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How to Use Lightroom

Published: 23/09/2021

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Adobe Lightroom is an all-in-one tool to edit and organize your real estate photos. While it's easy to use, it may look overwhelming at first. Since Lightroom is the industry standard for image editing, I'm focusing this article on tutorials on how to use Lightroom to save time in post-processing.

How to Use Lightroom

To use Lightroom properly, you need to learn the process of navigating modules, catalogs, import process, and export settings. You must also organize, back up, and sync files for photo editing. The post-production part involves using Lightroom presets, sliders, exposure controls, brushes, and batch processing.

For this article, I'm giving a tutorial on using Lightroom for beginners, as well as tips on improving editing workflow. 

What Is Adobe Lightroom?

Lightroom is an image organization and manipulation software used by professional photographers and editors for post-processing. It has tools that allow you to import, sort, edit, and export pictures in varying ways.

Its retouching process involves copying and pasting edits, and you can enhance thousands of photos with a single click. Aside from that, the program enables you to sync Lightroom presets for mobile

Note that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic is the renamed version of the program. However, Lightroom Classic is a computer-based application, whereas Lightroom is a cloud-based application. The latter enables you to use Lightroom presets whether you're working on a computer, mobile, or web-based version.

A tablet beside a laptop with Adobe Lightroom program

What Makes Adobe Lightroom Different from Other Editing Programs?

One of the main advantages of Lightroom over other programs is that it boasts a non-destructive editing process. This feature means you can make alterations without altering the original photo for good. 

Thus, even when editing RAW files, you get to work on more photo information, and you can still see and access the original image. Besides, when you make image alterations in Lightroom, the changes only show up in the software.

The program will export a new photo without replacing the original file. Additionally, it would keep all the essential export data, such as file type and pixel dimensions. Meanwhile, other editing programs, such as Photoshop, permanently apply the changes to an image.

What Is a Lightroom Catalog?

When using Lightroom, you won't finish a job without encountering a catalog. Creating a new Lightroom catalog serves as a database that records the location and information of your images. The images on your memory card or computer won't automatically move to the catalog, so you must add them yourself. 

Whether you rate and view flagged photos, add ICC profiles for printing, or put snow effects on an image, a catalog would store every change in the system instead of the actual picture.

Another advantage of using Lightroom is moving a catalog to an external hard drive for safekeeping. And when you don't need the files anymore, you can simply delete a Lightroom catalog and add new ones.

Who Should Use Lightroom?

Anyone who is using a digital camera and wants to enhance photos should use Lightroom. As long as you want to produce professional-looking images that clients would love, you should use Lightroom to make exposure changes, color corrections, and add effects.

The global image editing software market size expects 6.4% growth from 2020 to 2025. From hobbyists, beginners, to seasoned photographers, Lightroom has become a reliable software for photo editing.

Image editing is among the most crucial skills for professional photographers. Property photographers, in particular, should use Lightroom as it's an effective tool in flagging photos to cull images faster. The software is also valuable when removing glare in interior photos with scenes that include mirrors or reflective objects. 

Organizing and Managing Photos

The USA takes up 39% of the consumer market in photo editing programs globally. File organization is among the things that make Lightroom appealing to professional real estate photographers. 

Moreover, you need to learn how to organize your photos because it can improve how you use the software each time you edit your images.

Remember, having an organized system can also help make Lightroom run faster.

Lightroom Modules

It's vital that you understand Lightroom's interface to use the program effectively. Lightroom contains 7 workflow modules that directly affect how well you can use the software. 

Let's focus first on the 2 major modules that you would tend to use often.

Library Module

The Library Module serves as the primary section to view, sort, manage, and rate photos in Lightroom. It consists of a number of pop-out tabs.

  • Left-Hand Tab: Press the Tab key on your keyword, and the left-hand corner will display the file structure. Near the screen's bottom, you would also see Collections, enabling you to group pictures in a single destination for easy viewing.
  • Top Panel: Press the \ key or go to View > Show Filter Bar. At the top of the screen, you would see a thin gray bar named Library Filter. This is a handy tool that helps locate photos.
  • Right-Hand Corner: This pop-out tab provides information about an image, including keywords and metadata. It is a helpful feature when you want to see the Histogram and know when you captured the photos.
  • Bottom Toolbar: Head to View, then click on Show Toolbar or press the T button to reveal the Toolbar. This portion allows you to decide how the pictures look within the Library, whether it's a set of thumbnails, a single photo, or a grid view of multiple images.

