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Lightroom - blessing or curse?

Guest plesbit

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I'm interested in a comment Mark made on the photography walk - that he loves taking pictures but really doesn't like the computer work that follows. I've been thinking about this more over the last few days.

Until last year I was loving my photography, taking loads of pictures and I couldn't wait to get back to my computer and get them off onto the computer. Every time I'd be aware anywhere last (and previous years) it was practically the first thing I'd do once in the through the door. Even the unpacking get ignored until the pictures were all the computer. Going through them, picking the cream of the crop, and setting up the archives for them was normally completed within 24hrs. As we all know, from early last year my interest began to grow to new levels and with the advent of the photography walks came RAW, Lightroom and a new way of looking at things. For the first time in my life I even started going out purely to take pics.

To begin with fiddling with Lightroom was fun and I was impressed how much sharper and more detailed pictures from my older SLR could be turned out when using RAW. The advantage with my newer SLR was somewhat less but still the level of control over the output was something else. And herein the problem lies. There are so many permutations, almost limitless possible outputs that no matter what I do I am never fully happy with the outcome any more because I'm always bogged down in how many countless other ways might have been better. I can spend 30 mins on a single image, decide on a final output and then be back days later having another go at it because I'd thought of something I hadn't tried.

Since those few still life shots of the needle and the owls I've been out on the Photo Walk, I've been out walking locally over Christmas, in Scotland over Christmas and New Year and fired off around 200 shots of birds on my bird feeders. I've now amassed over 600 images sitting in my general RAW collection, most of them untouched. Many of them have taken days to even get around to taking them off the memory cards and once on the computer they sit there ignored for days because I can't face starting to try to tackle the processing and with every new image added the task becomes even more daunting. I'm even finding myself opting to do things like the washing up as a reason for delaying opening Lightroom which can wait until "tomorrow" (which never comes). So whatever happened to the hobby I loved? I still love being out with the camera and taking the pics but if I don't even look at them anymore, what is the point?

I did finally open Lightroom again yesterday evening but in the end all I did was take some of the shots I took up at Sea Palling with Susan a few weeks ago (which had already been processed) and process them again, slightly differently this time so made no progress whatsoever on the huge backlog of ignored files. I'm starting to wonder if I've turned a corner I might have been better not to turn.

Am I right in assuming that everyone else who has recently converted has taken to it rather better than me? :-|

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Strange how things change Simon.

As you know, my time has been on wildlife mainly with some yacht racing pictures as well.

I would normally only crop or sharpen the wildlife ones, so not a lot of work to be done after the initial shot.

Either I like the picture or dump it.

Doing the walk - not the one when I was by my self - but the Thurne one, I spent a lot of time watching others on the walk taking their own pictures and seeing what they were looking at.

Sounds strange but I normally spend most of my time looking into hedges !!!!

Seeing what others were doing on that day, wet my appetite a bit more for the landscape side of things - even been looking beyond the hedge rows now !!

What I have found is I now spend more time with Lightroom and Paint shop Pro on the landscape pictures I have taken.

Generally being - what I think - more artists and personalizing some of my pictures.

Have a look here www.photographs-r-us.co.uk/specials/4532379199 at what I mean, not every ones taste I,m sure but I am really enjoying this bit more now.

I was down on the boat today and went via Potter Heigham as I wanted to get some more pictures of the wind generators at Somerton, but there was no wind and all generators were still.

I wanted to get a delayed picture of the sails blurred. Oh well need another day trip !

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My answer Simon.

1) Blessing

2) Try to take the best in camera shot you can and save the need for as much processing as possible - after all that is the aim.

3) Set up a set of standard parameters to your taste Lightroom will use this and batch convert

4) I love it but only get 'anal' when I have an exceptional image.

So have I taken to it better, I guess I am just more selective rather than going through image by image.

