Thursday, October 09, 2014

5 Reasons Why You Need Lightroom

I'm going to give you five reasons why you need Adobe Lightroom to manage your photos.

First, a brief paragraph about what Adobe Lightroom is. According to Wikipedia, "Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a photo editing and management computer program... designed to assist users in managing large quantities of digital images and doing post-production work." You'll see how it can help you.

1. Organize Your Photo Collection!
I have a system for organizing my photos. Train photos go into a folder structure organized by railway - BNSF, CEMR, CN, CP, and so forth. If it's not a specific railway, it goes under General Railroad and into a subfolder by location. Each photo is named like this: "engine# location yyyymmdd photographer". I put my initials on the end of my photos.

This worked well enough and I still do that. In Lightroom, though, you can tag photos with keywords to really help you organize them better. It's up to you how far you want to go with this but I generally tag photos with two or three keywords. An example:
Lightroom offers suggestions for keywords, apparently based on keywords used in other photos taken around the same time. You can see at the bottom that you can have user-defined keyword sets as well, so you might have an "engine set" with keywords like SD40, SD60, GP38 and so forth.

In the photo above, you can see my naming scheme at the top left and all the other "metadata" that Lightroom has... which leads me to...

2. Find Your Photos

Now that I'm using Lightroom, it's so much easier and faster to find photos. Let me give you an example.

I stumbled across a photo of Napadogan, New Brunswick online and shared it on the RailsNB Facebook group. A discussion started and I wanted to share a few more photos of when I visited Napadogan back in 2007. It was easy to go to Lightroom and search for that.
Two seconds later, I had a list complete with thumbnails.

It's important to realize that all of the metadata is searchable. Some of the photos above were picked up because they were tagged with Napadogan, some because they had Napadogan in the file name, and some because they were in a folder called "Napadogan Sub". If you want, you can limit what metadata it searches. You can also search by date, by camera type, by rating and a number of other criteria in various combinations.

3. Kickass Photo Editing
Adobe Lightroom has great photo editing built in. The Develop mode takes you to a very powerful, integrated photo editor. It's not quite Photoshop, but you can do a lot with the Develop mode. For example, I took this photo:

and tweaked it in Lightroom to this:

just using the Develop module. Lightroom 5 added the "healing brush", long a favourite of Photoshop users. It's handy to fix little problems in the photo or remove things like power lines.

I'm still learning things in the Develop module. My new favourites are the graduated filter and the radial filter, both of which I used in the edit above. Lightroom keeps a history of all your edits (see left column of photo below) and you can roll back to any previous edit at any time. It does not modify the original photo file at all.

4. Publishing Made Easy!
Once you've edited your photo, Lightroom makes it easy to publish your photo.

You can right-click on any photo and export it to a file. The power comes from building presets to publish it just the way you like. For example, I have a preset called Export to Web that does the following:

  • Places the exported file in a known folder
  • Sets JPEG image quality to 68
  • Resizes it so the longest edge is 1600 pixels
  • Sharpens it for screen viewing
  • Adds my watermark to the bottom left corner

Lightroom also has Publish Services. These are for specific web sites such as Flickr, 500px, Facebook and so forth. You can just drag your photo(s) onto one of the services, and when you're ready, right-click and select Publish and Lightroom will take care of publishing your photo(s) there.

5. Mobile Editing
The latest version of Lightroom allows you to rate and edit your photos on your iPad or iPhone (sorry, Android not available.. yet) via Lightroom Mobile. This is a powerful extension of Lightroom so you can take it with you and work on your photos offline. It requires Lightroom CC (see below).

Another way to edit your Lightroom photos is via the Mosaic plugin for Lightroom. It is similar to Lightroom Mobile but does not allow editing the photo itself. However, it works with the regular Lightroom.

I'm Sold! How To Buy
Lightroom is sold in two flavours... Lightroom and Lightroom Creative Cloud (CC). The original Lightroom is like most software - you purchase it once and it's yours forever, at least until the next major revision comes out. Lightroom CC is a subscription service and you pay monthly forever to use the software.

