Why Is Lightroom So Complicated?

Lightroom, like many other applications, can be complicated. And there really is no good way to create an application like Lightroom without introducing complication. It is the nature of feature rich applications to have a steeper learning curve. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be complicated.

So many modules. Each module has so many panels. Every panel has so many options. Then there are presets and plugins. Preferences. Sliders. Tools. Keywords. The list just goes on and on and on. So what is a new user to do? How do you climb this learning curve? Climb it at your own pace. There is absolutely no need to know every aspect of Lightroom in one day or one week or one month. Take your time.

Start with a goal in mind. The first two modules, Library and Develop, are perhaps the most central to Lightroom’s workflow. Perhaps your first goal should be to learn how to get your images into the Catalog. Find out how the process differs if your images are coming from a card, the camera, another location on your drive, etc.. Don’t get bogged down in all of the options and features the import process offers at first. Get a few images in the Catalog first. See how it works. Once you’re comfortable then turn your attention to one of those features. See how that works. Slowly add this new knowledge into your workflow. When you are just learning don’t import thousands of images at once. Use the process to learn how it works. Bring in small groups of images each time.

Once you have a few images in your Catalog turn your attention to how you can enhance and adjust them. Again, don’t run all around the Develop Module panels and sliders. Start with the basics:

  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Whites
  • Blacks
  • Clarity
  • Vibrance
  • Saturation

Learn how these basic adjustments change your image. Once you gain some confidence here you can start to expand your toolset with other panels and adjustments. After that presets will begin to make more sense.

Remember, through all of this learning and exploration, you are not damaging your images. Everything Lightroom does is non-destructive so feel free to play. In fact, I encourage new users to create a play Catalog so they can experiment with different aspects of Lightroom.

Once you have built up a knowledgbase and have some images in your Catalog, you can venture into the output modules to see how you can print, create slideshows, or set up a website. Again, take your time and don’t try to learn it all in a day.

Remember, there are plenty of folks willing to help you on your journey of discovery. The Lightroom community is a great group of people who are always willing to help. I have plenty of material on this site to help. Don’t forget to explore the excellent sites listed in the sidebar in the Interesting Sites section. Make use of the extensive help system Adobe has put together. Check our the hundreds of hours of video out there on YouTube, Vimeo, AdobeTV, lynda.com, and many other sites.

Whatever you do… Take your time. There is great fun and satisfaction in the journey and all of us in the Lightroom community stand ready to assist you on every step of the journey. I look forward to hearing from you as you continue your Lightroom adventure!