Tag Archives: adobe

Photo Editing With Histograms: 6 Basic Settings

The image histogram is often viewed as a thing of “extra information” and treated as a “good way to check for clipping”. While it’s true that the histogram provides a good check for highlight and shadow clipping, it also serves a greater purpose in post processing. Our mortal eyes are no match for the mighty histogram when it comes to tricky photos. Understanding the histogram and how your image editing software interacts with it can greatly improve your productivity and quality output.

In a recent article, I went over “How to Read Image Histograms” while providing some visual examples in the realm of brightness and contrast — two very basic concepts when it comes to photography. Now, we explore how the histogram and image are affected by other basic post-processing adjustments. For the purpose of this article, we’ll be looking at the tools available in the “Basic” panel of Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw (other packages should have similar tools available).

These tools have unique and specific effects on the image and the image histogram. With the basic tools presented here, you should be able to manipulate your image within 90% of its final stage — further adjustments will come from more advanced tools (which we’ll look at in the next article).

In all of the examples below, I’ve added +50 to the base contrast setting so the effects of the adjustments can be visualized more clearly.

1. EXPOSURE

This adjustment acts much in the same way camera exposure does, by basically shifting the entire histogram to the left or right. This has the effect of brightening or darkening your overall image. The shadows tend to be more anchored than the highlights, and you’ll notice some distortion of the histogram as you move the adjustment to either extreme.

Notice that as you increase the exposure, the contrast tends to increase slightly due to the anchoring of the shadows. And as you lower the exposure, the contrast tends to decrease. This can be seen by the change in the width of the histogram.

For “normal” exposures, you’ll just want to make sure the histogram is somewhere between the edges. If you’re going for a low-key or high-key image, you’ll want to push the exposure accordingly. If you have a well exposed capture, you shouldn’t need to adjust this setting very much.

2. RECOVERY

This adjustment is intended to recover highlights by pulling them back down a bit. Here, the shadows are completely anchored and the increased recovery lowers the tone value of the highlights and upper midtones.

In this example series, I’ve started with an intentionally overexposed image to show the effect. In practice, I rarely need to adjust above a value of 25 or 50. Go much further than that, and you end up pulling your highlights into a gray area, making the image look flat due to lower contrast.

3. FILL LIGHT

This adjustment is the exact opposite of the recovery tool. Here, we pin down the highlights and increase the tonal value of the blacks and lower midtones.

In this example series, I’ve started with an intentionally underexposed image to show the effect. In practice, I rarely need to adjust above 25 or 50. Go much further than that, and you start pushing your blacks into a gray area and losing contrast and tonal depth.

4. BLACKS

This adjustment is sort of an anti-fill light… it brings your shadows down further into the dark region while having less effect on the highlights. This is good to use when you have less than perfect blacks and you need to tug that histogram just a little to the left.

In this example series, I’ve started with an image of slightly higher brightness to better show the effects of this adjustment.

5. BRIGHTNESS

We went over the brightness adjustment in the last article, but I’ll add a few notes here. You’ll notice that it acts very much like the exposure adjustment, pushing the image brighter or darker (and moving the histogram to the right or left). But it does this in a slightly different manner. The exposure control is more directed toward the extremes of the histogram, while the brightness control is more directed toward the center of the histogram (midtones). It still moves your highlights and shadows, but it moves more of your midtones than exposure does.

In this example series, I’ve started with the default image of +50 on the contrast and no further adjustments.

6. CONTRAST

We also went over contrast in the previous article, noting that the wider histogram equates to more contrast. This is a handy adjustment tool to use when your histogram doesn’t quite reach the edges at the blacks and whites, or if your image looks flat due to a heavy midtone concentration.

And again, you can see that the brightness and contrast adjustments are tied together and not completely independent.

HOW IS THIS USEFUL?

Understanding your histogram allows you to process the photo on a technical front rather than on pure aesthetics. Understanding how these basic adjustments affect the image and the histogram will allow you to manipulate it with more confidence.

But don’t get too caught up in watching your histogram — in the end, the only thing that matters is a photo that appeals to your eyes.

