The Lightroom Classic Interface - dummies

By Rob Sylvan

Adobe built Lightroom Classic using a modular architecture, which means that Lightroom Classic comprises a set of unique applications that share a common interface and that access a common database (or catalog, as it is called). Each of the applications is referred to as a module, and Lightroom Classic has seven modules.

None of these modules can function outside of Lightroom Classic. Although tightly integrated, they each have a set of unique menus, panels, and tools that are tailored to the specific function each module is designed to handle.

What makes each Lightroom module unique

Lightroom Classic has seven modules — but the beauty of modular construction is that the potential exists for more to be added. Adobe has opened only limited aspects of Lightroom Classic’s guts to third-party developers, and the outcome has been very positive.

The potential for extending Lightroom Classic’s functionality in the future is something to look forward to, but there’s already plenty of power under the hood. Here are the seven modules you find in Lightroom Classic:

  • The Library module: Your organizational hub, the Library module, is where many of your Lightroom Classic sessions will start and end. Common Library module tasks include
    • Keywording and metadata entry.
    • File moving, deletion, and renaming.
    • Finding, sorting, and grouping.
Library module of Lightroom Classic
The Library module.
  • The Develop module: The bulk of your image processing takes place in the Develop module, which is armed with a powerful array of image-adjustment tools. Common Develop module tasks include
    • Setting white balance and tonal adjustments.
    • Adjusting contrast and color.
    • Reducing noise and adding sharpening.
    • Cropping and adjusting crooked horizons.
    • Removing red-eye and sensor spots.
Develop module of Lightroom Classic
The Develop module.
  • The Map module: The Map module is for finding photos with embedded geolocation information on the map, or for manually placing photos on the map. The tools in this module allow you to
    • See photos with geolocation data appear on the map.
    • Manually place photos on the map.
    • Use the geolocation data in the photo to apply location information (city, state, country) to its metadata.
Map module of Lightroom Classic
The Map module.
  • The Book module: The Book module is for creating book layouts that you can upload to be printed through The tools in this module allow you to
    • Adjust book page layouts.
    • Create a cover for the book.
    • Add text to individual pages.
Book module of Lightroom Classic
The Book module.
  • The Slideshow module: The aptly named Slideshow module is for creating presentations of your photos. The tools in this module allow you to
    • Adjust slideshow layout.
    • Adjust slide transitions.
    • Set the show to music.
    • Export a slideshow as a video, PDF, or series of JPGs.
Slideshow module of Lightroom Classic
The Slideshow module.
  • The Print module: If you print photos, you’ll soon find the Print module to be a valuable addition to your printing workflow. Here you find controls for
    • Creating layouts and print packages.
    • Using output-specific color profiles to ensure the best-looking prints.
    • Printing to a local printer or to a JPG file.
Print module of Lightroom Classic
The Print module.
  • The Web module: Getting your photos online in some capacity is a requirement these days. The Web module allows you to manage your web presence by letting you
    • Choose from various photo gallery styles.
    • Configure the look and feel of your Web gallery.
    • Upload directly to your Web server.
Web module of Lightroom Classic
The Web module.

What the Lightroom Classic modules have in common

Having all modules share parts of a common interface might make it harder (at first glance) to tell which module is which, but don’t worry too much about that. Clarity will reign supreme when you have Lightroom Classic up and running. Think of it this way: A common interface is in fact one of Lightroom Classic’s greatest strengths because keeping the same interface means you don’t have to spend time learning seven different interfaces. The interface behaves the same and has the same basic structure no matter what you’re using Lightroom Classic to accomplish.

The Library module shown in the following figure sports the following standard interface components that each module shares:

  • The Title bar: Provides an at-a-glance view of the name of the catalog and the module you’re in.
  • The Menu bar: The go-to place for all the commands needed for each module’s tasks.
  • The Module Picker: An easy method to pick the module you want to work with. This area of the interface is also home to the Identity Plate on the left, which you can customize to insert your own graphic, as well as the progress meter that appears when Lightroom performs a task.
  • The Left Panel group: Although the content varies with each module, the panels to the left of the interface are generally functions that involve accessing, grouping, and previewing photos and templates.
  • The Right Panel group: The panels to the right of the interface also vary with each module, but this is where you find controls for adjusting and tweaking.
  • The Toolbar: Each module has its own set of tools, but the Toolbar that appears under the main content area is a staple of every module.
  • The Filmstrip: At the bottom of each module, you find the Filmstrip, which displays thumbnails of the image grouping you are working with. It also is home to a row of tools right there along the top that put a lot of things at your fingertips no matter what module you are in:
    • Main and Second Window controls. Click and hold either of these window icons to access a number of shortcuts for controlling each window (more details on the second window function later in the chapter).
    • Jump to Grid View icon. No matter where you are in Lightroom, one click takes you to Grid view in the Library module.
    • Go Back and Forward buttons. Allow you to navigate between previously selected image groupings (folders, collections, searches) you have been viewing.
    • Filmstrip Source Indicator. Provides an at-a-glance view of the current image grouping and active photo. Click the drop-down arrow at the end for quick access to the special collections found in the Catalog panel as well as a list of recently visited folders, collections, and favorites.
    • Filters. When clicked, the Filter label expands to reveal ways to filter the current image grouping by flag, rating, or color label. The Custom Filter drop-down menu provides quick access to all of the Library Filter bar options. The last button on the right toggles filtering on and off.
Lightroom Classic interface components
The Lightroom Classic interface components.

