The first module you wind up using in Adobe Lightroom is usually the Library module—it’s where you go to sort and organize your photos. Now, here’s the thing. While what you’re supposed to do here is organize your photos, very few people have the intestinal fortitude to actually do it—to actually go through all their images, and tag each and every one with keywords and custom metadata. My hat’s off to these meticulous people (freaks), but I’m not one of them. That’s because as soon as I import my photos, I take a quick look at ‘em, separate the good from the bad, and then start messing with the good ones in the Develop, Slideshow, and Print modules. Those are the party modules. That’s where the fun is, so I hang out there (it’s kind of like the Rain® Nightclub in Vegas, only without all the celebrities, flashing lights, music, and liquor. Okay, there’s some liquor, but not all that much). You know who uses the Library module to its fullest extent? People who have a metabolic predisposition to become serial killers—them and molecular biologists. I don’t know why. Anyway, maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, because honestly, I couldn’t keep track of all my photos if they had my name and phone number embedded in them with a microchip tracking device. I guess it’s because I don’t care about my bad photos. I only care about my good photos (you know, the ones that are “large and complex”), so I don’t want to waste my time tagging photos I’m probably never going to use for anything other than my work in molecular biology.
Separating the Keepers from the Losers
One of the most important parts of the digital photography workflow happens right after you’ve imported your photos, and that is sorting the “keepers” (your best shots from a shoot) from the “losers” (the shots that hopefully will never be seen by anyone, including your dog). Photo editing (separating the good from the bad) is an art. In fact, many people make their living at magazines as professional photo editors, and luckily this is an area where Lightroom really shines, because it makes what could be a task into an awful lot of fun.
Sorting takes place in the Library module, so if you’re not already there, press Command-1. Then in the Browse by Shoot panel on the left side of the module, click on one of your recently imported shoots (as shown here). We’ll start by finding the keepers in this shoot. We do this by starting in the Grid view, which displays small thumbnails of all the shoot’s images in the Preview area in the center of the screen.
Here’s a close-up of just the Preview area in Grid view. The size of the thumbnails in the Grid view is determined by the Grid Size slider (shown circled here in red). To shrink the size of the thumbnails (and fit more thumbnails within the grid), drag the slider to the left. To make the thumbnails larger, drag it to the right.
To check the sharpness of your image, you’re going to want to zoom in close, and to do that you’ll use Lightroom’s Loupe view. To view your image in Loupe view, just double-click directly on that photo’s thumbnail, or select an image and press either the Loupe view button found beneath the Panels area on the left side of the window or the E key (the Loupe view shortcut). This makes your selected photo fill the Preview area (as shown here). If you want to view other photos while still in Loupe view, just use the Left and Right Arrow keys on your keyboard.
If you want to zoom in even closer, just click your cursor right on the spot where you want to zoom in to, and your image instantly zooms in to give you a 1:1 view of that area. To quickly zoom back out to the standard Loupe view, just click anywhere on the image.
Besides just clicking to zoom in on a photo, there’s another way to inspect your photo up close, and that’s to pan around your zoomed-in image by clicking-and-dragging the zoom square. The zoom square appears in the smaller preview window at the top right of Lightroom’s interface. Just click within the square and drag it around in the preview window. As you drag, the area that appears within the zoom square is displayed at full 1:1 size within the center Preview area. Remember, if you want to return to the standard Loupe view, just click anywhere on the image within the center Preview area.
Now that you know how to view your image up close (again, that’s critical for viewing the sharpness of your photos), it’s time to get down to business and find those keepers. We do this in Compare view (C), and if you’re already in Loupe view (in other words, there’s only one image open in the Preview area), you’re just one click away. Just press-and-hold the Command key and in the filmstrip, click on the photo that you want to compare with the photo you currently have onscreen. Once you click that photo, the two images appear side-by-side onscreen (as shown here), so you can easily make comparisons.
Want to add a third, fourth, or more photos to compare onscreen? Just press-and-hold the Command key and click on those photos in the filmstrip as well, and they’ll join the two photos already being viewed in Compare view.
Stuffing all these photos onscreen at the same time can get pretty crowded. That’s why I recommend hiding the panels and the filmstrip (press Shift-Tab) when reviewing more than two photos at one time in Compare view. The photos are then large enough for you to really make smart decisions on which ones make the cut.
All right, now that you’ve got your photos onscreen at a decent size (thanks to having the panels and filmstrip hidden), how do you remove one of the photos under review when it doesn’t make the cut? You can do it one of two ways: (1) move your cursor over the photo you want to remove from contention and click on the tiny X that appears just below the photo’s lower-right corner, or (2) press-and-hold the Command key and click on the photo you want to remove. Now, I’m down to just three photos (as shown here).
So, that’s the process—to remove a photo from the Preview area in Compare view, Command-click on it. To add another photo to be compared (while you’re in this panel-and-filmstrip-hidden view), move your cursor down to the bottom of the screen (so the filmstrip temporarily appears, as shown here) and Command-click on any photo you want to add. Now, there’s another way to enter this Compare view, and that’s to enter it directly from the Grid view, so first let’s get back to the Grid view by pressing the G key, then press Shift-Tab to bring back your panels and filmstrip.
To enter Compare view from here in Grid view, you have two choices: (1) you can Command-click on the thumbnails of the photos you want to compare, then press the letter C, or (2) Command-click on the photos you want to compare, then press the Compare view button on the lower-left side of Lightroom’s window.
One last thing about Compare view— while you’re in Compare view there are going to be times when you need to take a closer look at one of the photos you’re comparing. No sweat, just click on that photo, press the letter Z, and it takes you to a zoomed Loupe view of the photo. Once you’ve seen what you needed to see, press the letter Z again, and you’ll return to Compare view with the same photos selected. Pressing the letter Z is the shortcut for toggling between a zoomed Loupe view and the previous view—in this case you toggled between Compare view and a zoomed Loupe view.