60 Second Post-Processing Technique

Dictionary : Time
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kat…

The technique outlined here really just applies to a first round of processing — this might be acceptable for posting to Flickr, but a fine art print would require much more time and effort on your part. Also, I’m not talking about doing black and white conversions, crazy artistic interpretations, creative cropping, etc. We just want to make the photo look more natural at this point.

60 seconds may sound fast to some people, but it may sound like an eternity to others. Sure, it’s way too short for print preparation and it’s way too long for working through hundreds of stock submissions that might have basically the same white balance, exposure, and/or subject matter. But this method is intended to use your time effectively while giving each photo individual attention.

The steps below are for Lightroom or ACR users working with raw digital files.

SHARPEN AND REDUCE NOISE (0 SECONDS)

Article: Save Time with Sharpen and Noise Presets

In most situations, the sharpening and noise reduction settings can be applied in batches for any given camera and ISO range. Just build a sharpening and noise reduction preset and apply it to all the images you’ll be processing further. This can be done before or after any other editing, but I like to get it done up front so I don’t forget.

The exception to this rule of batch processing is when you have photos outside the “normal” camera setting ranges. This means that photos with high ISO or long handheld shutter speeds will typically require some individual attention, but everything else can be processed with presets for typical use.

STRAIGHTEN AND CROP (+10 SECONDS)

Straightening

Not every photo is going to require this step, but let’s just include it as a worst case scenario. The main intent should be straightening anything that’s slightly misaligned from what you want. I’d say keep the creative cropping to a minimum at this point — you can go back during in-depth processing and toy around with it.

To straighten, just use the Straighten tool and drag your horizontal or vertical line. The rotated crop will automatically be applied and you can move on to the next step.

WHITE BALANCE (+15 SECONDS)

White Balance

Cameras aren’t very good at picking white balance, so some adjustment is usually beneficial. By default, your image white balance may be set to As Shot. What I like to do is highlight the pull-down menu and scroll through the auto and predefined settings to see which one gets me the closest. In some cases this will be enough, in other cases you’ll have to make a slight adjustment manually. If you have a good neutral gray source in the photo, you can also use the White Balance Tool to save some time.

I would suggest doing this step before making any basic adjustments because I’ve noticed that different white balances will give different automatic exposure settings in the next step.

BASIC ADJUSTMENTS (+25 SECONDS)

Basic Adjustments

This is an area that you could spend a lot of time messing with, but you can also get a really good result with minimal effort. The first thing I do is hit the Auto and Default adjustment a few times back and forth so I can evaluate which one gives a better starting point.

Once I have my basic starting point, I take a quick look at the histogram to evaluate where things are at (I’ll actually do a separate article for working with histograms). Then I just run down the group of sliders from top to bottom until I get things pretty close.

  1. Modify your Exposure if the image is inherently too dark or bright.
  2. Add Recovery to pull back heavy or clipped highlights.
  3. Add Fill Light to push up heavy or clipped shadows.
  4. Add Blacks if your shadows look dull.
  5. Modify your Brightness to shift the overall brightness or darkness.
  6. Modify your Contrast if the image looks too flat or too punchy.

You could end your processing right there if you punch up the contrast enough, but I like to leave it a little flat for the next step. I also don’t usually apply any Clarity, Vibrance, or Saturation adjustments in this round of editing. You’ll find that a good contrast and tone adjustment will really boost the colors.

TONE ADJUSTMENT (+10 SECONDS)

Tone Curves

I actually find that the Tone Adjustment does a better job at dealing with contrast because it offers more control by splitting the highlights and shadows. Most of the time, I’ll only adjust the Lights and Darks sliders until I see a pleasing contrast level. Many images will only require a slight “S curve” to get you where you need to be.

Now, if you don’t leave the Basic Adjustments slightly flat, you’ll get really exaggerated contrast results after applying Tone Adjustments. Then you’ll have to go back to the other panel and turn things down — which of course takes more time.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Am I way off base here? Am I spending too much time on basic first-round adjustments? Am I not spending enough time per image? What do you do with your images you intend to post or share through informal mediums? Here’s the before with the example photo used above:

Before and After 60 Seconds

Not a huge difference, but quite noticeable at full screen. At any rate, it’s in a more “natural” state and it should be much easier to evaluate and detail process from here.

