Sep 29, 2008

Kelby’s Exciting Lightroom 2 Workflow Book…

Scott Kelby's Lightroom 2 Book

New Adobe software tends to come out without supporting learning tools. Select individuals, operating under nondisclosure agreements (NDA), have beta software access. With a proven track record for writing books or doing videos, they try to time production of learning tools near the software release date. Several times now, I've had software with untimely reading or video tools to learn about it later.

So when Scott Kelby's Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book for digital photographers finally arrived, I was very eager to dive into it. Saturday afternoon about three, FedEx pulled up ~ by 10 o'clock Sunday evening I pretty much had a good idea of some of Kelby's in-depth tricks for using Lightroom 2. As owner of Adobe Photoshop CS3 and a newbie at Lightroom 2, I also have the outstanding Bruce Fraser Real World series on CS3 and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). Kelby's new book was like icing on the cake! I suspect my quick assimilation of Kelby benefited by learning from Fraser. BTW, each book is available in the Brain Food section of this blog…

Neat Tips

With a sound basis in CS3 and ACR, I'm quite pleased with what can be done with the new, local brush tools in LR2. In his clear fashion, Kelby gives a blow-by-blow review for neat LR2 tricks. I particularly like the following workflow in the Library module:
1. Importing - getting photos into Photoshop Lightroom 2 p. 1.
2. Sorting photos using Collections p. 42.
3. Organizing multiple shoots using Collection Sets p. 54.
4. Make finding photos easier by adding specific Keywords p. 60.
5. Moving photos and how to use Folders p. 82.
6. From laptop to desktop: Syncing catalogs on two computers p. 92.

Then there's the fascinating Develop module:
1. Setting White Balance p. 130.
2. How to set overall Exposure p. 135.
3. Adding "punch" to your images using Clarity p. 141.
4. Using Tone Curve to add contrast p. 143.
5. Virtual Copies - the "no risk" way to experiment p. 154.

LR2 really shines at Local Adjustments with new Develop brush tools:
1. Dodging, Burning, and Adjusting individual areas of your photo p. 170.
2. Fixing skies (and other stuff) with Gradient Filter p. 182.
3. Removing dust spots p. 199.
4. Fixing backlit photos (using Fill Light) p. 205.
5. Sharpening photos and Lightroom p. 207.
6. Using Camera Profiles to match the look of the LCD image p. 213.
7. Travel Workflow ~ my step-by-step travel photography process p. 399.

Mind you, these are just my present highlights! I'm sure you'd find a different series according to your knowledge and needs. To quote MacArthur, "I shall return..."

While watching LR2 videos, I've seen Kelby say his workflow is now 75 LR2 and 25 CS3. Jeff Schewe, Fraser's sidekick, indicates 90 LR2 - 10 CS3. Looks like there's a tidal shift in pro workflow...

I think the real strengths of LR2 simplify to handling all photos in a catalog, making local, nondestructive adjustments, a very smooth transition to additional requirements if you need to use CS3, and a marked workflow speed up.

Shortcut Tables Missing...

Jumping into LR2, you find it's a real slow go using the cursor to switch in and out of various panels. Kelby handles this for each instance of digital development by including specific shortcuts in each step as he explains how to do development.

Unfortunately, Kelby left several significant elements sadly lacking. One index entry suggest a shortcut icon at 227-228. I would expect to see an extended list of all shortcuts for each of five LR2 modules Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web ~ but they are nonexistent. I think this is a rather serious, if not fundamental oversight; it forces the reader to laboriously annotate each book page to remember the complex keystroke sequence. The reader would prefer a well prepared index, a combined shortcut page, memorizing it, and moving on rather rapidly.

Nevertheless, Kelby's LR2 book is a provocative way to definitively aid digital photographers in speeding up their workflow.

My Thanks to David Lyons,, for many discussions on these points…

Sep 26, 2008

"Pay Me Now, or Pay Me Later..."

Lightroom 2 Library Module Catalogs Folders Collections

You might say, "What's Michael Phelps got to do with Lightroom 2?"

