of the photos as possible.

So, now you can just search your images by location in no time by clicking on search by text and typing the name of the location from among all your images.

search your images by location

#4) Book Module

If you ever want to print a book of your images, you can use the Book module of Lightroom. It is neat, simple to use, and offers control over the process. You can work on individual pages and add text if needed. You can finally print it using Blurb Services or save it in PDF or JPEG format.

Before you start working with the book module, it will be better if you start with the library module and arrange the images in the way you want them along with adding the captions to them. This will quicken your work in the book module.

Now, click on the book option on the top right corner of Lightroom. With that, Lightroom will start gathering the images you have picked. You can click on the side panel to hide it and tap the ‘i’ key to hide and unhide the overlay of the information displayed on your screen.

To see more preferences in the book module, click on the book menu and scroll down to book preferences.

book module- book preferences

Select the default photo zoom to zoom to fill option. Check the box beside start new books by auto-filling option. And pick the appropriate option for the fill text boxes with option.

On the right-hand corner is book settings. You can pick if you want to print using Blurb, or print using PDF or JPEG options.

book preferences.

#5) Slideshow Module

This module will come in very handy for creating a simple yet effective slide show with some basic tools. You can add a custom track or watermark the images but you can’t adjust the movement of the images or slowly zoom in into them.

Checking the box beside the zoom to fill frame option will zoom the selected image to fill the frame borders. Unchecking it will let you keep the image in its original size. You can drag the image up and down to adjust what part of the image you want inside the frame.

If you want a broader border to your picture or a thinner one or no border at all, use the stroke border option and adjust the width according to your need. You can change the color of the border as well by clicking on the white vertical bar at the right of the stroke border option. You have a color palette from where you can pick the color of the border.

The big white horizontal bar is the saturation option that you can use for colors other than black and white as shown in the image below.

Slideshow Module

Cast shadow adjustments are for you to decide how much shadow you want your image to cast on the frame. Play with the settings till you find what adjustment you like.

The layout is where you can play a little with the frame settings.

Clicking on the Link All option means when you slide a setting, the others slide on their own to the same value. So, if you want to adjust the grid lines independently, uncheck the Link All option and then toggle the bars to desired settings. You can also pick one option from the aspect preview option to adjust the size of the frame.

You can use the identity plate to watermark the images in the slide show. To pick an identity plate for the image, follow these steps:

  • Click on Edit and select the identity plate editor.
  • For text, select styled text identity plate and for graphics, click on a graphical identity plate option.
  • Select the text or image and then click on Save as.

Now name your identity plate and save it. To use it, check the box beside the identity plate, pick the one you want to use, and place it where you want to put it in your slide show.

Or, you can watermark your images. Check the box beside the watermark option and pick a type from the options on the right.

Go to the music settings at the bottom of the right-hand side panel, click on the plus sign to select the music you want to add. Then go down to the playback and select how long you want the slides to be displayed and pick the time for crossfade.

When you are ready with everything, just click on Play. It will prepare the slideshow and play it for you.

#6) Print Module

Print module is great if you want to print your work. It offers easy adjustment of paper type and print size. You can very precisely specify the size of the print and its location on the paper. You can also use print sharpening and watermarking. You can achieve greater accuracy by specifying the color profile of your specific printer. Use the print presets on the left-side panel.

When you are in the Print module, select the image you want to print, then click on the Page Setup option. It will open a dialogue box where you can select the printer you want to use, the paper size, orientation, and scale of the printout.

Below the settings, if you want a border, select stroke border and pick a width. In the Layout section, you can set the margins if you want.

Page grids come in handy if you want to create a collage or print multiple images on a page.

Use the Print job options to select the print to option. Also, select your print resolution and make some printer adjustments. Changes to printer adjustments will not reflect on the image displaying over your screen but you will see the difference on the printed image.

Now comes the print settings. Select your printer, leave the presets to default if you are not sure about them.

