Laura Shoe's Lightroom (and Occasionally Photoshop) Blog for Digital Photographers

Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Another Seattle Lightroom Demonstration

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2009 at 8:46 pm

I’m back in town very briefly, so I thought I’d post information about my next free Lightroom Demonstration here in Seattle.  It is Saturday, May 16, from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm at the Capitol Hill Library.

For more information, click here.

Space is limited, so please RSVP to if you would like to attend.

Also, I have scheduled another round of Lightroom workshops:  Part One is June 13-14, and Part Two is June 27-28.  See my workshops page for more information.

Until May

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I will be out of town and out of touch for most of the rest of April, and will not be able to post again until the first week of May.  In the meantime, check out the blog archives for lots of Lightroom tutorials and tips (and a few Photoshop ones as well.)

Happy Spring!


Seeing Your Folders in Lightroom

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2009 at 2:29 pm

When you import a folder of images, the folder will show in the Folders panel, but you may not see the parent folder that it lives in.  For example, when I imported my first 2009 shoot folder, Lightroom did not show me that it lives inside my 2009 folder, which lives inside my Pictures folder.  That’s exactly where it still was, it was just that Lightroom by default considered this unnecessary information to display.  To show this hierarchical folder structure, I simply right-clicked (ctl-click on a Mac) on the shoot folder and selected Add Parent Folder.  This revealed the 2009 folder.  Then I right-clicked on the 2009 folder, and selected Add Parent Folder again, and this revealed the Pictures folder.

If you like to show the whole structure like I do, just be aware that if you have a parent folder selected, and therefore are showing all images that live in the parent folder and all of its subfolders, you cannot drag and rearrange your images.  To do this, you must be in the root folder where the images actually live.

Cropping Your Image for Print

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Need to produce a print of a specific size, like 5″x7″?  These are most likely not the proportions of your original image, so somewhere in your workflow you will need to crop the image to these proportions.

You could use the crop overlay tool in the Develop module to get the proportions and then go to the Print module to print, but I like this alternative better:

In the Print module:

  • Turn on Zoom to Fill and Rotate to Fit in Image Settings
  • In Layout, set the Cell Size to 5″x7″.    If your image is of different proportions, part of the image now necessarily doesn’t show and won’t print.
  • Click inside your image and drag to specify what part of your image you want to print.  (This is the part I love!)
  • Now print as usual.

About Your Images and the Lightroom Catalog: The Library Analogy

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Alot of people have a hard time understanding where their images are in the Lightroom environment, what the catalog is, and how it all fits together.  This is completely understandable, as the terminology is confusing.

Think of a public library — you have stacks and stacks of books everywhere — the main floor, 2nd floor, 3rd, …., in the basement, and even offsite.   And you have the centrally-located card catalog (or web catalog), which helps you find and make sense of those books.  The catalog has an entry for each book, with its location in the stacks, what the book is about, copyright and publication  information, a picture of the front cover, etc, etc.    When you want to work with books,  you don’t go to the stacks and walk along them until you find what you want — you go to the catalog.  Furthermore, if you put a paperback that you bought at the grocery store in the stacks, it is as if it is not there — it is not accessible to people until the librarian creates an entry in the catalog for it.

So here’s the analogy:  your images are like the stacks of books — they sit on your hard drives in folders however you decide to organize them.   The Lightroom catalog is just like the card catalog — it is a centrally located collection of information about each of your images that you have taken the time to create an entry for.   By default this catalog is located in a “Lightroom Catalog” folder in your Pictures folder on your internal hard drive.

Contrary to what you would think  “import” means, when you “import images” , you are not moving your images — you are simply creating an entry for each  image in the centrally-located Lightroom catalog.   Once your images have been entered into the catalog (i.e. imported), you can see them in Lightroom, and you can work on them.   You may have thousands of images on your hard drive(s) that you don’t see in Lightroom — just like the paperback that was put in the stacks, they aren’t accessible to you through Lightroom until you enter/import them into the catalog.

But, you say,  the Import dialog  asks you if you want to copy or move your  images, so importing must move your images, right?  No — the fact that the Import dialog allows you to move or copy images (usually used to copy from a memory card to the permanent location of your choice on your hard drive) is simply a convenience to you — it is not the import itself, which is simply the creation of catalog entries.

So what information is stored in an image’s catalog entry?   The location of the image,  metadata (data about the image – more about this in another post), keywords, ratings and labels you have assigned in LR or Bridge, jpeg previews of the image, and what I call the Develop recipe:  a set of instructions representing the enhancements you make to your image in LR.

