Mastering Lightroom: 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.

How to Use External Editors

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.

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Mastering Lightroom: 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.

How to Add Film Grain

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.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Tether Your Camera

Lightroom is a very flexible image management and processing software, but apart from powerful tools and settings to enhance your photographs, it also offers features that help you during the actual process of photographing. Have you ever felt that, even with the constant resolution and physical size growth, camera LCD screens just aren’t big enough for comfortable image viewing in the field? Luckily, Lightroom offers a way to import photographs and review them as you shoot. This function, called Tethered Capture, is especially useful for studio photographers who don’t tend to move about too much. It can be equally useful for landscape photographers, too. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will explain how to tether your camera. This allows you to import images directly into the Lightroom 4 environment for quick and comfortable revision as you photograph.

How to Use Tethered Capture

1) When Should I Use It?

The best time to use Tethered Capture is when working in a less active environment. For example, studio and landscape photographers, who tend to bring their laptop computers along on a shoot, will find it to be very simple and fuss-less. However, wedding photographers, who tend to move all the time and change their shooting position, would find Tethered Capture to be annoying at the very least. Who’d want to photograph a wedding with a USB cable strapped to the camera constantly, and through it, a laptop? You’d need an assistant just to have that laptop lugged around behind you! In many other situations, Tethered Capture can make reviewing images that much more pleasant.

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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.

Mastering Lightroom: How to Use Virtual Copies

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).

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All I Want For Christmas Is… A Working Computer!

Some intermittent PC problems, followed by a serious crash and some toasted devices, and work associated with reconfiguring a new PC have consumed more of my time lately than I care to admit. All the while, a pile of photography gear has been staring at me daily, crying out to be reviewed. Computers, in their various forms, have become rather ubiquitous. Most of us tend to take them for granted, at least when they are working properly. One cellphone provider recently advertised that upgrading our smartphones wasn’t just about improving technology, but rather an improvement to our very lives. That’s a bit of a stretch, but it is fair to say that some of us indeed identify too much with our technological toys!

“A Little Neglect May Breed Great Mischief”
“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

- Ben Franklin
Poor Richard’s Almanac

When things go awry, however, we are reminded just how important technology can be to both our professional and personal pursuits. The following post details my recent experience and some insights that may help you prepare for the worst.

Christmas Tree

Attempting To Resurrect The Dead

Having had every model of PC since the original IBM PC produced in 1981, including a few I custom-built, and a number of Macintoshes along the way, I am pretty comfortable dealing with all manner of both software and hardware issues. I have successfully brought a few PCs back from the proverbial “dead.” As such, I have a healthy sense of paranoia regarding PC technology and realize that if anything can go wrong, eventually it will!

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Street Photography Tips for Beginners

It is a very natural urge for photographers to document the swirling life around them. We often find ourselves drawn into, as observers, a number of situations and noticing interesting details about other people on the streets. Photographically capturing these moments is a very different thing, however. While landscape photographers will usually find themselves alone and sports photographers are expected to point huge lenses at people, it is a much more self-conscious process to photograph random people in public places. I am sure many of us have regretted leaving our cameras in the bag in the face of interesting everyday situations. In this article, I will provide several street photography tips for beginners. Hopefully, it will help you start using your gear more freely without fear of being confronted by your subjects.

1) What is Street Photography?

In essence, street photography is a type of candid photography done in a public place, be it a street, a restaurant or even public transport. It is similar in approach to photojournalism and mostly involves people (and/or animals) in a populated environment (which provides the context of a story told), such as a city. However, street photographers often focus on everyday lives of strangers rather than some kind of important event photojournalists are more interested in. Usually, street photographers try as much as possible to stay unnoticed when photographing. The goal of street photography is to capture scenes unaffected by the author of the work so as to show a natural story and subject. Story and subject are possibly the most important aspects of a good street shot. Henri Cartier-Bresson, arguably the best street photographer of all times, “the father of photojournalism”, had once said: “Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.”

Street Photography Tips for Beginners

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How to Use a Monopod

While a good, sturdy tripod is often best for stabilizing your gear, there are times when a monopod is more convenient and/or can be a big help in supporting larger camera/lens combinations. In keeping with Nasim’s mention in the Focus and Recompose Technique article that we would be doing some posts on basics and Tips for Beginners and since we have had a couple of monopod reviews, it occurred to us that some people may not know how to use a monopod properly, so we decided to share some pointers. The main differences between the three methods that we will discuss here is where you place the foot of the monopod.

Method 1: Straight Out in Front

Monopod straight in front

Most people will first use this method as it is the logical way to use a monopod. With their own legs standing square and spread to approximate shoulder width, they will put the foot of the monopod roughly centered between their legs and straight out in front of them so that the foot of the monopod forms a triangle with the photographers two feet. This more or less mimics a tripod with two legs supplied by the photographer and the third from the tripod. To increase the stability, the wrist strap should be utilized by using it to firmly seat or push the monopod foot into the ground.

monopod with wrist strap

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How to Use Prime Lenses in Low-Light Environments

Fast prime lenses offer a number of advantages. They are great tools in many situations – whether you need discretion, low-light performance, portability or aesthetics, there’s a lens for every taste. However, these strong advantages also come with certain issues. When used wide-open (meaning at maximum aperture), many prime lenses render extremely shallow depth of field. In normal lighting conditions modern AF systems are capable of focusing accurately. In low-light environments, our DSLRs start to suffer, which reduces our chances of capturing sharp images. Because of this, missed focus is often mistaken for lack of general lens sharpness by beginner photographers. In this article, I will introduce you to several tips on how to use fast lenses in low-light environments, which hopefully will make you feel a little more confident when using them for your photography needs.

How to Use Prime Lenses in Low-Light Environments

Tips on Shooting in Low-Light Conditions

1) Calibrate Your Lenses

The first step you need to take in order to focus accurately in any light, is to make sure that your lens(es) can focus accurately in general. Front and back-focusing has become a very known issue recently. It has become especially visible with higher resolution sensors – they are most unforgiving if you miss focus even slightly. If you want to know why these issues happen, please read our How Phase Detection Autofocus Works article where we explain everything thoroughly. If you want to identify whether your gear has any of these problems, read our How to Quickly Test Your DSLR for Autofocus Issues article.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Enhance Landscape Photos

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.

Mastering Lightroom: How to Quickly Enhance Landscape Photographs

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Which Nikon Prime Lens to Buy First?

Buying a DSLR often means having several accessories to go with it, among which are lenses. But choosing your first lens isn’t easy – there are so many choices available at so many different price points, which can make it quite confusing for a beginner to find a lens for a particular need. In this article, I will discuss several budget Nikon fast prime lenses most suitable as a first step into the fixed focal length world. Which Nikon prime should you buy first? Which one would make the most sense? You need a lens to stay on your camera for years to come, you need it to be good for family portraits and some occasional snaps. Or maybe even for your future photography business – who knows?

Which Nikon Prime Lens to Buy First?

Well, read on as I highlight the strengths of each affordable fast prime Nikon has to offer. I hope this article will help you with this tough choice most of us had to make at one point or another.

1) Why Buy a New Lens?

So you bought yourself a brand spanking new DSLR and now you want better pictures. Where do you start? When our images do not turn out good, we usually blame the camera, without even having the patience and time to learn how to use it. Do you find yourself using the camera in Auto mode all the time? If yes, then why don’t you first educate yourself and learn what those other “PASM” modes are for? We have plenty of beginner tutorials on this website and our photography tips for beginners page is a good place to start.

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