Pay Me Now…

It's wrapped up in the pay me now side of this equation... Michael went to Beijing with lots of training under his belt. If you don't believe so, just look at those awesome abs!

Have you trained for digital photography’s terrible gigabyte data onslaught?
What's a gigabyte onslaught?
It's those thousands of images you get to look through to decide which ones you need to work on to create award-winning images or quickly pick out images for your client. It's also the gigabytes and eventually terabytes of external, off-line hard drive space which have a pristine backup of your original image. And, it never ends as long as you want to take pictures...

As long as you've got enough CF cards and backup capabilities, you can wander around anywhere and take digital pictures to your hearts content for as long as you like. That's what I did for four years, from point-and-shoot to prosumer DSLR as I grew into digital photography. Unfortunately, early software and my laziness contributed to a pay me later attitude.

With advent of Lightroom 2, Adobe has a slick way of importing images, adding site-specific metadata, adding keywords, and reviewing to see which images are important.

Pay Me Later…

A newbie to this due diligence workflow process, I had some 21,000 images. At a minimum, they needed copyright and site-specific metadata. At the max - quickly find all time favorites. I needed to be able to easily and quickly view them to roughcut the goobers (Texan for get rid of the crap).

It's a mind boggling process.
I can only sit hunched in one position so many hours a day staring at a calibrated screen, doing visual compares between lousy, good, better, and best as well as adding preliminary keywords. Fond of bracketed HDR panoramas, some of this job was exceedingly repetitious. Slowly learning what not to shoot, much early work wouldn't fit the exacting criteria for award-winning photography.

The first job was to import a folder full of raw images with basic copyright metadata. I had pre-grouped folders containing thousands of images into years. With 138 GB of images, I started in a folder for 2004. Many of these landscape images are New Mexico; so I used a keyword format nm_place. The nm_ format could apply to any state in the Four Corners area of the Southwestern United States (co_, ut_, az_ …). As they appeared, I would coin other key word formats for specifics. At the least, this was only a preliminary cut.

I found five hours a day was about all the concentrated attention I could give such as mind-sapping project. Yet, doggedly, I continued for seven days - finally paring down the image count from 21,000 to 13,000. And... Phase 1 was done

Then, thanks to the bright software designers at Adobe, I discovered I still had some 3300 images without keywords and cleaned up that problem. Never fear; although you can't directly delete images when you're looking at Without Keyword in Collections, LR2 lets you perform a Show Folder, which opens the specific folder where the individual images occur. Reopen your external hard drive (My Book E), open this folder, and go through the delete process.

Lightroom 2 Library Catalog lrcat and lrdata

Here's the Windows XP folder structure for my main Lightroom 2 catalog (Lightroom 2 catalog.lrcat and preview folder Lightroom 2 catalog previews.lrdata) when this taxing job was done... 13,000 images take 4.2 GB of space where's a catalog takes 0.13 gigabytes.

Fortunately, LR2 is very good at letting me look at each image in Loupe space, with an adjacent keyword panel open for metadata creation. If I didn't like an image, simply hit X and it would be rejected. At the end of any particular folder, Ctrl-Backspace would allow me to delete the rejected images. If I saw a whole sequence I didn't like, I could choose Delete Photos and throw them away. Or, I could choose Shift X and walk through a sequence before using Ctrl-Backspace. It helps to keep Filmstrip View open - you can see what you're rejected.

The really nice thing about Lightroom 2 is the transportable catalog; in one place on your main drive, you compile previews, metadata, keywords, and other aspects of your digital photography. This catalog can be transferred to your laptop or vice versa. Because it compiles previews in a database, you can actually look at a picture while you add metadata although external hard drives which created that picture are either off-line or a studio. If you've been on a long shoot, just take the revised catalog from your laptop and put it on your desktop. Then, either update with new image information or catalog revisions from your daily grind.

In other words, get a lot of your work done on your laptop during the day, then shoot that next exciting batch of award winners at dawn and dusk.

