I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom to edit my photos since the release of version 3. Previously I made adjustments to my photos in Photoshop. I moved to Lightroom after finally saving digital files as RAW images rather than simply as JPEG files. As primarily a newspaper photographer, I never saw the need to use RAW, since JPEG was fast and it fit in with my workflow. But after some experimentation and reading about the benefits of capturing RAW files, I was a convert.
Of course, Photoshop (I still use it and recently upgraded to CS6) also allows for RAW editing, but Lightroom is more than a photo editing application. Its main purpose is to manage a large number of photos and it helps keep them organized.
I recently upgraded to Lightroom 4 and I’m still learning many of the new features (as well as a lot of the Lightroom basics). When I shoot photos, I always save my images in RAW and JPEG (basic) files on my camera’s memory cards. I save a JPEG file just in case I need to send a quick image to someone or immediately post it online.
The RAW file format allows for much more creative control in areas such as exposure, white balance, contrast and sharpness; both in the overall image file or in random areas of the file.
As you can see by the above example, the unedited RAW file (the Miraculous Medal at The Basilica Of The National Shrine Of The Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.), a strong spotlight on the image of Mary led to a dark background. It’s best to expose for the highlights (the medal) and allow Lightroom to pull out the darkened areas, which is what I did.
In Lightroom’s develop module, I adjusted some of the basic sliders to bring out the underexposed background and used the adjustment brush to lighten and darken (dodge and burn) specific areas in the photo. I’ve included a screen capture at right to see the basic adjustments made in this particular image.
Transforming the unedited image to the final image in the above example took just a few minutes. The more familiar one becomes with the editing tools in Lightroom, the shorter it takes to complete the editing process. Once the RAW file editing is complete, I save a JPEG copy for publication or web use. It’s like having the film negative filed away and sharing a scanned or printed copy.
Photographer Nasim Mansurov recommends Lightroom over Photoshop for 10 reasons:
- Lightroom is easier to learn than Photoshop.
- Lightroom already contains a big number of post-processing tools – good for 90%+ of editing tasks.
- Lightroom will help you in establishing a solid photography workflow process.
- Lightroom makes you more efficient, because you can go through and process many photos quickly, without having to deal with opening and closing files.
- Lightroom will keep you organized by cataloging all of your images in one place, making it easy to find and work with images.
- As a file and media management tool, Lightroom allows creating folders and sub-folders in your hard drive and can mass-rename files using templates.
- Editing images in Lightroom is non-destructive, which means that the original file never gets permanently changed, whereas Photoshop is a mix of destructive and non-destructive editing.
- Unless separate layers are kept for every change, Photoshop does not keep historical changes. With Lightroom, you can go back and restore earlier settings after making changes.
- Lightroom can display image metadata as an overlay as you edit photos. Photoshop cannot do that once an image is opened.
- Lightroom is more than twice cheaper than Photoshop.
See Mansurov’s entire post on Photoshop vs Lightroom.
I’m self-taught using Lightroom, but I rely on tutorials found both on YouTube and on photo-related websites, including this tutorial from Adobe on the Develop Module advancements in Lightroom 4. Here’s a brief YouTube video from Adobe’s Lightroom channel that gives a good introduction to the software’s features.