Tag: Lightroom

Ten things we’ve learned from delivering Lightroom training

We’ve taught Lightroom to professionals and amateur photographers, in photo studios, homes and offices; mostly as personal tuition, with the odd class thrown in; mostly in and around London but with the odd visit to Birmingham and Brighton.

Here are ten things we’ve learned.

1. There are keyboard people, mouse people and tablet people

Whichever type you are, you’ll probably find the others a little puzzling; each group needs its own approach when training.

To compare two or more selected photos, I hit the C key; I export pictures using shift-command-E. Dust spot removal? I hit the Q key. Graduated filters? M. If it has a keyboard shortcut, I’m on it. Some photographers do all those things using the mouse, by clicking icons and choosing items from the menus. It’s fairly easy these days to work out who’s who and mentally switch modes but, to be honest, it took quite a while to get there.

Almost every button and menu entry has a keyboard shortcut equivalent in Lightroom but if you’re really on the fence about which method to make your own, there’s one thing that might sway you: in Lightroom, things jump about a bit in the menus as you move between Library and Develop. Keyboard shortcuts, however, are more consistent and getting more so with each release.

For example, to copy your adjustments when you’re editing a picture, you go the Settings menu and choose Copy Settings. To do exactly the same thing when you’re browsing photos in the grid, you go to the Photo menu, choose Develop Settings and from that submenu, choose Copy Settings. That’s quite a difference to get used to if you use the mouse or a tablet but the keyboard shortcut, shift-command-C, never changes.

2. It helps when you leave a day or two between Lightroom training sessions

If we first visit on a Monday and then deliver part two on Thursday, you’ll get much more out of it than with two consecutive days. The same applies to two half-day sessions instead of a single day. One of the advantages of our one-to-one approach, where you learn on your own machine, using your own work, is that you can take up where we left off during the training, doing the things you’ve just learned. Lightroom and other applications are set up correctly, the images are where we left them, you can see all your modifications, keywords and settings. Keep working on your images between sessions, shoot and import more, list all your questions and we cover them next time. You’ll end up learning much more.

3. Local adjustments are key

There’s almost always a moment during the tuition when a photographer completely “gets” the power of local adjustments for the first time. For photographers who are just switching to shooting raw or who might not have used the camera raw plugin in Photoshop recently, it’s always an a-ha moment.

For some, it’s a pleasant reminder of darkroom printing—a bit like burning in and dodging but much faster, much easier and completely reversible. Burned in an area too much? Hold down the option (alt) key, reduce flow and slowly dodge. Messed up completely? Click the adjustment pin, hit backspace and that particular adjustment is gone (and there’s even a puff of smoke).

For others, it means an end to their main need for Photoshop. Has anyone out there tried to estimate the proportion of photographers who just hate using layers in Photoshop or who’ve never even tried them? If you’re reading this from the land of online photographic forums, you’re not going to believe that such a thing exists: a photographer who uses Photoshop without layers? Not only do they exist, there are plenty of them and they’ve been waiting for something that makes it this easy to adjust exposure, sharpness, saturation and contrast in selected areas of a picture non-destructively.

And perhaps the most overlooked and underestimated tool is the graduated filter—it’s not just for darkening skies or corners.

Although none of this is rocket science, the simple adjustments that have been made in photography since its early days still matter the most and Lightroom has them nailed; it’s not the app for putting one person’s head on another’s body or for removing a water tower from the background of a portrait… but you knew that already.

4. Nothing else you’ll do in Lightroom will beat making a really good print

A first-class print of a photograph that you made and which truly represents your intent is a very satisfying thing, even if you shoot stock or provide images for online use by your clients. High-quality prints will change the way you look at your work.

Printing is one of Lightroom’s clear strengths—a significant proportion of photographers will produce better prints from it than they have ever produced. Not because Lightroom is doing something unique but because it takes things that were previously difficult for many people and makes them easy enough to be unquestionably worth the effort of mastering. That means careful, non-destructive dodging and burning (no layers!), non-destructive creative sharpening (no layers!), increasing resolution very smartly with a single click (also known as uprezzing—not my favourite word—or upsizing), excellent control over print layout and colour management and one-click sharpening for print that’s suited to the size and type of output. It does a remarkably good job of all of it, considering its simplicity, and makes once-esoteric procedures very accessible.

