This is a follow-up article to the tutorial I published a few days ago on how to create a panorama image in Lightroom. In the article, I used a very simple and straightforward panorama image which could be merged without any errors virtually on first try. The image did not have a main object of interest and only a few points that needed critical precision during stitching process. I chose this image for the sake of convenience – I didn’t want it to cause any apparent problems while I tried to explain how to seamlessly include Photoshop or any other panorama merging software in your Lightroom workflow. However, we all understand that, more often than not and especially with Brenizer method panoramas that I love so much, the stitching process is far from being perfectly accurate every time. More complex panoramas require several tries before the stitching is done properly, or manual correction. But how do you manually correct a panorama that you are trying to merge through Lightroom? It is actually easier than you may think and is unlikely to upset your workflow in any way.
A while ago, I wrote an article explaining how to use Lightroom with external editors. Since then, I’ve been asked specifically about merging panorama images. In this article, I will show you all the steps you need to take to successfully merge a panorama and have it back in your Library with minimal fuss. I will be using Lightroom 5.2 and Photoshop CS5, but the process is virtually identical with (reasonably) older versions of both software tools. This tutorial will focus on the process of stitching a panorama image while using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as the heart of your post-processing and image management workflow.
If you are new to panorama photography, the best place to start is by reading our “Panoramic Photography Tutorial”. Manual panorama stitching technique will be discussed in a separate article.
1) There is a Catch
We start, unusually, with a problem. As a RAW file converter and photo manager, Lightroom has limited functionality when it comes to graphical editing. In fact, all its great flexibility is concentrated within the two mentioned main functions of the software. In many other respects, Lightroom is not the best choice. For example, I can edit 98% of my wedding photographs with Lightroom alone, no problem. However, the two remaining percent happen to be Brenizer method panoramas. This is where things, at first glance, get a bit more complicated. As I am sure a lot of you already know, you can’t stitch panorama images with Lightroom alone. If you didn’t yet know this and stumbled upon this article hoping to find a different answer, I am sorry to disappoint you. It lacks such functionality at its core. There is, of course, a workaround. What Lightroom can’t do on its own, it can do with the help of external editors and plug-ins. Panorama stitching happens to be one of those holes you can fill in quite easily if you own a Lightroom-compatible panorama stitching software which, in my case, is Photoshop. So, in order to create a panorama in Lightroom (sort of), you need to export those files to an external editor. Photoshop has a very powerful Photomerge tool for just such occasions, but the problem remains. You need to own another piece of software to perform such a task. I find that perplexing.
This is a quick guide on how to upgrade from Lightroom 4 to Lightroom 5, if you are considering moving up to the latest and greatest Lightroom version. While the process of upgrading the actual software is pretty straightforward, there are some important steps you need to take to make sure that the catalog is upgraded successfully and you are using the latest available features. If you are scared about upgrading and have not done it in the past, this guide might help you to go through the process. The good news is, Adobe allows keeping both versions of Lightroom on the same machine, which means that you can install LR5 and continue to use your old LR4 with the old catalog(s). Once you are satisfied with the upgrade, you can then remove the old version of Lightroom, along with the old versions of catalogs.
1) Download and install Lightroom 5
If you are hesitating about downloading the online version of Lightroom 5 versus buying a boxed version from a store, don’t – they are both exactly the same. Adobe lets you download the full version of Lightroom and use it for 30 full days until you input the serial number from a retail boxed version, or the one supplied by Adobe when you purchase it digitally. This is a great way to try it out and see if you want to keep it or not.
You know how things sometimes just… click together? You hear a new soundtrack and, out of nowhere, it takes you away. You meet a new client or a friend and it feels as if you were meant to work together or help each other. Click. Just like that. You read a book, watch a movie, start a project, fall in love, get a job you never knew you wanted – click, click, click. It’s perfect. Nothing else feels quite like it – so bizarre and, at the same time, so obvious, you can’t help but smile as broadly as you possibly can. Ever since I made a switch from Photoshop to Lightroom, I’ve been looking back awestruck at how easy and quick my post-processing has become. All in one place with no permanent, destructive changes – it was a revelation. If previously, I considered using professional post-production services just to save time, Lightroom made the whole process hassle-free and I could do everything myself. Mind you, I am not Adobe’s spokesperson and would never promote their product like that without good reason. But Lightroom, despite all the frustrating bits…just clicked.
How do you improve on that?
One of the key areas that we will be focusing during our upcoming post-processing workshops, is image management and its effect on your workflow process. Unfortunately, many of us end up using Lightroom just for editing images and might not be aware of the powerful filtering and image management tools built right into the software. Before I started using Lightroom, I used to have a very messy folder structure in my computer, with images residing in multiple folders and several drives. I never really bothered to organize images in my file system, because there was no good way to do it – most operating systems cannot even properly read image EXIF data and lack built-in functionality to effectively sort through thousands of images. After discovering Lightroom, I was able to finally organize all of my images in my computer and once I developed a good methodology, I have been using the same process successfully for many years now. I wrote a detailed guide on this a while ago in my “how to organize images in Lightroom” article (which is pretty old and needs to be updated for Lightroom 5), where I go into more details on the import process. In short, if you have a messy folder structure today, I highly recommend that you organize it as soon as possible. Not only will it save you from a lot of headaches when searching for a particular image, but it will also standardize your workflow process and make your backup process simple.