Develop Module

Despite the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the digital photography industry, the photo editing software market revenue expects to reach $1064 million by 2025. It's worth considering that Lightroom's user-friendly interface plays a role in a photographer's continuous use of the software.

This is possible thanks to the Develop Module, which lets you modify colors, stitch bracketed images together, and make other corrections. Press the D button on the keyboard, and this section will pop up. 

  • Right-Hand Side: This portion consists of the post-production options. Each modification would affect the entire photo at once. Meanwhile, a local edit would only reflect in a part of the image.
  • Left-Hand Tab: This section houses the Presets, which allow you to apply pre-fixed edits on images.
  • Snapshot: This feature informs you of the exact settings used as you edit.
  • History: The program will take a snapshot every time to make changes. In this way, you can go back and see how the photo looked at a certain point in your progress.

While Library and Develop are the most used modules, it's equally important that you understand the process of navigating the rest of the modules.

  • Map: Photos with GPS information will add themselves to the applicable locations on the map. This geotagging feature also lets you change location details and other relevant metadata.
  • Book: Do you want to see your shots in a coffee table book someday? You can use Lightroom to create photo book layouts and designs.
  • Slideshow: You can also create a slideshow of photos without closing Lightroom and moving to another software.
  • Print: This module provides preset templates and layout functions for printing. Tip: Learn how to calibrate your monitor to get an accurate representation of colors for print.
  • Web: Maximize your time by building, previewing, exporting, and uploading images for the web. You can also use this module to work on presets and templates exclusively for the web.
Importing different real estate images in Lightroom

Importing Photos

Learning how to import photos is a key step in using Lightroom efficiently. After launching the program, you would see a box at the bottom-left labeled Import. Once you click it, Lightroom would show an Import Dialogue.

Depending on your Lightroom Preferences, the program may automatically open the Import Dialogue once you insert a memory card. From there, there are various ways to import files from your computer.

  • From the left-hand side of the Import Dialogue, pick which images you want to add into a Lightroom Catalog by clicking on the files folder.
  • The top portion also offers other ways to import photos, including Add, Move, Copy, and Copy as DNG.
  • It's ideal to click on Add if you want the photos to show up on Lightroom yet not move the actual file to a new location.
  • Move is an excellent option if you need to add one of the images to a Lightroom catalog, yet the files are in a different location on your laptop or computer. 
  • Click on Copy to add a photo to a catalog that isn't in the right location yet, although you don't want to delete the file from the current site. A perfect example is when you're copying files from someone else's flash drive and onto your device.
  • Copy as DNG is the one you'll less likely use. However, this is a suitable way of importing if you want to duplicate photos to save as DNG instead of JPEG.
  • The right-hand bar indicates where you can put the images you're copying or moving. Note that this won't appear if you're adding files because the software would assume that the photos are in the right location.
  • You can also personalize the import setting. This involves renaming the photos, applying presets, modifying the metadata, or including copyright details. This step makes it easier to search for a particular file in Lightroom.
Adding Presets in Lightroom to be used for editing real estate images

Adding Lightroom Presets

Presets contain saved edits that you can put on a photo with a click. Using the best presets for real estate photography can significantly enhance your photographs. Likewise, exporting Lightroom presets can help you save time and effort when working on multiple devices.

As you invent an editing style or follow a style guide, you will find yourself applying similar alterations to different projects. This is where presets enter. Having a collection of presets gives you a broad selection of appropriate filters depending on the shoot's theme.

To add presets in Lightroom, go to Edit, then click on Preferences. Select Show Lightroom Develop Presets and paste the downloaded folder into the new folder. Make sure to organize your Lightroom presets so that the presets panel won't get messy.

Saving Lightroom Presets

There's an abundance of Lightroom presets available. This is why the first option is to download and save presets from the web to your computer.