5. Photographers we train will always find ways to use Lightroom that are new to us

Sometimes we learn something from these ideas and sometimes, they’re a little eccentric and we have to shrug and smile.

Here’s one of the better ideas we came across: a successful wedding photographer in the Midlands thought up the idea (new to both of us here at Shoot Raw World HQ) of using a randomly sequenced slideshow to rate pictures with his clients. He shows the work on a huge plasma display in a dedicated viewing room. The advantage is that the clients are less influenced by the memory of similar shots before or afterwards in the sequence; sometimes people will pick the unusual picture within a sequence of similar images and are unable to see the image for what it is. While the slides are playing along with music they’ve chosen, the photographer gets the client to identify each shot as a keeper or not, and later, to give them ratings from 1 to 5. (Best not to tick the “repeat” box in the slideshow options because you’ll never know when to stop; instead, run through once and if necessary, take a break and run through again.)

6. Lightroom could really use some decent book printing

Some online commentators are a little snobbish about print-on-demand books but if they’re good enough for Stephen Shore (who has reportedly produced over 60 using iPhoto), they’re good enough for most of us—maybe not to sell as monographs (although, obviously, it’s being done) but to use as examples of work. The disparaging comments online are usually based on technical issues like colour gamut; the concerns aren’t without merit but on the other hand, we’ve heard nothing but positive comments from photographers about the effect of giving small iPhoto books to editors and potential customers. We go with the real-word examples over minor technical concerns any time (see the next point). If book publishing and ordering could be done from inside Lightroom, that would be wonderful. (Book printing continues to be one of Aperture’s strengths; the newly reinvigorated competition between the Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3 makes it more likely that the Lightroom team will implement the idea.)

7. Content always trumps technical quality

It sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget.

We recently made exhibition prints of many photographers’ images for an exhibition at Four Corners Film gallery in Bethnal Green, East London. Most had earned the photographers a prize or commendation in a competition (we’ll keep the details for the next post) and the prints were produced using printers at Ravensbourne College. Thanks to the IT department at Ravensbourne, we were able to produce some of the final images for exhibition on a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5000 (see Michael Reichmann’s review here). Speaking to a few people on the opening night of the exhibition, we noticed that one of the pictures named as a favourite with them came from a file that, unbeknown to viewers, was sent to the organisers as a tiny PNG with no more than one megapixel of information in it; with a little work, it became a 10″ x 12″ print on the gallery wall and, for some viewers, its mood gave it the edge over the technical excellence of others displayed near it.

8. Photographers who book personal tuition often don’t read the Lightroom books that we provide

There are always exceptions but in general, we were surprised by how little love the Lightroom books were getting. Today, we think of it this way—if you’re the kind of person who enjoys reading every book on a subject and spending time on forums or using online training, you’re probably much less likely to call us in the first place. The people who get in touch tend to want to get good at things very quickly, spending money in lieu of time; they value the ability to ask straight away about the stuff that’s puzzling them. That makes sense. We still leave a book with each student (Scott Kelby’s Lightroom 2 book was one of the best—here are the Amazon UK
and the Amazon US
links for his new Lightroom 3 guide) but we’re no longer surprised if they remain untouched as the tuition sessions progress.

We’re also working on our own, minimal Lightroom workflow guide that’s mainly intended for our own customers. It’s based on what has proven to be important to the people we’ve trained. More news to come on that.

9. Different photographers will come to rely on very different aspects of an application, even one as narrowly focused as Lightroom.

A working pro who shoots events for business clients often needs to turn a job around very quickly and even the slight delay you might see when you select an image and Lightroom builds a preview can be unacceptable—it doesn’t add a significant amount of extra time but it breaks the flow of picking, rating and rejecting images very quickly. (The solution is to tell Lightroom to build 1:1 previews on import and to store them; the photographer puts the kettle on and enjoys a quick cuppa while that’s done and after that, responses are very fast and the workflow is snappy.) For him, all that remains is keywording, a few quick corrections to white balance and exposure, a little cropping here and there (with lots of copying of development setting across pictures) and that’s it—the files are on a CD or uploaded to a website.

