Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Lightroom or Not to Lightroom...???

"That is the question....whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous workflow -- or to take up arms against a sea of software headaches and by opposing...end them."

Okay. With all due apologies to Mr. Shakespheare here's the question a lot of new and old Photoshoppers are asking: "Just what IS Lightroom...and why should I care?"
Even after having worked with it for a year, I have to say I am not entirely sure. This is the ONE thing I KNOW for sure.
LR is designed to be the FIRST step in your workflow. You return from shooting the California Artichoke Competition. You take the 4,325 pics you've just taken and import them into Lightroom. This is very simple. In Lightroom, you choose Files> Import > and choose the source. Up pop the pics for importing. Here's where you can add the Keyword information.
The screen to the left will pop up once LR has sorted through the Import options and ensured you aren't importing the same picture twice.

The Keyword area is circled in green. This is where you attach information that will help you find your photo again. This is a finished and photoshopped pic I took on a trip to Australia and New Zealand. I'll be able to find it again by inputting the key words: Hotel or Australia Finished, or Balcony or traveller. As you fill in the information in the Keyword area be as thorough as you can. This will save on the pulling at your hair phase when you are looking for a specific graphic amid thousands of pictures.

The second phase of LR is accessed through the menu in the upper right hand corner of the screen: DEVELOP. This was intially designed as a pre-Photoshop area. The idea was that you would do all the prep work here: the cropping, the sharpening, minor corrections etc. using what is really a very extensive menu.
It's become quite a bit more than a minor pre-Photoshop area since you can do a TON of stuff here with no fuss and hardly any trouble.
It is from here that I will most often go to Photoshop for final processing. There's an option accessed through Photo> Edit in (your version of Photoshop) which minimizes LR and opens up Photoshop.
There are many very very cool options in LR. That's why people write books about it. You can create slideshows, publish your work to the web, access a ton of print options and much more. My absolute FAVORITE thing about LR is the crop tool (see the "Most Useful Piece of Photography Advice" posting below.) but there are many other wonderful things you may want to check out.
The first edition of LR was fraught with problems. People spent weekends inputting information and importing photos only to find that a software glitch wiped it all out. There was talk of crashing computers and strident cries for the immediate and painful execution of each person ever associated with LR as well as their immediate families...and pets.
Adobe has now released the second version of LR and many of the clunky things have been wiped out and what remains is a pretty servicable -- if kinda pricey -- package that WILL one day be a part of most graphic pro and amateur workflow options.
Take it out for a free 30 day test drive at
I'd be interested as to what you think of LR.