Lightroom Preferences - Part 1

Setting preferences in Lightroom

Open the Preferences dialog

On a Mac the preferences dialog is located under the Lightroom menu. On Windows it is under the Edit menu.

Preferences are set on six different tabs in the main dialog: General, Presets, Import, External Editing, File Handling, and Interface. Let's look at each one.

The General Tab

Show splash screen during startup determines whether or not you see the Lightroom startup screen or not. This is a really personal preference so check or uncheck as you see fit.

Automatically check for updates when checked will check to see if there are any updates to the program every time you start. I recommend that you leave this one checked so you can keep up with any new features or bug fixes.

Default Catalog will let you decide what catalog Lightroom brings up when it opens. Clicking on the drop-down menu will give you several choices.

Load most recent catalog will open whatever catalog you closed with last time. Prompt me when starting Lightroom will present you with a menu of your existing catalogs each time you start.

Below these two options is a list of your current catalogs. Choosing one of these from the list will make it the default catalog that opens every time you start Lightroom. You can still choose a catalog at startup even if you have set a default. On a Mac hold down the Option (the Alt key in Windows) when opening Lightroom and you will get the same dialog as the Prompt me option.

Completion Sounds is pretty self-explanatory. Choose the sound you want to hear (or none) when Lightroom finishes importing or exporting photos.

Prompts will reset all of the warning dialogs throughout Lightroom so if you have checked a do not show this again box on any warnings they will reappear.

Catalog Settings will take you to the dialog where settings that are specific to the catalog you have open can be changed. I'll talk about catalog settings in another post.

The Presets Tab

Default Develop Settings has five options. Apply auto tone adjustments will use the default tonal adjustments on an image when it is imported into the catalog. Apply auto grayscale mix when converting to grayscale can be a useful starting point for your grayscale conversions.

Since Lightroom captures all of the metadata from your images it knows the serial number of the camera that took the shot. This is extremely useful when you have several cameras of the same make and model and want to tell which one the image was taken with. Make defaults specific to camera serial number allows you to set up different defaults for each camera. Similarly, Make defaults specific to camera ISO setting lets you set up different defaults for each ISO value.

If you want to start over you can press the Reset all default Develop settings and return to the original Lightroom settings.

If you are a multiple catalog user (and that's a discussion for another time) you can choose to store the presets you create or accumulate with the catalog you have open. If you do this, however, be aware that those Develop presets will not be available in other catalogs. By leaving the Store presets with catalog box unchecked, your presets are available in every catalog. If you want to see where the presets are stored press the Show Lightroom Presets Folder... button and Lightroom will open up Finder on the Mac or Explorer in Windows.

The Lightroom Defaults section allows you to reset any of the main presets or templates that come with Lightroom. This is very useful if you have inadvertently deleted some of these or just want to clear out one of the preset areas.

The Import Tab

Show import dialog when a memory card is detected will bring up the import dialog if Lightroom is running and you insert your memory card into a reader.

Many brands of cameras have their own folder naming scheme and few of these make much sense several months down the road. The Ignore camera-generated folder names when naming folders lets you intervene in import and set up folder names that make sense.

If your camera has the option to shoot RAW+JPEG then every time you click the shutter the camera writes a RAW file and a JPEG file to the memory card. The filename is the same but the file extension will be different. Lightroom will import both files but only show the RAW image in the catalog. If you would like to see both the RAW and the JPEG files in the catalog then check the Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos option to enable that functionality.

Shooting RAW if definitely the preferred method since you don't lose any of the information captured by your camera's sensor. With a RAW file you can adjust many of the settings after the fact and not degrade the image significantly. The problem is that every manufacturer defines their own proprietary RAW format. In some cases they come up with anew format for each camera! While developers like Adobe do their best to keep up with this, there is usually a delay between the release of a new RAW format and the ability of programs such as Lightroom or Photoshop to read these new formats. Another problem exists as time goes by. If the manufacturer goes out of business or abandons support for that particular RAW format you may not be able to open your images later on. Adobe has promulgated an open RAW standard called DNG (which stands for Digital Negative) that all Adobe software will be able to read. Several camera manufacturers have started to capture their RAW information directly to DNG format. You can read more about DNG on Adobe's website.

The Import DNG Creation section allows you to set up some parameters for converting RAW files to DNG on import. File Extension offers the choice of dng or DNG. Whether you like lower case or upper case file extensions is a personal preference. JPEG Preview allows you to set the embedded preview size to Full, Medium, or None.

How the original RAW data is converted into the DNG format is controlled by the Image Conversion Method drop-down. Preserve Raw Image will write the data in it's original mosaic pattern and retain the most information. Some software may not be able to read the mosaic pattern from the original image without a profile for the camera. In that case you can choose Convert to Linear Image to de-mosaic the data. Some information could be lost in this type of conversion but the resulting file can be read by a wider array of software. Keep in mind that you can convert to a Linear Image format but you cannot convert back.

Two other options are offered in this section. Compressed (lossless) will compress the file without losing any data. This will save you disk space. You can also choose to Embed Original Raw File in case you don't want to part with the camera manufacturer's RAW formatted information. This will effectively DOUBLE the size of your files so use this with caution!

That concludes our first look at Lightroom preferences. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I'll cover the remaining three tabs.