I would say that the 60 seconds could be reduced to 30 if several things fall into place: straight horizons out of the camera, correct white balance out of the camera, and good exposure out of the camera. A well captured image requires very little post work, but it should require some if it’s a raw image. On the other hand, you could easily require 2 or 3 minutes per photo if you’re doing a lot of corrections due to a poor capture.

Save Time with Sharpen and Noise Presets

beautiful time
Creative Commons License photo credit: I, Timmy

A lot of photographers produce a ton of photos, and those photos usually need some amount of post processing to at least make them look natural. Those who are doing stock photography process a lot of photos, but a lot of us also post a decent amount to blogs or photo sharing websites. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that saving time during post is good.

So in this article, I’m sharing a small tip for using Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw presets for sharpening and noise reduction settings. These are settings that generally don’t change much between photos and they can effectively be applied to batches of photos to save time. I should also note that this tutorial is based on Adobe Camera Raw, and Lightroom should be very similar (though I don’t have the software to confirm that). If you guys see any huge differences, let me know and I’ll update the article.

HOW TO CREATE YOUR PRESET

Here are the basic steps in Adobe Camera Raw (similar to Lightroom) for creating a sharpen and noise reduction preset that can be applied in batches. Screenshots for each step are shown below — click for larger versions.

  1. Pick a good baseline photo — well exposed, somewhere around ISO200-400 (unless you typically shoot somewhere else), a shutter speed of 1/125 seconds or faster (again, unless you typically shoot somewhere else), and with good sharp focus.
  2. Open it up for processing, zoom to 100% or 200% in a sharp area, and go to your “Detail” panel with the sharpening and noise reduction settings. You can see my before and after settings for my baseline photo.
  3. Adjust the sliders until you get a decent result. Don’t over-do it — over-processed photos are much more noticeable than under-processed photos.
  4. Now save the settings in a Preset by going to your preset panel and creating a new one. Uncheck everything except for “Sharpening” and the two “Noise Reduction” boxes.

Create -  Step 1 Create -  Step 2 Create -  Step 3 Create -  Step 4

HOW TO APPLY YOUR PRESET

Now that you have a preset (or set of presets for various cameras and/or ISO settings) you can apply it to many photos at the same time. With Bridge, you can select the photos you want to adjust, right click, go to “Develop Settings”, and choose your preset. Within Adobe Camera Raw, you can select the photos you want to adjust, go to the “Presets” panel, and choose your preset. With Lightroom, you can probably do it either way but it’s been a while since I used Lightroom and I no longer have the software installed — so you Lightroom users will have to correct me if I’m wrong.

Apply with Bridge Apply with Adobe Camera Raw

WHAT ELSE DO YOU PRESET?

You can save pretty much any setting as a preset with Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. So what do you guys have in your list of presets that you use all the time? Lens corrections? Camera calibration? Basic settings? Black and white conversions? Do share!

Improve Your Productivity With Labels

I included this topic in the Guide to Adobe Bridge: Organizing a while back (has it really been over a year?), but I wanted to mention it again. This quick little tip is aimed directly at the users of Adobe Bridge and/or Adobe Lightroom, though it may apply to other photo organization software as well.

Sometimes we get busy with things and the photo archive keeps filling up. If you don’t have time to process all your photos immediately, you should at least label the photos and/or their containing folders rather than try to remember which photos have been processed. Simply adding a color-coded label to my folders and photos has saved me a ton of time by eliminating the need to sift through thousands of photos each time I want to process a few.

Folder Labels

As soon as I create a new folder in the archive, it gets a red label (that’s my “To Do” color). As I start to work on photos in that folder, I’ll change it to yellow (“In Process”). And when I’m done, I’ll change it to green (“Complete”). These labels at the folder level keep me on track and tell me which sets of photos are being worked on or still need work. As you can see in the image above, there’s no guessing at what needs to be done next.

Photo Labels

I do the same type of labeling system with my photos — red, yellow, green. One of the first things I do after importing is apply red labels. These are the photos that I’ll consider for processing at some later date, usually 1/4 to 1/3 of the full set. Now, using your label filters, you can weed out the junk and focus on the good stuff. After a photo has been processed and exported, I’ll apply a green label so I don’t have to keep looking at it while processing the unfinished photos. This method also gives you a sense of accomplishment as you watch the red counter go down and the green counter go up over in the filter panel.

