Better Pictures Project: A Beginner’s Thoughts on Using Lightroom

As part of the Better Pictures Project, I signed up for a month-long free trial of Lightroom in December. Every blogger I know who uses it loves it, including my November Better Pictures Project muse, Closet Case Files. Heather wrote a detailed post about why paying for Lightroom is worth it, and what edits she makes. Then Katie shared this month about how she uses Photoshop, which is in the same suite of tools.

I was curious… and then Google  shut down the computer version of Snapseed, my favourite free editing too, which I wrote about here. EEK! (The mobile version still works and is excellent, but I refuse to edit all my pics on my phone!) Before I could download Lightroom though, I had to update my Mac OS, which became a 3-hour saga of annoyance! I’m still trying to find out where everything is on my computer…

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 6.56.38 AM

Dexter the dog, before and after editing.

But on to Lightroom! To start the free trial, you have to log in with your Adobe ID (cue random guessing what my password might be) and then you can download the program. Except it didn’t download, and didn’t download… so I tried another browser… still nothing… so I restarted and retried… and bingo! I guess I needed to restart? Wish they had told me!

Meanwhile, I watched the intro videos that Adobe provides. They are rather patronising (“Editing photos can be so confusing!”) but quite helpful. because Lightroom is a professional tool, it has a huge amount of options, tools, and powerful shortcuts. It’s not the most user friendly – tool bars surround every side of the screen, and some tools are named differently than in PicMonkey, iPhoto, Instagram or Snapseed.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 6.57.22 AM

Behold Lightroom – there’s actually another tool bar to the left that I have collapsed in this shot. I do really like how you can choose a live before and after comparison, along with more editing tools that I could ever want!

Once I started laying around with some pictures though, things got better! It can do everything I liked about Snapseed (like adjusting just one area) or iPhoto (like copying and pasting edits onto other pictures), and whole lot more. In fact, it can do so much that it’s hard to know where to begin and when to stop!

Here’s some of what I’m liking so far:

  • adjusting each individual colour in the picture to make it lighter/darker/more saturated/etc in a really natural way, without affecting the other colours (good for making brown grass look green, or making a fabric colour true-to-life)
  • using a mask to adjust everything except one area (say, brightening your background without washing out your face or clothes) or using a brush to adjust just one area (brightening the face and making shadows less harsh, for example)
  • comparing the original and edited version side by side as you edit
  • saving your edits as a preset which can be applied to any other similar picture (i.e. the first preset I saved, I named “cloudy winter day”, and it adds warmth to balance the cloudy light, and saturation to things look as colourful as they did in real life!)
  • “spot removal” (i.e. cloning to get rid of something small you don’t want in the picture) is available right in Lightroom, though you can switch to Photoshop if you want to do serious edits.


Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 6.58.19 AM

I’ve edited 6 blog posts worth of pictures with Lightroom now, and overall I’m a fan. It’s not faster than my old approach yet, but I can see how it will be with time. Lightroom seems to be able to make a lot of edits without losing quality or starting to look really fake. I’m still not sure how much it’s going to cost me to have an ongoing monthly subscription ($7-15 is what I’ve heard). I’ll be cancelling my Netflix to help offset the cost! The price does mean it is not for everyone… if I blogged less, I’d stick with one of the less powerful free options.

Have you used Lightroom before? How do you feel about investing in pay-services to support your blog, like Lightroom, hosting, or a Pro Flickr account? It’s something I struggle with justifying, even though I’m quite happy to drop much more money on tangible things like fabric. I do love blogging though, and along with photography, it has certainly become a hobby in it’s own right. What do you think?

ps. Anne used tips from Katie’s post to try indoor pics for her post here


24 thoughts on “Better Pictures Project: A Beginner’s Thoughts on Using Lightroom

  1. I use which is a free program put out by a university in the US. It’s excellent for my purposes but it might not have all the features you’re seeking?


  2. I switched to Lightroom a few months ago and love it! You’ll get faster. I love that you can export things in groups, resizing, labeling, and watermarking all at the same time. Also, it’s worth learning how to “sync” your edits so that you can apply the edits from one photo to all of the images that were taken in the same location.


    1. Yes! It’s nice to be able to do things in batches. You could do that in iPhoto and Snapseed too, and it’s not a feature I’d be willing to give up! 🙂


  3. And you could try GIMP. Not a recommendation, but an option. I’m still trying to see if I can use GIMP since I didn’t want to pay for Lightroom nor Photoshop.


    1. I’ve never tried GIMP, but I just looked t up and it seems to have lots of good features! I’d be curious to know more about it… How do you find it to work with?


      1. Gimp has features similar to Photoshop (or at least the older versions of photoshop…?). Curves and levels and brightness/contrast/saturation and all that stuff (also for single colours) and a lot more like masks and filters, but I don’t think it has the adjust-one-part-of-the-picture thing and I’m also pretty sure that it doesn’t do batch editing…


  4. These look great! I haven’t used lightroom but I’ve used photoshop a bit for work and played around with some photo editing too, its addictive! I’m at the dangerous point where I won’t share photos with anyone unless they have been edited, yet I got a new computer and I don’t have photoshop on it, so I end up just sitting on this large queue of photos that I never do anything with 😉 Glad you are enjoying it!


