Nov 122012

I bought Adobe Lightroom 3.0 a year ago, before my trip to Japan last fall, along with the Photoshop CS5 upgrade. At the time, I figured that when I got to Japan, I would shoot a bunch of photos, and have the time to edit and sort them out. And somewhere in there, I’d have time to figure out how Lightroom worked, too.

How naive.

In reality, when I wasn’t wandering around in my spare time, I was studying until I passed out during the week. There was no time to learn something like Lightroom, which looked alien to me, who has used various iterations of Photoshop since version 3.0. (Not CS 3.0, 3.0.)

When I got back from Boston this year, I decided that my photos are not going to organize themselves, so I fired up Lightroom. “Let’s get this over with,” I thought with the same excitement one feels when going for a root canal.

And then I found out that Lightroom had been upgraded to version 4.0 (now 4.2, going on 4.3), and all of the cool kids were raving about it. Well, truthfully, they were raving about 3.0, too, but now it seemed like Lightroom did some cooler stuff, and generally processed photos better.

So I upgraded.

Learning to Love Lightroom

At first, I started messing with things to see what did what, and watched a few Adobe TV videos to get the feel for it, but while the library was pretty easy to figure out for someone like me who is familiar with databases, I had no idea what was going on in the develop module.

While I was desperately searching for some kind of help, I just happened to come across a link to George Jardine’s videos about Lightroom. Really, if I hadn’t been reading a totally unrelated thread on the Adobe message boards, I’m not sure I would have found these videos, and that would have been a shame.

George’s develop video series is about 6 hours long, and it contains 18 videos. I spent a weekend marathoning it, and by the time I was done, I finally understood how Lightroom’s develop module works, and I managed to figure out a way to process photos in a way that gives me results I like.

If you’re someone who likes to learn via YouTube, and are struggling with getting Lightroom to sing, I highly recommend George Jardine’s videos. They’re awesome. Just give up a day or two and watch them, then play with Lightroom to see what he’s getting at.

I have a bad habit of buying 4-inch thick $50 computer books, and later using them as doorstops. I have discovered that I just learn faster by watching videos of someone showing me how to do it.

One other thing: it took me until the series was completely over to really get everything sorted out in my head. I would recommend waiting until the last video before messing with publishing anything online, because you’ll wind up republishing it again.

And again.

If you’re like me, and have a massive pile of unprocessed photos, I highly recommend Lightroom. Once you get the process down, it’s an order of magnitude or two faster than Photoshop to power through with lots of quick, non-destructive edits. Now I don’t have to worry about saving 10 different versions of a 50MB file just to make sure I don’t screw things up. I can just dump all of my photos in one place, and let Lightroom do its thing.

More importantly, from within Lightroom I can publish my photos to my Flickr account, to my Picasa account, or send them to Costco to be printed up however I want. I love the plugins.

Here are a few links to some useful Lightroom sites:

Calibrate that Nasty Monitor!

Before you start editing a bunch of photos, I would suggest that you do two things:

1. Calibrate your monitor. If you don’t know what that means, head to and learn all about it.

I use a Spyder 3 Pro, and it does a pretty good job. You don’t have to get a Spyder, but get something to help you calibrate.

2. If you can’t find lens profiles for your camera/lens combo, you might want to create some of your own. Go to the Adobe web site and search for Adobe Lens Profile Downloader and Adobe Lens Profile Creator. With the downloader, you can search for profiles other people have uploaded, and with the creator, you can just make your own for those weird lenses you got off of eBay.

Another thing to consider, if you’re finicky about color, is the XRite ColorChecker Passport. It’s pretty handy for getting those white balances nailed, when the light is uniform. (When you’re dealing with mixed light, well, good luck with that.)

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