What do you use to keep track of your unfinished and finished photos as they stack up in the archive? Labels, tags, stars, folders, something else? Everybody seems to have a different way of handling these things, so I’m curious what’s working and not working for others.

PhotoNetCast Speaks with Adobe on Lightroom

PhotoNetCast

Episode #18 of the PhotoNetCast is now available for your listening pleasure. In this one, we talk with Tom Hogarty — an Adobe product manager for Lightroom. We talk to him about all kinds of things regarding the popular software, and he gives us some good insights to the “behind the scenes” work that goes into such software.

And as a special feature, Adobe gave us one copy of Lightroom to give away to our listeners! That’s a $300 piece of software! If you want a chance at the software, you’ve got until December 17th to enter the raffle.

You have two ways of entering: leave a comment (1 entry) or write a blog post (2 entries). In either case, we’d like to hear how Lightroom would change your digital photography workflow. Pretty easy if you ask me!

VISIT PHOTONETCAST 18 FOR MORE INFO

Link Roundup 10-04-2008

As always, lots of great things happening around the web.

Link Roundup 09-27-2008

Link Roundup 09-06-2008

  • September Challenge
    PhotoChallenge.org
    It’s still not to late to join in the September Challenge. Each week will be a different type of portrait to shoot.
  • 5 Useful Upgrades In Photoshop Lightroom 2.0
    digital Photography School
    If you haven’t upgraded to Lightroom 2.0 yet, here are five good reasons to do so. This latest release has a lot to offer, and it has a lot of photographers talking about it.
  • debate 2008: digital vs. film quality
    Pro Photo Life
    Our pal Jim Talkington got himself into a whole lot of extra work when he compared a film and digital photo of the same scene. All the film gurus came out of the woodwork and Jim plans to redo his experiment with their suggestions. I’m looking forward to this…
  • Breaking the Rules of Photography
    Beyond Megapixels
    It’s good to know the “rules” of photography. But sometimes it’s best to break those rules.
  • The Mysterious Model Release Demystified
    Hyperphocal
    Want to learn more about model releases? This articles covers everything from why to when you need on and what a good model release should include.
  • Composing an Action Sequence Shot
    DIYPhotography.net
    A good little tutorial for composite processing action sequence shots.
  • Are the Masses Unhappy With Adobe?
    PhotoWalkPro
    Jeff comes across a neat website where Adobe users complain about the products. In this post, he recaps the top 10 complaints for Photoshop and Lightroom.

Lightroom Users Address Concerns with the Software

Sure, try haggling here.
Creative Commons License photo credit: gak

In a previous article, I stated 3 Reasons Why I Refuse to Use Lightroom. This got the Lightroom users pretty fired up.

But I didn’t write the article just to get these folks twisted up — I did it to get the discussion going. My “3 Reasons” are actually concerns that I’ve heard from various other photographers who haven’t jumped into Lightroom yet (and they’re my own concerns too). So I figured the best way to address these issues was through the community on this website.

We had nearly 40 comments (and one blog post response) in just a few days, and most of them were addressing the concerns presented. This is so awesome — exactly the thing I was hoping for. Here are my “3 Reasons” addressed by the community.

ABOUT THAT DATABASE…

MY CONCERN: A database is a bad thing. It only adds more possibilities for things to go wrong. I like to keep my metadata with the files rather than in a database.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Keep a backup of your database. You can choose to have the database store minimal information. The database makes browse/search features much faster. It allows you to work offline with your photos.

Yes, it is true that Lightroom uses a database. However, it’s also true that Lightroom (1) Stores *all* of your images in folders on the hard drive and (2) Can keep *all* of the adjustments you make to your photos in the sidecar/XMP files (or within the metadata of DNG images)… So long as your storage system is somewhat sane, Lightroom handles storage on multiple drives with ease. In fact, you can perform many operations on files currently offline! Say you’re remote on your laptop and you want to find an image in your library – you can do pretty much everything you need short of exporting a full-res image without even connecting the USB drive that the image happens to be stored on. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

