I get asked a lot of questions about Lightroom Classic and as a result I see photographers making the same mistakes over and over. Some of these mistakes cause big problems that can take a lot of time to fix. Are you making any of them? Let’s find out!
Note: These also apply to older versions of Lightroom such as Lightroom 6 and Lightroom 5.
Lightroom Classic mistake #1: Using more than one Catalog
Most photographers only need to use one Catalog. But what happens if your ignore this advice and create multiple Catalogs?
They key thing to remember is that you can only open one Catalog at a time in Lightroom Classic. This means that:
- You can’t view or search all your photos. For example, what happens if you want to add all your photos of a particular place to a Collection so you can look at them, but they’re scattered over several Catalogs? You’re stuck, and can’t do much about it unless you merge your Catalogs together (see below).
- You’ll have problems with backups. The more Catalogs you have the harder it is to manage your backups. You’ll soon forget which Catalogs have been backed up, and which ones haven’t. If your hard drive fails (and one day it will) it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
- You’ll get confused when you try and fix it by merging Catalogs. What if you’ve imported the same photo into more than one Catalog? Which version takes precedence? These are the sorts of things you’ll have to deal with.
You can avoid these problems by using a single Catalog (learn more with our tutorial What is the Lightroom Catalog?).
Does it ever make sense to have more than one Catalog? Yes it does – for example, wedding photographers may prefer to create a new Catalog for each wedding, then archive that Catalog along with all the photos when the job is done.
Our tutorial How to Merge Lightroom Catalogs explores another scenario where it makes sense to work temporarily with a new Catalog, and how to merge it with your main Catalog.
Lightroom Classic mistake #2: Not having an organized folder structure for saving your photos
Programs like Lightroom Classic make it much easier to find your photos no matter where they’re saved on your computer. But that’s no excuse for not having an organized folder structure in the first place.
Being organized with your folders is important. Organized folders are easy to back up. It also means you know where to save new photos, and where to find your older ones.
So, how do you organize your folders? I have two recommendations.
1. You save all your photos in a hierarchical folder structure contained in a single top level folder.
2. You use a date based system. This makes it easy to see whether your latest photos have been backed up properly.
Learn more in our tutorial How to Organize Photos for Lightroom
Lightroom Classic mistake #3: Using folders rather than Collections to organize your photos
Don’t be scared of Collections. As you explore Lightroom Classic you’ll notice that you have only access to your folders in the Library module. In every other module you need to use Collections. This is nothing to worry about and gives you lots of benefits!
- Collections give you the freedom and flexibility to organize your photos any way you want. This works because you can add the same photo to as many Collections as you want (but only ever to one folder). For example, let’s say you take some photos of your kids on your summer vacation to Italy. You can add those photos to Collections called Kids, Summer vacation 2019, Italy or whatever you want. It’s up to you – you’re in control.
- You can sync Collections in Lightroom Classic but not folders. If you want to take advantage of Lightroom Classic’s cloud based features (such as Lightroom for web and Adobe Portfolio) or view your photos on a mobile device using the Lightroom app for mobile then you need to use Collections. It would be a shame to miss out on these fantastic features because you don’t use Collections.
For example, you can check out a sample website I made with Adobe Portfolio.
Lightroom Classic mistake #4: Confusing Lightroom and Lightroom Classic
This is something I’ve seen with newcomers to Lightroom Classic. Some photographers opt to use the Lightroom desktop app rather than Lightroom Classic, when in fact Lightroom Classic would suit them better. Adobe’s recent name changes to the Lightroom and Lightroom Classic apps add to the confusion!
Let’s keep this simple. Most photographers should be using Lightroom Classic. Here’s why.
- You save your photos on your hard drive, not in the cloud. Keeping control of your photos is a good thing.
- It’s cheaper. Yep, if you want to use Lightroom you’ll be forced to store your photos in the cloud (i.e. on Adobe’s servers) and once you get over the 1 TB mark it’s going to cost you more money.
- Lightroom Classic does more stuff. It's a pro level, advanced application that’s been over ten years in development. Lightroom is a young application that lacks many of Lightroom Classic’s most useful features.
- There’s no Print, Book, Web, Map or Slideshow modules in Lightroom. That means you can’t make funky postcards like this to show off your best photos.
Our tutorial Which Lightroom Version Do I Need? has the details.
Quick tip: What version of Lightroom do you have?
Since Adobe changed the name of Lightroom Classic CC (to Lightroom Classic) and Lightroom CC (to Lightroom) I've noticed that more photographers are getting confused about which version of Lightroom they have, and what to call it (thanks, Adobe!).
The easiest way to see exactly which version of Lightroom you have is to go to Help > System Info. You'll see a window like the one below which lists all sorts of information about your Lightroom installation, including the version number (on the first line).
If you post a question about Lightroom on a forum, including the version details will help people give you a better answer to your question.
Lightroom Classic mistake #5: Sending every photo to the Develop module
Broadly speaking, you can divide photography into three skills:
1. Taking the photo.
2. Deciding which photos are keepers (this is called editing).
3. Developing your photos (also called post-processing or editing, but I prefer the Lightroom terminology as it retains the link to photography’s chemical based origins).
Deciding which photos are keepers is an important skill to develop. It saves you time (it’s quicker to develop a few photos rather than a lot of photos) and forces you to make decisions about which photos work better than others (which helps make you a better photographer).
Learn one of the best ways to edit your photos in How to Organize Your Photos With Lightroom Collections
Lightroom Classic mistake #6: Not using keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts make using Lightroom Classic quicker and more seamless. There are two ways to find the most commonly used shortcuts.
1. Use the Cmd + ‘/‘ (Mac) or Ctrl + ‘/‘ (PC) shortcut to bring up a shortcut list. The shortcuts change depending on the module.
2. Shortcuts are also listed next to options that have them in Lightroom Classic’s menus.
Lightroom Classic mistake #7: Moving /renaming photos outside of Lightroom
When you import photos into Lightroom it remembers where they are by making a note of the filepath (i.e. which folder it’s saved in) and the filename. Change either of those outside of Lightroom and it won’t know where to find them.
The key is to move and rename your photos using Lightroom. You can do both tasks in the Folders panel (right-click on a folder to bring up the menu shown below).
Lightroom Classic mistake #8: Overcomplicating keywords, star ratings, color labels and flags
Lightroom Classic gives you four powerful tools for organizing photos: keywords, star ratings, color labels and flags.
My advice is to keep your use of these tools as simple as possible. For example, you might be tempted to add keywords to all your photos when you import them into Lightroom Classic, but is it really necessary? If you sell your photos to stock libraries then it probably is. But if you’re a hobbyist, it probably isn’t.
Personally, I find it easiest to organize my photos with Collections. I don’t use keywords, star ratings or color labels, and I only use flags to help edit my photos down to decide which ones I’m going to Develop (see How To Organize Your Photos With Lightroom Collections).
Hopefully you’re not making any of these mistakes in Lightroom Classic. But if you are, and you need help fixing them, you can ask in the comments below (you can also join our Lightroom Secrets Facebook group to get advice). What other mistakes have you made in Lightroom? I’d like to know – leave your comments below.
Introducing Lightroom Classic free email course
Learn more about Lightroom Classic by signing up to our Introducing Lightroom Classic free email course. We’ll send you five lessons by email to get you started in your Lightroom Classic journey.
Mastering Lightroom Classic: The Library Module
Our new ebook Mastering Lightroom Classic: The Library Module is available now. This massive 283 page ebook is the ultimate guide to Lightroom’s Library module. It covers everything you need to know, from import to export to organizing and searching your photos.