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.
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.
Almost every function in Lightroom has a specified keyboard shortcut for quicker access. Using keyboard shortcuts is a great way to speed up your post-processing significantly, but memorizing all of them can be quite tough. You can view these Module-specific keyboard shortcuts by selecting “<…> Module Shortcuts…” from the Help menu at any time, or by hitting Ctrl + / on your keyboard. Mind you, as many as there are of the shortcuts listed in this table (shown for the Develop Module below), there’s actually more of them. You can find all the Lightroom 4 shortcuts in Adobe’s Help page for both Mac and Windows, while Lightroom 5 shortcut list should be available shortly.
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.
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.
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.
By now you have probably heard about Adobe’s decision to stop development of Adobe Creative Suite (which includes such software as Photoshop and Illustrator) and move to a completely different subscription-only model. In short, Adobe does not want to sell packaged versions of its software anymore and wants you to instead pay for select software packages or the whole Creative Suite on a monthly basis. For example, today you can purchase Adobe Photoshop CS6 for $599 and own the license, which means that you can install it on your computer and use it whenever you want without limitations. With the new Adobe pricing strategy, you will no longer be able to purchase Photoshop that way – you will have to get a $20 per month subscription for using Photoshop alone (or $50 for the whole Creative Suite). There will be no other option. Software will be delivered over the Internet and once you get it installed, it will make occasional requests over the Internet to Adobe.com to verify your subscription level. Creative Cloud will work the same way that CS6 works today, except it will require an active subscription. When traveling without any Internet connectivity, the software will work for a limited amount of time (something like 30 days) before ceasing to work and requiring you to connect to the Internet.
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.
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.