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.
As any reader of our previous Mastering Lightroom series articles will know, one of the biggest strengths Adobe’s popular RAW converter has is presets and templates. With its emphasis on speed, Lightroom allows you to create a preset or template for more or less anything, from Metadata, to slideshows or book design. I have already talked about the super-useful Develop Presets. In this article, I will show you how to use Filename Template Editor so that you learn how to name your images as quickly and efficiently as possible.
1) Why Should You Use the Filename Template Editor?
As with all other kinds of templates and presets you can find in Lightroom, filename templates are there for you to make managing and working with images easier. With the Filename Template Editor, you can create several naming templates and include as much or as little information as you want. What sort of information? Well, more or less everything from the metadata of that image – date, equipment, keywords etc. In addition to that, you can also include a custom text field.
In our previous Mastering Lightroom series articles we covered what Lightroom is and how it works. We also took a quick tour around Lightroom’s working environment. After highlighting the basic function and capability of each Module, it is now time to talk about them individually more in-depth, starting with Library Module. Before we can actually start using all Library tools, however, we need images to work with. That is why our first step is to learn how to import photographs in Lightroom. I will be using the latest (at the time of writing) version, Lightroom 5, to guide you through the process of Importing images. Virtually everything but Smart Previews is equally applicable to earlier releases.
Lightroom is a catalog-based photo manager and post-processing tool. That means in order to start working with photographs, you need to first Import them into your Catalog. Importing is a very simple, straightforward process done using the Import window. To start the process of Importing photographs, launch Lightroom and then click “Import…” at the bottom of the left-side panel in Library Module. Alternatively, you can Import photographs by selecting “Import Photos and Video…” from File menu (Ctrl+Shift+I for Windows users). This will open the Import window for you to choose source directory, image files, destination and other details.
A side note: by default, Lightroom should automatically launch and ready itself for immediate Import as soon as you connect an external storage device to your computer, such as a camera or memory card. If it does not or should you want to change this behavior, go to “Preferences…” in “Edit” menu and check or uncheck the “Show import dialog when a memory card is detected” box in the General tab. I find this a particularly useful option, yet nonetheless disabled it immediately after installing Lightroom on my computer due to a simple irritation. Lightroom would launch its Import dialogue even if I connect a simple USB flash drive which I use for general files and documents, not photographs I need in my Catalog.
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.
Due to popular demand, we are starting our new series of articles on commercial wedding photography. Since I have been helping out my wife with her wedding business, being a second shooter during weddings and engagement sessions, I have been writing down some helpful tips, which I am planning to provide on Photography Life. These tips range from very basic things like preparing for the wedding day, to complex setups involving specific situations, like setting up flashes indoors. Our first wedding photography tip is about properly synchronizing time on cameras when working with second shooters and assistants. If you have been commercially photographing weddings, you might have already been frustrated to see photographs from multiple cameras get mixed up when you import them to an Aperture or Lightroom catalog. It is not pleasant to see ceremony images mixed with images from the dance floor and it is certainly not fun to try to go through hundreds, if not thousands of photos and sort through them one by one. Gladly, there are workarounds to situations where it had already happened, which I will share with you in this article. First things first, let’s talk about the proper way to synchronize time between multiple cameras.
How to Properly Synchronize Time Between Multiple Cameras
The easiest method that works every time for us and many others, is to have each person hold his/her camera, get into the camera menu and set specific time. On Nikon DSLRs, for example, time can be changed via “Setup Menu”->”Time Zone and Date” or “Setup Menu”->”World Time”->”Date and Time”. Once time is set to an exact hour, minute and second, everyone in the party must press the “OK” button at the same time. This will make sure that the timer starts at that exact time on every camera. If you use two cameras yourself, just set the time on each camera, then press the OK button simultaneously. The idea is to have the time set exactly the same, second to second, across all cameras, so that shots appear in proper order later. The set time does not have to match real time. As long as all cameras have the same clock time, your images will appear in correct order when post-processing them later.
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.