Archive for January, 2016

Adobe created the Lightroom software package not as a replacement for Photoshop. It is not necessarily an alternative either as both should be owned by serious pros. It is an alternative for 90% of amateur photographers however. Photoshop has become synonymous with image editing. It is the Cadillac of image processing software and it is extremely powerful. Photoshop is also very complex. You can rest assured that if it can be done, it is doable in Adobe Photoshop.

So why Lightroom? Lightroom is a dual tool. First and foremost it allows for excellent image processing that will accommodate 90% of what you’ll ever need to do to an image. It doesn’t just do it, it does it very well. But where it differs from its big brother, is in the organization of images. Lightroom requires that you import your images into the software and it then catalogs and organizes them using the image metadata. I have thousands and thousands of images stored across multiple drives. Lightroom finds them quickly based on a variety of search mechanisms. Lightroom has a simple and easy batch processing system that allows the photographer to perform similar tasks across multiple images instantly. Although savvy Photoshop users can create batch systems, it is not something everyone is able to figure out.

I haven’t bought Photoshop since Photoshop 5 and I can’t use that ancient version on my modern pc. Oddly, I have an equally old version of the Corel suite and it still works fine on my modern pc. Photoshop and my ancient Corel 7 suite allows for masking and multiple image layers. This can be a useful tool especially when using a green screen to remove the background. Lightroom does not offer that level of image processing. It is designed for organization and typical processing tools. What it does do, it does so with brilliant precision and excellent results. The ability to control and manipulate highlights and shadows is amazing. No simple editing software will even come close to Lightroom.

I am likely going to purchase the Adobe suite subscription just because the masking tools have gotten so much better over the years. But it will be Lightroom that gets the bulk of use as that software is fast and simple to use.

Using cheap editors will not allow effective control of highlights and shadows. A simple brightness and contrast modification just doesn’t work as well as the Adobe Lightroom at controlling difficult lighting. Often photography is a trade-off in camera. You have to decide how to balance harsh lighting in the exposure. Modern DSLR metering is damn good at getting it right.

housetest-2The top photo here is unaltered and was taken and plus one stop over the Canon 5D Mk II meter’s recommendation. The sun was literally just behind the peak of the roof. This is the nightmare lighting scenario and yet the camera’s meter did a solid job of producing near perfect exposure with my housetest-1“photographers” input being just one stop over the meter’s suggestion. That said the foreground is a touch dark and flat. There is detail in the foreground but the eye wants to wander towards the light behind the house. The subject is clearly the house so that is not an ideal situation. The best solution here is not to shoot this subject in these conditions. But let’s face it, we don’t always have Ansel Adams’ time. Sometimes we have to take what life gives us.

Cheap or free editors typically allow the user to utilize a brightness and contrast system to alter the image. The problem there lies in too much contrast. The more brightness added the flatter the contrast and the more contrast added the less detail in the extremes. Thus it results in über dark shadows lacking detail and blown out highlights with the same problem.

Using shadow and highlight control and the individual color tuners in Lightroom, can result in proper exposure balance and excellent detail through the range of extremes in the harsh lighting. The edited image has just a minute or two of tweaking and with a little more effort could be rendered near perfect. But the idea here is the ease and speed at which mediocrity can be elevated to excellence. This image had the highlights reduced all the way down and the shadows brought up about 60 points of 100. The color tuner brought the luminance of Green up 10 points and blue down 10 points. Overall color saturation was increased 5 points.

Lightroom also has “presence” control. This is a sort of blend of sharpness and softening tools. Increased presence will add an edge to the image and make it have a gritty look as you hit to extreme. Decreasing it will give a softer effect and towards the extreme a soft glow. These combo tools allow for fewer editing controls and faster post processing. Lightroom will allow for individual sharpness and softening control as well for the fine tweaking. Lightroom utilizes Adobe’s excellent lens profiles which can automatically correct for known imperfections in the lens. The images here were taken with Canon’s amazing 16-35mm IS F4.0 L lens but even that lens has some barrel distortion and pincushion near the extremes and Lightroom automatically makes those corrections when loading the profile for that lens. Furthermore the software has exception noise filters.

I have become quite the fan of Lightroom. One thing to note is that you cannot just open a new photo in Lightroom. The images must be imported into the program. Unlike Photoshop which allows you to simply double-click the image to open into directly. Again the theory is that Lightroom is as much an image organizational tool as it is an editor.

If you can live without multiple layer control, custom cloning, and custom masking, Lightroom may just meet all your needs. Lightroom is ideal for the photographer that will do most of the image making in the camera rather than most of the image making on the computer. You will not be dropping people into a fake background or putting the President’s head on a Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body. Without a custom cloning tool it is difficult to remove unwanted elements. Lightroom does have an excellent spot remover tool and that can sometimes be used to say take out a kids toy that was laying on the lawn in these photos, but not for anything complex. So if quick, efficient and excellent photo processing is the desired result, Lightroom will deliver the goods as well as anything on the market. If you need more than processing then look at the Big Kahuna, Photoshop.


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