We all need help using Lightroom from time to time. From dealing with problems to trying to learn how to do a new technique, knowing how to ask the question (and where) can save you a lot of time and assist the right people in giving you the answers you need. Here are a few pieces of information I’ve learned from 10 years on the Lightroom Help Desk that you always want to include with any request for help:
Operating System and Version
Some problems can be tied to a given operating system (OS), which is especially true in the days/weeks/months after a new version of that OS is released, or years (and years) after the OS has stopped getting updates. In fact, you should consider holding off on any new OS updates until after the first bug fixes have been released, and all other software vendors have had time to update their products for the new OS.
Just about anyone helping you is going to want that info along with your question. On a Mac, click the Apple icon and choose About This Mac, to see what version of the OS you have installed. For the various versions of Windows, Microsoft has a nice document to show you how on each version.
The version of Lightroom you’re asking about is just as important. The problem you’re having may have been fixed in an update you just haven’t installed yet, or perhaps you’re using an older version and asking about a feature that only exists in a new version. On both Mac and Windows, go to Help>System Info, and the version number will be listed right up at the top.
Just the Facts
When you sit down to write out your question, try to only include the most relevant information about the problem/issue/question. Make it as easy as possible for those trying to help you to discern exactly what is (or isn’t happening) on your system, and exactly what your question may be. If you encounter an error message, write down the exact wording of the error, as this is super helpful.
It’s human nature to try to connect dots you think are related to your problem, but I find that most people jump to the wrong conclusions. By keeping just to the facts of what you are experiencing, it will help whoever is reading it to ask you follow up questions if needed, or hopefully simply provide you with an answer. Everyone who frequents an online forum knows that new people coming in may be nervous, or don’t want to appear uninformed, but presenting your situation as clearly as possible is a sign that you are neither of those things, and that you’re not interested in wasting anyone’s time. We love helping people who get right down to business. Keep in mind that just about anyone responding on an online forum is doing it on their own time and out of their own desire to help. Be nice (even if you’re frustrated with Lightroom).
Take a Screen Capture
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. If the place where you’re asking the question has a function for providing a screen capture, it’s probably worth doing. Experienced Lightroom users can usually look at a screen shot and diagnose a host of problems, or at least be better able to understand your question by having some context.
You can, of course, use a third-party screen capture tool (I’m a fan of Snagit), but both operating systems have some kind of screen capture functionality included. First, set up your screen (if possible) in a way that shows the area of Lightroom you’re needing help with. Feel free to include the entire screen so that you aren’t leaving anything out that might be useful. For example, if you have a question about missing photos, providing a screen capture that includes the contents of the Folders panel, as well as the thumbnails, can provide important context for the issue.
On Mac, press Command-Shift-3 to capture the entire screen, or Command-Shift-4, then click-and-drag a rectangle over the area you want to capture. In both cases, an image of your screen (in PNG format) should be saved to your desktop by default.
On Win, you can use the Snipping Tool.
If this helps prevent one more person taking a bad photo of their screen with their phone or DSLR, then my job here is done. 🙂
Where to Go?
Adobe has two forums for getting help. If you want to talk with other Lightroom users to get some help troubleshooting, or to ask them if they’ve experienced what you’re experiencing, or you’re just stuck and not sure where to turn, try the Lightroom Community forum. This forum is populated by other Lightroom users, not Adobe employees, so don’t go their to rage against the machine. Just bring your carefully curated information, and share amongst friends. You might start by using the search function or scanning the FAQs to see if someone has already raised the issue you’re experiencing and save yourself some time.
If you feel that the problem you’re having is a repeatable bug, you’re getting a clear error message, or you just want to float a feature request, then head to the Photoshop Family forum instead (remember, it’s Adobe Photoshop Lightroom after all). You’ll find this forum is also frequented by other Lightroom users, but Adobe staff tend to keep a closer eye on what’s happening there, and it’s not uncommon to be asked follow-up questions by Adobe personnel trying to get to the bottom of the issue.