One of the nice things about photography and photo processing these days is that you do not have to be tied down to any one processing technique. Just as you can change lenses on your camera, you can change the way your photos look.
My photo processing style changes almost constantly. That is, if I even have one particular style at all. I suppose I do, because I like deep, bold colors, at least for most of my photos. Not all of them have that same look, but most of them are quite colorful, and that is intentional.
In the past, I have achieved this colorful look by using HDR processing, using software such as Photomatix to handle the merging of the separate exposures required for HDR. You can read about that in some of the different Photo Software posts found on the Camera Gear page.
But for the last few months, I have been doing something different. I felt it was time for a change, and I really liked what I was hearing and seeing about the newest version of Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom has been around for a few years now, but I never had used it before. However, they recently came out with a major update, and I decided to download the trial version to see how it performed. After my first photo using Lightroom, which was of Cinderella Castle by the way, I loved it.
For me, Lightroom had two immediate benefits. First off, the finished photos looked great, which of course is the main goal. But also, I was able to create these great looking photos by only using one exposure instead of three. This greatly simplified everything by only having to run the file through Lightroom instead of first having to use Photomatix to merge the exposures and then having to edit it further in PaintShop Pro. Time savings and great photos - who could ask for more?
In using Lightroom, I am really only scratching the surface, because I am mainly using the “Develop” mode to develop my photos. It is also meant to be used to organize all of your photos in various ways, but I haven’t really gotten into that. My old-fashioned way of having photos in folders based on the date they were taken still works just fine for me.
Also, there are lots and lots of Lightroom presets that you can download. Presets have been set up by others for various specific looks, and they can give all sorts of interesting results. However, so far I have started from scratch with all my settings, although I have created a few presets of my own to get the looks that I want. However, I never have just been able to use one of my own presets just by itself. I always end up tweaking it a bit more, to give each photo the look that I want it to have.
If you are considering using Lightroom, an important point to consider is that it works best with RAW files instead of JPG files. RAW files store much more data than JPG files store, and you can bring quite a bit of that detail out with Lightroom. But you can really only bring out what is there, so that if the JPG file doesn’t have it, you can’t get it. If you are going to use Lightroom, I strongly suggest that you shoot in RAW mode. Actually, I would suggest that no matter what software you use, because you can do so much more with a RAW file.
I probably don’t know all that there is to know about Lightroom, but I am really enjoying using it.
Below are some before and after views of some of the recent photos I have created using Lightroom. If everything works correctly, you should be able to slide the slider back and forth to see what has changed.