I recorded a video earlier today, where I demonstrate the image management capabilities of Lightroom and talk about why you should be managing your files directly from Lightroom rather than your operating system. Here is the video:
For those that cannot watch the video, I will soon be updating my article on organizing images in Lightroom for the latest version and include many of the notes from the above video.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments section below. I hope you find the above video useful and I hope it will motivate you to re-organize your photo library.
A week ago, I started a Lightroom Q&A Session where I offered to help you solve any problems you may have with Lightroom and answer other questions. I was delighted to see some many inquiries and hope that I managed to help out at least some of you. I’ve just finished updating the article with more answers. I did my best to contact some of you in the comments section in earlier updates. Those who still haven’t heard from me personally, please see the updated article.
I haven’t had the chance to answer all the inquiries – there is still about a dozen questions waiting for my attention. I will try to comment on the remaining issues as soon as I can, it has been a tough week in terms of workload. Any additional questions are still welcome. Thank you to all those who helped!
Ever since Lightroom 5 has been released by Adobe, I have been actively using it and comparing with Lightroom 4. So far, I have only been happy with the new release and found most new functions to be both useful and well implemented. Our upcoming Lightroom 5 review is almost done and, for a while there, I thought it would be positive from start all the way through. But only recently I found certain troubling performance issues. These issues can either be version specific and thus affect all users, or it can be some sort of a local issue only present on my system.
In our two previous Lightroom articles, I explained what Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is and how its catalog-based file management and post-processing system works. Now that we are done with the basics, it is time we move to something a bit more practical. In this article, I will introduce you to the Lightroom environment. You will learn to understand the most notable elements of its user interface – Lightroom Modules. I will explain what the seven Modules are used for and how to switch between them. This article will also outline some of the basic tools within each Module. Hopefully, this article will help you see Lightroom’s full potential and understand that it might be more than enough of a post-processing and image management software for most of your digital photography needs.
1) What is a Module?
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has a very extensive list of tools available. It may not be as powerful as Photoshop for certain things, but when it comes to anything photography related, the latest version of Lightroom has some of the best built-in capabilities for image editing. Naturally, Adobe had to figure out a way to ensure all the functionality is conveniently accessible, and yet not overwhelming at the same time. So instead of dumping everything into one place and creating a mess, they came up with the concept of Modules.
You may have heard about Catalogs before as there are two main opinions among photographers. Some think Catalogs are the best way to work with images. Others remain skeptical and prefer to access and manage their image files directly without a catalog-based management tool. But what exactly are Catalogs? What are the strengths of database driven catalog systems and are there any downsides to this approach? In this article I will talk about Catalogs and explain the benefits and downsides of such post-processing and image management systems. I will also show you how to create and efficiently manage new Lightroom Catalogs.
1) What is a Catalog?
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a catalog-based post-processing and image management software. For someone new to such photo managing approach it may sound complicated at first. Simply put, a Catalog is a Lightroom-specific database file. Employing a database system means Lightroom does not work with the original files directly. Instead, it stores information about them – along with rendered previews – in a set of files that make up a Catalog. The list of such information includes metadata, filters, rating and adjustments you may have applied to a specific photograph inside Lightroom. The actual image file is not stored within the Catalog, only information about the adjustments and an image preview. Image files themselves remain wherever you decided to put them in the first place before importing into Lightroom. As a result, whenever Lightroom prompts you to back up your Catalog, it does not back up the actual images. Only the relative information stored in that Catalog is copied.
Post-processing is an unavoidable, inseparable part of professional photography today, be it photojournalism or fashion photography. Because of that, choosing the right software tool for post-processing your work efficiently is as important as having the right camera and lens combination for the job. It is no surprise that demand for such flexible and powerful software is met with some serious contenders. One of such contenders comes courtesy of Adobe, a software development company best known for its powerful graphics tool Photoshop. Nowadays Photoshop is widely used by photographers (hence the term “to photoshop” applied to almost any sort of image editing), but it is not intended strictly for photographers – it has a much broader user appeal. For photographers, Adobe has developed a somewhat different piece of software called Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. As the name suggests, Photoshop blood runs in the family, but Lightroom is vastly different from its bigger brother. In this article, I will explain what Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is and why it’s such a great choice for aspiring photographers.
1) The RAW File Format
The first thing I ought to say about Lightroom is that it’s basically a RAW converter. But for someone new to Lightroom, software and digital cameras in general, the statement is hardly informative. That is why before we dive into Lightroom, it’s best to talk about RAW file format and what a RAW converter is. Don’t worry, it may sound a little complicated, but it is all actually rather simple to grasp.
1.1) What is a RAW File?
RAW image file is also known as digital negative and this title can give you a pretty good hint. Simply put, RAW file is information gathered directly from a camera’s image sensor without any sort of digital adjustment. In order to photograph in RAW format, you need to set it in your camera settings (even some point-and-shoot compact cameras have such a feature). Usually you can find it among image quality settings in camera menu.