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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Lightroom is a program designed for photographers and the way they work

The Develop module is one of the best RAW processing converters around. Lightroom processes JPEG, TIFF and RAW files all nondestructively, meaning it allows infinite adjustments with no quality degradation because the adjustments are only applied to images when they’re exported from the program.

Why do I say Develop is so effective for dealing with RAW? Two reasons: the processing engine does a great job with colors and tonalities, and there are some unique, very photographic controls that make the job much more intuitive and powerful than you’ll find anywhere else.

I can only offer some highlights of Develop’s right-panel adjustments because it has more power than I have space for! First, there’s a terrific white-balance eyedropper in the Basic group that you can’t miss because it’s so large for the interface. You click on it to select it, then move it onto the photo. It gives you a grid of pixels to help you find tones that should be neutral, then you click on them to make them neutral.

Recovery and Fill Light are absolutely wonderful for dealing with highlights and shadows, respectively. Set your whites with Exposure and blacks with Blacks (thank you, Adobe, for finally labeling this properly) and then refine the highlight and shadow detail with the Recovery and Fill Light sliders.

Vibrance is a new saturation adjustment that comes from Pixmantec’s RawShooter (purchased by Adobe) and is a far better overall saturation adjustment than Saturation.

The Tone Curve looks complicated, but in fact, it’s set up to make it easier for photographers to use. As soon as you move your mouse over the sliders underneath, the appropriate part of the curve becomes highlighted. Frankly, that’s not the real magic here.

There’s a little bull’s-eye circle at the upper left of this control. When you click on it, the cursor becomes "curve-activated"—when you move the cursor onto the photo and click a tone for change, the curve gains a highlight where the adjustment will occur, but that’s not the magic either. The magic comes when you click and drag on the photo to change the curve. Find the spot that needs the change, then click and drag up or down, right there on the photo, until the change occurs!

This is also used in the HSL/Color/Grayscale section. Click the button to activate the cursor for hue, then click on the problem color in the photo, such as an off-color flower. Now drag up and down to change the hue of that color—Lightroom finds and tweaks the exact colors needed to do that.

The same thing happens when the cursor is activated for saturation. Now you click and drag a specific color to increase or decrease its saturation. If you’ve followed this column in the past, you know that I’m not a big fan of changing overall saturation too much. This clicking and dragging to affect individual colors is so accessible and so right for dealing with saturation.


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