Real World Review – Adobe Lightroom

I know it’s been out there for a bit, but we wanted to give some first hand, real world reviews as you may use the software yourselves.
So when I was called to do a cover shoot recently, I figured here was a good opportunity to check out LIGHTROOM, Adobe’s digital photography editing and workflow solution, under fire. I’ve found that as necessity is the mother of invention, you find out a products worth when you test drive it with true needs at hand.

OK, lets go through the steps:

First of all, the CF cards that were used, were uploaded and stored in file folders on 2 separate hard drives. It was an easy set up and execution being led through the program. Using Lexar 300x cards and the UDMA card reader sped the process up.
Back up, back up, back up. Yes, also backed up and reviewed on set with an Epson P5000. Great for review/backup when you don’t want to bring a laptop
At the end there’ll be a list of all gear used.
Now that we have the images safe and secure, we can review, rate, and batch rename in the Library tab.
In this first screen shot you can see how you can look, side by side, at selects versus candidates for hero images so you can start to thin out your collection for presentation.

[photopress:SafariScreenSnapz005.jpg,full,centered]

Don’t forget, YOU STILL HAVE A COPY OF THE FULL SHOOT SAVED!
Another bit of data you get is the info on the whole shoot, per imported collection of images. How many time you used each f-stop, shutter speed, lens focal length, ISO, date, etc. Always good to learn what you did and this is a great record keeper.

Now that you have your selects for presentation, it time to clean ‘em up a bit.

So move on to the Develop tab. I always shoot RAW (or NEF in Nikon) and jpeg simultaneously and in LIGHTROOM, once you make an adjustment in one, you’ve done it to both. Thank you for that.

[photopress:SafariScreenSnapz001.jpg,full,centered]

What is very cool here is that you can do side-by-side, before and after looks. In other words, while you figure out your best correction (or play around with some cool choices – Black and White for instance) you can compare with what you started with. And see a small version of what it would look like in its entirety.

[photopress:Adobe_LightroomScreenSnapz002.jpg,full,centered]

Either split screen (above) or side by side.

[photopress:Adobe_LightroomScreenSnapz003.jpg,full,centered]

Plus you can zoom in to see specific areas in question.Sure, it’s not as trick as the Loupe in Aperture but honestly, I prefer it for real work.

By the way, you are working in a non- destructive environment. What that means is until you export, you can go back to the original image and start you adjustments again. But of course you have your back-ups also.( have I stressed that enough yet?)

You can do many of the same general adjustments as you would in Photoshop, what you may call “global adjustments”- highlight, shadow, fill light, hue, curves, contrast, etc.. You would still want to go into Photoshop for your retouching and detail work.

From this step you’ve adjusted you work, decided what to present and exported the hard work you did.

OK, lets get ready to PRINT. I know, not a ton of call for it at this stage of your workflow perhaps, if there are clients involved. Put take a look around to familiarize with the possibilities.
The choices on print size and configuration are pretty cool here.
I tried the 4 wide and you can adjust each image within the 4 “bars” across. Definitely going back in to do some specific shooting for this format.

[photopress:Adobe_LightroomScreenSnapz004.jpg,full,centered]

Another good feature here is a notice to remind you to check your print management settings while you go out to print.
Obviously, lots of folks missed this step.

Next up: posting to the WEB.

So, here’s the deal: I shot yesterday afternoon, came home and saved, loaded, selected, corrected, and needed to upload to a website to share with my client.
The web templates were ok, dug the fact that there was a flash option to discourage drag and drop. (remember- Flash is kind of like a lock; good for keeping honest people out)

Well, once I realized that I didn’t have a dedicated domain, I immediately set one up. However, this is where the LIGHTROOM workflow slowed me way down. The was no easy way to get my work up to a website. And in talking to a bunch of folks, seems they had similar problems and just saved the web gallery created in LIGHTROOM and went to another service or program to upload. Interesting note, Adobe.

To get the job done, it was time for iPhoto’s iWeb. Yep. The new version rocks the house. The website was linked to my .mac account. And the interface was awesome. Plus if you dig the cover flow feature of iTunes, also on iPod touch and iPhone, you can have a version of it on your web-based presentation. Your client can still pick an image and get a title or number for ordering. In this shoot is that since it was a bit of black background for 70% of the shoot, the heads floating was very cool. True, the domain name was not just my company name, however it worked.

[photopress:SafariScreenSnapz002_1.jpg,full,centered]

But that is just an option. Your web gallery can also be viewed as a slide show or a grid, as below. You can choose whether it’s password protected, people can download (or upload).
[photopress:SafariScreenSnapz003.jpg,full,centered]

Honestly I didn’t want to go outside the LIGHTROOM program and hoped to stay in the one environment. Like if I needed to go to Photoshop (I didn’t).

Oh, of course someone is asking about Aperture. Why wasn’t i just working in Aperture first? I was doing a side by side workflow, although I’ll give it a stronger workout in another review. Gave it an initial shot but to be fair, not enough. Honestly, with the speed I had to get the assignment out, LIGHTROOM worked

Basically, on first blush, LIGHTROOM thinks the way I do, and the workflow was very natural and the tool set fits like a glove. Very intuitive.
Minor additional notice: Lights Out rocks. It’s a small thing but makes your image the ONLY thing you see on the screen. Nice.So all programs,desktop,toolbars go black. All except your photograph.

The only con I had, honestly, was the hour I spent on hold waiting for tech support on the web uploads and setup for that. After the 40 min on hold earlier in the day. At the end of that didn’t get any real guidance in the web upload and getting it ready for a client.

Hence the iPhoto. It was all there. And did the job. Clients were happy.And I gave them the DNG (digital negative files) because i trust them to take care of the images the right way.They LOVED that.

Hope this helps in your exploration of the best workflow software in your life. Download a copy for 30 days for free. Shoot a project and see how it flows for you.

Gear used in this project:
Nikon D200 (with 2 digital body back-ups)
18-200 Lens/ 12-24 Lens (plus full compliment of primes and digital zooms)
Dyna Lite strobes (2 -1000w/s packs)
Pocket Wizard wireless system
Profoto Ring Flash
Lexar 300x CF cards
Sekonic meter
Hoodman Loupe
Epson P5000 viewer
Black Foil/Flex Fill/Barn Doors

Editing Hardware:
Mac Pro 8 Core 3.0
5 gigs RAM
2 Dell 20″ Ultra Sharp Monitors
Lexar UDMA card reader

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