Almost every function in Lightroom has a specified keyboard shortcut for quicker access. Using keyboard shortcuts is a great way to speed up your post-processing significantly, but memorizing all of them can be quite tough. You can view these Module-specific keyboard shortcuts by selecting “<…> Module Shortcuts…” from the Help menu at any time, or by hitting Ctrl + / on your keyboard. Mind you, as many as there are of the shortcuts listed in this table (shown for the Develop Module below), there’s actually more of them. You can find all the Lightroom 4 shortcuts in Adobe’s Help page for both Mac and Windows, while Lightroom 5 shortcut list should be available shortly.
Most of my previous Mastering Lightroom series articles were about specific techniques and features of Adobe’s popular post-processing tool for photographers. Of course, learning these techniques is very important, yet for someone who’s just started using Lightroom, other questions come to mind first. Where do you start? What do you do first? How to keep your catalogs uncluttered and organized? Answers to these questions can be extensive, but in this article, I will try to describe a very simple, basic workflow I often use myself. This workflow allows me to keep my catalogs tidy yet at the same time helps me get to actual post-processing very quickly and in just a few steps. Many of you already have your favorite workflows, I’m sure, and some will involve different or more steps than this one. With this article, my goal is to get those of you completely new to Lightroom up and running quickly so that, with practice, you can decide on your own approach.
Lightroom is a catalog-based post-processing application. For someone new to such photo managing approach, it may sound complicated at first, but actually isn’t. What it means is that Lightroom doesn’t work with the original files, but stores information about them – along with rendered previews – in a set of files that make up a Catalog. We’re not going to talk about advantages and disadvantages of such a system, suffice to say both are present. More importantly with Lightroom, in order to edit images, you first need to import them into the Catalog. To import your images, start Lightroom and select “Import…” from the bottom of the left-side panel while in Library module (hit “E” to engage Library module or select from the Module panel at the top of the screen). Alternatively, you can import photographs by selecting “Import Photos and Video…” from File menu (Ctrl+Shift+I for Windows users).
After my “Photoshop vs Photoshop Elements” article, many of our readers suggested a comparison between Photoshop Elements (PSE) and Lightroom would be more useful. I must admit, I found such requests to be a little strange, because I believe both of these programs to be very different. The difference lies in both targeted user base as well as complexity and overall functionality. On the other hand, some features are shared between Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as between Lightroom and PSE. In this article, I will describe similarities and differences between these two popular post-processing applications by Adobe to see whether one can serve as a replacement or an alternative for the other.
Photoshop, PSE and Lightroom Differences
The three most popular image post-processing programs among photographers by Adobe – Lightroom, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements – all target different user bases. While each can be used as a substitute for another in many situations, it usually results in a compromise. Let me give you a short user-base description for each product.
When I criticized Adobe for its “Creative Cloud” push, where I talked about how the company is forcing its customers to migrate to the Creative Cloud subscription service without giving the choice to buy an individual license for its upcoming software, I talked a little about the software update past. Basically, at some point in the past, Adobe decided to stop providing updates to its older Camera RAW software, telling us that the new versions were incompatible with the old ones and that updates would be provided only to the most recent versions of its software. This was a big push on behalf of Adobe, which forced many photographers to upgrade their Photoshop licenses – otherwise they were not be able to open RAW files from newer cameras.
Adobe Camera RAW is a widely used tool by photographers. Since photographers upgrade their equipment constantly, Adobe knew that the easiest way to make people upgrade to the latest version of its Photoshop software was to make new Camera RAW versions that were only compatible with the latest version of Photoshop. Eventually, photographers would be required to upgrade or inconveniently use Adobe’s DNG converter to convert those RAW files to DNG format and then work off those. If you used Photoshop CS5, you were forced to use Camera RAW 6 and you had no option to upgrade to Camera RAW 7 that ships with Photoshop CS6. Previous versions were done the same way, I believe starting from CS4.
