A bed of pink tulips are in bloom in the foreground, with a couple of large rocks among them. A large apartment building and several smaller buildings appear in the background.

Seeing the Light: Lightroom

I’ve been debating what software or application to use long term for organizing photos. When we invested in an iMac (~2014), I expected I would use the Photos app indefinitely. Slowly over the years, I realized that might not be the case. Yesterday, I purchased a monthly plan for Lightroom (Lr), the cloud version. In this post, I’ll summarize my decision for choosing Lightroom as well as my first 24 hours using it. Future posts will address additional Lightroom features, as I discover and utilize them.

A debate with myself

For the past 4-6 years, I used Photos on my iMac. I experienced at least one upgrade of the Photos application in that timeframe, which was uneventful. The Photos app has been easy to use, but I have occasionally experienced minor problems, including navigation, keying data, and identifying people. I successfully organized a subset of my photos into 174 (!) albums, added keywords, and performed basic editing. I also created several slideshows.

The question that has been in front of me for several years was whether Photos was the best long-term tool for my use. I am not a professional photographer. I need to have access to the functionality mentioned above, and I would be happy with additional functionality, provided it is not overwhelming. So, I have always remained alert to alternative software and applications.

In addition to managing photos for myself and my husband, I have volunteered to digitize my parents’ family photos. I want a tool that can facilitate sharing with two sisters, a niece, and two nephews. I want all of these photos to be in the same application as my own photos, but I also want to be able to distinguish them. The organizational tools need to enable this.

Migrating photos from one system to another is not easy. There have been attempts over the years to standardize things within the industry, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t want to feel that I am stuck in a particular system (like the train cars on the bridge, below). It is important to me that I have multiple export options and that I will not lose metadata in the process.

An old iron viaduct housed several train cars, one painted pink, the others painted blue. The entire viaduct is fenced off.
These cars aren’t moving off of this old viaduct in Denver, CO.

You (still) get what you pay for

In Unmasking Free Online Storage, I addressed “free” storage. The article is over three years old, but my views have not changed. I still believe in paying for quality service, support, features, and design.

My first exposure to Lightroom

I was first introduced to Lightroom via Peter Krogh’s The DAM Book (DAM = Digital Asset Management), which I read in 2016. I heard more about Lightroom as a member of APPO (Association of Personal Photo Organizers). A couple of years ago, Adobe introduced Lightroom CC (now just Lightroom), which it distinguished from Lightroom Classic. I was curious but found articles on the topic overwhelming; I didn’t understand enough to process what the differences were. And so I waited, and kept using Photos. But, I was careful about how much I uploaded into Photos – I still sensed that I would be migrating at some point.

A church steeple and four windows, viewed from the side of the church. The church is a light brown stone; the four windows are arched. A gold cross is atop the steeple.
Things that are meant to help you can still feel intimidating: St. Elizabeth’s in Denver, CO.

Continued research

I attended an APPO conference in Raleigh, NC, in 2018. Peter Krogh was the keynote speaker. He also had a display table and a breakout session. His presentations featured Lightroom, so I was further exposed to it at this conference. After (too) much debate, I purchased Krogh’s The DAM Book Guide to Organizing Your Photos with Lightroom 5. It took me another year to begin reading the book. After finishing it, I realized I was going to proceed with Lightroom.

I researched the Lightroom options. Lightroom [CC] vs. Classic was making more sense to me; I had learned enough to comprehend the differences. I was getting much more comfortable with cloud storage, the appeal of sharing and accessing via multiple devices, and everything being synced immediately. Although my photos are important to me, they are not my livelihood. I don’t want to have to manage a series of drives for backups. I do want a backup beyond Lightroom, and I am confident I will incorporate something into my workflow for that (future blog post).

A red stone sidewalk with an iron fence on the right side. The fence is casting a shadow onto the sidewalk. The sidewalk extends to the end of the photograph.
A path forward: Ninth Street Park in Denver, CO.

My first 24 hours with Lightroom

The Adobe site has a variety of tutorials for Lightroom. I watched several of them (3-5 minutes each). Investing 30 minutes of my time was enough for me to realize that the navigation and features felt comfortable; things were not so different from Photos, and I knew that I would not be at a loss. There were three different Lightroom plans. I didn’t want Classic, so that left one option, for $10 a month and 1 TB of storage. It’s easy to add storage if needed. I really don’t know how much storage I will ultimately need (for my own photos plus those of my parents). I digitized files as JPG previously, but I intend to digitize as TIFF from this point forward (TIFF files are much larger, but not lossy). Being able to easily increase storage for a reasonable fee is a nice feature. So far, I have imported about 30 photos into three albums.

It took me a while to find the Info button so that I could enter Titles and Captions (File Name is a different field). I have added Keywords. I don’t want to load too many photos too fast, as I am still experimenting with Title formats. Peter Krogh recommends MyName_Date_#### for File Names (the #### is for consecutive numbering of images). I am not sure if I will be editing File Names; I need to research whether it is possible to do so in Lr. I considered applying Krogh’s File Name approach to the Title field. Since I am not a professional photographer, I figured I could skip the MyName portion, but then I realized that portion could help me distinguish my own photos (SCKO), from my parents’ family photos (CAMPBELLJM), from grandparents’ photos (ZIMMERMANDE, CAMPBELLJH).

A list of 12 Title field examples appears, each one has YYYYMMDD in the middle.
I am still evaluating options for the Title field in Lightroom.

Krogh recommends that all photographers utilize the Copyright field, since we all post so much online. So, I am populating that field as well.

Additional resources I need to tackle

I am very much a Lr beginner. I see my path, but I am moving along it slowly. Just as we are all working to navigate a COVID-19 world one day at a time, I will continue forward on my Lightroom journey one step at a time.

A headshot of a woman wearing a bike helmet and sunglasses, with a pink and tan bandanna tied over her nose and mouth.
Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic: face mask experimentation for a bike ride.

I have identified a few next steps, before I load any more photos into Lr:

  • Udemy training via Denver Public Library (free!): three courses; I expect I will start with the bottom one.
Three Lightroom courses are listed, each with an icon/visual on the left, then a brief course name and description, then ratings (all 4.3 stars or higher).
A screenshot of Lightroom courses offered by Udemy, available via the Denver Public Library.
  • scanyourentirelife.com: this site offers a membership; while I was a member of APPO, I didn’t want to spend the additional money. Now that I have decided to focus on my own photo collection (versus digitizing for others), this site seems like a better fit.
  • LinkedIn Learning: Learning Lightroom CC (under two hours, $29.99). LinkedIn Learning was formerly lynda.com. I always found the courses to be excellent, but since this one will cost me, I think I’ll give the Udemy courses a try first, supplement with the Adobe tutorials, and then determine if this is worth the price.
A single course offered by LinkedIn Learning, with an image of a cathedral on the left and the course name and duration on the right.
A beginner Lightroom CC course offered by LinkedIn Learning; I like the release date of late 2018.

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