A fine art photographer making prints, on the other hand, is sometimes trying to push each group of pixels to within an inch of its life and will constantly revisit an image, modifying local adjustments, comparing several virtual copies of a single image and switching on and off the various adjustment panels as she works. For her, tiny changes to saturation and hue in the HSL panel might make a world of difference. Both are photographers, both are using Lightroom (and often using the same type of camera—the Canon 5D Mk II is incredibly popular, if our clients so far are any indication) but in very different ways, each sometimes completely ignoring adjustment panels that are critical to the other.

For that reason, the initial discussions with any potential customer of ours are important. For us, it helps to talk first to know where you are now with your workflow and where you hope to be and what, if anything, we can help with. Having spoken, we can also work out how to spend more time on things that will help get you there. For you, the photographer, it pays to talk to a few Lightroom trainers to find one who suits your style and your goals.

10. Finally: of the five Lightroom rules, the fifth is easily the most important. (It’s true!)

The metadata

If you’re interested in talking to us about Lightroom training, give us a call (0333 577 5703) or mail develop@shootraw.co.uk and we can discuss putting something together for you based on your own requirements.

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Lightroom 3 released

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is out and, as you’d expect, it has almost all the features we’ve discussed previously—the much-improved image rendering and sharpening, the excellent noise-reduction routines, the lens distortion correction—and some that we haven’t, like tethered shooting, improved printing layouts and a much better slideshow module.

Lightroom 3 box

Keen Amazon UK pricing for Lightroom 3

Amazon UK is taking pre-orders for the full version of Lightroom 3, the upgrade from version 2 and the full academic version and right now (9th June 2010), Amazon’s prices are excellent. If they fall further before the product ships, you’ll end up paying the lower price. Remember: when you buy Lightroom, you get the Mac and Windows applications on the same disc. (However, Lightroom 3 won’t run on G4 or G5 Macs—it’s Intel only.) Adobe’s standard licence allows you to install and use the application on one desktop and one laptop, provided they’re not used simultaneously.

Lightroom 3 beta 2 will expire

Until your copy of Lightroom 3 arrives, you can use the beta version (good till 30th June) or download a 30-day trial of Lightroom 3 from Adobe’s site.

Lightroom 3 at Amazon.com

For US readers, here are the links on Amazon’s US store for the full version and the upgrade from version 2.

Training video

We notice as we deliver one-on-one tuition that photographers aren’t particularly interested in the regular Lightroom books that we always provide. One solution if you’re not keen on learning from books is video, so keep an eye on this page for the forthcoming Luminous Landscape Lightroom 3 training video by Michael Reichmann and Jeff Schewe. Michael’s an alpha tester for Adobe and Jeff works very closely with Adobe on product development and testing and their Lightroom 2 training (which we mentioned previously) is very good. Expect the forthcoming Lightroom 3 edition to be insightful and informative.

(Update: for those of you new to Lightroom, take a look at these intro videos by Julieanne Kost at Adobe TV, new for Lightroom 3 but pitched at beginner level.)

Jeffrey’s plugins

Lightroom 3 comes with a new Flickr plugin and a new export plugin framework that allows plugin programmers to create a richer user experience. Keep an eye on Jeffrey’s Friedl’s pages for details of what he offers and when he’s likely to update his excellent plugins for Lightroom 3 compatibility. He offers plugins for Facebook, Smugmug, Zenfolio and others (including a much more advanced Flickr plugin for Lightroom 3) and I believe he has been working with Adobe on the plugin architecture for Lightroom 3 itself. Read this post on Jeffrey’s site for more.

Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS4 compatibility

Lightroom 3 will work just fine with Photoshop CS5 (obviously) but to get it to talk happily to the previous version, CS4, you’ll need to make sure your copy of the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) plugin is at version 5.7 or later. Camera Raw is a free release—you just need to make sure your copy is current. The “Edit in Photoshop” function in Lightroom 3 will generally work as expected when you’re editing raw files in Lightroom 3 and sending to CS4 only if you install ACR 5.7. See an earlier post of ours for more information and for links to download ACR 5.7 for Windows and Mac OS X.