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Guest chriscraft

hi Simon,

there is an answer to this ,i personaly havn,t got lightroom,i have acopy of photoshop 7 but can,t use it,as a raw converter i use either picasso 3 from google,or nikon,s free softwhere.If shots won,t adjust enough through these two they get binned.I have tried photoshop,but thus far havn,t had enough time to use correctly,without as you say spending hours on one shot!!.If lightrooms putting you off ,bin it and consentrate on the actual taking of the picture on the ground,as others have said ,if you get thr in camara bit right ,the rest will follow.

regards, trev

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Hi Simon

I tried Light room and found it hard to use and complicated. personally i just take my pics from my SD card thats it don't modify them as i don't see the point it defeats the object of photography its about the person who is taking the pics and what hes taking the picture of. not taking a picture seeing how meny ways he can edit the picture to make it look better i prefer to none edit as i wont the propper look not some software edited look. but then again it depend on what people are trying to achieve and i can only say what i prefer myself everybody prefers there own way.

Jonny ice sliceice sliceice slice

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Well I certainly don't bother with anything that comes off my compact Jonny, nor am I about to start. This isn't really about general photography it's more about the more advanced enthusiast type stuff.

As I have always shot JPEG and NEVER done any post processing - never tweaked the JPEG's at all unless an otherwise excellent or unique shot had been rendered unusable. They were basically straight off the camera, hatchet job on the duplicates or rubbish and then straight into the collection. So naturally, working like that, I am used to trying to get it near perfect on the camera.

But that's also why I have struggled with moving over to a PP related environment - it used to be just fire, download, hatchet, archive. Simple. Now, however, there's whole new layer of "red tape" between the initial work and the final result when, as recently, I've done lots of shooting but had little time to do the PP it can stack up and ends up become quite daunting and, as I have discovered, somewhat off putting.

But I think there's light at the end of the tunnel - the real answer to the problem was to bring back the axe man. Yesterday evening I made use of Lightroom's ability to selectively filter and tagged each image according to the shooting session from which it came so instead of one massive collection of 600 images I had several much smaller sets. I ignored the garden birds (the single biggest set) and concentrated on the walkabout groups dealing with each one in chronological order and reached for the axe. After liberal swinging of said axe I had three collections, two of which had around 10-15 shots and one of which had around 30. Suddenly I felt a lot more comfort with what I had to work with and in not too much time at all the first set was processed and exported. The next set was even quicker because I was becoming more and more familiar with the workflow.

The last of the three sets I started work on this morning as I wasn't going into work until lunch time so had some time to kill. This particular set was shot in very challenging conditions for the poor old camera and, even after the hatcheting, was somewhat larger than the others but I nearly finished it before having to head out. I have to say this morning was something of an epiphany when it comes to Lightroom because here, really for the first time, I was working with shots where the camera had been facing a near impossible task - Scottish hills, covered in dark brown gorse and the like, with a very low sun casting long shadows but causing a very harsh, bright horizon. I also decided, with a little help from a scathing comment from my wife about one liberally PP image from a prior occasion, that I'd stick to just touching up what was there and polishing it a bit - rather than trying to create a whole new scene which had little or no resemblance to what I'd actually witnessed when taking the shot.

I still think it's unlikely I'll shoot RAW (or very much of it anyway) on a long foreign holiday but certainly for dedicated walkabouts I am starting to be convinced.

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Hi Simon. Just catching up after being away, and I'm sorry to see you're getting bogged down - but it sounds as though you're getting there.

I agree with Perry's posts. The important thing is to establish a workflow. The first step I use after uploading is to go through the new batch, give a one star rating to the ones I want to use and filter the rest out - you've obviously come to the realisation that this first step is essential to clear the decks. I then give all the rated ones the minimum of work needed to get them to the necessary standard, usually to go to a stock library. This is rarely more than tonal adjustments or conversion to black and white. I would never normally spend more than 5 minutes on an image unless it's for a big print.

if you want a really quick workflow, similar to JPEGs, try applying the "general - auto tone" preset to all the images, by specifying it when you are doing the upload (in the "information to apply/develop settings" section). Only tinker with them any further if you don't like what you see. It will always be far better quality than having shot a JPEG in camera, and you can always do some more work later if you have a special reason.

You should be uploading new images into their own subfolder within the library, rather than all into the same one (specify the new subfolder at the upload stage). The new images will then appear in their own subfolder, with that new name, in the library module, and you can click on each folder on the left hand side to show you just that set. This is quicker than using filters, key words etc. For example, for the 21 December shoot I've got a parent folder called 2008, a subfolder called Norfolk (obviously both with lots of other stuff in them), and a sub-sub folder called 21 December. I click on 21 December in the left hand library panel, and those are the images I see. This matches the folder structure on my hard drives, where the images are sent to at the upload stage. I'm not clear if you're doing this, but if I'm reading your last post correctly I suspect you're not. (I've got over 47,000 images on my system, and I'd hate to try to manage them without Lightroom now!)