I too hate being tied to a database. The way I use lightroom, it’s almost as if there wasn’t one. In fact, the only thing that can really be said to be using the database is the thumbnails… version 2.0 of Lightroom preserves the navigation structure of the folders where the images are stored, so I take full control of the organisation. ~~ Neil Creek

On the DB issue: is you set up the system like Neil describes above, you really do not need to care if the DB is corrupted, destroyed or whatever. All of the data is still in the original files and can be reimported into a new catalog (DB). Also, copying a catalog from one machine to another works just fine (you can even copy the preview images, which aren’t stored in the catalog itself). ~~ ramin

I have the same paranoia with the DB, but as others have already said, you can simply turn on the global option to also record everything in the XMP sidecar file (or internally with DNG files). This does slow the processing down somewhat, but it is still worth it. ~~ Sean Phillips

The database is there for one simple reason, speed. The reason I gave up on Bridge/ACR is because it was too slow… With the LR database I can quickly parse through a folder of 3000 images with close to zero delay… If you want sidecar files, you can still get them with LR. I actually export sidecar files for all my photos after doing any editing of them… I backup the LR database daily and even if I loose it, all my work is still in the files on the NAS and I can just re-import everything with no loss. ~~ latoga

I delete my LR database all the time. It’s okay. The XMP files have all the information in them. And they sit right next to my .CR2 files — meaning they get backed up / moved TOGETHER as a unit. No worries about losing a database here. ~~ David Terry

A database would not mess up your directory structure and it shouldn’t have anything to do with your pictures. The LR database only contains metadata about your pictures and it doesn’t hold any of your pixels…so no worries there…if you lose the database you will only lose the metadata you haven’t saved to your image files. ~~ Vlad

I don’t mind being reliant on a database because LR keeps reminds me to back it up every week (more often, if I change my settings). I save the DB on a separate HDD, so I’m still covered if one drive fails. ~~ Luis Cruz

Number one advantage of using the database for me…. Offline access to your images. You can have images stored across dozens of external drives, CD/DVDs, networks, where-ever, and you can find them all without having the devices connected. You can do any database operations (searches, cataloging, etc) with the drives disconnected, but for editing of course they need to be online. You can’t do that with Bridge, once the drive is disconnected, so are the images and access to them. ~~ Mark

NOT SO REDUNDANT…

MY CONCERN: Lightroom is basically the same thing as Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw combined. There aren’t enough unique features to justify the extra cost.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Lightroom provides a fluid and streamlined interface as compared to Bridge/ACR. A single interface speeds up productivity over the long run.

Brian is correct here: Lightroom uses the exact same RAW converter that Photoshop does via its Camera RAW module (ACR). However, it is quite a bit more than just a combination of Bridge and ACR. Browsing through your photographs and making adjustments in Lightroom is a very fluid process. This is not my experience with Bridge + ACR! What is missing is the database back-end that Lightroom leverages to make browsing quick and efficient. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

While that may not be drastically different than what you’re used to [with Bridge/ACR] the benefit is having the tools in one consolidated piece of software. ~~ Jim Goldstein

The feature parity you mention only refers to what can be done to the images, not how it is done. You may prefer working with ACR for your raw processing, but from my little experience with it, Lightroom walks all over it. In fact, the interface is entirely the reason I prefer Lightroom to Bridge/ACR. ~~ Neil Creek

I still do use Photoshop but just for the heavy lifting of going in depth or fine tuned adjustments to a photo. At this point LR gets me through 90%+ of my editing work and much faster than any other tool I have used. ~~ latoga

I’ll concede this – there is a lot of overlap between LR and PS Bridge + ACR. I’ll say this much though – my processing times were cut in half (and that’s understating it) when I started using LR. I process anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand images for each shoot, and while I still promise to deliver images within one week, I can usually submit my discs the next day. ~~ Luis Cruz

THE MOB RULES…

MY CONCERN: Just because everyone is using the software, it doesn’t mean that it’s the absolute best thing to use.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Most photographers are very software savvy and they don’t just use something because everyone else does.