Expect some training materials from us, too

We’re planning our own training guide—something a little different from most of what’s out there. It will be based on the the questions we get asked from working photographers when we deliver follow-up training. After delivering training to enough working pros, you get to understand which things people struggle with and which come easily. You also get to learn which aspects of the raw workflow are most important to most commercial photographers—the results aren’t predictable. For our offering, we’ll be focusing on the key functions in a very simple, easy way. More on that later.

One-on-one training

Speaking of our own training, we’re getting quite busy (which is why you’re hearing less from us on this blog and e-mail list) but we’d still love to hear from you if you’d like to discuss one-on-one training, at your pace, on your own equipment. Professional, amateur, technical or non-technical—all are equally welcome. It’s better than learning from a book and it’s even better than learning from video. We’re now offer an afternoon-only option that allows you to spread the training over a week or two, in a few, short, sessions with plenty of time in between to practice. Although most of our customers are in and around London, we’ve trained photographers from Birmingham to Brighton; we’re getting quite good at minimising costs and expenses to deliver the best value. Wherever you are in the UK, call us on 0333 577 5703 to discuss training or, even better, complete our contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. To get to the contact form, click here.

Lightroom 3 point-curve tutorial, online tips and Shoot Raw updates

A great piece on Lightroom 3’s point-curve editor

I was some way into the writing of a long article about Lightroom 3’s excellent new point curve editor (available in the beta 2 release) when I came across Gene McCullagh’s comprehensive piece on the topic over at lightroomsecrets.com. It’s very well written and worth reading carefully—it left my own half-finished attempt seem mostly superfluous. Beginners who wish to try creating custom tone curves after reading Gene’s post should start with the Linear curve, which contains only two control points—it just makes things a little easier to begin with. A linear curve makes it easier to follow the advice on adding a control point and holding down the option (alt) key while adjusting the position of that point.

Lenswork Technology Bog—highly recommended

One day, we’ll add a long-overdue list of resources that are useful to your raw workflow but since we’re on the topic of the new point curve editor in Lightroom 3, now seems like a good time to mention one very useful site that dealt with tone curves recently. Take a look at Brooks Jensen’s use of a custom tone curve in Lightroom to control highlights in print.

Brooks’s post is based on Lightroom 2, which offers a parametric tone curve but no ability to control the end points, preventing him from using the curve editor within Lightroom 2 itself to finely control the appearance of highlights in print. His workaround was to create a custom tone curve using Adobe Camera Raw, export that curve and then use it in Lightroom. It should now be possible to use the curve editing within Lightroom 3 to allow at least a similar level of control.

The Lenswork Technology Blog is excellent reading for photographers, particularly those of us who produce our own prints; the same is true of the Lenswork podcasts and the Ask Brooks blog. If you’re in the UK, you can get the Lenswork podcast via the UK iTunes Store (for free) here.

Welcome to our new subscribers

Lots of you have subscribed recently to the blog—thanks and welcome.

We went through a bit of a busy patch recently, as you might have gathered from the absence of blog posts but we now have a few days before the next scheduled training session so we’re firing off a few updates and articles. We’re hoping to add a little more information to the site and reorganise things a little, too. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in our main offering—one-to-one workflow courses in the UK based on Lightroom—we’re now taking bookings for May and June. Call 0333 577 5703 if you’d like to chat, or drop us a line. We’re doing a bit more travelling in the UK now and have worked out some ways of making our Lightroom courses more affordable—we’ll put details up on the training page soon and add a post here when it’s done.

We now use Lightroom 3 for all training

We recently switched to using Lightroom 3 beta 2 for all our training—it didn’t really make much sense to base tuition on Lightroom 2, given the quality of the current beta, the improved rendering of raw images and the new features that beta 2 offers. Reaction from photographers continues to be very positive—we’re very, very pleased with the direction in which Adobe is taking Lightroom 3.

Can you help?

We always appreciate new readers and subscribers (articles and subscriptions are free). If you find anything on our site useful, we’d love it if you could tell other photographers about us by forwarding our URL or by putting a link to us on your site, Facebook page or blog. Thank you!