A good example would be installing dreamy VSCO presets for a classic effect on your photos. However, be cautious in downloading as some free Lightroom presets tend to be a bit extreme in the edits. Another option is to buy from other photographers that sell their Lightroom presets.

Creating Lightroom Presets

You can also make your own Lightroom presets, especially if the presets contain your usual edits.

For instance, make a custom preset for gardens, and another prepared preset for interiors. By experimenting with presets, you can form a unique look for your interior and exterior photos.

All you have to do is click on the plus icon on the right-hand side and select Create Preset. Make the adjustments, save the edits, and name the preset so that you can access it easily next time. 

A white, grey, and red house being edited in Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom Editing Tips and Techniques

According to market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies, 78% of well-paying middle-skill jobs require technological proficiency. For real estate photographers and editors, this covers photo editing skills and expertise in using advanced post-production programs.

While the software offers several tools to post-process images, these are the most common commands you can use to edit in Lightroom like a pro.

Flipping, Cropping, or Straightening Images

There may be times when you want to change the perspective of your shots. Before applying exposure and color corrections, try to crop, straighten, rotate, or flip the photo first.

Cropping photographs let you remove distracting parts. This also allows you to focus on certain subjects as if you're zooming in on the photo. 

On the other hand, straightening is vital in real estate photography because you need to show a landscape or interior's actual level. Lastly, rotating or flipping pictures enables you to create mirrored photographs.

Using Develop Sliders

The Develop Sliders impact the whole photo instead of a specific portion. You can experiment with Lightroom's intuitive tools and use them to fix common issues when editing your photos.

There are nearly 133,500 working photographers in America in 2019, giving clients a myriad of options on who to hire. Competition is inevitable, whether you're starting in the real estate photography industry or aiming to boost clientele.

This is why photographers who can also edit are more desirable for potential clients. Among the usual issues you'll encounter as a professional photographer involve lens and color corrections, as well as tonal changes.

Lens Correction

Distortion is a typical problem in real estate photography, especially since the niche usually requires wide-angle lenses. Even if you're using prime or zoom lenses, your shooting perspective may result in some deformation.

Fortunately, you can use Lightroom's Lens Correction function then click the Enable Profile Corrections box. If you're learning how to use Lightroom 5, the program has more options under the Basic tab, including Off, Auto, Vertical, Full, and Level

You can use these options to apply a perspective correction. These are exceptionally great for shots with defined lines, like interiors and buildings.

Color Correction

There may be instances where the colors of some parts of an image seem off. This may make a picture look a bit intense or unrealistic, affecting the overall quality. 

Doing color correction in Lightroom allows you to make colors pop in a photo without changing the entire image. Before anything else, make sure to open the RAW files so you can work on the whole dynamic range.

Head to Basic, click the White Balance selector or the eyedropper icon. Click on the part that should be neutral gray to change the color. Likewise, you may utilize the HSL sliders to tweak the effects a bit more.

Tone Curves Adjustment

Using the Tone Curve is another excellent feature to master. This tool enables you to adjust the tone of an image accurately, as this element affects the overall brightness and contrast.

From the right-hand corner of the Develop Module, select the Tone Curve to modify highlights and tones. Make sure not to go overboard, as excessive tone adjustment can make real estate images look a bit unreal.

Editing the image of A white, grey, and red house with a big front yard using Radial Filter in Lightroom

Making Local Adjustments

Making local adjustments is among the most typical things you will do in Lightroom. You can do a bit of tweaking without completely changing the picture's mood.

The available tools depend on the Lightroom version you have, although these are the basic functions.

