2016 09 - Learning Lightroom

18th September 2016
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
13th September 2016

Learning Lightroom
Ken Fisher, a professional photographer and trainer, and our first speaker of the season gave members serious food for thought speaking about Adobe Lightroom. Nowadays it is rare to see a photo which comes straight out of the camera win any accolades. Lightroom is a purpose designed tool to enable photographers to improve their images for their own pleasure and to competition standard.

Ken explained that having been designed for photographers by photographers, it brings together seamlessly virtually every tool anyone could need. This has the great benefit that you only need to get to grips with one ‘look and feel’. Any other software you may wish to use for specialist features can be opened by Lightroom and the results of your work are received by Lightroom, allowing you to continue uninterrupted.

We learned that unlike some programmes which enable you to go back several stages if you are unhappy with what you have achieved, Lightroom allows you to go right back to the basic image at any time – even years later. It is non-destructive i.e. it does not throw away any part of the image or associated information but simply creates a list of instructions for changes which can be reversed or altered at any time.

The message of the night was that ‘Dabbling is Dangerous’! Ken meant that, to work efficiently and effectively using Lightroom, you need to learn to let it manage all the functions you need. It will do this very well and if you make changes elsewhere the vital links in the information chain are broken and problems ensue.

It helps to plan how you want to store your photos. Ken used the analogy of a library, where books are stored in a logical way. People think about the storage process, but this is only important when you want to find something. If you load it into the computer in a random fashion, you are going to have trouble finding it again. Lightroom will manage the process of capturing images, but it can only put them where you tell it to.

Lightroom does not replicate the images to produce different versions, so it uses less storage than other software, notably its big brother, Adobe PhotoShop. This can mean your machine works faster.

The first process is to import the images you want to work on. They may already be on your computer, an external hard drive, a memory stick or the card in your camera. Where they are makes no difference. When you bring them into Lightroom you simply navigate to find them then tell it what you want to do with them and where you want to put them.

Ken described how the familiar JPEG format compresses the image and throws away much of the information it contains. When users realised this they wanted a different format which retained all the data they had captured. Individual manufacturers developed their own RAW format to store entire images in camera but this was vulnerable to subsequent decisions to withdraw support. The Digital Negative (DNG) format was developed in 2004 independently of any camera manufacturers of to future proof images. All camera formats can be converted to DNG and some cameras are now shooting directly to this format. Lightroom can do the conversion for you. An additional benefit is that DNG’s more efficient compression keeps all the data but saves about 10% of the storage compared to RAW.

One evening was too short to go into detail on all of the tools Lightroom offers. Each new version adds new tools and it is now possible to process your images and then export them for many different purposes. They can go straight to the web, to email or to social media. If you export to Flickr, you can see the comments you get via Lightroom and respond. Users can set up templates to export for their own particular uses such as local publications or making cards.

Ken warned that if you commit to working in Lightroom, you need to back up, which it will do for you, but it is short-sighted to send the backup to your computer’s hard drive. Ken strongly recommended using two external hard drives and backing up to them alternately.

The recent development of Smart Previews has enabled users to take much smaller files to work on when they travel and to synchronise everything automatically on their return. Other new developments are a haze removal tool and the facility to cure ‘pet eye’ – the green colour which spoils many a photo. The system can now recognise faces and build an index of all the pictures featuring a particular person.

Following his talk Ken demonstrated how he uses the system to import and process images, creating a lovely scene from something which most people would have rejected as too dark.