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So Many Pictures, So Little Time

April 20, 2012


Once you get really interested in photography and start shooting lots of images, the dilemma of storing, sorting, fixing and finding and sharing them starts to become an issue. There are numerous programs that can do this, some simple and some really complicated.

Apple offers iPhoto as an excellent start. It can catalogue and sort your images by place, face, date etc. They offer a more sophisticated program called Aperture which adds advanced image processing. There are numerous other offerings from Microsoft, some are incorporated into their operating system. Online image storage and sharing is also popular. However, I love having my images at my fingertips and take comfort in hard disk storage. A bit old school, perhaps, but I have lost enough images to want a belt and braces approach.

For all my storage and processing, my choice is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I started using it as Lightroom 2 and it’s now been released as Lightroom 4.

I evaluated Lightroom 4 beta and I am now using the released program. It is a gem. The interface is logical, integrated and slick. Each module, Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, Web, etc. offers its own contextual menues, meaning that items appear as you need them for the task at hand. This reduces clutter, especially on laptops, but can be disconcerting for new users. Where did “XXX” go is a common cry when I am training new clients.  Adobe have added a couple of new and useful modules to LR4 – Map and Book. These alternately allow geo-tagging your images and producing a Blurb book directly from the program. While these are useful and will be covered in a later post, the real strength of LR 4 is in its processing.

Lightroom 4 uses ACR 7 (Adobe Camera Raw) as its core processing engine, but presents it in an elegant, logical layout, with the user friendly, contextual menus for which Lightroom is famous.

As with any new program, I approached it with caution; a backup of the previous catalogue and all pictures, plus limited initial imports of files. Once the stability was confirmed, I began to import and convert my old files, one at a time, from the old (2010) version to the new 2012 process. The neat, side-by-side comparator is useful in helping you see the differences between the new and old process. In each case, the new process gave a better result. Sometimes, simply a subtle reduction in noise, or a better tonal range, but in many cases a spectacular improvement in shadow and highlight detail along with better colour  and contrast.  iPhone pictures spring to new life (yes, I use one when I need a quick, convenient shot). Some of my old images have gained a new lease on life.

LR 4 now also allows minor edits of movies. I improved a couple of underexposed iPhone movies. Pretty neat.

The best part, is that Adobe have reduced the price. It has a steep learning curve and can, at times, be frustrating, but Lightroom 4 is a great program, combining powerful cataloging, image editing and varied output options in a relatively inexpensive, elegant package. Give it a try!

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