  • Spot Removal: You may experience seeing dust specks, or moiré patterns in the camera sensor. However, you can use this tool to remove objects in Lightroom. Click on Spot Removal under the Histogram tab, then select Clone if you want to replicate a section or Heal to match the sample area's lighting, shading, and texture.
  • Red Eye Correction: When photographing people, a flash may cause a reflection in the retina, producing a reddish glow. To fix this, select the Red Eye Correction tool from the Develop panel. Click on Red Eye to eliminate the red discoloration.
  • Graduated Filters: Press the M key on the keyboard to reveal the Graduated Filters. Drag the filter from the size of the photo then toward the middle. You can use this feature for recovering highlights in dark backgrounds or emphasizing foreground details.
  • Radial Filter: Also below the Histogram, select the Radial Filter to apply local adjustments in clarity, saturation, and exposure. Click and drag the elliptical mask over a portion of the picture. Apply the filters or resize the circle's shape a bit until you see the effect you want.
  • Adjustment Brushes: The adjustment brush in Lightroom makes localized adjustments to particular parts of a photo. All you have to do is click on the brush and paint to the desired section. 
Resizing the image of a white, grey, and red house with a gray roof and big front yard in Lightroom

Resizing an Image

Professional photographers often shoot in the highest resolution available, especially since camera sensors capture an increased number of megapixels.

Camera sensors capture a large number of megapixels, so you must shoot with the highest resolution. However, megapixels consume a massive amount of memory. This is also why you need to convert RAW images to JPEG because they are too big for social media uploads. 

The good thing is that you can resize photographs in Lightroom, whether it's in inches, centimeters, or pixels.

Editing the real estate image of a white, grey, and red house with a gray roof and big front yard by sharpening the image using Lightroom

Sharpening Blurry Pictures

One of the great things about Lightroom is that you don't have to close the program and move to Photoshop to fix out-of-focus images

Instead, you can simply go to the Detail panel and select the Sharpening tool for 7 options to fix blurry photographs. Then, move the Amount slider to modify the sharpening level.

More than that, there's a chance your pictures would have image noise when shooting with high ISO values. From the same panel, use the Noise Reduction slider until you achieve the look you want.

Blurring Image Backgrounds

You can change the background color in Lightroom or make the background turn black. Yet among the most useful features in Lightroom is the ability to create a mask and blur parts of an image.

You can either create a custom blur effect or use a preset brush effect. After blurring the image background, you may still alter the effect by changing the Sharpness and Clarity values. You can set the values at -100 for a complete blur.

Furthermore, you can use several brushes from the Develop Module under the Histogram. Once you activate the Mask Overlay, you will see the section where you applied masks. Still, you can use the brush to erase parts of the painted area.

Laptop with Lightroom program opened

Correcting Exposure

About 84% of home buyers wouldn't consider a property if the listing lacks photos. However, it's not enough for you to only take shots. You should also ensure that your photos have the correct exposure.

In digital photography, exposure refers to the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor. Evenly exposed shots have balanced darkness and brightness. Overexposed ones look way brighter, whereas underexposed images suffer from insufficient lighting.

In the unfortunate event that your picture lacks proper exposure, you can use these functions within Lightroom to modify exposure.

  • Exposure: The Exposure slider allows you to control a picture's overall brightness. Move the slider to the left to make your shot darker, or move to the right for a brighter effect.
  • Highlights: The Highlights slider lets you modify the bright values. Slide to the right for brighter highlights or move to the left for dark highlights.
  • Shadows: Shadows form when the subject is directly in front of the light source or when the lens blocks the light from a flash. If you don't want to obliterate shadows, adjust the Shadows slider to the left for a darker effect, or move to the right to recover details.

Modifying Hue, Saturation, and Luminance

When learning how to use Lightroom, it's crucial that you understand the different HSL Sliders. This panel lets you correct colors independently without affecting the rest of the shot.

Hue, Saturation, and Luminance control the color brightness, shade, and intensity. The great thing about these sliders is that they give a preview of the effect so that you can assess how much change you need to apply.

You can flip between these 3 elements by using layers in photos.  

  • Hue: The Hue Slider lets you modify a color's tonal range and colorfulness. When you use the slider, you can replace a color with a different hue with the bordering colors of the color wheel. 
  • Saturation: The Saturation Slider affects the intensity of all colors. Using this tool enables you to decrease or increase a hue's strength.
  • Luminance: The Luminance Slider displays color brightness. Moving the slider to the left will darken the color, whereas sliding to the right would increase the color brightness.

Batch Editing

There's a 17% expected growth in the employment of photographers between 2020 to 2030. This includes about 12,700 projected job openings every year due to changes in the labor force. With such opportunities, you can maximize several Lightroom functions to secure projects.

