Underwater photography by Andy Kirkland

Working with Adobe’s LightRoom

Well, after some delay (PC blue-screening etc.) I’ve had a chance to play with LightRoom.
I love it.

I was happy with Photoshop Elements (“PSE“), so what are the main differences ?

As I indicated in the Fuji Workflow note, edited photos had to be save in .PSD format, and these were starting to eat all my hard disks. Bigger RAW files meant that memory was constrained.
Now I can work on .DNG files (created without the original embedded), and all the changes are stored as xmp,with the image. It even does “virtual copies” – so I can have a full sized image and a crop. Same master file, just described differently.
So, because I’m working with smaller files, everything’s much more “agile”. The pictures load faster, and are quicker to edit. Non-destructive editing means that I can go back to a “snapshot” without having to click “undo” all the time, or reconvert the file.

White balancing is as powerful as with Elements – in fact more so. The “recovery” and “fill light” functions let you get to detail not available in PSE.
If you don’t get it quite right, you can adjust it without having to start all over again (PSE only allowed it on the initial conversion).
And you can apply it to JPGs. I normally shoot RAW underwater, but had the camera set on JPG by mistake for one dive. This gave far more flexibility than the “remove colour cast” funtion in PSE.

I can save output templates, so I don’t have to redefine web output parameters every time.

Colour tagging is nice. I tag all my cropped images yellow, for example, so I can assign a distinctive file suffix.

I do find the Keyword Tag hierarchy a bit “clunky”. I use a lot of tags (fish species), and want to exclude the family (e.g. “Butterflyfish” – which I use as a parent category) from export files. I’ve got to uncheck “Export Parents” on all the tags, and I know I’ll miss one.
Adobe reworked this after the last public beta, so it’s one of the bits that hadn’t really been “road-tested”. I have managed to convert PSE tag export files (XML) into LightRoom import files (tabbed text), so it could have been worse (although … why change it , Adobe?).

Another late-breaking idea was apparently the clone/heal tools in the “Develop” module. I really haven’t got to grips with these yet, but the source area can seem a bit random. Must read the manual.

One other late-breaker (I think) which does work is multiple library databases, although album selection is made by holding down the CTRL key as the program opens. Again, it’s a bit clunky, and if nobody told you, you’d never guess.

However, in summary – this really works for 95% of my photos.
And for those photos which need pixel-level cleanup, I’ve still got PSE to delve into.

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