We know that one of the biggest hurdles in growing a successful blog is content, and not just coming up with new ideas, but also creating beautiful imagery as well.
Why can’t writing interesting stories be enough?! It can be, but the internet is such a visual place! You don’t have long to grab a reader’s attention, and stunning photography is a huge help in getting people to notice you, and to keep them coming back.
But where to start!
When it comes to photography, there’s so much to cover: lenses, cameras, manual setting, ISO, f-stop, lighting, poses, editing, JPEG vs. RAW, image sizes—the list goes on forever!
Rather than try to cover it all at once (which would likely leave your head spinning), I’m going to be covering different photography topics over the next few weeks or so. We get a lot of questions on which equipment to buy, but a lot of that is personal preference. Jess and I both shoot with a Canon 60D and 35mm prime lens, but it’s definitely not the only option. I could go on and on about equipment, but I don’t want to today.
Instead, I want to talk about the single, best thing that ever happened to my photography.
And, that’s Lightroom.
I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but have you invested in it yet? With the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, you can get both Lightroom and Photoshop for just $9.99/month. Guys, that is a complete steal. And you’ll always have the most up-to-date version!
If your goal is to take better pictures, you need Lightroom, and here’s why…
Before I used Lightroom, I’d edit my photos in Photoshop—one at a time. Half the time, I’d just stop editing because I was so frustrated with the process. When I finally got Lightroom, editing photos became one of my favorite things to do. I find that Lightroom is a lot more user-friendly than Photoshop and there’s a reason for it. Photoshop was meant for crazy edits— removing entire people out of a photo (or dropping one in), changing hair color or removing wrinkles. It’s not meant for quick exposure and contrast changes—that’s what Lightroom is built for.
pre-Lightroom blog photo
edited in Lightroom
Lightroom allows you to batch import your photos, edit them quickly and apply the same settings or filters on all of your photos with just a few clicks and then batch export them to your exact specifications (which is essential for fast-loading images!).
Lightroom is truly top-of-the-line. It’s the same software that professional photographers use to edit their photos and there’s reason for it. It speeds up your workflow and leaves you with gorgeous images! Life-changing stuff people!
RAW vs. JPEG
If you have Lightroom, you need to start shooting in RAW.
What’s that you say?!
I had the same question. A RAW image file is the image as seen by the camera’s sensor. If you take a photo and look at the back of your screen, that’s the JPEG output of the RAW file. The easiest way to think of RAW files is to equate them to unprocessed film. It’s a bigger file, with a whole lot more information packed into it. Shooting in RAW allows you to easier and better edit your images to your liking. Because there’s so much more information, edits look much smoother and more natural. You don’t have as much flexibility when editing a JPEG file and the quality is never quite as good!
If you are not using Lightroom though, do not shoot in RAW! Photoshop and other basic photo editors do not read RAW files. I repeat, only shoot in RAW if you have Ligthroom!
If you’re wondering how on earth to shoot in RAW, here’s how. Flip on your camera and hit the ‘Menu’ button. Tab over to the little red box (might be different depending on your camera) to the far left. To move tabs on my camera (60D), you turn wheel on the top of the camera. Once you’re on the tab that you want, you’ll use the wheel on the back of the camera to move up and down those lists.
Once you’re under that first tab, look for the dropdown titled ‘Quality’. Hit the ‘Set’ button to open those options.
Here you can see several different options under RAW and JPEG. The ‘—’ means nothing is selected. Here you can see that I only have RAW selected. If you have both RAW and JPEG selected, you’ll get two files. I don’t recommend that as it takes up even more space!
To change them, use the two wheels again. On my camera, the top wheel moves the RAW options and the back wheel moves the JPEG options.
Once you’re all done, hit ‘Set’ again and it should look like this!
FYI, you might need a bigger SD card for shooting in RAW as the files are much larger. I use a 64GB SanDisk Ultra Plus SD card and it holds so much!
How to Properly Import Photos
One of the best tips I learned early on with Lightroom was how to properly import them. It might seem like an easy thing to do, and it is, but this little trick will keep your Lightroom running fast!