Lightroom is definitely mainstream, but it’s for good reason… You need to make your own decisions about the tools you use in your workflow and remember that it’s about making great images – not the tools you’re using to get there. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

People haven’t jumped onto Lightroom because everyone else is doing it. They’ve done so because the software saves photographers time (processing and searching) and its filled a much needed niche for easily organizing ones work. ~~ Jim Goldstein

Your equally silly for NOT wanting to use Lightroom because of the mob mentality as those who may use it for the same reason. I couldn’t care less what the mob thinks. I care what people I respect think, and my own experience. I’m sure you’re the same really, but don’t think you have to be a rebel or rage against the machine. You may be missing out on something you’d othewise like. Sometimes the mob gets it right. ~~ Neil Creek

It really is about saving me time…I could care less what the mob thinks as well. But since it saves me time, that is value that I’m willing to pay for. ~~ latoga

I think the reason for the cult following is simple – LR is a great tool for managing images. When I first used it, I thought – what was all the fuss about? However, after I first processed a shoot with over a thousand images with it, I was sold. ~~ Luis Cruz

ADDRESSING SOME LIGHTROOM MISCONCEPTIONS

6825
Creative Commons License photo credit: obeck

In addition to giving the Lightroom community a chance at defending their software, I wanted to see how many Lightroom misconceptions bubbled out of the discussion. I prompted this with my point #2 — being redundant with Bridge/ACR. I find that many Photoshop users are unaware of the features they already have at their fingertips, and they assume that they have to go buy Lightroom to get those features.

Want a view that shows you all of the files you’ve taken with the 24-70mm lens in 2008 on the 5d with the keyword ‘Tree’ (but not those with the keyword ‘apple’) and are rated 5 stars? Not a problem; it’ll even update itself as you import new photos. Want to build a collection of images that you’ve displayed at a particular gallery show? Just make a collection out of them and this view is always available to you – without requiring extra storage since the collection is just info in the database. You can’t do that in Bridge! ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

Yes you can. The search capabilities are the same between Bridge and Lightroom. Bridge also has the ability to create Collections based on pre-set search criteria. What it can’t do is create “drag-n-drop” albums (or groups of photos) — you have to use keywords or other metadata to prompt the collection.

… the database IS handy for finding a photo or photos, whether it be by keyword, lens, shutter speed or any other metadata. Can Bridge do that? ~~ Neil Creek

Yes, it can.

The reasons I like it better than Bridge are…
[1] easier library management, including tagging, titles, search etc – and it’s faster than Bridge
[2] non-destructive edits
[3] ability to make changes to one RAW file and copy and paste those settings to a selection of other RAW files
[4] good integration with Photoshop when you want to do advanced edits
[5] good plugins, including an Export to Flickr plugin and develop preset plugins
[6] I can do RAW development without needing to go into Photoshop/Adobe RAW
[7] I can work so much faster in Lightroom.
~~ Tim Johnson

[1] Yup, it tends to be a bit faster if you have a well-kept database.
[2] ACR is also non-destructive, even with JPEG files.
[3] Bridge can copy and paste image settings too.
[4] Photoshop isn’t really integrated with Lightroom, it’s the same with Bridge.
[5] ACR has good presets too — they’re the same raw process settings as Lightroom.
[6] Bridge can also launch ACR without launching Photoshop.
[7] I don’t doubt it.

Try taking a batch of 200-300 images (after selecting the shots that will be processed further), adding metadata to them (subject names as keywords, copyright info, titles, and locations), processing them, and exporting to the web, and you’ll get an idea why it really has gained such a following. ~~ ramin

No problem, that’s what Bridge and ACR are built for. I do exactly that with every shoot.

It’s all in the workflow for me. Photoshop doesn’t have too much of a workflow capability as far as i’ve observed, whereas Lightroom is flexible enough with an array of workflow options which works great when you have several hundred photos from an event to process and pick for different uses. ~~ Charlene

You’re totally right. Photoshop doesn’t have workflow capabilities when it comes to large sets of images. Bridge does — that’s the software that I was comparing Lightroom to, not Photoshop. Bridge.

Furthermore, how long do you expect that Bridge will continue to exist now LR has been out for a while? As you mentioned before, LR is using bits from Bridge and I see little business reason for Adobe to allow Bridge to potentially cannibalize LR. Don’t be surprised if the current version of Bridge is the last one. ~~ Chris

Bridge CS3 won’t be the last one — I’m using Bridge CS4 right now. I can’t see them getting rid of Bridge because it’s bundled with more than just Photoshop. The software is a media management system, not just a photography tool.