To subscribe (for free)

If you’re not currently a subscriber, you can choose e-mail via Google or RSS/Atom for your feed reader. (For the e-mail option, you get a single e-mail message in the morning whenever there’s a new article on the site but nothing otherwise.) The blog is a collection of tips, news and information for photographers, mostly covering workflow, image quality and technical subjects.

Lightroom 3, Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS4

Some good news and updates recently for users of Lightroom and Photoshop CS4. Along with the good news is continued confusion in various online forums about Adobe Camera Raw and its relationship with Lightroom so here’s an attempt to explain some of what the two have in common.

What is Adobe Camera Raw?

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) is a software plugin used by Photoshop to decode (or “demosaic”) raw files. A version is supplied with every new copy of Photoshop (and Photoshop Elements) and the plugin is regularly updated as new cameras are released because new cameras mean new types of files for the ACR plugin to understand. Any new major release of ACR (like ACR 6.0, 7.0, etc.) is usually available only for the latest versions of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. The current version for Adobe Photoshop CS4 is ACR 5.7, released last week and available from Adobe as a free download. It works with Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop Elements 8.

Links to the (free) Adobe Camera Raw 5.7 downloads:

Does Lightroom use Adobe Camera Raw?

No, not directly. Lightroom’s decoding (or demosaicing) of raw files doesn’t rely on the ACR plugin itself so installing a new version of ACR won’t change Lightroom’s rendering or allow it to read new types of raw files. However, Lightroom and ACR share functionality and code—it’s just that Lightroom’s implementation is contained within the application itself. A new release of the ACR plugin for Photoshop usually means a corresponding release of Lightroom. The two are independent but usually updated together.

Adobe Camera Raw 5.7 and why it’s important for Lightroom 3 beta 2 users

ACR 5.7, like Lightroom 2.7, offered support for raw files from newly released cameras but that’s not the reason for this article. Version 5.7 also included a nice surprise for users of Lightroom 3 beta 2. It turned out to include the code to allow it to decode raw files using the new raw decoding engine contained in the Lightroom 3 betas—specifically, Lightroom 3 beta 2. This code is what gives Lightroom 3 its much improved colour noise reduction (see previous articles here and here) and finer detail. Till now, if you were working in a Lightroom 3 beta and chose “Edit in Photoshop” (command-E on the Mac, ctrl-E on Windows), you’d see an error message in Photoshop CS4 (if you were using LR3 beta 2) or just wonky results (in LR3 beta 1). When you install ACR 5.7, that problem is gone, allowing you to work on a raw image in Lightroom 3 beta 2, then open the raw file (including your Lightroom edits) in Photoshop CS4 and continue to do pixel-level work. Very nice.

A few weeks back, we wrote about the new and old process versions for Lightroom 3; what ACR 5.7 offers is really a way for Photoshop to work on raw images that you edited in Lightroom using the 2010 process. It doesn’t allow you access to the new noise-reduction controls directly from Photoshop but it does appear to respect the settings that you used within Lightroom 3 beta 2.

Sidenote: when you work on a raw image in Lightroom and choose “Edit in Photoshop”, Lightroom doesn’t immediately create a TIFF and send it across to Photoshop—the ACR plugin within Photoshop reads the original raw file and the list of changes you’ve made in Lightroom and applies those changes itself. The TIFF gets created only when you save the file in Photoshop. Now that version 5.7 contains a raw decoding engine that’s compatible with Lightroom 3’s, this process works again for users of CS4 and Lightroom 3.

What all this seems to suggest is that there will be a version of ACR for Photoshop CS4 that will remain compatible with the final release of Lightroom 3, meaning that you don’t have to update to Photoshop CS5 immediately to keep tight integration between Lightroom and Photoshop. If that’s true, it’s a very welcome gesture.

The obligatory gasp about Photoshop CS5’s content-aware fill

Photoshop CS5 looks like a very strong release for a certain type of photographer. If you haven’t already seen the content-aware fill demonstration, you’ve been missing out so take five minutes to watch it now. It’ll make your jaw drop.

