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Why Lightroom should still be Cherished

ShardScapeMaybe I’m overreacting but I feel that Adobe Lightroom has come in for a lot criticism recently since the launch of Lightroom CC. Now I did write a blog a little while ago about Lightroom HDR not being a game changer, which I stick by, but others have been far more critical. I was very careful to state in that blog that I love Lightroom, and I want to elaborate why Lightroom is still a very important part of my photography workflow, and the difference it makes.

The headline updates that ran for Lightroom CC (6) I do think did it a disservice. Lightroom HDR is not I believe what people were hoping it was going to be, though it does have its place creating realistic HDR images, if that’s what you want. The panoramic feature as well, was underwhelming considering the amount of options you have in Photoshop. The thing for me though, is that Lightroom is already so great that it is hard to improve. And yet it’s the little things they put in there that make it so much better and easier to use these days. The Radial Filter was a small but yet significant addition to Lightroom 5 (one I use a hell of a lot) and Lightroom CC also saw the introduction of the Auto Mask Edge Detection feature with the adjustment brush. This makes it so much easier to make local adjustments in Lightroom, doing a wonderful job finding the edge of intended selected area and working out what you want and don’t want to include in the adjustment. I use this a lot more than making local adjustments in Photoshop (including Camera Raw). You have to go back to Lightroom 4 to see the last major improvements over a previous version, but since then the best (raw editor) keeps getting a little better.

Although I do most of my post-processing in Photoshop these days, I have included the picture above of The Shard area in London, to show how much work I still do in Lightroom. First of all, all my photos are imported into Lightroom and live there permanently, wherever I export them out for further post-processing. I always do a little pre-HDR work on the raw files before sending them to Photomatix, including enabling lens correction, eliminating chromatic aberration, reduce sharpening and some noise reduction.

There are many steps and processes carried out in Photoshop later, but I have included the version below to show how the picture looked after finishing all the steps in Photoshop, and before making further adjustments in Lightroom. Now I know a lot of these could have been done Photoshop, but I love the quick responsiveness of Lightroom, and the fact that all the sliders are in the same area. It allows for very fast decision-making and experimenting.

So between the version below after Photoshop, and the finished version above, these are the things I did in Lightroom:

* Adjusted vertical correctness to allow straighter (but deliberately not perfectly straight) buildings.

* Adjusted overall highlights and contrast to add more drama, but prevent the highlights from ‘clipping’.

* Adjusted local contrast and clarity on the buildings using a combination of the radial filter and adjustment brush.

* Corrected inconsistent exposure patches on the buildings and clouds.

* Used the radial filter to create a slight vignette effect.

* And last but not least, changed the colour tone of the picture, using the highlights and shadow sliders in Split-Toning.

These adjustments make significant changes to the final picture, and they were created using the tools and responsiveness of Lightroom.

Every time a new update is released to any popular photographic software, there are always naysayers who dislike the changes or complain there isn’t enough change. I’m only human, so also feel this way sometimes, but Lightroom has already got it so right in the past, that it is hard to improve the essence of it. It is and always will be a valuable part of my photographic workflow.

*Please remember to click on either image for a larger view and use the arrows to compare before and after!


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