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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Photoshop Lightroom 2: For Nature Photographers

The new version of the popular Adobe software melds traditional darkroom controls with the digital world

Tones can be out of balance, where one part of the picture is too bright proportionally compared to another. Brush in minus Brightness to darken an area or plus Exposure to lighten an area.

Colors can be out of balance, where certain colors have too much or too little saturation compared to others because of the way the camera captured them, the light or simply contrasts within the image. Brush in plus or minus Saturation as needed.

Individual pictorial elements can be out of balance. This can happen if something is lit unevenly, for example. The Adjustment Brush is ideal to correct that.

Emphasis is something that always has been important to photographers, but difficult to do with color photos. You can try making a subject darker or lighter, plus its surroundings, in the opposite manner to make a subject stand out. You also can do this with Saturation, Clarity and Sharpness.

If you want some inspiration on how to use such controls, check out Ansel Adams’ books, The Print and Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. They’re still in print, or you probably can find them at the library. While you won’t find the discussion of chemicals and such things useful, Adams’ descriptions of how and why he adjusted photos are just as valid and thought-provoking today as when he wrote his text. He even has before and after images in The Print, along with notes on how he applied his “adjustments.”

Changes To Library
There are some significant changes to the Library module or organizing part of Lightroom, too. First, searches are a lot easier. There’s a Library Filter bar at the top of the center work area that you can use to quickly refine a search for everything from keywords to metadata.

Second, the Collections area is beefed up with the addition of Smart Collections. This is handy if you want to automatically create collections for your photos so that specific images can be grouped without a lot of extra effort on your part. With a Smart Collection, you can create “rules” that tell Lightroom to look for certain data in a photo; then, if it finds it, the program automatically references the photo with a Smart Collection. For example, you could tell it to always connect photos with a keyword of Clouds into a special Clouds collection. Every time you added a Clouds keyword to a photo, it automatically would appear in the Clouds collection.

Lightroom makes this easy to do, by the way, with the Painter (a paint can) tool. You can put a keyword “into” that tool, set your photos to the Grid layout, just click away on photos and the keyword is added. So if you set up “Clouds” for the Painter, you’d click on a photo, add Clouds as a keyword and have that photo immediately appear in the Clouds Smart Collection.

There’s much more to Lightroom 2, but it would take a book to cover it all. (I’ve been working on that book this past winter and spring, and it will be out early this fall.) Lightroom doesn’t replace Photoshop, but with version 2, most photographers won’t need Photoshop except for minor adjustments not possible in Lightroom. In fact, many photographers will find that Lightroom and Photoshop Elements will allow them to work faster, easier and with more intuitive control than most photographers can work with images in Photoshop.

I can’t tell you if Lightroom is right for you, but it’s certainly right for me. I now use it as my main digital-imaging program, and I’m loving photography more than ever.

Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 final pricing isn’t available as of press time.

Contact: Adobe, www.adobe.com.

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