So listen, the big overall point here is that Lightroom is a killer piece of software. If you’re looking to step up your organization/productivity game, this is the way to do it. The software is still very new and I expect that future releases will be better than we can imagine — Adobe has a tendency to listen to the users. But also keep in mind that if you’re already a Photoshop user and you don’t want to jump into Lightroom quite yet, you can get a majority of the functionality from Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw. Whatever you decide to use, make sure it meets your needs and gives you room to grow.

3 Reasons Why I Refuse to Use Lightroom

Sure, try haggling here.
Creative Commons License photo credit: gak

Ok, ok, now before you Lightroom fans get all twisted up, read this and read it carefully. This post isn’t intended to stir things up. I’m not a Lightroom user, but I’m a Photoshop user. Those who know me also know that I’m a big fan of using Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw to organize and process my photos.

But in no way am I trying to give Lightroom and Adobe a bad name or put the software (or it’s users) down — it’s a great tool, and I know a lot of photographers who swear by it. On that same note, I’ve also had a lot of photographers baffled at my decision to avoid Lightroom. So here they are… the top three reasons why I refuse to use Lightroom:

1. DEPENDENT ON A DATABASE

MNFTIU
Creative Commons License photo credit: [.i.c.e.]

I’m sorry, but I’ve already been hit with database issues in the past. I’m sure Adobe has things nailed down pretty tight, but I don’t like the idea of having to rely on those things to keep track of my photos. Call me old fashioned, but I like to place my photos on my hard drive in the folder hierarchy that I’m comfortable with, use sidecar files to store extra information, and only rely on my organization software to view the photos and place/utilize metadata.

Why am I so against a database? Doesn’t it make things faster and more organized? Sure, but what happens when you get new hard drives, upgrade operating systems or entire computers, or decide to use a different photo organization software at some point? You may find yourself out of luck.

2. REDUNDANT WITH BRIDGE/ACR

Redundancy
Creative Commons License photo credit: Will Pate

I’ve already made the decision that I utilize Photoshop enough to justify paying for it. Yes, Photoshop is a totally different beast from Lightroom, but the software bundled with it isn’t. Lightroom is basically a combination of Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw — they share many features and they use the same Raw processor.

Lightroom does have a few extra features and conveniences, but is it worth the extra cost if I’m already investing money in Photoshop? I think not. Lightroom and Bridge/ACR are so similar in nature that I’m willing to bet Adobe will leapfrog the two software packages with each new release. Meaning, you can probably expect to see many Lightroom 2 features in the next Bridge/ACR bundle, in addition to some new stuff that Lightroom doesn’t have. Then Lightroom 3 will probably have many of those new features plus some new stuff. And so on, and so on… (note that this is all just speculative rambling on my part, I could be totally off)

3. MOB MENTALITY

Since the introduction of Lightroom, there’s been somewhat of a cult following. I understand that it’s a useful piece of software, but I’ve seen more than one avid Photoshop user jump ship (or decide that they need both Photoshop and Lightroom). I’ve also had several fellow photographers urge me to get on board with Lightroom as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I tend to ignore the preference of the masses, and make my decisions based on my own needs. I’m the same way with the whole digital vs. film thing — I rather enjoy shooting film, no matter how many times ex-film photographers tell me how terrible the stuff is and how digital is the only way to go. Cool, if it works for you and it makes your life easier, I’m not going to stop you from following that path. I feel the same way about camera brands — I made the decision to shoot Minolta/Sony because it suited my needs best, not because they’re the most popular name brand.

YOUR TURN!

Ok, go ahead and let ‘er rip in the comments. Shred me to pieces. Preach your Lightroom gospel you users of Lightroom. Tell me why I’m wrong, and convince me to change my mind.

Actually… I’m hoping for a healthy conversation about the benefits of Lightroom from all of you using it. There are quite a few non-Lightroom-using photographers out there who could get a lot from such a conversation. I think it’s a great (and cheap) alternative option to Photoshop for a majority of hobbyist photographers.

This post is also part of Problogger’s Killer Titles group writing project.

UPDATE: Here’s a follow-up response from the readers!