An Image Catalog Entry

A Lightroom Catalog Entry for an Image (It doesn't really look this way, but carrying the analogy along, think of it as a card in the card catalog)

Note that when you look at an image in LR, you are looking at a jpeg copy/preview of the image  that LR has added to the central catalog — just like when you see a picture of the book cover in the public library web catalog, you are not looking at the actual book.  This way LR (the librarian!) doesn’t have to go get the image from the hard drive every time you want to look at it.

So let’s carry the analogy further:  in the public library, it really does not matter how the books are organized in the stacks — alphabetical by author first name, the dewey decimal system backwards, etc..  — as long as the card catalog can communicate to you where a book is located.  Same with LR — LR does not care how you organize your images on your hard drive, and it doesn’t help you to organize them — it is up to you to decide on a folder structure that works for you.  (For example, a Pictures folder with year folders within that, and shoot folders within the year folders.)  Lightroom would be just as happy if you dumped all your images on your desktop, as it will simply record that that is where it should go to find them — but we know that this would be a mess for us in other ways.

One of the things you may have heard about Lightroom or observed yourself is that it can do searches very, VERY fast.  I can do a search of all 20,000 images in my catalog for just winter tree images shot with my wide angle lens, and before I snap my fingers, LR will have them displayed.   Why is this?  Because LR searches the central catalog, rather than going out and looking for the images on your hard drive(s) — just like in the public library you can find a book much faster by going to the card catalog than walking up and down the stacks searching for it.

If you store your images on one or more external hard drives, you may have noticed that even when those drives are not plugged in, your images are still visible in LR, and you can do Library module work with them (assign keywords, rate, label, add metadata, sort, put in collections, etc..), as well as build slide shows and other output. How is this possible?  The same way that if you can do library research at night on the web, even though the library is closed — you are accessing information in the catalog, not in the stacks.

I’m sure I will have more to say about the catalog in the future, but hopefully this is a start to clarifying what the catalog is about.  If I have made any sense, next time someone asks you where your images are, you won’t answer  “they are in Lightroom”, you will say where on your hard drive you put them.

Working on Two or More Computers with One Lightroom Catalog

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2009 at 8:08 pm

If you regularly work on two or more computers and carrying an external hard drive is not a problem, then consider putting your images and your Lightroom catalog on the external drive, so that you can move easily between the two.

If your catalog is currently on your internal hard drive, you will need to move it to the external drive:

  • In LR, go to Edit (Lightroom on a Mac) > Catalog Settings, and on the General Tab note the location of your catalog.
Finding Out Where Your Catalog Folder Is

Finding Out Where Your Catalog Folder Is

  • In Finder or Windows Explorer, move this folder to your external drive.

Now all you have to do is to tell LR to launch this catalog when it starts:

  • With your external drive plugged in,  hold down Ctl/ Cmd as you launch Lightroom to get the Select Catalog dialog.  Click on Choose, and navigate to the .lrcat file inside your Lightroom Catalog folder on the external drive.
  • Hit Continue.

That’s it!  When you need to work on your other computer,  plug in the drive, point to the catalog on this drive when you launch LR.

I would suggest a different approach if you ocassionally work images on your laptop when you are in the field photographing.  See this post for more information.

Why Do I Have Question Marks on My Folders in Lightroom?

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2009 at 9:17 pm

When you import images into the Lightroom Catalog, Lightroom keeps track of where those images live — in what folder, on what hard drive.  This shows in the Folders panel in the Library Module.

Imagine moving the car while your family or friends are  inside the convenience store.  (I confess to having done this once or twice!)  When they walk out, you can imagine that they will be confused, since they weren’t around to see it happen.  It is the same with Lightroom:  if you  move your files and folders while Lightroom isn’t looking, it loses track of them and gets confused (displaying the question mark.)   If you use Mac Finder,  Windows Explorer or any other utility to move your files or folders, Lightroom can’t see that you have moved them.

The solution is simple:  do any moving of files and folders within Lightroom.  In the Folders panel you can click on a folder and drag it inside of another folder, on any hard drive that Lightroom is aware of.    This physically moves your folders and images just like using Finder or Explorer would, but Lightroom is able to keep up with you.  If you want to move selected images from one folder to another, click on the folder they currently are in so that they show up in Grid (thumbnail) view.    Click on the thumbnail and drag the image to another folder in the Folders panel.

If  you do get a question mark on a folder, right-click (ctl-click on a one button Mac mouse) on it and choose “Find Missing Folder”.  Point to the folder in its new location, click choose, and the question mark will go away.   If you get a question mark on an individual image, click on the question mark next to the thumbnail, and choose “Locate Missing File”.   Point to the file in its new location.

At least Lightroom doesn’t get angry, like friends or family sometimes do!