First, while Lightroom has not yet received the enormous publicity that Photoshop has (Lightroom, for example, has not yet become a verb. No one says “Lightroom it!” yet) Lightroom is incredibly powerful with amazing capabilities.
Second, consider Lightroom as a digital gateway drug. Photoshop might come later, once you’re hooked. You may actually become quite enamored with Lightroom however, and decide to completely forego Photoshop altogether. Many do. You may even decide make Lightroom a verb.
So? Get to the point.
Here’s my point (or at least one of them): Lightroom is much easier to learn with far fewer tools to master than Photoshop and it has some nifty features that Photoshop doesn’t. Quit Lightroom while working on a photo (you don’t even have to save it!) and when you return, Lightroom remembers every change you made in its History panel. Quit Photoshop and its History panel will be empty when you return to work on the photo! Plus, you may have heard those techie folks tossing around the word “non-destructive” editing*. That is totally true for Lightroom, but not always true for Photoshop.
*Non-destructive means the original photo is not actually being modified. Instead there is a list of instructions that tells Lightroom what you did. Those instructions can be deleted or reset at any time, which will leave the original photo untouched.
Please, read on. I’m almost done.
Before digital, amateur and professional photographers alike made prints using some basic tools for dodging and burning in the darkroom. They rarely purchased a compliment of special films, exotic tools and devices to make multi-element photo-composites from their photographs. (Yes, I know there were a few photographers who did that, but we’re talking about rest of us.) That’s the elemental difference between Lightroom and Photoshop: Photoshop is like an exotic high maintenance, manual stick shift luxury car with a basic stereo radio and CD player; whereas Lightroom is a completely assembled, ready to use high-end, Dolby 5.1 sound system with six-foot speakers*. Let’s face it. Many of us would take the car but wouldn’t know how to drive it. However, if you just wanted the music and didn’t need the ride, which would you rather listen to?
Okay now, the choice is yours. If you want to do hard-core, multi-element photo-composites, Photoshop is definitely the place to be. But in my opinion, if your goal is to organize, keyword and develop your snapshots into full-fledged photographs, Lightroom is the program you’re looking for.
* Please note that Lightroom® does not come with a sound system, nor does Photoshop® come with a luxury car. I was just using metaphors.
There is a spectacular sunrise in Siena, Italy. I shoot hundreds of frames through my open window in the B&B, each just seconds apart, starting with the first few seconds before the sun breaks the horizon until it was hanging low over the hills. The sun’s position changes with each subsequent frame. Later, as I labor over the editing process for well over an hour, I find it hard to choose just one. Each capture is so similar to the next. First I choose a handful, then a couple, then just one. The best of the best.
I wish I could say the photographs are perfect the way they are, but I can’t. “Pretty good” can always be better. Even in the best of cases.
Developing the image in Lightroom is a process. A little of this, then a little of that, undo this, redo that. It’s not unlike the black and white darkroom printing I did for nearly two decades. I was lucky enough to learn from guys like Frank Finochhio, Richard Avedon’s personal printer, Ken Ohara, another protégé of Avedon and Hiro, and Ben Somoroff, an amazing still life photographer who, regrettably, has been all but forgotten. Those skills that were practiced for over two decades still serve me well in Lightroom.
Without having the experience of taping pieces of black paper onto sections of cut metal hangers to “dodge” and forming a circle with my hands to “burn in,” I would not know what many of the terms used in Lightroom mean or how to make the best use of them. Having that physical connection to the darkroom is why Lightroom feels familiar.
As Lightroom Guy, I will try to make understanding and mastering Lightroom clearer and easier, whether or not you bring darkroom experience with you.
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How I approach processing my images in Lightroom demonstrated with before and after photos.
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