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Having traveled along the learning curve from beginner to pro myself, I know what it takes to become a confident Lightroom Classic user.
It’s not as complicated as you might think as you don’t need to know everything. Learn the key skills and look up the stuff you don’t know when you need to.
What key skills are those? I’ve come up with a list of six, which you can read below.
I’ve also linked to articles that expand on the relevant points (all links open in a new tab so you don’t lose your place in this article).
1. Understand what the Lightroom Classic Catalog is and how it works
Lightroom Classic uses a database (the Catalog) because it’s the most efficient way to store information about your photos.
The Catalog makes all the search and organizational capability of the Library module possible. It also helps you develop your photos without clogging up your hard drives with lots of TIFF and PSD files.
To be a confident Lightroom Classic user, you need to know exactly how the Catalog works, and how to back it up. Everything you need to know is covered in the tutorial below:
Learn more: What Is The Lightroom Classic Catalog?
2. Know where your photos are and back them up
If you think that your photos are in the Catalog, or that Catalog backups include your photos, then you’re setting yourself up for an unpleasant surprise.
You need to know:
- Where your photos are saved (I recommend an external hard drive)
- What folder structure to use. A good folder structure makes it easy to back up your photos (see first article linked below).
- Where your backups are. I recommend at least two backups, one on an external hard drive and the other to a cloud based backup like BackBlaze. The second article linked below has the details.
Knowing where your photos are (and how to recover them in the event of a disaster) gives you lots of confidence as a Lightroom Classic user.
Learn more: How To Organize Photos For Lightroom Classic
Learn more: A Secure Photo Backup Strategy For Photographers
3. Know how to use the Library module properly
One of the biggest problems that modern photographers have is organizing their photos so they can find the ones they need when they need them. That’s what the Library module is for.
There are twelve key things you need to know how to do in the Library module. They’re listed in the article linked below.
Twelve sounds like a lot. But two (understanding what the Catalog is, and knowing how to back up your photos) have already been covered.
Others (like using keywords or star ratings) are optional. But you should at least know enough to decide whether you’re going to use them (I don’t use either).
4. Know how to use the Develop module properly
The next step is to learn how to use the Develop module’s tools.
For example, if you’re into black and white photography, then you should learn how to convert your photos to black and white in Lightroom Classic, and how to get the best out of it. That gives you the confidence to know whether to develop a black and white photo in Lightroom Classic (more efficient workflow) or a plugin (less efficient workflow, but more creative options).
The same goes for retouching portraits. If you don’t know the Develop module well, you might do it in Photoshop or buy an expensive portrait retouching plugin. But a confident Lightroom Classic user would do it in Lightroom Classic, saving time (thanks to an efficient workflow) and money.
You can learn more about black and white and retouching portraits in the articles linked below, and read all my develop module tutorials here.
Learn more: How To Retouch Portraits In Lightroom Classic
5. Know to take advantage of your creative plan’s hidden features
There are lots of hidden features to your Adobe Creative Plan. For example, did you know that you can create up to five portfolio websites in Adobe Portfolio? Or make Canva style graphics like the ones below for free with Adobe Express (formerly known as Adobe Spark?) Or that you have access to thousands of fonts with Adobe Fonts (great for graphic designers)?
You could spend hundreds of dollars a year on website hosting, a Canva subscription and buying fonts. Or get it all with your creative plan.
The articles listed below will get you started.
Learn more: Nine Useful Things To Do In Lightroom For Web
6. Read books and don’t buy expensive video courses
My final advice is to spend your money on books about Lightroom Classic, not expensive video courses. Books are cheaper and have far more information than video courses.
It takes much longer to explain things in a video. For example, if I were to turn my Mastering Lightroom Classic ebooks (on offer this month) into a video course I’d need 100’s of hours to cover the same material. And there’s no chance you’d have the patience to look for the specific information you need amongst all that.
With books you can go straight to the information you need, without wasting any time.
I appreciate that some photographers enjoy watching videos, and that the visual nature of a video can help you learn.
So my advice is this. Save some money, buy books (inexpensive and full of info) and watch free YouTube videos to fill in the gaps. There’s tons of good stuff on YouTube and you can search for the answer to your questions there.
Don’t buy expensive video courses. You’ll watch them once (if that) and never go back because it’s too difficult to find the information you need.