Keep at it, and I'm going to put in another plug for the Luminous Landscape downloadable tuition videos - they will give you an understanding of workflow as well as how to use the software.


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Hi Simon

I know exactly what you mean, and I went through exactly the same hoop. I used to have photos I had downloaded and just not bothered doing anything with as taking them through Paint Shop Pro seemed such a long winded way of doing things.

I have only just started using LR2, and infact the 21/12 walk was the first ever time I had used it "in anger", but even so I think I found a reasonable workflow as follows:

1. Upload images into a specific catalogue

2. Scan through the previews and hit either X to reject the photo, or P to pick

3. Delete all the rejected photos (can't have crap clogging up the hard drive)

4. Review again those left in the library and X or P them a second time to weed out those that were on the borderline and delete those rejected.

5. The pictures that are left, preview and see if any minor tweaks are necessary

6. Export the good ones as jpg to your archive

Now I realise that this is very basic and I could probably make good use of presets etc, but I am only a beginner at this LR lark and have yet to explore that area. However, using the above, I managed to get 250 pictures taken on the day down to an inital 40 or so (a lot of the pictures were in triplicate as I had used exposure bracketing). This reduced to about 20 on the second pass.

The only tweaks I made were to adjust levels, using the sliders; add graduation filters to the sky, or add a bit more saturation and sharpness if the colours were a bit washed out. All in all the photos I posted in the walk thread took around 2 hours from start of the upload to the finished set. I was so pleased with some of the results, I had 8 enlargements done by Photobox and have framed them to put on my wall.

To those who think this sort of process is "cheating" a bit, I offer the following example:

In certain lighting conditions, it is impossible to get correct exposure if you do not have grad filters to hand. You can see from this photo straight from the camera that the sky is exposed about right, but the foreground is therefore too dark.


By sticking it through LR, I have added a grad filter to the sky and then lightened the whole picture to get the exposure right (oh and I also straightened the horizon because it seems I can't hold a camera level!). This took about 4 minutes but results in a much better image. If I knew what I was doing, I obviously would have put a filter on in the field to get the picture right in the first instance :naughty:


By the way, this isn't one of the pictures now on my wall!

So in short, Simon, Blessing all the way I reckon!

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Right - wrote a lengthy reply to Bruce and then went to post it only to find that Mark had posted in the meantime so I scrapped the first one.

Obviously some changes to my workflow are required, but once I actually got my head around the fact that all I was doing was inserted an extra stage in the development I was able to form a plan of attack which has resulted in everything, except the birds, now being processed. The trick, of course, was to get rid of the rubbish - just as I always did before and to sort into groups that I could work with. I'll refine that by using a different folder for each shoot in the future. As I mentioned, part of the problem was that I had the NBN walk on 21 December, then went out with my mum and Susan on Boxing Day, and then again in Scotland, plus a vast amount of bird shots from before Christmas and no time to transfer everything to computer and deal with, hence the numbers started to build up.

I keep meaning to go through the tutorials at Luminous Landscape but when I get in after a hard day at the office drinking tea and reading the NBN I find it hard to raise the enthusiasm to start sitting through video tutorials - I prefer just to get stuck in with the work. And besides, whenever I go to Luminous Landscape I just end up reading reviews of cameras I'll never own! Anyway, as with all seemingly impossible tasks there is always a way once you think it through and I am pleased to say that, birdies aside, everything is now processed - some stuff better than others maybe, but it's all done nevertheless. Time to stop making excuses and start doing....

Next task, for me, is to start trying to arrange my Flickr albums into some semblance of order from the general mess they were in previously. I'll post up some of the shots from Christmas period later on too.

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Glad to hear your sorted Simon. I know what you mean about those video tutorials, as I still haven't managed to sit through a whole one yet. I'm sure they are an invaluable learning tool, but don't those accents grate on your nerves after a while!!!

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I wouldn't know - my soundcard is bust which is another impediment to going through the tutorials!

On a related note, whilst I remember, you never said what lens you were using to take your (beautifully sharp) shots on the photo walk.

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