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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Lightroom For Nature Photographers

Adobe's newest entry in digital imaging is a powerful tool for outdoor shooters

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Lightroom Figure 1 Figure 1
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has gained well-deserved attention in the short time it has been on the market, and it’s the true photographer-centric way the program has been designed that makes it so inviting.

If you haven’t tried it, forget what you know about Photoshop (it’s not much like Photoshop, even though Adobe gave it the name Photoshop Lightroom)—this is a program that’s far more photographer-friendly.

A Program Built With Modules

Lightroom is designed around a set of five modules: Library for editing and cataloging images, Develop for processing photos, Slide show for making a basic slideshow, Print for printing and web for creating a web photo gallery. The modules ensure the program is focused on what’s needed for a specific task.

Lightroom Figure 2
Figure 2
I find the Library module excellent for editing and cataloging photos. How a photographer edits and files photos is a personal thing, and Library fits my needs. It offers outstanding controls to help most photographers better manage their images. I give it a grade of A.

Develop is a place where magic occurs. This module mimics Camera Raw in some ways, but it makes working on an image so much easier, effective and faster than Camera Raw. The right panel of adjustments includes the necessary controls to allow you to get the most from your core image processing.

Develop doesn’t include local adjustments, however, which are changes you make to one part of an image without affecting any other part. For local adjustments, use Photoshop or another image-processing program that includes selections and layers. I export images from Develop to Photoshop for this reason. I give the Develop module an A.

Lightroom Figure 3
Figure 3

The Slideshow module offers a limited slideshow; if you export the show, you have no sound capabilities at all. For nature photographers, the Slideshow module earns a C-.

The Print module gives you all of the controls you need for printing in a single place. You can add borders, text, create multiple prints and more. I give it a B+.

The web module is a simple and easy way to get your photographs onto the web. You can make either HTML or Flash galleries, and Lightroom does all the tough work in prepping your photos, backgrounds, text and so on for publishing on the web. I give this module a B+.

Lightroom Workflow

Mostly, I use Library and Develop, and go to Print as needed. I occasionally use Web and rarely use Slideshow. Here’s an overview of one way of working in Library and Develop.

Library Workflow:
1. Import
2. Add copyright in metadata
3. Edit your photos
4. Delete the ju
Lightroom has to be able to see where your images are, so you must import them. Then you can add important metadata, such as copyright information.

Edit your images in the Grid mode (use the letter G); G takes you back to the Grid no matter where you are in Lightroom. I hide all of the panels except the center one so I get what’s essentially a light table (Fig. 1). Double-clicking the far edge of any panel closes and opens it. Basically, I go through my shots and remove the junk by hitting X to flag them for deletion. Lightroom offers rating capabilities that photographers may find helpful.

I use Loupe (E) or the Spacebar to see one photo and the Compare (C) function to look at two of them (Fig. 2). Pressing the Spacebar in the Loupe mode enlarges the photo to 100-percent size so you can examine details, and the cursor changes to a hand so you can move the view. Once I go through all the images, I press Ctrl/Cmd + Backspace/Delete to remove the junk completely.

I don’t use the Quick Develop part of Library. Develop is so easy to use that these controls seem like child’s toys and not worth using.

You can use Collections and Keywords to organize your photos and Metadata to add information to one or more.

Develop Workflow:
1. Open photo in Develop
2. Adjust the blacks and whites
3. Adjust the detail tones
4. Work the colors
5. Sharpen
All processing in Develop is non-destructive, regardless of whether you work on a RAW, JPEG or TIFF file. Only instructions are saved with the photo and aren’t applied until you export the image out of Lightroom.

Select a photo in the Library and press D, or if you’re in Develop, select a photo from the Filmstrip at the bottom of the interface (Fig. 3). I often hide the left and bottom panels (F6 and F7) when working in Develop to create more working room for a photo (you always can see it instantly by moving your cursor to that side).


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