I briefly mentioned my admiration for the latter in a previous blog post. So much so, I regret not learning it until last summer. I have been getting intoThat’s right, Flickr is still a thing. It also obeys my I’m-not-going-to-explain-this-very-clearly-am-I? theory of online communities – notably that they’re friendliest and … Continue reading photography again recently.
Lightroom gets quite a bit of stick, mostly for Adobe’s subscription model as much as anything, though the Photography plan – at £10 a month with Photoshop as well, is arguably a bargain. Here’s what I like about itI should add I’ve not tried Capture One, which lots of people like:
- All edits are entirely non-destructive and the whole history is retained.
- They’ve made it near impossible to accidentally delete your photos: you have to reject them first, then specifically choose the Delete from Disk option, rather than the default “remove from Lightroom”. Even so, your RAW files are still in the macOS Trash. And on your memory card until you erase (or preferably, reformat) it, because, also, despite constant pressure, Adobe have refused to add any sort of command to wipe SDHC cards from within Lightroom.
- Your catalogue files are backed up daily by default and you’re prompted to do this when closing the app. The catalogue backups are SQLite databases in clearly timestamped directories, which accumulate forever until you get rid of them.
- Likewise, your photos themselves live in a directory structure entirely of your choosing – I went with /Pictures/yyyy/yyyy-mm/yyyy-mm-dd – which you can move anywhere on any drive. You do need to learn the basics of how Lightroom syncs files and folders, and preferably not start moving things around in Finder by yourself – ask Lightroom to move it for you so it doesn’t lose track of your files. But compare the clean and simple nature of all this to Apple’s latest obscure, proprietary incarnation of their Photos app, where everything is dumped in a huge hidden package file you fear could corrupt itself at any moment and over which you have little control.Another reason not to use Apple Photos is how it insists on running an AI scan of your entire library which it’s impossible to switch off – although, small tip, opening the Photos app … Continue reading So when you inevitably run out of disk space and need to move things around, it’s a lot less stressful. And, once Lightroom has generated the preview files, you can perform your edits on them without access to the originals.
- For professional photographers, it’s easy to setup separate catalogues for different client projects.
- Excellent keyboard shortcuts – of which some of my favourites: Q to toggle in and out of Spot Removal, and [ and ] to vary the size of the brush. Holding down spacebar to switch between spot removal (or whatever else you’re doing) and the ability to move around the image. Z to toggle between two customisable zoom levels. \ to toggle between the original “before” image and your working version.
- I don’t use HDR the often, but it’s a better implementation than anything else I’ve tried. Lightroom just doesn’t do a ‘dramatic’ setting (which imho looks hugely unrealistic – now some people really do like that sort of style, but I like to imagine they’re the same people who are into emoji and memes…) Also though, if there isn’t enough in common between the images – i.e. something has moved – it’ll simply refuse to merge them, rather than do a mediocre job.
- Similarly, Spot removal is simply much higher quality than other apps I’ve tried (e.g. Pixelmator Pro, Serif Affinity Photothough it’s very nice to see Serif making something popular again, as someone who loved PagePlus back in the 90s. Tips: if you get a blurry mess, try making the brush a bit larger. Also remember to use the H shortcut to show where it’s cloned the replacement from, which you can then drag around if lines don’t match up. It’s very quick too – this photo includes, oh I don’t know, 50+ instances of spot removal to clear large amounts of guano and chewing gum off Canterbury’s unloved paving stones? Yet I was able to do that in a few minutes on a nine-year-old Mac Mini (the previously mentioned hold-the-spacebar trick helps too).
- I love the Flickr integration. The Flickr API hasn’t changed much on the surface (it’s a nearly twenty year-old legacy codebase), but the uploading support is solid, and being able to use all your existing keywords and metadata without having to enter it again, and merely dragging the image into the Flickr folder and clicking Publish is wonderful.
- A side benefit: if Flickr ever did shut down for good, I already have a folder of everything I’ve published in the database, so it would be easy to move it somewhere else (and Lightroom includes a fairly sophisticated HTML gallery builder in the Web module, so you don’t need to make something by hand or rely on 3rd-party services).
