The Fastest and Easiest Way to Learn Adobe Lightroom

The Fastest and Easiest Way to Learn Adobe Lightroom

Back in 2004 I was given the Nikon D100 digital camera for Christmas and I started making money with the camera within a few months. I fell into wedding photography and within 2 years I was making almost 100% of my income shooting them. In the last 10 years I never learned how to process a RAW file (effectively) or use Lightroom until last week. 

Want to hear a secret? There is a very good chance that every single wedding image you have ever seen of mine was shot in jpg. I shot 100% jpeg for 8 years and I only switched to raw 2 years ago when I hired a full time retoucher to edit my weddings. I haven't updated my wedding website in 4 years so 100% of the pictures in my portfolio were shot in jpeg. 


My raw files always looked worse than my jpegs

My biggest complaint with shooting in raw was always that I couldn't get the images to look like the did on the back of the camera. The ONLY way to get your Nikon files to look exactly like the jpegs was to use the incredibly clunky Nikon Capture software. I have no doubt the software is better now but 8 years ago it was unbearable to use and I haven't given it another chance. 


Editing raw was always such a slow process

My second biggest complaint simply had to do with the amount of space the files took up and the amount of time it took to process them. I got so good at shooting weddings that my white balance and exposures were right on the money 90% of the time. If my shot was slightly "off" I would delete it and reshoot it right there on the spot. When I would cull through the images after a wedding I would usually delete the bad ones and then run the good shots through a batch I created in Photoshop to give them a "look." For years I would shoot a wedding, edit the wedding in about 5 hours and deliver the files. I would make around $3000 - $5000 per wedding and it would take approximately 2 days of work. While my raw shooting colleagues took literally weeks to deliver their files. I could in many cases deliver the weddings the day after the event. My clients were happy and I was free to move on to other projects or go on vacation. 

I hired a retoucher so I didn't have to deal with it

2 years ago I hired a professional retoucher to take over my wedding work. By using Lightroom she was capable of making raw files look similar to my camera's jpeg settings and she was able to tweak white balance and exposure to make my images look even better. To deal with the massive file sizes of 3 D800 cameras all being used simultaneously for 10 hours straight, we bought a Synology mini server to hold the files. My life got even simpler because now I was making even more money per wedding, and now I didn't have to edit the pictures afterwards. 

I had plenty of free time but I was completely at the mercy of my retoucher to edit and cull my wedding images. Every once in a while I would shoot a personal project in raw and I was incapable of making the pictures look good in Photoshop. If my retoucher was busy I would then have to wait for days to get her to process the files for me. 


I Finally decided to learn Lightroom

I finally realized I needed to learn how to process my own RAW files, and I tried to teach myself how to use Lightroom. I went straight to Youtube and started searching for videos that could teach me the basics of the software. It was incredibly frustrating because I didn't really know what to search for to find a comprehensive tutorial. I'd stumble over a video that might be helpful for a moment, but then it would skip a step and lose me. I finally gave up out of frustration. 


Pye Jirsa decided to help me

One day I was casually talking to my buddy Pye Jirsa (one of the most successful wedding photographers in the world) about the idea that I had to hire someone to create a easy to follow Lightroom tutorial that included working files so that you could follow along as you learn. To my surprise Pye told me that he wanted to make it for me. 

I assumed the video would be around 2 hours but Pye really went above and beyond to create a 10 hour tutorial that covers almost every aspect of Lightroom. Each file was broken down into very easy to follow mini chapters that built upon themselves. If you aren't interested in HDR you could skip that chapter. If you wanted to quickly learn how to export files, you could jump right to that chapter. 




I finally learned how to use Adobe Lightroom

Over the course of 4 days I sat in my office and watched every single chapter. I had the exact same raw files that Pye had on the video and I could create the exact same image as I followed along with him. 

I am now proud to say that I am a very proficient Lightroom user. Believe it or not, I actually now know more about Lightroom than my retoucher. I blew her mind with a few time saving tips that I learned from watching Pye in this tutorial. 