More Lightroom 3 features revealed: correction for lens distortion

The final version of Lightroom 3 (and ACR 6.1) will allow us access to lens-correction features that have long been lurking.

Distortion correction has been around for a while in Lightroom

For some compact cameras that shoot raw and for some Micro Four-Thirds camera-and-lens combinations, both Lightroom and ACR have been providing behind-the-scenes corrections of lens distortion. Users of the Canon S90, the Panasonic Lumix LX-3 and some wide-angle Micro Four-Thirds lenses (such as the excellent 20mm Panasonic f/1.7) have seen automatic correction of very significant barrel distortion but Lightroom 3 (and ACR 6.1) will extend that benefit, in some form, to the rest of us.

Control over the degree of correction

Many users of the cameras and lenses mentioned above probably didn’t even know that their images were being corrected, sometimes for an eye-popping level of geometric distortion. The feature just worked, unbidden, behind the scenes. Adobe’s engineers generally seem to have matched the correction that the camera manufacturers applied to JPEGs generated by the camera and/or the results produced by the raw converters shipped with the cameras, meaning that by design, images from cameras like the S90 and LX-3 show some residual level of barrel distortion after automatic correction within Lightroom—correction over which the user has had no control, till now. With Lightroom 3, we’ll be able to fade the degree of correction for things like vignetting and distortion.

The best bit: we’ll be able to profile our own lenses

Out of the box, the lens-correction feature will support some lenses from Canon, Nikon and Sigma (who even issued a press release about it) but potentially the strongest aspect of Adobe’s implementation is that we will get a mechanism to allow us to profile our own lenses for optical defects. There are other solutions to the lens-correction problem (DXO Optics Pro, for example, or PTLens) but Adobe’s looks like it might be the strongest so far for a couple of reasons: firstly, the existence of an easy way to profile your own lenses (the proof of the pudding will be in the tasting, of course) and secondly, the apparent concern of the Adobe Lightroom/ACR team to get local corrections working well with this new feature. This is harder than it sounds: say you’ve removed a spot of sensor dust from an image or you’ve added saturation and sharpness to a an area of a photograph: quite how should Lightroom react when you later switch on the automatic correction for lens for distortion? Should it even let you switch it on if you’ve applied local corrections?

Head over to Tom Hogarty’s blog post, where he shows how it’s all going to work. Congratulations to the Lightroom team on what looks to be an excellent implementation.

Switching between old process and new process in Lightroom 3

Lightroom 3 is built around a new, improved demosaicing engine (the raw converter code that makes a full-resolution, full-colour image out of your raw file). It also includes the older conversion engine used in Lightroom 2 and earlier so to see the full power of Lightroom 3, you need to make sure you’re using what Adobe calls the 2010 process (that’s the new raw conversion engine) on each of your raw files. The old engine is referred to as the 2003 process. (In Lightroom 3 public beta 1, they were called process version 1 and process version 2—the new names are a definite improvement.) This is a per-image setting so you can choose which images use which process and can mix old and new in one catalogue.

How do you tell which process you’re using?

As of Lightroom 3 public beta 2, the main sign that you’re using the old (2003) process is the unmissable presence of an exclamation mark in the lower right of your image when you’re in the Develop module. The symbol appears next to any image that’s using the old engine and looks like this:

To switch to the 2010 process, just click that warning symbol. You’ll get the chance to review the before-and-after changes and to apply the changes to the whole filmstrip. Comparing the the changes side by side at 100% can be a useful way to understand the differences between old engine and new.

Above; the box you see when you click the exclamation mark in the Develop module

A warning about noise reduction and sharpening

In Lightroom 3 public beta 2, released today, local sharpening controls (brushes, gradients) and luminance noise reduction are both much more powerful than they were in Lightroom 2. You might find some settings for sharpening, negative sharpening and luminance noise reduction that you’d used previously to be way too high for the new versions so carefully review as you update your work.

