Mastering Lightroom: Basic Post-Processing Workflow

Mastering Lightroom Basic Post-Processing Workflow

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.

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Lightroom vs Photoshop Elements

Photoshop Elements 11

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.

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The Truth About Adobe Upgrades

Lightroom 5

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.

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Photoshop vs Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements?

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.

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Mastering Lightroom: Post-Processing Portraits

Before-After Comparison

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.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use External Editors

How to Use External Editors

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.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Add Film Grain

How to Add Film Grain

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.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use Virtual Copies

Mastering Lightroom: How to Use Virtual Copies

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.

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Lightroom 4.3 and Camera RAW 7.3 Update

Lightroom 4

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.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Enhance Landscape Photos

Mastering Lightroom: How to Quickly Enhance Landscape Photographs

So, you’ve taken a photograph of a beautiful sunset or a peaceful, fog-covered valley. But something is missing in the picture – it just doesn’t look as good straight out of camera as the scene you were seeing at the time. By using simple Lightroom tools, such as Clarity, Graduated Filter and Curves, enhancing a landscape can be a very simple and fast process. While there are many advanced ways of processing landscapes, not all images require that much post-processing. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will show you how to quickly enhance landscape photographs using just Lightroom 4.

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