Adobe Lightroom Beta

Icy waterOK, so I finally got my computer upgraded to Windows XP and I put back everything that I need or at least everything for which I could find the discs. Next I turned to photo editing and printing.

Getting a photograph from the woods to the camera to the computer to the printer without messing it up is a challenge. A lot can happen at each stage that effects the final product. Of course a major change like re-formatting and upgrading my computer makes a mess of things. It took me days and dozens of test prints to get the monitor calibrated and the color management tweaked so that I got decent output from both my printers.

On top of all the computer changes, I decided to try out a beta product from Adobe called Lightroom. You need XP to install Lightroom which is one reason I upgraded.

I know the gold standard for photo editing is Photoshop, but I’m working too close to the bone to be able to afford that. I mostly use Corel Paintshop. It is way cheaper and does most of the stuff I need. I tend not to do anything fancy with my images.

One thing that Paintshop X won’t do is allow me to edit the raw camera files. So far I have only worked with TIFF files from my film scanner or JPEG files from the camera, but I have always been saving the raw (NEF) files from my Nikon D200 knowing that I would want them someday. Lightroom recognizes the NEF format.

It took a while to get used to Lightroom. I’m used to editing in discreet steps – set a value, try it, undo, try a little different value, repeat. Lightroom uses a lot of sliders and the image constantly changes as you play with the controls. It helps to have some horsepower in your PC to pull this off seamlessly. I had to force myself to mess around with it until I developed a workflow that worked for my type of photos and personal taste.

I am now hooked on working with raw files. I only ever use the JPEGs as thumbnails now. I find that raw files are a lot more tolerant to adjustments than JPEGs. For example: One day I accidentally left the camera color balance (white point) set for florescent light when I was out in the woods shooting waterfalls. All the photos had a really nasty blue cast that just made a mess of things. Working with JPEGs, I could only do so much to correct the problem before the image quality started to degrade. I had to abandon several otherwise good shots.

I went back to these images using the raw files and Lightroom. That problem with color balance? – gone! You see the raw file is just that – raw. It is what the camera recorded without any adjustments – adjustments that are written into the JPEG files. I just opened the raw files in Lightroom, picked the correct color adjustment from a drop down list and presto no more blue cast without any harm to the image!

My new workflow is to initially edit the raw images for color balance, exposure, saturation, cropping, and contrast using Lightroom. Next I export the corrected file in TIFF format. I pick up the TIFF in Paintshop and do the things that I don’t think that Lightroom does very well like sharpening, cloning (not even an option in Lightroom), and printing.

If you haven’t tried Lightroom, use the link above and give it a whirl. It is beta and still rough around the edges but not bad really. Adobe says it will expire at the end of February. I don’t know if the beta will get extended at that time or if they will be ready for release. I hope the release version won’t be too expensive because I don’t think I want to give it up.

MDW

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3 Responses to “Adobe Lightroom Beta”

  1. dopleganger Says:

    that photo is awesome. i wish i could afford software like that.

  2. forestrat Says:

    Thanks for the complement dopleganger. Sorry it took a while to reply – had to go out of town for family business on short notice.

    I see that as of February 19 Adobe has released Lightroom (http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshoplightroom/). They are pricing it at $199 for a limited time and then it will go up to $299. That’s a little higher than I had hoped, but I guess it is less than Photoshop but more than Elements so it is about right.

    Corel Paintshop Pro XI(http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite/us/en/Product/1155872554948) is much less. Granted it doesn’t have everything that Lightroom has, but it ain’t bad for the price ($79.99).

  3. goldcoaster Says:

    I don’t know if this helps but Windows Vista handles RAW natively. Meaning the explorer shows thumbnails, you can add tags to pics (like adobe but better as they are added to the exif data and not a seperate database) basic editing etc.
    Also vistas search is good for my photos as I can instantly search for things such as ‘all photos with f2.8’ or ‘photos with 1/500 sec shutter speed’ ‘zoom at 280mm’ – in fact search for anything in exif data

    cheers,
    http://goldcoaster.wordpress.com

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