There are pros and cons to both. Buying Lightroom outright is $149 US and you own it forever with no more charges. However, when Lightroom 6 comes out, you have to buy that again; there's no free upgrade between major versions.

Lightroom CC allows you to have the latest version, always, and also enables Lightroom Mobile as discussed above. You can sign up for Creative Cloud / Photography which gives you Lightroom and PhotoShop for $9.99 US/month.

I've purchased Lightroom but I am strongly considering switching to Lightroom CC when version 6 of Lightroom comes out. I really want to start mobile editing!

I hope this helps you decide whether you want to buy Lightroom. Personally I am a huge fan of Lightroom and I think it is the #1 photography tool for me.

DISCLAIMER: If you follow the Lightroom links to Amazon and purchase the software there, I get a small percentage of the sale. If you'd prefer not to, you can go directly to Adobe or purchase via your favourite retailer.


Lauri Novak Photography said...

Very nice and informative post. I'm still struggling with the CC decision!!

Robert in Port Townsend said...

So how much were you paid for this endorsement? I use FastStone Image viewer (freeware) and PhotoShop Elements 10, and have no complaints about the quality of my renderings.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Robert, if users buy Lightroom via my link to Amazon I do get a small percentage. I've indicated that at the end of my post. I know your feelings on Amazon and I provided alternatives.

I feel Lightroom's real strengths are in the image organization and searching. As an editor it's good but I'm sure there are great freeware editors out there like the ones you suggest, as well as others like GIMP or Paint.NET.

Sean Rogowsky said...

Steve, I love your post and I'm beginning to dabble with Lightroom. I'm wondering if you had any pointers or know of any sites that better explain how to use the libraries and catalog functions?

DaveM said...

Although I'm not a fan of Adobe because of the constant updates it requests in its other products, I would have to agree that Lightroom is the best which I've used so far.

I started with GIMP, albeit several years ago, but moved away from it because of usability. I know there are people out there who will argue it is, but personally, I just didn't find it easy. It took 5 steps to remove red-eye in gimp when i was using it. I then went to iPhoto and enjoyed it until my library became too large.

I went to Lightroom because it could handle large repositories better, but have stayed with it because of the light adjustments which are possible when you shoot in RAW. I've saved numerous pictures in Lightroom that I've not been able to save in other ways.


Karl A. said...

Thanks for making this post. I have been trying to decide on editing software. I work with a group of professional photographers who told me about Lightroom, but I was still on the fence. I like the extra options you talked about. I think I will end up going the Lightroom route after all!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Sean, I follow a few photography blogs that do a good job explaining Lightroom. Try Photofocus' Lightroom Learning Center to start. Lightroom Killer Tips and The Lightroom Lab. If you want an e-book, I highly recommend Lightroom 5 Unmasked. I read the v4 edition and it was awesome.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi DaveM, I tried GIMP a few years ago and I was really turned off by the interface. I would have tried iPhoto but I'm not a Mac guy. Lightroom (and Photoshop and many other editors) do a great job of recovering details from RAW files. I shoot exclusively in RAW now that I've seen the difference. Sounds like another blog post...

Canadian Train Geek said...

You're welcome, Karl - I think you'll find it very useful.

DaveM said...

Steve, I too was reluctant to shot in RAW because I thought it would only add size to the image and not to the resolution. But I have found out as well that the ability to recover under exposed pictures has been very helpful and worth the hit on the image size.

If you are taking suggestions for blog post ideas on rail photography, perhaps a table on your common camera settings for shooting of various situations. Eg. A moving train, freight cars in sunset, station at night, etc. :)


Karl A. said...

I'll second DaveM's idea. I would love to know how you shoot.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Karl, Dave, thanks for the blog post suggestion. I love it! Stay tuned.

Unknown said...

Interesting and engaging primer on Lightroom. I will do some additional reading on it before making any purchasing decisions.