I’ve enjoyed using Lightroom since v1. With the improvements and new editing tools introduced in v2, it’s vastly improved. And now with v3 on the horizon, the story should only get better. Lightroom is now my main editing application and I typically only use PS for things that can’t be done in LR (e.g., perspective correction, more complex layer work).
As good a tool as it is for organising your photography database, I think there are a good number of people using LR who still don’t know how powerful an editing tool it is. Everything I did with the photos below can be done in PS and probably PSE and other editing applications. In most cases I find the result is better with the tools in LR and the workflow is faster and more natural. In addition, to do the same things in PS would require, in most cases, using layers to maintain the integrity of the original image which increases file sizes and chews up hard drive space. First I’m going to show 4 images in a before and after comparison. You may not like the photos, you may not like how I approached the editing. That’s all fine. I think they do show the power of the tools in LR for editing; however. In all but one case, the only tools used were the Adjustment Brushes, Spot Removal and the Clarity slider. In one, a slight Tone Curve adjustment was made and in the last a crop was applied. I wanted to do a couple things with these. I wanted to highlight the bits of colour in the surrounding evergreen trees. Second, I wanted to bring out the texture of the Precambrian rock of the Canadian Shield. Beyond that, I wanted to enhance contrast by darkening certain parts of the water and existing shadow areas without completely losing texture or detail. In the last, I also wanted to brighten the waterfall itself which was hidden in fairly deep shadow and crop to create a near perfect mirrored symmetry with the reflection.
Primarily the Brightness adjustment brush was used as a Dodge/Burn tool and the Sharpening brush was used to selectively sharpen or de-sharpen specific areas of the photos. The Saturation brush was used to ‘pop’ the bits of fall colour from the surrounding evergreens. The Saturation brush was also used to desaturate some colour in parts of the water and in the last image to reduce saturation of parts of the cloud reflection. The Brightness brush as a Dodge/Burn tool is superior to any method I’ve tried in PS, including the use of a separate Dodge/Burn layer (which is a very good method). The ability to selectively sharpen (or de-sharpen) areas with the Sharpening adjustment brush is simpler than doing it in PS – although I still like the High Pass method in PS for global sharpening quite a lot. The Spot Removal tool (Clone/Heal) is terrific and particularly with respect to healing, is superior to the Healing Brush in Photoshop. The ability to very finely match the source and destination with both the Clone and Healing features of the Spot Removal tool is terrific.
When you use any Adjustment brush in LR it puts a control point on the image. The screen captures below show the various control points for these 4 images.
These control points make it very simple to go back and change prior edits without affecting the edit history on the left. If you hover your cursor over a control point, a mask will be placed in the image to show the area that has been affected by the specific adjustment (image below is an example).
Hover over different control points till you see the mask covering the area you want to go back and work on. If you then click on that control point, it will become active, the specific adjustment you made (e.g., Brightness, Sharpening, Contrast, etc.) will become active and you can edit the adjustment to your liking – all without having to backtrack in the History. If you do go back in the History and make a change, you then lose all of the subsequent adjustments (unless you save a Snapshot). By activating individual control points, the integrity of the History is maintained yet you can still change previous edit adjustments. It’s somewhat like using the non-linear editing feature in PS (only better and easier).
Using the tools available in Lightroom entails a different workflow than using Photoshop. But I think taking some time to become comfortable with Lightroom and the editing tools it offers would be time well spent. Happy editing!
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