Batch processing is one of the most powerful features in Lightroom. Particularly when learning how to use Lightroom presets, it lets you apply edits to tons of pictures at the same time. 

You can quickly apply the preset or edits as long as you select multiple photos with similar lighting conditions or white balance. 

Editing the real estate image of a white, grey, and red house with a gray roof and big front yard by sharpening the image using Lightroom

Syncing Develop Settings

There would be instances when you want to edit 2 images in the same way. For example, the lighting may not change quickly when photographing the back porch. In effect, you can apply the same settings continuously with minimal to no changes.

  • Make changes in the main photo, as you need to copy the edits to the succeeding pictures.
  • Press the G key to open the Grid View. Stack the images to group several photographs in a single thumbnail.
  • Highlight all the images where you want to apply the edits. Hold down the Shift key, then click the first and last shots of the batch.
  • Click on the edited image. This would set a brighter highlight than the others.
  • Right-click on any of the other highlighted images. 
  • Head to Develop Settings, then click on Sync Settings.
  • Lightroom will ask which of the changes you want to sync for Lightroom Mobile.

Saving Images

Adobe Lightroom automatically saves edits. After making corrections to your images, it's time to export them in your desired format. Go to File, select Export, and a dialogue box will pop up.

Lightroom will provide all the options for saving the edited photos in the available formats. You can either export the files For Print or Sharing on the Web.

You may also put watermark, keywords, and other metadata information to the photos during this stage.

Exporting photos to hard drive in Lightroom

Exporting Photos

Learning how to export photos is another essential aspect you need to learn to use Lightroom effectively. Basically, exporting means the program won't delete the original copies. Instead, it will create new copies for you to edit and save.

These are the different ways for you to export edited pictures from Lightroom.

  • Export Photos from Lightroom to Hardware: Pick the edited images from the Grid view. Go to File > Export > Export To > Hard Drive in the pop-up box. Select an export preset, determine the destination folder, save the export preset, then click Export.
  • Multi-Batch Export: One of the great things about using Lightroom is that you can export photos using multiple export presets at the same time. From the Grid view, click the Export button and decide where to export the images. Choose the presets, click on Export, and pick the export location.
  • Export for Print: Lightroom lets you choose the export setting to produce high-resolution prints. Choose JPEG as the format, move the quality slider to 100, and uncheck the Resize to Fit option. Set the resolution to 300 PPI, then choose your desired Output Sharpening and paper type.
  • Export Settings for Web: Some jobs require having a smaller file size than high resolution. Select JPEG as the format, move the quality slider to around 77 to 100, then pick sRGB as the export setting. Input the appropriate dimensions for MLS or other listing websites.

Backing Up Catalogs

When you exit Lightroom, the program will show a Backup Dialogue Box. Make sure to enable this feature by going to Catalog Settings, hover over General, and select Back Up Catalog. After that, click on Every Time Lightroom Exits.

While you don't have to back up photos every time, this is a valuable feature to use because Lightroom only backs up the catalog file, which includes all the edits. Thus, you still need to back up the actual images on your hard drive.

Related Questions

What Should I Do if Lightroom Is Not Responding?

First, try to reset Lightroom for basic troubleshooting. Another option is to clear the cache to purge clogged disk space. Lastly, make sure to update your software to the latest version.

What's the Difference Between Lightroom and Photoshop?

Lightroom can help organize your photos while providing a non-destructive way of enhancing pictures. On the other hand, Photoshop works on image manipulation and graphic creation. They have some similar features, which is why you can jump from Photoshop to Lightroom for your edits.

Should I Get a Creative Cloud Subscription?

You should get a Creative Cloud Subscription if you're typically using Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Cloud storage. Statistics show that there are approximately 12 million active Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers. Besides, only Creative Cloud subscribers can get the dehaze tool, which can fix hazy photos shot during unfavorable outdoor conditions.


Lightroom contains several features and tools to streamline your post-processing workflow. While mastering this editing software requires time and patience for beginners, the practice will be worth it as you edit lots of real estate photos. I hope this article on Lightroom tutorials can further enhance your skills.

Make sure to bookmark this article, so you can always come back and get tips on how to use Lightroom.


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