- Lightroom replicates the Fuji film simulations (Astia, Vevia, Classic Chrome etc. the various Acros monochrome versions…) very nicely. It’s not identical to Fuji’s own extraordinary technique, but you can regenerate JPEGs or TIFFs with your chosen film directly on the camera later using the RAW files if you preferand indeed you need to do that if you want to send the photos to a smartphone, because the Fuji Cam Remote app – 602 reviews and a measly average 1.4 out of 5 on the App Store that’s … Continue reading, however I’m not good enough to spot the difference between Adobe and Fuji’s work.
- Martin Belam recently wrote about object selection in Photoshop. I’ve not been using Photoshop much lately, however there are a couple of similar features that have recently made it into Lightroom, which are astounding; specifically Select Subject and Select Sky. These take at most, 5+ seconds to run – again, this is on a computer that’s close to a decade old now – and providing your subject is relatively big, Select Subject is very accurate, regardless what said subject is (it correctly picked out a squirrel and the tree it was climbing for example, and will highlight multiple people in the frame, cyclists, people holding umbrellas etc etc.). You can of course modify the mask further, but for me it’s usually been spot on – and you can then invert it if you want to desaturate the background, for example. Colour Range is decent too, although it’s common to find the colour you’ve chosen in parts of the image you don’t want, so you should expect to use the refine slider or manually paint out areas you don’t want (when you’re using masks, remember the O shortcut to colour the mask red or green etc. so you can see the area that’ll be affected by it).
- Another feature that’s maybe even more magical for me – the Transform panel. Because it means I can take a photo of a four-storey building from ground level, with all the inherent perspective, drag a couple of horizontal and vertical guides over it and Lightroom will magically straighten the whole thing out so it appears I shot it perfectly; dead centre, straight on, almost in mid-air. It does this by squashing the wider part of the photo and bringing in the area to the left or right, say, to fill the empty space, so you do need to leave some room around the edges of the frame otherwise your building will be cropped. But it’s a superb tool, which doesn’t appear to noticeably distort or otherwise harm humans or animals; the end result; more professional looking images with nice straight lines with, again, minimal effort.
- Finally, exactly what happens should you ever stop paying your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription? Well, you can use everything except the Develop and Map modules – i.e. you can still access, search, sort, export, print and manage the metadata of photos, just not perform edits.
So in summary, Lightroom: some amazing maths tricks and the workflow and UX is amazing – even if it does eat RAM and freeze occasionally, it very much feels like it’s been battle tested by generations of photographers.
- If you want to learn Lightroom, I’d suggest doing what I did and watching a few hours of the official tutorial videos before you even open it for the first time. It’ll help you understand what the hell is going on.
- You don’t need to learn everything at once. e.g. I’m still at a stage where I have little understanding how the Tone Curve works (I’m privately convinced a lot of other people who’ve done tutorials about it don’t fully get it themselves either). I just use the Color panel and adjust the tint through trial and error.
- Don’t waste your money on buying other people’s presets. Just learn a bit of the app at the time, and shoot in RAW so you can come back and re-edit in the future.
- For the record, I’ve never once used the new Lightroom CC version.
|↑1||Although, as it happens, you really don’t want to run them both at the same time as they hog so much memory…|
|↑2||That’s right, Flickr is still a thing. It also obeys my I’m-not-going-to-explain-this-very-clearly-am-I? theory of online communities – notably that they’re friendliest and most encouraging where they remain sufficiently narrowly focused on the population actively developing experience in a learning a particular Thing; everyone therefore appreciates the dedication, difficulty and frustration of doing the Thing even moderately well, and realises they’re probably not personally the best at it, so they can’t help but be supportive of the Thing(s) others may have created, and use them for inspiration. The lack of “influencers”, and people using it as somewhere to paste all their screenshots or indiscriminately backup every photo they ever took, as in the early years, probably helps considerably too.|
|↑3||I should add I’ve not tried Capture One, which lots of people like|
|↑4||Another reason not to use Apple Photos is how it insists on running an AI scan of your entire library which it’s impossible to switch off – although, small tip, opening the Photos app itself will pause the background process doing that, if all the fan noise is annoying you.|
|↑5||though it’s very nice to see Serif making something popular again, as someone who loved PagePlus back in the 90s|
|↑6||and indeed you need to do that if you want to send the photos to a smartphone, because the Fuji Cam Remote app – 602 reviews and a measly average 1.4 out of 5 on the App Store that’s entirely deserved due to the highly confusing and unreliable nature of the initial connection – won’t let you copy RAW files into an iCloud folder, it only works with the Apple Photos app|