Originally published December 2011, updated December 19, 2015 (followers have been making good suggestions and asking germane questions.) Also a suggestion from Rob Sylvan of both NAPP and his own Lightroomers.com.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom — more commonly known simply as “Lightroom” — is an amazingly intuitive program to use. That is why we use it for teaching in our workshops. We have some recommended settings for Lightroom that may make your life easier in the long run. While this is written for those who are using the latest version, the same principles may be applied to 2.x.
It should be noted that these are suggestions that work for us. Others may find settings that work better for them. And in another blog, we have written about maintaining the health of your Lightroom catalog in The Care and Feeding of Your Lightroom Catalog.
Many who come to our workshops call or e-mail in a panic, because they have bought a new computer, or the old one crashed, and they lost their setup, Margo’s Tweaks, and other presets. The following is what works well for us. It may serve as a useful guideline for others.
Except for a very few instances, Mac’s CMD and PC’s CTRL do the same thing, so if you see CMD (Command), you know I am referring to you Mac users, and for CTRL (Control), PCers.
Start by going to your Preferences (Lightroom > Preferences for Mac, Edit > Preferences for PC). Make sure the General tab is selected, and copy the settings below, except for Completion Sounds which is a matter of personal choice. Under the Import Options, I do not check off the box beside Show import dialog when a memory card is detected, because Lightroom has an annoying habit of coming up whenever you plug something into one of your USB ports.
Under Import Options, for those who use folders in their camera, you may want to consider checking the box for Ignore camera-generated folder names when naming folders. Since we never use different folders in our cameras, this is a non-issue for us.
At the bottom of the window above is a section called Catalog Settings. Click on Go to Catalog Settings, and the following window will pop up:
Again, match the settings above, except for the Location field. Yours will look different depending upon where you choose to store your Lightroom catalog. If this is Greek or Sanskrit to you, don’t worry, we’ll help you at one of our workshops, and meanwhile, just use the default setting.
We are hyper about saving our work on images to the files themselves. This will be covered in the next blog, but for those of you who do not do this regularly, you may want to consider in the Backup section selecting the option Every time Lightroom exits.
Because we travel so often, Arnie and I do not store our catalogs on our computers. Instead, each of us stores both images and personal catalog on a couple of pocket-sized, 2TB or 3TB external drives that are backed up numerous times at home as well as at least once on the road for new files.
When we are at home, we plug these hard drives into our desktop computers, when on the road, into our laptops. That way, neither the catalog nor settings change, and we do not have to worry about transferring things back and forth between computers, especially if we assign the same drive letter to the external drive from both the laptop and the desktop. Does that sound like Chinese to you? Just check with your computer guru who can easily do the same for you.
Now click on the File Handling tab and make sure your settings match the ones below.
Those 1:1 previews can hog a lot of memory, which is why we discard them after a day. If you need them again, they come up quickly enough.
The next step is to select the Metadata tab, and once again, mimic the settings as shown below.
The reason for not checking that third box (Automatically write changes into XMP) is that if you have inadvertently made changes to a whole bunch of images at once, done some more post-processing work, then realize what you mistakenly did, all those unintended changes have been saved to your files, and you are past the point of being able to do an undo (CMD-Z or CTRL-Z).
Instead, when your import is completed, we recommend getting into the habit of selecting All (CTRL-A or CMD-A) your images in Library module, Grid view, and Saving all (CMD-S or CTRL-S) when you first import your images. That way, your copyright information and Margo’s Tweaks or other presets will not be lost if your catalog fails. Remember, with computers, it’s never a matter of if they will fail, only a matter of when. Then, be sure to do a CMD-D or CTRL-D to Deselect all so you won’t apply your next change to all your images! But NEVER do that CMD-D or CTRL-D in any other program. You will not care for the results (can delete things)!
Now, press the OK button that will return you to that initial General tab we saw in the first screen shot towards the beginning of this blog. If for some reason it does not, just get back into the Preferences, as you did above. Now click on the Presets tab and make yours match as shown below.
We do not check Apply auto tone adjustments, because we shoot for effect, as we did in our commercial lives, and we do not want any program to override the effect we were creating at the time of shooting.
Why do we store our presets with the catalog? Simple. If the catalog gets moved to another computer, you don’t have to search for all those wonderful presets you made — the ones you made for your copyright, Margo’s Tweaks, exports, web layouts, import dialogues, etc., etc. That said, I apparently have stored my presets where my Lightroom catalog can always find them. That is not true for everyone.
Rob Sylvan, NAPP Help Desk guru and master of his own website Lightroomers.com, wrote me with a suggested modification:
I just read through your blog post on preference settings and thought I’d pass along one thing that I’ve encountered quite a bit. When you check the Store presets with catalog box Lightroom simply creates a set of default presets in a folder alongside the catalog file and then references those. This is fine if you have no custom presets/templates, but for anyone with any custom presets/templates it will seem as though all of their custom stuff has vanished.
It would be so much more helpful if Lightroom also copied all the custom bits over, but since it doesn’t that has to be done manually.
So, for anyone with custom presets that they want to store with the catalog
- Before checking Store presets with catalog, click the Show Lightroom Presets Folder button to open Finder/Windows Explorer with the Lightroom folder containing all presets/templates;
- Leave that window open and return to Lightroom’s preferences;
- Now check the Store presets with catalog box (this results in the new folder alongside the catalog with the default presets being created);
- Click that Show Lightroom Presets Folder button again, and now it will open the new folder;
- Copy/paste any custom presets/templates from the original folder to the respective folder in the new location
A little confusing to read, but it should get the job done. 🙂
Glad to hear your catalog has been behaving. Long may it remain so.
Thanks, Rob, for this important suggestion!
External Editing is the next tab, and you know what to do if you have done a lot of photo processing before.
If you do not, don’t worry about the program name at the top in the Edit in [xyz] section or in the Additional External Editor section. In our workshops, we talk about that.
For those who do have other imaging options, in the second section, select the programs that you most often use for additional editing. You can see my selections, but when there are plug-ins, I have other options always at my disposal, even if they are not listed in this section.
It should be noted here that ProPhoto RGB is the default color space for Lightroom. If I am going to go to nik Silver Efex Pro, or AutoPano Pro, or Photomatix, etc., I want to stick with the same color profile. Remember, you can always convert to a lesser profile, but you can never go back up! Our philosophy is that with the amazing dSLR cameras that we have, we want to maximize the digital image information and potential available to us. Again, we can downsize, but once downsized, we can never go back up.
The File Handling tab is pretty easy, as you can pretty much leave everything in the default setting, even if it does not match my screen shot below.
But what about that lower-case dng extension? ALL CAPS IS ACTUALLY HARDER TO READ THAN Upper and Lower Case Letters. I worked for a well-known publishing house many eons ago, and I learned that quickly. That lower-case extension will help you separate it from your file name.
Why don’t we embed the original raw file into the dng file? Most fellow pros we know do not either. Your dng file is now your raw file. Unless you are using your camera manufacturers’ imaging program, usually abominably and painfully slow, most of us don’t need our NEF, CR2, etc. original raw file that contains extra information so that you can use their imaging software.
Next, we come to the Interface tab which you can leave as is.
And finally, there is the new Performance tab. Some computers might not like the box checked as shown below, but we can discuss that in our Lightroom workshops.
The last two tabs are items you can address on your own if you use Lightroom Mobile.
Your Lightroom program is set up and ready to go. Congratulations! Minor tweaks to this we can address for those who join us in our workshops.
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