Adobe Lightroom is far more powerful than you think it is

A few years ago I believed shooting raw for events was a crutch for photographers.  I thought they just wanted to be sloppy and shoot in auto white balance because they were not capable of shooting a correct exposure in camera. Now I see raw workflow as a way to make a good picture even better by retaining extra data. A correctly exposed image may still have mixed white balance or a blown out dress or sky. In just a few seconds I can fix those issues and move on to the next image. All that being said I will never become a raw snob. I'm sure I'll still shoot jpeg for some jobs, but Lightroom has made dealing with thousands of massive raw files a manageable experience.  

Lightroom isn't for everyone but if you're an event photographer or shooting hundreds of images at a time, Lightroom will save you hours per job. Check out Pye's tutorial 10 hour Adobe Lightroom Workshop here


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Henry Louey's picture

Lee, I've been using Lightroom since the 1st release and can only say that now I would be "proficient" with using it. So i get fully when you comment that there are some things you have picked up that your retoucher didn't know as there is so much buried in the program

I totally agree with your comment about RAW images looking flat vs a JPG image but definitely worth the investment in learn how to get the most out of your RAW files.

If you get a chance. Download and play around with a RAW file from the new Sony A7 range of cameras. You would be blown away what you can pull out of it. Especially if its a badly exposed file

Lee Morris's picture

I hope to play with that A7 soon. Seems like a beast. I'm also really interested in trying capture one. Lightroom is still really annoying to edit a single image.

Henry Louey's picture

I switched from Nikon to Sony in late 2013 (the first 6 images on my portfolio are shot with the A7r) but probably wouldn't recommend it for wedding work (no doubt people will disagree). The lack of fast glass is the main issue right now

If your going to edit a single image. Just use Photoshop!

"If your going to edit a single image. Just use Photoshop!"

I would add: Using the camera raw plugin.

I know some people who just import it without adjustment in CR, and that's a real shame.

Jaron Schneider's picture

The annoyances of badly designed body and software along with some less than great glass options have yet to be made up by the amazing sensor.

Pye Jirsa's picture

Jaron, I can't think of a better way to express my exact feelings of the A7/A7r then this exact statement. It is the exact same experience I have had with the camera.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I am annoyed that I have to feel this way. I really, REALLY want to like these cameras :/

It's never too late to learn something new!
Personally, the most important thing I learned about processing RAW files in Lightroom is having baseline presets setup specifically for import. Making import presets that are camera body and lens specific saves a TON of time. I also convert from NEF to DNG. The import takes a lot longer, but I don't worry about sidecar XMPs.

Stefano Giordano's picture

"Unfortunately" I bought EVERY LR workshop SLR Lounge sells so the one you are selling here might be a duplicate of something I already own, BUT I really like the way Pye teaches technical matters in a very easy and understandable way (I am an italian mothertongue!).

If you -like I was- are still scared about LR and want to learn how to effectively speed up your post processing workflow, then you should go for P.J. :-)

In the past times I spent 100% of my time in PS, now I spend 90% of it in LR and then switch to PS just for some pictures I really want to give some nice finishing touches or are really problematic.

Dave Blinder's picture

Optimizing a RAW image file is identical to JPEG, sharpen what you want, tweak the contrast where you want to, and voila. The RAW conversion software writers do the hard part. Spending more than 10 minutes on a non-composite or timelapse edit probably means the photograph isn't worth keeping and needs to be re-shot.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Have to admit I was completely new to photography 2 years ago. Buddy of mine that had been shooting for a little while (no longer is) said LR was the program to use for editing so I just dove right in with the copy I had from the creative suite I owned already. Never used it before but slowly just watch tutorials along the way and feel pretty strong in the program now. I am sure I am missing a few quick steps but for the most part I am blasting through larger quantities of photos for shoots much faster than using PS. I only use PS now for heavy lifting and that is usually before I bring the shot into LR for the final touches. Great post Lee. I seriously cant believe you JUST started using it! Its been a life saver for me and keeping my edit times down to under 2-3 hours for weddings and under 1 hour for most all other shoots. I try and keep things lean when shooting and editing.

Moises Fernandez's picture

Hey, I download the tutorial that's on this page. I just don't know where to find the raw pictures that he uses in the video. Can everyone help me with where I can get them? It was not part of my download, unless I did something wrong.