What's the First Thing to Do in Lightroom?

By Chris Malinao

We are restarting following a long hiatus in this pandemic, so let’s go back to the basics and understand the processes in Lightroom. Then later, we shall tackle what’s new with Lightroom 2021 and Photoshop 2021. For example, a new and exciting development from Adobe is Super Resolution, new in Adobe Camera Raw inside Photoshop 2021, which enlarges images up to four times, ideal for large displays and prints. And since ACR and Lightroom are twins, expect this soon in Lightroom, too. By the way, ACR 13.2 is looking a lot like Lightroom now with a film strip down below in the interface, but that’s for later.

For now, let’s talk about what to do in Lightroom that we currently have. Let’s dive in.

When you're done shooting, and you have downloaded your photos into the hard drive, what's the first thing to do upon opening Lightroom?

Well, indeed the very first thing to do is import your photos into Lightroom, and this begins your series of steps in this workflow software for the photographer. In the Library module of Lightroom, go to File > Import Photos and Video or simply click on the Import button down at the lower left corner of the Lightroom interface.

Remember, we use Lightroom because it is much more efficient to deal with our photos inside it, segregate the keepers from the rejects, organize them into collections, edit and enhance them, then output our photos in the most efficient manner. Lightroom has methods advantageous to the photographer.

Ok, after the File > Import step, the import dialog box appears. It might look intimidating with its many options, but we have already covered this in a previous tutorial. You may go back there or look at other tutorials on the internet, but then again you may not have to. The important thing to understand in LR’s import box is that the left panel is where you choose what to import, and the right panel are options that are self-explanatory. What you have to watch for are the options at the top of this box where you choose Copy as DNG, Copy, Move, or Add. If your photos are already in the hard drive because you have downloaded them there, then you don’t need to choose. The Add option will already be highlighted for you. If not, click on Add. What this means is that you will be making Lightroom aware of the location of those photos without need to copy them. You are not making any more copies because they are already there in the hard drive.

It is important that in this step, you have already selected on the left panel the folder containing your downloaded photos and they are shown in the center panel of the import dialog box. There are checkmarks on each photo. You may select what to import or uncheck some that you do not wish to import. It is recommended that you import all, then do the selecting later inside Lightroom.

Then, you click Import on the lower right corner of the dialog box. A progress bar appears at upper left, and when it’s done, it takes you back to the Lightroom interface, in the Library panel. Look at the upper left part of the interface and look for Previous Import under the Catalog panel. That’s where your imported photos went. Every time you import photos, they go to this place: Previous Import.

And every time, you want to put the photos in Previous Import into a collection. If not, they will be superseded by the next imports – meaning they will not be there anymore in Previous Import – and it may be harder to look for them later in All Photographs, where they accumulate.

Presently, click on Previous Import and highlight, or select all the photos inside it, and go to the Collections panel. Opposite the word Collections, you will see the plus and minus signs. Click on the plus sign, and on its dropdown menu, choose Create Collection. Give it a name, be sure you have a check mark on the option to Include selected photos, then click Create. You have created your Collection with the newly imported photos in it.

The other options in the Collections panel are to Create Smart Collection and Create Collection Set. Smart Collections have predetermined criteria and if a photo meets its criteria, they are automatically included there, no need to pull them there. Collection Sets are used to contain Collections, in a manner that is similar to putting folders inside folders, a way for organizing things. But we do not access our photos from their folders, we access them in collections. Collection sets will contain collections, they cannot contain photos directly.

It is recommended that when we work with our photos in Lightroom – organize, edit, or output – we access them via the collections we have created, and not access them via Folders. The use of collections is a method that makes working with our photos more efficient in Lightroom. If you’re editing a photo, reference it from its collection, not from its folder. That is the way to work in Lightroom.