To switch back to the 2003 process

To remind yourself of how a picture looked using the old demosaicing engine (aka process version 1 or the 2003 process), you can always switch back. In Lightroom’s Settings menu, go to Process, where you’ll see a choice between the 2003 version and the 2010 version. (The old process is labelled 2003 because Adobe Camera Raw—or ACR—dates back to that year. Even though Lightroom was only released in 2006 as a public beta, it shares code with ACR, which means that at some point, there will be a version of the ACR plugin that has offers this new raw conversion engine, too.)

Above: switching between processes using the Settings menu

Alternatively, you can now choose your process version from a new menu item in the Camera Calibration section of the Develop module (lower right).

Above: the new Process menu inside the Develop module’s Camera Calibration section

Use virtual copies and the compare function

When you begin to use Lightroom 3, it can be useful to make a virtual copy of a picture and use the old engine (2003 process) and the new side by side on the same image to get a feel for the difference between the two raw converters. For the full effect, choose a high-ISO image, with local sharpening applied. The second public beta now includes an option to view images side by side when you convert from the old process to the new but it can be useful to do it manually, particularly for images in which you’ve used many brushes. Compare results at 100% using the compare function (hit C in the grid, with both versions of the picture selected) and you should see a significant—and sometimes dramatic—difference in quality.

Why do some or all files use the old process version in Lightroom 3?

If Lightroom 3 can tell that you’ve done some work on a raw file in Lightroom 2 or a pre-v6 release of Adobe Camera Raw, it will keep using the 2003 process for that image so that the picture continues to look just as it did in Lightroom 2. That’ll happen if it sees an XMP sidecar file next to the raw file and can tell that the XMP file was created by Lightroom 2 or ACR 5.x or earlier.

What are the main differences between the 2003 process and the 2010 process?

The new 2010 process uses the new demosaicing engine in Lightroom 3, offering finer detail and better rendering of high-ISO work, among other things. Dramatically improved noise reduction, too, and much more powerful local sharpening controls. (Brushes, gradients.)

For an early and subtle example of the difference in quality between version one and version two with default settings, even at low ISO, see an earlier post on protecting fine colour detail in Lightroom 2. Towards the end, it contains some Lightroom 3 screen shots of the example image—there’s a clear difference in the way that colour noise reduction works.

Now that Lightroom 3 beta 2 is available and contains working luminance noise reduction, we’ll post more example files soon. Initial testing suggests very impressive NR results but it will take more time to be absolutely sure.

Lightroom 3 public beta 2 has been released

[Update: that was quick! Lightroom 3 public beta 2 is out and it looks good. Luminance noise reduction that—at first glance—seems to work extremely well and an easier way to switch between the old raw conversion engine and the new. I’ll leave the rest of this post intact but it’s now outdated, less than an hour after it was posted as a pointer to a rumour.]

The free Lightroom 3 public beta was released in 2009 and was a big hit, particularly among low-light shooters, but the beta is due to expire at the end of April. Could it be that there’s a new version on the way before the final release? Take a look at this thread at the (usually very useful) Lightroom forum over at the Luminous Landscape. Apparently, there was an announcement that even made it to DP Review before being pulled. Perhaps by the time you read this, it’ll actually be out. This is the Adobe page to check.

If there is another public beta on its way and if it offers a peek at the new luminance noise reduction that Adobe has been working on, it will be very welcome. We’re keen to see how the luminance NR compares with third-part solutions like Noiseware, Noise Ninja, Topaz Denoise and Neat Image.

Migrating your library from Aperture to Lightroom or Lightroom to Aperture

Following the release of Aperture 3 last month, the Shoot Raw site logs show that we’re getting quite a few people visiting from Google, looking for ways to migrate a photo library from one application to the other. (In both directions, interestingly.) Based on the search terms people are using, it’s clear that these visitors are looking for one thing above all others. Here’s the bad news:

There is currently no way to move or migrate your raw files from Lightroom to Aperture or from Aperture to Lightroom without losing your edits.

That’s what most of you have been searching for but it’s not possible today. If Apple, Adobe or a third-party publisher provides this functionality, we’ll post something on it straight away and we’ll edit this page to point to the new article. (Subscribe for free via e-mail or RSS to get all our articles when they’re posted.)