Digital photography has become extremely popular thanks to its accessibility and speed, but to get the best out of those photographs some time needs to be spent editing and tweaking them. Thankfully, plenty of applications are available for you to complete such tasks with, starting with moderate and user-friendly functionality of Google Picasa all the way up to most complex pieces of software, such as Adobe Photoshop (or simply PS). In fact, Photoshop is probably one of the most popular photo processing programs currently available. Most people that use it know but a few percent of its capabilities and are likely never to use all of it, myself included! Fewer people still understand that it has never been targeted squarely for photographic use (the way Adobe Lightroom is, for example), but rather all sorts of graphical editing. How much sense does it make to use such a complex and professional piece of software to edit simple family photographs? Not that much if you’re a simple enthusiast who just wants high quality photographs with minimal fuss. Thankfully, Adobe has something for you as well. Photoshop Elements (PSE in short) is a lighter, simpler, quicker version of its sibling. In essence, it offers all the functionality you’ll ever need to edit your JPG and even RAW images, but through user friendly tools and interface. In this Photoshop vs Photoshop Elements article, I will give you a quick tour of 11 capabilities of Photoshop Elements. Hopefully, this brief comparison will help you decide which one is better for your needs.
What is Photoshop Elements?
As the name would suggest, Photoshop Elements is a close relative to the Photoshop CS, but unlike its bigger brother, it’s not targeted at professionals. Don’t get me wrong – Photoshop Elements 11 has a lot tricks up its sleeve, such as RAW support through Adobe Camera RAW plug-in. On one hand, anyone familiar with the regular, full-fledged Photoshop will find themselves right at home. But Elements doesn’t encourage you to use any serious tools manually – in fact, it aims to do most of the work for you with just a few clicks. So if you want your family images to pop and stand out with minimal fuss regardless what sort of gear you use, be it a DSLR, a mirrorless camera or a compact point-and-shoot, this may well be your answer. Luckily, being targeted at a very different audience means the price is also significantly lower. Adobe Photoshop CS6 retails for around $590, while the Extended edition costs a whopping $900. You should really consider whether you need all that functionality, because Photoshop Elements 11 will set you back a mere $60 (current price with instant savings).
Many of our previous Mastering Lightroom series articles focused on specific Lightroom 4 features and tools, as well as ways of using them in your everyday workflow. I’ve explained how to use the Basic Panel and talked about the Tone Curve in great detail. We’ve also learned how to use External Editors, Spot Removal Tool and Virtual Copies. However, simply learning what each feature does is not our goal with these articles. After all, theory makes sense only when put to practice. In the end, we want to teach you how to actually edit your images, start to finish, no matter the subject or scene or desired result. We want you to be able to use what Lightroom has to offer without thinking about it, just as we should use our cameras and lenses. Learning what each tool does individually is essential, but what matters in the end is how we make them work in conjunction with one another. Perhaps then it is time to shift away from features and theory for a while and move towards editing images to achieve desired look in practice? There are many aspects of Lightroom we haven’t covered so far. Many tools, options, modules and tabs yet await our attention. But this time, instead of explaining specific settings, we will do some simple portrait post-processing focusing most of all on color and tones.
In every Mastering Lightroom series article, I mention certain strengths of this, in my opinion, superb piece of software. Only every now and then do I find something small to complain about, as I have in my “How to Manage Presets” article. I strongly believe Lightroom offers more or less everything needed to process a well captured image and offers plenty of powerful yet simple photographic tools. However, as our readers have wisely noticed in the comments section of my “How to Use the Spot Removal Tool” article, on rare occasions these tools may not be powerful enough. Here comes another strength of my favorite photo processing application – flexibility. You can use other programs to do what Lightroom can’t, and then go back with the processed image to its familiar and simple environment. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will show you how to use external editors with examples provided using the most popular and capable you can buy – Adobe’s own Photoshop.
