Adobe Photoshop is really not about speed. I can’t say it’s ever been – even back when I was using the then-current version 5 (and the more capable 5.5), it was packed full of features and required not only lots of time to even begin to master, but to use for the simple things, too. Not to say it’s slow to work with, exactly, but if you want to accomplish your task quickly without any excuses, Lightroom is perhaps more suitable. It certainly ought to be. Yet if you work slowly and methodically, if you spend not minutes, but hours and even days post-processing a single image or a series, that is what Adobe’s heavyweight is most suitable for. Not for the sort of work where you click a few buttons and move on, but for the patient sort, where every detail matters, where there can be no sloppiness. Simply because of its vast, enormous capability. To own Photoshop just for one or two features is, more often than not, a bit of an overkill.
Just a few years ago, if you wanted more saturated colours in your landscapes or any other sort of photography, there was one basic adjustment to apply – saturation. Especially for beginner photographers, the Saturation slider in Photoshop was one of the most useful tricks to learn and seemed to change everything. You start with a boring, flat looking sundown, and you end up with this magnificent landscape to behold.
I did the first Lightroom Q&A session over a year ago and I think it is about time I do one again. As before, you are welcome to ask any question you like about Lightroom. I very much hope to answer all of them by updating this article. I will run this session for up to a week and update the article regularly with answers. If there are any questions very specific to a certain case, I may answer them in the comments section. Specific, to-the-point questions will be answered in this article, while questions requiring more extensive explanation may be covered in separate articles in the near future. As always, our readers are very much welcome to pitch in and participate actively in this Q&A session by helping with the inquiries (I doubt I will know all the answers!). If you are new to Adobe’s Lightroom and find it difficult learning what’s what, this is the time and place to ask for help!
A while ago, I wrote an article on low-contrast B&W conversions with Lightroom. After reading through some of the response the article received I was pleasantly surprised that so many of our readers actually prefer low-contrast look over the ever-popular high-contrast conversions. That is not to say high-contrast B&W photography is in some way inferior, not at all. It is merely the more popular, the more easily accepted sort of look, which is exactly the reason why I saw fit to go against the wave and start with the opposite. Now, ever since I wrote that piece, I’ve received several requests for a similar article on a high-contrast conversion. This topic is particularly tricky for me since I rarely do high-contrast B&W, but the requests did remind me of one occasion where I was deliberately working towards such a result from the very start. And so, as always, we begin with a photograph.
I will be honest, I am not a fan of Adobe as a company. I never liked their business model: their practice of gobbling up competition (sometimes out of fear), their Creative Cloud extortion and their sleazy management that only cares about their next quarter revenues. But most of all, I never liked Adobe’s poor software development practices. In my past tech life, Adobe products were always a big pain due to numerous security holes and huge, frequent updates. In fact, Adobe has been notoriously bad with releasing poorly tested software with too many security holes. In 2011, Adobe dominated Kaspersky Lab’s top ten PC vulnerabilities list, with “extremely critical” security vulnerabilities that allowed attackers to gain access to computer systems and execute arbitrary code. These security vulnerabilities spanned several Adobe products, which most PCs had at the time and even today: Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player. No wonder Apple did not want to support flash in its iOS (which thankfully resulted in the slow demise of the Adobe Flash), since Flash was a very badly written, resource intensive platform to begin with. Although Steve Jobs mostly blamed Adobe Flash for being a PC-era platform, two of the biggest reasons why Flash support was excluded from iOS were in fact related to security and stability concerns.
Have you ever wanted to do something a little different with your photographs? Not stop with the simple click of the shutter and turn it into an actual digital painting? That is what I am going to teach you in this article. I know not everybody is a painter and while painting skills would be beneficial, you really don’t need to be an artist to do this. The photo below is the result of me using Corel Painter to turn one of my photos into a digital painting. This tutorial contains some creative ideas and methods a photographer can use, even if they are not artistically inclined or have access to the same software as me. The idea is to open your mind to the possibility of using your images in an artistic manner. I am using a bird in this tutorial, but it could be a pet, your friend, a family portrait or anything else.
In my recent Street Photography in Greece article I mentioned that I used DxO ViewPoint 2 to apply perspective adjustments to many of my street photography images. A number of readers contacted me outside of the discussion forum and asked me if I could demonstrate a couple of common adjustments that I do with this software as they were unfamiliar with it.
As good as X-Trans sensors are in terms of performance, most software makers have had some trouble with demosaicing the slightly unusual RAW files in the past. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has been noticeably trailing behind in this regard even back when version 5 was introduced, as I found out in the review. That’s not brilliant given that X-Trans has been around for, what, almost three years now? To be completely fair, the paint-like rendering isn’t as much of an issue in most cases as one might think, and yet I can’t help but wish Lightroom was able to render X-Trans RAW files at least as well as Fujifilm does with its in-camera conversion. After all, superior technical image quality is the whole point of RAW, and Lightroom should certainly deliver. So the question is – does it? Since the X-E2 has permanently taken residence in my camera bag and is now my second tool, if not quite the first one yet, I am very curious to see how my favorite RAW converter will perform.
Careful, now. I am about to get technical.
There are most likely as many ways to achieve a beautiful B&W look as there are photographers. Maybe I am exaggerating it a little, but then I am in love with B&W. It is not as if I don’t like colour, oh no. It’s just that I like the “classic” look that much. So today, instead of doing some general article on B&W conversion and trying to cover several different looks, I am going to pick out a photograph and just work on it until it is exactly how I pre-visualized it a second before pressing that shutter. First of all, though, we need a photograph. I think I have just the right one.
I get asked very, very often how I process my photographs. And it is no secret – most of the time, I simply use VSCO. It suits me so well, coincides with the way I see and pre-vizualise my work, my style and my taste so accurately, only rarely do I need to dive deep into the post-processing closet to pick something else on my own. And yet despite me saying it, I get asked this one question really rather often – how do I achieve that look? It took me a while to figure out what do most people mean by that look, but I have. It’s not the colour or the light or the composition that a lot of you are so interested in when you ask me that question, it turns out. I also figured out why it’s so hard to describe properly – there really is no term for it (a reader has told me it is called “matte” and while personally I’ve not come across it before, we will see if the term will stick for good). It’s a sort of… vintage-retro-dreamy-low-contrast-film look. Sounds vague? It is. That is why any help on the matter is so difficult to find. And yet I am pretty sure you understand – or at least imagine – what I mean. Basically, a lot of you are wondering how to make the photograph on the left look like the photograph on the right.
You will be glad to know it really is rather simple.