Print Module

Save the settings, check the paper type and click on print.

#7) Web Module

The web module is great if you want to create an online gallery in different formats. However, your hosting company must allow you to use protocols like FTP for you to be able to upload the gallery. If you don’t have any idea about this, use sites like Facebook, Google+, 500px, Flickr, etc.

Select the images you want to upload to the web and add the site title and collection title to the collection.

From the layout style panel on the right-hand side, select the gallery style and give a title to the gallery, name of author, and URL for the gallery author.

The color palette option lets you pick a background color, text color, icon color. You can also add the title and caption to your gallery.

Now it’s time to decide the output you want, the quality and sharpening of the image. Also, you can decide if you want your images to be watermarked. You can also set the FTP server setting. Click on the option beside FTP server, select edit, put in the details, and click OK. And finally, click on upload.

Web Module

You can also create a working gallery in HTML and flash formats with the help of this module.

Organizing Photos In Lightroom

Here are a few ways you can organize your pictures in Lightroom:

#1) Stars

You can rate your photos from 1 to 5 stars or even leave them unrated. To give them stars, you can either just click that number on your keyboard or,

  • Go to Photo Option
  • Select Set Rating
  • Choose the number of stars you want to give.

#2) Flags

This function particularly comes in handy if you are planning on doing some cleaning up. Flag all those pictures as rejected if you don’t want them in your collection. Later, surf through them one last time to see if any of them is worth keeping and then delete them. To pick an image, click P, and to reject click X.

#3) Color Labels

Just like Stars and Flags, you can use color labels to organize the images. This doesn’t change anything in your pictures. You can use 6,7,8, or 9 on your keyboard for color labeling your photographs.

#4) Keywords

This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to organize photos anywhere.

To add a keyword to an image, follow these steps:

  • Go to Library module
  • Select the images you want to add the keyword to
  • On the right side, you will find a pop-out tab
  • Select Keywording option
  • Type the keywords, separated by comma if more than one

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Exporting The Images

After you have edited the image to your liking, it’s time to export them.

  • Select the image or images you want to export. If you want to select every image in a folder, CTRL+A will work.
  • Right-click on the photo
  • Click on Export
  • Select Export

Exporting The Images

This will open the export dialogue. There are settings that are mostly self-explanatory but you must keep in mind a few things.

  • If you have chosen pixels in dimensions and not inches or centimeters, there is no use of the Resolution option.
  • The Metadata tab carries data associated with the image like the exposure setting, date, time, etc. If you don’t want people to know this information, include copyright only from the Metadata section.
  • To save any setting as a preset, click add on the left side of the export dialogue and name it.

export dialogue

Adobe Lightroom Price Plans

The pricing plans include:

  • Lightroom plan (1TB)- $9.99/month
  • Photography plan (20GB)- $9.99/month
  • Photography plan (1TB)- $19.99/month

Frequently Asked Questions

Q #1) Is lightroom a good option for beginners?

Answer: Yes, it is. Lightroom is easy to use, and you will get good at editing as you keep using it. Eventually, you can add other editing software like photoshop together with lightroom for a better result.

Q #2) Is Lightroom free?

Answer: You can download the free versions from the play store. You can edit, sort, and do various activities for free. However, you might need a premium account for certain functions which you can opt to buy if you need.

Q #3) How much does Lightroom cost?

Answer: You can buy only lightroom or the entire Creative Cloud Photography plan. Both of them are available at US$9.99/month. The annual plan is priced at US$119.88.

Q #4) What will happen to my photos if I cancel my Lightroom subscription?

Answer: You will still be able to keep, edit, and manage all the images in Lightroom. However, you will not be able to use its premium features.


Lightroom isn’t as complicated as it seems when you log into it first. As you keep using it, you will get acquainted with all its features and modules and you will make the best of friends with all of them if you keep using it.

It might take some time initially, and yes, learning lightroom could be steep but it pays you back well if you invest enough time into it.