1) What Software can be Used with Lightroom 4?
A good question, this. As of late, I’ve found my photography changed in such a way I rarely, if ever, need to use something other than Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, but if such an occasion does present itself, I know I have enough choice. First and foremost, Lightroom supports the all-powerful Photoshop, which itself is likely enough to satisfy your every need when editing images. If Photoshop alone is not enough, remember the huge library of amazing specialized plug-ins you can find for it, including Google’s very capable Nik Software and the (rightly) popular Topaz Labs products (which we have plans to review). In other words, you may use Photoshop and, through it, all the plug-ins you can find and purchase or download as freeware.
With mainstream days of film long gone, one would expect all the disadvantages it had on offer to be rid of for all times, as well. Digital is all about clean, high quality images now. Contrary to such an assumption, however, film has not left our everyday lives without a trace. A trace that is even more noticeable now that photographers got used to the differences between the two “religions”. Now, I say “got used to”, but the truth is plenty of photographers got bored of the sterile digital look and thus would seek ways of livening it up (instagramed anything lately?). One notable featured of photographic film has always been grain. Although, like high ISO noise in digital world, it was a result of increased light sensitivity and as such, an undesirable degradation of image quality, film grain was loved even during the past era of photography. Reasons behind it would make a fine discussion – in short I would say that grain was simply organic and beautiful – but one to be had with a pint of beer in hand and complimented by laughter and warm fire light. Instead, we will concentrate on actually applying film grain, or what is closest to it, with digital photographs. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will explain how to add film grain to your images. You will learn how to increase the size of grain, make it rougher or smoother and also hide high ISO noise (or make it more appealing) with it without the need of applying noise reduction.
1) What is Film Grain?
In essence, it is the chemical equivalent of digital high ISO noise, or, rather, the other way around. As film sensitivity went up, the amount and character of grain increased, just as ISO noise levels increase as you push sensor sensitivity to light up. Noticeably, film grain became visible at much lower sensitivities than current digital noise. Certain film of 400 ASA/ISO would already show visible graininess, and producing fine-grain film of 400 value was no small feat. Understandably, there weren’t any ISO 12800 equivalent films. One of the most sensitive films, the wonderful B&W Ilford Delta 3200, rendered so much grain, it would be thought quite unusable by some all-modern, technical quality junkies of digital era who have never been familiar with film aesthetics. Some prefer to see Delta 3200 as 1600 film pushed one stop during development. Think underexposing an image and correcting exposure by one stop in Lightroom with Exposure slider.
As all previous versions of Adobe’s popular photography management and post-processing software, Lightroom 4 offers catalog system. Such a choice has both positives and negatives. One of the positives is non-destructive editing, which basically means the original image file remains intact no matter what you do to it within Lightroom environment (you can, however, delete the file entirely if you wish so). A side result is a very useful feature called Virtual Copies. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will explain how to use Virtual Copies. By the end of the tutorial you will learn how to copy, delete and compare them, as well as see different situations when creating a Virtual Copy can be very useful.
1) What are Virtual Copies and Why Should I Use Them?
As the name suggests, Virtual Copies are copies of an image file created virtually. In other words, they are copies created within Lightroom environment only. Creating a Virtual Copy does not copy the source file physically. Lightroom only stores editing information within its catalog. Among other things, such an approach also saves disk space (you only need to store information about the adjustments, not both that and a copy of the RAW file itself).
If you happened to launch Lightroom today, you might have been notified that a new version of Lightroom 4 is available. Today, Adobe released the final production version of Lightroom 4.3. As usual, plenty of bugs have been fixed and a lot more cameras and lenses have been added to the release. Full RAW support for Nikon D600 has now been finalized and new cameras like Canon EOS 6D, Nikon 1 V2 and Sony RX-1 have been added to the database. Lots of expensive Leica lenses, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II and other third party lenses have also been added to the Lightroom Lens Correction module.