Possible in theory

It is theoretically possible for someone to write software to make the move easier. Both Lightroom and Aperture store all your edits as metadata. Any third-party conversion software would read and interpret the metadata in the database used by Lightroom 2 or Lightroom 3, or inside the XMP sidecar files; it would then translate that information, which describes all the edits you’ve made in Lightroom, and add it to the Aperture 3 database or vice versa if you’re travelling in the opposite direction. Your original raw files would remain untouched and in their current locations or would be relocated from an Aperture package.

One problem is that there’d have to be a lot of subjective decisions about interpretation, given the differences in camera profiles between the two applications, their different approaches to noise reduction, sharpening, highlight recovery and so on. It’s a difficult task and the market for such an application is quite small so the product is likely to be expensive. I hope one appears but would consider it unlikely.

Moving JPEG or TIFF renderings of your raw files

If you decide to export JPEGs or TIFFs, you probably need no further help—you can bake your changes into the files, export them and include the IPTC metadata. You can do this as well moving your raw files, using your JPEGs as guidance when reimplementing edits.

If you’ve decided to move the raw files

If you’ve decided to redo your all your edits as and when they’re needed, here’s what works and what doesn’t.

Migrating raw files from Aperture to Lightroom and vice versa

  • Your keywords will travel between the applications if you choose to write XMP sidecar files or if, in Aperture, you select the pictures you’d like to export, choose File=> Export=> Master and then include the IPTC metadata, either as a sidecar file (strongly recommended) or written to the original raw file (definitely not recommended). See below.
  • Ratings (star ratings, from zero to five stars) will also travel in XMP files if you’re moving to Lightroom but not if you’re moving from Lightroom to Aperture. (Apple’s somewhat unconvincing explanation of this is here. ) One workaround if you’re migrating to Aperture: in Lightroom, select all photos with a one star rating, add a keyword like “onestar”; select all photos with a two-star rating and add a keyword like “twostar”; repeat for all star ratings before saving XMP files. (See below for the XMP procedure.) After importing into Aperture, reverse the process: find all the images with the “onestar” keyword, assign them a star and so on. (C’mon, Apple, you can do better than this!) [Update: Apple’s notes for the Aperture 3.0.3 update suggest that it should now be able to read ratings from XMP sidecar files. We haven’t gone back to test this.]
  • Edits… no. As above, you currently need to bake your changes into TIFF files or JPEGs if you’re desperate to keep your edits intact. Of course, you can always do both—move your raw files and export TIFF or JPEGs of certain images to sit alongside.
  • Mapping of IPTC metadata can be tricky. Apple has an article on the subject here.

With these limitations in mind, here are some suggestions for moving your library from Aperture and Lightroom or Lightroom to Aperture with the appropriate options in place. Again, this is for moving raw files without edits but with keywords and other IPTC metadata.

Including metadata with raw files from Aperture 3

This screenshot from Aperture 3 shows the pop-up menu that includes the two relevant options. To get to this stage, choose File=> Export=> Master.

We’d recommend getting Aperture 3 to write the XMP sidecars, as shown in the screenshot  above. In general, try to avoid any alterations to the raw files themselves whenever you can. (In the past, there have been examples of bugs in raw-conversion software that have caused difficulties with modified raw files; these difficulties didn’t show up for a long time. Whenever possible, leave the raw files untouched and write sidecars.)

Including metadata with raw files from Lightroom 2 or Lightroom 3

Exporting metadata from Lightroom is as simple as selecting your pictures and hitting command-S (ctrl-S on Windows) to write an XMP sidecar file for each image. Alternatively, when you’re viewing your grid (to get there, hit G), just select all your pictures and go to the Metadata menu. Choose:

Metadata=> Save Metadata to FIle

When this operation is complete, each raw file will have an XMP sidecar file next to it and Aperture will read these sidecars when you import the pictures. You can then import them into Aperture the way you’d import any new raw files and your keywords will be included. (Remember: Aperture will currently ignore your photo’s star ratings—see above for a workaround.)

One-on-one Lightroom workflow training in the UK

If you’re migrating from Aperture to Lightroom, we have a really great training offer on this month for our Lightroom courses in London and the South East. You get to save lots of time and trouble and master your workflow quickly, with expert tuition. See this page.