    1. LOL – I rarely post an IG pic without basic edits, so I totally understand!Editing exists, so why not use it to get the best pics possible? I don’t really understand how Lightroom and Photoshop differ for basic editing, exactly… but they both seem to work well!


    1. I use PicMonkey every post for making collages… I get a little annoyed by the editing tools though, possibly because I’m just using the free version! For once a month blogging though, sounds like the perfect option!


  5. I might consider it if it was a program you could purchase, but I have a (possibly) irrational hatred of subscription services for this kind of product. Though honestly, I’m not sure I’m skilled enough to justify the purchase either way. I use GIMP, but it isnt super intuitive, and I use it so seldom that I have to reread the user guide every time… 😦


    1. I really wish there was an option to purchase it outright, too! I mean, how many years will I end up subscribing to it? Then again, I spend more time editing pics than watching Netflix, so it makes sense to pay for this instead.
      I’m sorry to hear GIMP isn’t very intuitive – good thing there is a user guide, I guess? 😛


  6. I use Paint Shop Pro by Corel for photo editing on my PC. It’s similar to (and more affordable than) Photoshop, and according to some reviews I’ve read, it’s more user friendly. I originally started using it because my husband had it on his computer when we got married, and I’ve taught myself to use it better than he knows how now. It definitely has a learning curve, so it’s not for everyone.

    I have to upgrade every few years with a newer version (because of operating system upgrades making old versions obsolete) but that’s only about $30-$40 when I do. I really hate the idea of having to pay for a subscription for any computer program I use regularly.


    1. Yeah, paying for a subscription really adds up over time! I’m going to try out GIMP before I settle on Lightroom, but I do really like everything it can do!


  7. I’ve been using for years, ever since the first version and it’s brilliant if you have a lot of pics that you want to keep organised and the batch editing is a godsend, especially if you’ve got lots of shots from the same shoot.

    I’m also a avid Photoshop user and I know a lot of my Flickr buddies use GIMP, as someone suggested above, instead of Photoshop. It’s very good, from everything I’ve heard… Might be worth a looksie, if you want something free?


    1. OK, question: Is there a way to do batch edits in Photoshop? Or an integrated way to edit a pic in Lightroom, send it quickly to photoshop for a tweak, and bring it back to Lightroom? Seems like there should be an easier way than what I’ve tried so far!
      Thanks Anna!


      1. Yep, you can just right click on the pic, in Lightroom and choose to edit it PS. It will then give you a choice of editing the original or editing a copy (with or without Lightroom adjustments in effect- which will then be saved as a ‘.tif file’ which keeps all the photoshop layers in tact and editable at a later date) therefore keeping your original untouched and safe. When you’ve finished editing it in PS, you just save, close PS (or not) go back to Lightroom and keep on doing what ever else you want to do.

        You can also buy, create or source free PS ‘actions’, which will do any number of adjustments, with a simple click of a button. If you want a batch of pictures cropped, exposure adjusted, filters added, etc, it can take no time at all, all you do is press play on an action and it could do 50 adjustments in seconds! It’s similar to the ‘presets’ available for Lightroom, only with way more advanced features available.


  8. I use an older version of Photoshop which has lots of features I use frequently (like Clone Stamping out those pesky outlets on my wall). But if I didn’t already have Photoshop I’d probably just fork over the monthly fee because I think it’s worth it, especially if you want to do more advanced things with photos like adding text or making tutorial graphics or gifs.

    I also pay for Flickr (it’s only like $26 a year) but I think now they no longer offer upgraded accounts unless you’re grandfathered in because they make money from ads. Using Flickr saves me a lot of bandwidth on my blog.


    1. I didn’t realise Flickr Pro accounts were a thing of the past! I love Flickr, so whatever is going on, I’m happy it’s still working. It’s so nice to have all my photos from the last decade easily accessible!


      1. Yep, PRO accounts were phased out about 2-3 yrs ago, when yahoo bought flickr out, there was a huge uproar and loads of flickr users left, but then a lot of ppl came back and a rediculous amount of new ppl joined up when they announced that free users would be given 1TB of space.
        I was also lucky enough to have gone pro, so have a few extra bells and whistles but the free account seems pretty awesome, by all accounts.


  9. It sounds pretty cool. Did you ever try out Elements? I really like it, because it has a lot of the similar Photoshop tools, but you can just buy it out right and not do the monthly subscription. I’m still not a pro at editing photos, and I don’t blog as often as you do though.


  10. I’ve never used Lightroom, because I can’t figure out how it’s different from Photoshop. ATM I use GIMP to edit photos, when I’m not feeling lazy. I’m happy to say that I bought a domain and moved my blog to it two days ago, so yes — I am spending money on my blog! I doubt I would subscribe to a piece of software, though; I’m the type to either buy it or find an open source/freeware version.


  11. I’ve been using Lightroom ever since it came out in the market. LR is cool, it makes everything easy and quick. But, I have to anticipate some bug issues. (Well, I guess all software has bugs in it). But nevertheless, I have to say that despite of the issues I’ve encountered, LR still managed to help me modify tons of my images, thanks also to their built in presets. Lightroom is one of the best tool for photo editing for me so far. So, what do you think? Did you ever consider buying the license version of Lightroom? Believe me, it’s worth it.


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