Lightroom Catalogs Explained

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.

Lightroom Catalogs Explained

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.

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What is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom?

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.

What is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

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.

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How to Photograph Family Portraits

Of all things photography I love photographing family portraits. For me, family portraiture is generally more flexible than any other type of photography, and it gives me lots of opportunities to express my creativity. If you are thinking about getting into family portraiture or perhaps someone asked you to photograph their family, you might not know where to start and how to plan it all out. In this article, I will talk about photographing family portraits and provide some tips on simple things you can do to come back with photos that the family will treasure for years to come.

Family Portraits

1) Communication

It goes without saying that communication is key in people photography. From the day you receive the first e-mail from the client, make sure that you stay continuously engaged. Respond to inquiries promptly and keep your clients informed at all times, especially on any potential schedule changes. Portrait sessions are not weddings and there is always a chance that your client might forget when and where the photo shoot is supposed to take place. Therefore, put some reminders in your calendar to notify your client several days in advance about the upcoming session. I typically remind my clients about a week in advance via email, phone or Facebook first, then send another reminder the day before the session. If my client does not respond, I call them and make sure that they get my message. Effective communication is important for a busy pro, because the schedule can get packed very quickly. Rescheduling a missed photo shoot can get costly, especially if you have that one weekend day planned for a family outing.

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Wildlife Photography Tips: Take a Kid Shooting

Ok, I know you may be thinking, “How is take a kid shooting a wildlife photography tip?” Maybe it isn’t in the traditional sense. Regardless, I was thinking about an ad campaign here in the United States that promoted fishing whose slogan was “Take a kid fishing” and it got me to thinking about photography and a similar slogan that could be “Take a Kid Shooting”. I have a grandson that has taken a liking to photography having been influenced by his father and grandfather’s love of taking photos. His interest has given me the pleasure to take him out and have him shoot with me from time to time.

Take a kid shooting

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Defining Success

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to your attention a masterpiece video from Fstoppers interviewing creme de la creme of current photographic community. Zack Arias, John Keatley, Joe Mcnally, Peter Hurley, Scott Hargis, David Burnett, Greg Heisler, David Hobby – each share their struggles, experience and goals they’ve had throughout their career, which ultimately shaped them into what they are today. I hope Patrick and Lee will not get offended if I say that this is by far the best video they have produced throughout their original series. Although the original title says “Success in Photography”, after watching this video what appealed to me most was how these successful people integrated photography to their lives and how photography changed their outlook on the world.

I find this philosophy to be practically universal for almost every career out there. If your opinion differs, I would love to hear your thoughts about it.

Food Photography Tips: Introduction

My personal food photography journey started slightly earlier than my love for wedding and portrait photography. Since I cook a lot, one day Nasim suggested that I document it and possibly turn my recipes into a blog. It started with one single shot of the final look of the dish before we devoured it, and ended up developing into step-by-step recipes that started gaining popularity. Although I took a break from food photography, I still kept on getting questions regarding the craft of food photography. So, I decided to start writing articles dedicated to food photography tips and techniques and how to work with food in various situations.

Food Photography

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How to Plan a Photo Shoot

Most of the cover photos for famous magazines and different publications are taken with very simple photographic tools. If you carefully look at the photos, you can probably tell what the light source is from the shadows that fall on the model and roughly understand what really went into making that specific production. While anyone can take a photo using the same tools, it, does not necessarily mean that you will end up with the same cover page.

How to plan a photo shoot

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Wildlife Photography Tips: Go to the Park

Many people enjoy photographing wildlife but sometimes don’t seem to know where to go to find the opportunities. It doesn’t need to involve going to exotic locations or spending big money for a guided trip. Oftentimes, some of the most accessible wildlife is found if not literally in your backyard, then close by. In this quick tip for the beginner wildlife photographer, we advise you to get out and go to the park.

Common House Finch in Crabapple Blossoms

Living in an urban setting doesn’t mean you don’t have access to wildlife. In fact, much of the wildlife found in urban settings, give photographers an advantage over their more rural counterparts – they are more approachable. Any animal that is more acclimated to humans, tends to be less skittish and will allow closer interaction. In local parks, there are people walking, riding bikes, jogging, fishing, boating, playing, etc. and due to this increased human activity, the animals tend to recognize our behavior as less threatening. They recognize things that are out of the norm and will heighten their alert mechanisms only when something is different.

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Mastering Lightroom: Post-Processing Portraits

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.

Mastering Lightroom Basic Portrait Post-Processing

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Understanding Histograms in Photography

Histograms can be found in almost any modern image editing software. It is my guess that most current digital cameras, including some compacts, can display histograms as well – some even live as you shoot using your LCD screen. Such a persistent inclusion would suggest that histograms are quite important. Even so, many beginner photographers don’t seem to understand what they show. There is nothing wrong or shameful with that, as histograms may appear to be rather complex at first. Truthfully, they aren’t. In this article for beginners, I will try to teach you how to understand histogram. Hopefully, by the end of this tutorial, you will learn to “read” them and see if they are useful to your photographic needs.

How to Understand Histogram

1) General Understanding

A histogram is a graphical representation of the tonal values of your image. In other words, it shows the amount of tones of particular brightness found in your photograph ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness). As shown in the image above, dark tones are displayed on the left side of the histogram. As you move rightward, tones get lighter. The middle portion of the histogram represents midtones, which are neither dark nor light. Vertical axis of a histogram displays the amount of tones of that particular lightness. Histogram is exposure-dependent, but is also affected by tone curve and other settings.

2) Shadow and Highlight Clipping

Shadow and Highlight ClippingIf a certain portion of the histogram is “touching” either edge, it will indicate loss of detail, also called clipping. Highlight clipping (areas that are completely white and absent detail) occurs if the graph is touching the right side of histogram. Shadow clipping (areas that are completely black and absent detail) occurs if the graph is touching the left side of histogram. Either case can be often fixed by altering exposure settings. However, you must remember that it all depends on the scene. For example, if there’s sun in your image, it is only natural it will be so bright – completely white, in fact – that highlight clipping will occur.

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