5 Technical Mistakes Photographers Make In Lightroom

Do you remember the first time you opened up Lightroom and it just felt like instant overwhelm? Maybe that was just me, but I have been using this program going on four years, and I’m still learning something new all the time!

And that is saying something, because as a photo editor for wedding photographers, I open Lightroom almost every weekday!

Lightroom has functions that can make a photographer’s job a lot easier. Actually, it was created for that specific purpose - to help photographers achieve better organization, a simpler workflow, and more consistent edits.

5 technical mistakes photographers make in Lightroom, private photo editor jen kaiser

The problem, as mentioned above, is that there’s a LOT you can do in Lightroom. The most obvious thing being, that you can edit images. And so that’s what photographer’s most often do. The issue with that is, that they frequently skip the foundation steps of using Lightroom properly.

At first, it’s not an issue. Eventually though, photographer’s will start to run into problems such losing edits, losing catalogs, repeating work unnecessarily, dealing with a slow program, and overall a lack of workflow and organization.

While a lot of mistakes can be made in Lightroom, the following five mistakes always seem to have the biggest impact!

Catalog System

The catalog system is the foundation of Lightroom.  There are a lot of bells and whistles in this editing program, that not necessarily every photographer needs to understand or use.  But understanding the Catalog system is crucial.

The best way that I can describe this system of organization, is by comparing it to a Card Catalog at a Library.  Hence why there is a “library” module within Lightroom.

When you open Lightroom, you are working within a catalog.  Everything you import into and organize within this screen, is stored within the specific catalog.

The top priorities for each catalog are:

  • The location where the catalog is saved (Hard drive, External, etc.)

  • How you’ll utilize each catalog (Yearly, Categorically, Business, Personal, etc.)

  • Backing it up

  • Organization within the catalog (Collections, Keywords, etc.)

Some photographers create a new catalog for each wedding and organize their images in folders outside of Lightroom.  

Other photographers use a primary catalog for each year, and organize images outside of but also within Lightroom.

There is no absolute right or wrong way to use and organize catalogs.  The most IMPORTANT aspect of catalogs, is:

  1. Editing with anchor images

  2. Using an organization system

  3. Adding proper Metadata (Copyright, etc.)

  4. Using Presets - Color and Data

And that leads us to…

Anchor Images

If you’re a wedding photographer, then chances are for one event you are editing 500+ images on average. Even if you’re a portrait photographer and you’re not editing quite so many images at a time, anchor images can still be so beneficial for achieving a consistent, beautiful gallery.

So what are anchor images?

Anchor images are a selection of 1-2 average images, in a set of similar images. These images are selected in advance, and then editing individually. The purpose here is that you can apply your general preset, adjust all settings as needed, move on to the next image, and then review the “selected anchors” as a whole.

These images should be edited as close to perfect as you can get. And overall, the gallery of selected anchor images should look consistent.

  • Select anchors from Primary & Secondary photographers

  • Select anchors throughout the entire gallery

  • Flag, Star or Color Code

  • Edit

  • Review for consistency

While it may feel like editing anchors adds time to the editing process, it should actually allow you to speed up your workflow. The key is in selecting average anchors that best represent that particular set of images. From here, editing the remainder of the wedding should relatively be a breeze!

Organization System

Remember how I mentioned that Library was like a Card Catalog used in Libraries? Imagine walking into a library, full of books and you have on in particular you’d love to read. You walk up to the front desk, and the librarian points to the stack of books lining the walls, and tells you to start searching (basically, good luck.)

Talk about a waste of time and frustration.

As a photographer, there are going to be times when you need or want to quickly locate in image. If this occurs within Lightroom, it’s most likely due to the need to re-edit, convert to Black and White, or re-export with different settings.

Having a detailed organization system will allow you to do several things:

  • Identify which catalog the image is located in

  • Search by collection or collection set

  • Search by keyword

  • Search by metadata

  • Search by filters (Flags, Stars or Colors)

There are a variety of different ways to organize within Lightroom. At first, you may have to just experiment to find a method that works best for you and your business - but then, stick with it! Consistency is key to organization.

Metadata (Copyright, etc.)

Changing metadata on images can feel a little overwhelming, but it’s definitely a must for everyone editing in Lightroom!

First, it’s important to know what Metadata is currently on your images and how to view it. This information can be found in the right tab, in Library mode. Some metadata information you may find here:

  • File name

  • Folder

  • Metadata Status

  • Title

  • Caption

  • Copyright

  • Creator

  • Capture Time & Date

  • Dimensions, Camera & Lens Information

Some of the above information is already pre-determined such as Camera & Lens information. Some of it can be changed, such as Capture Date & Time. And other metadata needs to be added, such as Copyright and Creator.

So why does this matter?

Pre-determined metadata is very helpful for locating and editing images within Lightroom. It’s important to understand this information in order to be able to use it properly.

Metadata that can be changed is useful if you forgot to update information on your camera.

And copyright information that needs to be added is essential to help prevent images from being shared/printed/altered without permission. Obviously not a guarantee, but it’s always important to have your copyright information stored on your images.

Want to update this information quickly and efficiently? Create a Metadata Preset and apply on import!

Presets - Color, Import & Export

Last but certainly not least important - Presets. When you hear “Preset” you probably think, a purchased preset that adjusts an images color such as Mastin Labs, Noble Presets, etc.

Presets are more than just applying color in Lightroom. Presets are any “predetermined” settings that help you speed up your workflow. They can be used and created for color adjustments, import settings, export settings and Metadata.

Using color presets correctly, goes way beyond a preset that you purchase from another company.

Color presets can and should be adjusted for personal preference. Color presets should be created for different editing situations - indoor versus outdoor. They should also be exported, saved and reviewed as needed.

Presets are not cheating when it comes to editing. I’ve heard photographers say that they “don’t like Presets” so they don’t use them. The reality is, that presets are just a way to save adjustments you almost always make to an image, and apply them with one click.

I’ll never forget the time when I “accidentally” created a new Lightroom catalog (without realizing what I do) making it seem as if I had lost all of my current edits. Talk about panic mode. Little did I know, my images and edits were perfectly safe, right where I left them in the previous catalog.

Understanding Lightroom is so beneficial for managing your workflow and your time, but also for managing your sanity. When you know and understand a program you’re working with almost every day, there’s no longer room for error (and anxiety!)

Have you ever made a major Lightroom OOPS in one of these areas? Let me know!