Hey, did you forget about Michael?
Michael is the most highly awarded gold medalist ever to attend Olympics. He got there because he was determined, trained hard, performed well, and won.

May I suggest you do the same with digital photography workflow! Use Lightroom 2, import your images and create a copyright. This copyright will carry forward to all subsequent images. Sort them later and add distinctive keywords.
That way, when you get home, with your deliberate workflow steps, you can quickly rank and pick winners for further work, with brilliant new adjustment tools from Lightroom 2. Or, when available in the next month or so, the panoply of additional digital development features in Adobe Photoshop CS4.

Train yourself, enjoy a dutiful workflow, and you too, can have award-winning images and happy clients!

Sep 5, 2008

Ojito Passion

Ojito Passion Cabezon Peak New Mexico

Cabezon Peak from the Ojito
©2008, Chopawamsic LC
The Ojito wilderness is about an hour northwest of Albuquerque.  Rocky mesas and clay bottoms stretch before the eye.  One might not realize dinosaurs once roamed this very ancient Jurassic land.  The longest dinosaur on the planet, Sam the Seismosaurus, was found in the Ojito.  Cabezon Peak is a volcanic neck northwest of the Ojito – a regional landmark for the southeastern San Juan Basin.  A thousand years ago, the Anasazi also roamed the Ojito.  We present a rainy day passion play of Cabezon from Ojito…

Time's passion play strikes different chords in each of us...
Once upon a time, Sam, the Seismosaurus, the longest dinosaur ever found on our planet, wandered around the Ojito during the Jurassic 140 million years ago when dinosaur's reigned supreme and our continent was in another position.  The dinosaur quarry, out on a lonely point with some marvelous petroglyphs, is all that's left of Sam's ancient remnants; he is on display at New Mexico’s Museum of Natural History on the second floor.  From head to tip of tail, Sam's bones literally fill the exhibition room at the Museum.
Day before yesterday, several mere mortals in four-wheel-drive vehicles went to the Ojito in a seemingly chilling, yet slight rain.  Two of those brave souls crept out, sliding around on gumbo clay, like their vehicles just before, taking Ojito shots in the mist.
While the clay was just beginning to moisten and stick to my shoes, I shielded the camera in a rain jacket - except for an occasional handheld snapshot.  Wandering around, I kept cloud shrouded Cabezon Peak in the background.  In the foreground, partially obscured by a misty rain, a ridge of rock dipped toward me.  Capped by juniper shrubs, clay on top captured rock shards between two beckoning red ridges. 
As blah as our day was, there was still potential for passion.  Dave Cross, on July 16, 2008, wrote a guest blog for Scott Kelby; basically, Dave said, "When you're out shooting, bear in mind what you can do with Photoshop..."! I thought, "What happens if I apply the same philosophy - shooting for Lightroom?"
After a little work in Lightroom 2, Ojito Passion began to cast its light in digital land.  Beginning with each raw file, metadata and copyright information were encapsulated during the import phase. 
Two fascinating new tools, graduated filter and adjustment brush, literally changed the face of my Ojito experience.  I tilted a graduated filter to both add passion and help emphasize the ridge and red clay lines.  Switching to the adjustment brush, I applied both clarity and sharpening as separate, localized brush steps.  Then, I cropped the image at the base for balance.
Oops, almost forgot; I felt like Cabezon could speak for itself – walk softly, yet carry a big stick!  Was this how an ancient land looked back in Anasazi time?
The image above provides you a final interpretation. 
Lightroom 2 functions very much like Adobe Camera Raw and Bridge.  It's simply got those delicious new tools, adjustment brush and graduated filter.  Just choose the right tool, apply it, and 'twiddle' the sliders until you have the image you want.  After learning the initial workflow, LR 2 is a fast, very intuitive image processor.  Local sharpening enhancement with new brushes in Lightroom doesn't seem to require as much time or effort as former work in Pixel Genius Photokit Sharpener. These changes are nondestructive. 
LR2 also has a Before and After button which quickly shows you progress as you compare steps to see development.  The width of this blog would make a before and after shot rather small, so click here to pull up an independent B&A JPEG.
And, LR2's faster than the old Bridge - ACR combo... part of Adobe’s intuitive GUI.