How to control the Lightroom Classic interface

Lightroom Classic’s interface has a number of options for reducing and simplifying the workspace. Sometimes there’s just not enough room for everything the interface has to offer — usually those times when you really just want to give as much screen real estate to your photos as possible. Imagine trying to work on a project in your shop and being forced to lay all your tools in neat rows on the workbench. Lightroom has some pretty clever ways of tweaking how your tools are displayed so that you can maximize the size of your workspace.

The simplest way to maximize space is to take advantage of working in Full Screen mode. Just like with any application you currently use, you’re just a keystroke combo away from maximizing Lightroom Classic to fill the available screen. The neat thing about Lightroom Classic, though, is that it takes this maximizing business a step further by providing two separate Full Screen modes in addition to the Normal Screen mode (refer to the preceding iamge to see Normal) for working:

  • Full Screen with Menu bar: With this option, Lightroom Classic expands to fill the screen and hide its title bar to gain more space. The Menu bar jumps to the top of the screen. Note that the standard Minimize, Maximize, and Close buttons vanish from the top of the window in this mode.
  • Full Screen: With this option, Lightroom Classic expands to take over the screen completely. The Menu bar disappears, and the Dock (Taskbar in Windows) isn’t accessible.
  • Normal: All options are visible, and the Lightroom Classic interface can be resized and moved by grabbing the edge of the window just like in any other application.

To switch between the three screen modes, press Shift+F to jump from one view to another. Keep in mind, though, that if it appears as if you “lost” the Minimize, Maximize, and Close buttons at the top of the window (the horror!), what’s really happened is that you’ve simply entered one of the Full Screen modes.

If you just want to see your photo full screen on a black background with no interface cluttering things up, press (only) the F key to toggle Full Screen Preview. Great for putting a photo front and center for evaluation. You can even use your arrow keys to move between photos. Press F again to exit the preview.

If you still want more space, you can take advantage of the collapsible nature of the Module Picker, Panel groups, and Filmstrip. Do you see the small arrow in the center of the outer edge of each side of the interface? Clicking an arrow once causes that panel to “hide” from view. Now, move your cursor away and then back over any part of that edge and the hidden panel returns, giving you access to the contents of the panel until you move the cursor away again. This is called Auto Hide & Show. Right-click an arrow, and the following options appear:

  • Auto Hide: When enabled, that panel automatically hides when you move your cursor away from it, but it won’t show again until you click the arrow. I personally like this option because the Auto Show kicking in every time I get too close to the edge tends to drive me nuts.
  • Manual: No Auto Hiding or Showing. Click an arrow to hide, and it stays that way until you click again.
  • Sync with opposite panel: When checked, the settings you apply to one panel will be equally applied to the panel on the opposite side.

A more convenient method for showing and hiding these screen elements is the keyboard shortcuts:

  • F5: Show/hide the Module Picker.
  • F6: Show/hide the Filmstrip.
  • F7: Show/hide the Left Panel group.
  • F8: Show/hide the Right Panel group.
  • Tab: Show/hide both the Left and Right panel groups.
  • Shift+Tab: Show/hide the Left, Right, Top and Bottom.
  • T: Show/hide the Toolbar.

When it comes to clearing the clutter and focusing on your photos, Lightroom Classic has one further cool trick up its sleeve. It’s called Lights Out mode and has three states:

  • Lights On: The normal operating condition, where everything is visible.
  • Lights Dim: In this mode, your selected photos remain unchanged but the surrounding interface dims. Although dimmed, the interface is accessible and functional (if you know where things are).
  • Lights Out: Taking the dim view to the extreme, the entire interface is blacked out and only your photos are visible. The ultimate way to reduce clutter!

You can jump through each Lights Out mode by pressing the L key. You set the amount of dimming and the color the screen dims to in the preferences.

Lightroom Classic’s secondary display view

The ultimate way to gain more screen real estate is to add another screen! Lightroom Classic’s approach to dual monitor support is the addition of a second window that you can move to your second monitor. The result is that you have the same primary Lightroom Classic window on one monitor (this is where you access all the modules and do your work) and then your secondary display window provides additional ways to view the photos you are working on. (While it’s possible to enable the secondary window on a single monitor system, it is limited in its usefulness as it competes for the same screen real estate as the primary window.)

The secondary display window functions in the same manner with all Lightroom Classic modules. Here are the options available in the secondary window:

  • Grid: By using the Grid option, you essentially extend the Filmstrip to the second window so that it provides greater access to all the thumbnails of the current group of photos. The secondary window Grid view functions the same as Grid view in the Library module.
  • Loupe: Allows for viewing a single image in its entirety or zoomed in close within the second window. Loupe has three options:
    • Normal: Always displays the active photo selected in the primary window.
    • Live: Continually displays the photo under the cursor as you move over photos in the main window.
    • Locked: Allows you to choose one photo to display continuously in the second window while you view a different photo in the primary window.
  • Compare: Allows you to compare two or more photos side by side. The secondary window Compare view functions the same way as Compare view in the Library module.
  • Survey: Allows you to view multiple photos side by side within the secondary window. The secondary window Survey view functions the same way as Survey view in the Library module.
  • Slideshow: Only available when you have the secondary window set to full screen (not possible on a single monitor system). This option allows you to run the slideshow on the secondary display.

One other cool option is related to the secondary window called Show Second Monitor Preview. (It only works when the secondary window is in Full Screen mode.) When enabled, it provides a small preview window showing what’s being displayed in the secondary window. Huh? It’s intended for situations where you might have your secondary monitor facing away from you and toward an audience. This way you can be showing photos to an audience on the secondary display while you work on the primary display, and the preview window lets you have a peek at what your audience is seeing.

You can enable and disable the second window by clicking its icon on the Filmstrip or choosing Window →Second Window →Enable from the main menu.