After you stick your SD card into your computer, open it, find the files you want.
If Lightroom automatically opens and prompts you to copy them in there, hit ‘Quit’! You do not want to ‘Copy’ the files, as doing this will add the original RAW file to Lightroom and over time makes it run super slow.
Instead, create a new folder on your desktop for those files, maybe something like ‘White Dress Outfit’ or ‘Tortilla Soup Recipe’ and drag the RAW files into there. Once they’re all in there, select all the files and drag them into Lightroom. This box will come up…
At the very top, you’ll see the options: Copy as DNG, Copy, Move, and Add. Select ‘Add’ and then hit the ‘Import’ button in the bottom right hand side. What this does is simply adds the files to Lightroom while you’re editing them instead of importing them into Lightroom completely.
After I’m done editing my files and exporting them, I usually toss the old RAW files because they take up so much space. If you plan on editing them again in the future or want larger sizes, then keep those RAW files. I find for most blog posts, that’s not usually necessary.
Once you hit ‘Import’, all those photos go into your Lightroom library. As long as those original files don’t get deleted or moved, you can access them here in your Lightroom library. The library gives you a quick view of all of your files. You can remove them, rotate them and export them from here. To edit, you’ll need to click on the Develop tab at the top right hand side of the Lightroom panel.
This is where you can actually edit your images. The view changes a bit and instead of seeing all your images in a grid, you see one blown up image and the rest of them in a filmstrip at the bottom. If you’re not seeing the film strip or the options panel to the right, hover or click on the tiny triangles on either edge to make them pop open!
The right hand panel holds the tools you’ll be using to edit your photos. If there’s any section you don’t use very often, you can click the triangle just next to the name of the section to minimize it. For example, I don’t really look at histograms (maybe I should?!), so I’ll close that.
There’s only two sections that I really use: Basic & Detail.
Basic covers just that: Exposure, Temperature and Tint, Contrast, Highlights and Shadows, Vibrance and Saturation.
Detail covers sharpening, which makes your images crisper (I recommend at least 50 and no more than 75, I usually stick to 65). I also bump up my luminance a bit to make skin appear just the slightest bit more smooth (20 is as high as I go). Be careful though, too much luminance and you’ll look fake!
While you’re editing, you can click the second button on the bottom left-hand side in the image below (it has two ‘Y’s on it). This will show you the before and after, which is sort of fun! Keep clicking on this button for different side by side views. If you want to go back to the one-image view, click the button that’s just to the left of it.
If all the sudden you realize your image looks bizarre, you can just hit the ‘Reset’ button and it’ll go back to that unedited RAW file and you can start from scratch again.
So, let’s say you finish this one image and you love it! You want all the images to look the same because, duh, branding! Consistency is key! You can apply the same settings to as many photos in that folder as you want with the Sync button.
In the filmstrip, click on the image whose settings you want to clone, hit the ‘Shift’ key and then click the last image that you want to change. FYI, the first image in your selection is the one whose details will be synced onto the other images. You can see here that the first 10 images are selected, but the last three shown here aren’t.
Once they’re selected, hit the ‘Sync’ button that’s under the options panel in the right-hand side. I leave the settings as is and then hit ‘Synchronize’. If you look at the filmstrip, you’ll notice they change. If necessary, you can go in and tweak the individual images here, but syncing is a huge timesaver.
Phew! That was already a lot of information, are you overwhelmed? I hope not, but just in case, I’m going to stop here and let that sink in.
The real point of this post was to show you how powerful Lightroom really is and that it’s totally worth that $9.99 (like 2 lattes at Starbucks).
So, tell me, are you convinced?!
I’ll be sharing more detailed tutorials and photography tips and tricks in the coming weeks (leave a note below if there’s anything you really want to learn!). In the meantime, I encourage you to open Lightroom up and start playing around! Get familiar with the space and how it works—I promise, it’s a lot less intimidating than it looks!
More questions? Just leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer!5