Sep 3, 2008

Odds and Ends

What, you didn't put up a picture - why is that?
Several reasons; First, I want to call attention to an error in the blog a few days ago. I got one of the Internet hooks wrong about videos on Lightroom 2. Here's the correction

Click on Julieanne Kost's What's New in Lightroom?
Pt 1 - Library Module
Pt 2 - Develop Module
Pt 3 - Exporting, Photoshop, and Output
Each video is 20-30 minutes long - she is a terrific LR2 teacher.

Second, each of us was fascinated with the historical moments created by Michael Phelps at the Beijing Olympics. I, for one, immensely enjoyed Vincent Laforet’s New York Times blog reporting as a professional photographer. In my blogroll about photographers, Vincent posted a change of blog address; when I read through the new blog, I discovered an article about how many gigabytes and images his Beijing photography consumed.
Would you believe 6 cameras, over 28,000 images, and  480 Gigabytes of space?
He used Aperture to process images, I use Lightroom 2. Both reduce the workload significantly.
You can read all about it here.

Third, and today is a day to go shoot near where the longest dinosaur was ever found on our planet ~ Sam the Seismosaurus. Really, we're actually planning to go shoot Ojito hoodoos. Now, how do you pronounce Ojito?

Sep 1, 2008

Is Lightroom 2 an iPhone on Steroids?

iPhone Satelite view

Sound like an Apple/Adobe commercial?
... not really. It's the simple, truth about amazing versatility of Lightroom 2...

It's a series of comments as part of training videos from National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski. Between Kelby's new Lightroom 2 book and Kloskowski's new Lightroom 2 In-Depth DVD, these guys are teaching Lightroom to photographers. That particular video is their last item titled Lightroom versus Photoshop discussion on NAPP’s new Lightroom 2 Learning Center.
But they make another huge point... a comparison between Bridge and Lightroom 2. At time spent on a personal workflow level, you might use Bridge, because it came with Photoshop CS3, after you come back from an on location shoot. On the other hand, you use Lightroom to manage years of portfolio images for quick access.
While professional photographers may shoot several hundred images a day, some photographers have thousands of images without metadata, copyright, or keyword search parameters which need proper organization. These K guys are constantly shooting and constantly teaching. Takes a lot of time to put forth a tutorial about any element of Adobe’s Digital photography package. They've a startling consensus; with Lightroom 2 as the principal all-around image processing vehicle, 75% of their shooting/teaching workflow time is now spent in Lightroom.
Once a week, NAPP produces videos for Photoshop User Magazine; several recent videos have tutored about Lightroom. You can download each video between Tuesday and Monday weekly here.
With only a month since Lightroom 2's release, NAPP and Adobe are producing both in-depth and free videos. I enjoyed Julieanne Kost, Adobe Digital Imaging Evangelist, explaining details of workflow processing in her tutorials and Adobe videos. Every once in a while, I'd stop her video just to see if I could do that particularly intricate workflow sequence in Lightroom. As you might expect, free videos (Adobe, NAPP) are teasers whereas in-depth videos sometimes require copious funds.

Update: My apologies - I got the Adobe Videos hook wrong. Here's the correction:
Click on Julieanne Kost's What's New in Lightroom? And Choose...
Pt 1 - Library Module
Pt 2 - Develop Module
Pt 3 - Exporting, Photoshop, and Output
Each video is 20-30 minutes long - she is a terrific LR2 teacher.
Do You have Comcast?

If you can save significant time, process all your new shoots, and make sure your entire portfolio is easily searchable, then perhaps you might want to upgrade to Lightroom 2... it's spectacular new gradient and adjustment tools will have a fantastic effect on your most dramatic images.