Saturday, October 22, 2011

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part I - Index and Introduction

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part II - Lightroom Workflow
Part III - Organizing the Library
Part IV - Keywording and Metadata
Part V - Using Filters
Part VI - Importing Your Images
Part VII - Basic Editing Tools
Part VIII - Developing Your Images, The Basics
Part IX - Reading and Interpreting the Histogram - Basic Adjustments
Part X - White Balance
Part XI - The Tonal Scale
Part XII - Presence Controls
Part XIII - Using Presence Controls To Enhance The Eyes
Part XIV - Using Presence Controls to Smooth the Skin
Part XV - Speeding Up Your Workflow Using Presets and the Painter Tool
Part XVI - Saving And Migrating Your Adobe Lightroom Presets
Part XVII - Tone Curve
Part XVIII - Tools - Effective Cropping, Straightening and Leveling
Part XIX - Graduated Filters
Part XX - Exposure vs. Brightness
Part XXI - Making Photo Books
Part XXII - Adjustment Brushes
Part XXIII - Understanding Channel Mixing to Achieve Effective Black and White Photos
Part XXIV - Organising Your Photo Catalog Using Metadata and Keywords

Introduction

Choosing the right tool to "develop" your RAW files is an important task: chances are you'll stick with it for a long time. And if you change your mind at a later time, chances are the migration path is not as easy as we'd like. Since I'm willing to commit to my hobby but unwilling to lose time changing tools from time to time, I wanted to make sure that I made the right decision. As a software developer and integrator, I'm perfectly aware of how much migrations cost, and my spare time is, well, kind of scarce. I've seen friends jumping from tool to tool (not only photography ones), only because of a new bleeding-edge feature, losing time migrating libraries from one tool to another. I just say no. And friends do not let friends do this, either, so that I'm writing this blog post hoping it will be of some help to you photography enthusiasts out there. Moreover: if such features are so good, rest assured that they'll end up finding their way into competitors' tools as well, in one incarnation or another.

I've tried many photography tools in the last few years, and the most important advice I can give you in this introduction is: many of them provide pretty similar features, so don't be afraid of choosing the wrong one. If you stick with proven ones (such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Apple Aperture), you won't be missing any critical feature. However, since I'm sticking to Adobe Lightroom, I want to quickly summarize why I made this choice, in the first place. I'm won't be comparing Lightroom to any other tool in particular: the web is full of such reviews (which I used myself).

The Reasons Why I chose Lightroom

I stuck with Lightroom since the first time I tried it. It's an amazing tool, powerful yet pretty easy to use and it's available on multiple platforms. If you want to try it, you can download a 30-days trial from Adobe website. And if you decide to buy it, you can have a look at Amazon's: that's where I bought mine and chances are it's even cheaper than buying it directly from Adobe.

Lightroom is both an editing tool and a library manager. When you compare it with other software and make your choice, you should not only compare its RAW developing capabilities and the editing tools it offers. You should assess many often-overlooked aspects that may have a great impact in your workflow as a photographer in the years to come. Some of the aspects that I took into account when making the decision are:
  • How it deals with large quantities of files: when you start with photography you may not think about it, but whether you're a professional or not, your library is going to grow over time. RAW files are typically big in size and expect them to grow further as sensors resolutions increases as well. Since you don't want your tools' performance to degrade over time, it's wise you test your candidate tools in such an use case.
  • How it helps you organize your library: a big library is pretty useless if you can't your way into it. The software you choose should let you organize your items in a way that's comfortable to you and should at least provide the tools you need to organize, index and search amongst the items you're going to store in it.
  • How it deals with distributed storage systems: there's often no good reason for monolithic libraries and you're not going to store your entire library in a single hard disk. Period. Why? It depends on many factors but: your PC may not be equipped with a redundant storage system. If it is, you may not want to backup and restore the entire library in case something goes wrong: you'd rather split your library, according to your criteria, across different storage systems, and restore only what is lost from a backup. If you haven't got a redundant storage system, it's even more critical that you perform your backups on a regular basis and at least each time you import a new file into your library. Unfortunately, many people don't, and when your hard disk break it's to late for regrets. Let's face it: your hard disk will break, sooner or later. Just be prepared when it happens.
  • How it integrates with other tools: depending on your workflow, you might be using more than one tool during your workflow. Manually exporting a file from the library, editing it in another tool and importing it again into the library is nonsense and defies the very same nature of the a library manager. Even if you don't need it know, it's wise you assess how the tools you like are going to integrate other tools into your workflow. If you're using online services (such as SmugMug, Flickr, Google+, etc.), you should also assess how the tool integrates with them.
  • How wide is the ecosystem around it: the benefits of an economy of scale aren't limited to pricing policies only. The wider the audience that uses a tools, the better your overall experience with it might be. Chances are in the internet you will find plenty of information, tutorials, mailing lists, forums and user groups. If a tool is extensible, you may find a growing number of plugins for it, too, to extend its features.
  • How many supported systems there are: no matter how good a system is, I'm not willing to lock myself to one in particular. In this virtualized world, it's becoming a smaller issue, but it still is in some important cases: Apple Mac OS X, for example, can only be run upon Apple's hardware. If you're sticking to a Mac-only software, you're sticking to having Apple's hardware too. On the other hand, if you depend on Windows, Solaris, Linux (and many other operating systems), you can run them as virtualized guest instances in a great variety of configurations.

Why did I choose Lightroom? Lightroom performance, when measured against this evaluation matrix, was the clear winner and the best tool that fits my needs. It might not be yours, however, and the best way to find out is: download the software you're assessing and try it yourself.

If you want to help me keep on writing this blog, buy your Adobe Photoshop licenses at the best price on Amazon using the links below.

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