Adobe’s new Photoshop Lightroom 2 is the best DAM software in the world. DAM stands for “digital asset management.” If you are a professional or serious high volume amateur digital photographer, you need to manage a large quantity of image files today, and an enormous quantity sooner than later. Enter Lightroom 2, center stage.
Martin Evening was involved in the development of Lightroom, and he now uses it daily to work with zillions of RAW, DNG, TIFF, and JPEG images for his high-end clients. Martin is an exceptional writer. His new Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book is the best book on any subject we’ve seen at MyMac for a long time. Writing is detailed, comprehensive, and clear, with numerous sidebar tips and notes. Illustrations and screen shots are the maximum possible quality.
Lightroom 2 begins where iPhoto, Adobe Bridge, and other catalog or batch-process applications leave off. There is a hefty learning curve and orientation process required to become proficient with Lightroom 2. It is modular software that addresses a pro’s needs to import, organize, and enhance digital pictures in the most efficient manner. New users will need to start slowly, and dedicate themselves to Lightroom 2 for weeks or months until it becomes familiar.
Stick with Lightroom! Or, if you can afford it, hire a part-time assistant at $20 per hour to organize your DAM library, so you can work with your clients. Lightroom 2 is a long-term project that integrates with your shooting session workflow and with your CS3/CS4 editing suite.
You’ll still need Photoshop for precise image editing, but Lightroom 2 allows you to batch or individually enhance RAW or converted photos roughly 80 percent of the time. Martin goes into unbelievable detail on every aspect of Lightroom in his book. Here’s our interview, packed with essential info plus a few surprises.
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MYMAC: Do people need to be computer experts in advance of tackling Photoshop Lightroom 2 (PL2), or your comprehensive book on it?
MARTIN: Lightroom’s development began with the premise that photographers needed an image management and editing environment that didn’t demand a high level of user learning and intervention to get up and running and editing photographs. I think the Lightroom team were largely successful in achieving that goal. Inevitably the program soon grew to become more than a basic tool and as a result the book I have written has had to grow in size and in depth in order to cover everything in detail.
To answer your specific question, I think I have managed to show that the program is really easy to use and ideal for photographers of all skill levels. At the same time, there is extra detailed information there for those who want to learn more.
MYMAC: How aware must PL2 users be of the application’s modular design, as its major structural feature?
MARTIN: The modular design is self-evident and anyone approaching Lightroom for the first time should get the modular controls and the order they are presented in, from Library, to Develop through to Slideshow, Print or Web.
MYMAC: On the workflow usability scale, where does PL2 rank when compared to Aperture, Adobe Bridge, or even iPhoto?
MARTIN: Before Lightroom I mostly used Bridge. I used to think that Bridge was a fairly successful program for organizing photos, until I found that the volume of shots I was shooting digitally overwhelmed Bridge and I was struggling to get my work done. By the time the Lightroom development started getting underway, I was definitely in the market for a program that could manage better the photos taken on a shoot. I confess I didn’t look too hard at the competition. iPhoto has always been too basic and if I was going to consider using something else other than Bridge I would have considered Capture One first as an alternative to the previous Bridge workflow.
Aperture has at times looked tempting, but despite the various things that Apple has done to improve Aperture, it has always seemed to be lacking in the areas that Lightroom has excelled in. I was initially impressed that they offered built-in tethered shooting for version 2.1, but less so when I found out how slow the download times are compared to the tethered workflow I am able to use with Lightroom.
What I like most about Lightroom is the intuitiveness of the Develop controls. You know, there are so many Photoshop techniques out there these days that have you dancing between different color modes, blending this channel and that with various overlay modes. Meanwhile there are sliders in Lightroom that are simple to understand that do exactly what you would expect them to do without all the smoke and mirrors. There is nothing wrong with simple and it is not without good reason that the Adobe engineers have devoted the last 7-8 years to simplifying and refining the image editing pipeline with Camera Raw. In my view it is the best way to process images shot with a digital camera.
MYMAC: Are there benefits for amateurs and hobbyists to learn PL2, or is it best for dedicated professionals?
MARTIN: I would say that Lightroom is for everyone. What is interesting is that if you look at how much can now be done in Lightroom, some photographers may feel there is less need for Photoshop. As one of my colleagues, Philip Andrews pointed out recently, many photographers (especially amateurs) might find that Lightroom plus Photoshop Elements is all that they really need (and cheaper too than buying Photoshop).
MYMAC: How proficient with PL2 do people need to be before they can confidently “automatically import, rename, and manage your image captures each time as camera card is inserted into a card reader”?
MARTIN: Again, this is something that should be easy to get to grips with. Having said that, I do think that the Import Photos dialog is in need of work to make this first step of the process easier. I would like Import Photos to become more Bridge-like. A file browser if you will, where it is easy to scour your computer to see which photos you want to import into Lightroom, as well as making it easier for you to manage where you import your photos to.
MYMAC: How valuable is the software’s built-in Help?
MARTIN: I don’t use it much. Occasionally I have used it to cross check something I have written, but for the most part I am writing my books before the official help guide has been completed, so I don’t get to see the latest help guide until after my book is in print.
MYMAC: Does auto import override prior iPhoto or Image Capture preferences on a Mac, not to mention multiple possible importing conflicts on a Windows PC?
MARTIN: It depends on your system and Lightroom preferences. The Mac OS likes to ask you to make iPhoto the default program to import photos to, but you can override this be selecting Lightroom as the default program instead.
MYMAC: What is the new PL2 overhead or time black hole of computer usage for pro photographers who are already hassled, and perhaps not the most organized people?
MARTIN: File management is always going to represent a potential black hole in your schedule unless you do something to manage those files better. So while setting up a program like Lightroom (or Aperture, or iView/Expression Media, etc.) is always going to require a new learning curve, the rewards are that anything you do to tag your images and make them more accessible (such as in the way you can quickly view photos in the Lightroom catalog) is going to pay dividends in the long-term.
MYMAC: Do pros need a computer assistant to manage PL2’s basics, or should the pros do this task themselves?
MARTIN: When I shoot in the studio I have a routine for setting everything up in Lightroom at the beginning of a job, so that after setting up the auto import routine with the established develop settings and key metadata, that takes care of most of the setup work. Thereafter, I like to have an assistant check the pictures as the auto-import via a tethered setup directly into the Lightroom catalog. I don’t tend to get too involved is seeing what the photos look like until after the shoot. I just get the assistant to flag up any errors that may occur. But I do like the assistant to take care of entering the specific shot metadata and printing out the contact sheets. Fortunately things like the contact sheet printing are quite quick and effortless compared to Bridge.
About 6 months work went into research and updating this latest edition and I used the time to make sure that all the little details were covered adequately. In fact, I managed a rare thing of actually completing the book ahead of schedule. The publisher had to sit on the manuscript for about a month before we were able to go to print and release it!
MYMAC: If photographers are overwhelmed by your multiplicity of instructions in the first 200-plus pages, which ones are most important?
MARTIN: Lightroom is just as much a catalog organizer as it is a tool for processing raw photos. I would agree that the sections on the Develop techniques, black and white work and Photoshop connection are sexier chapters to look at and read through, because they contain lots of examples of working on images, but the catalog stuff should matter to a lot of readers. To come back to the question you asked earlier, it should always be worth investing the time in learning how to manage your photos better, since this can save you so much time later when you want to retrieve something. Just this week I was asked to locate photos of a particular model. It took me less than a minute to get all the photos I had shot of her up on screen and then output as a set of JPEGs ready to email to the client.
MYMAC: Now that monitors are so affordable, should all PL2 users have a pair, or a trio?
MARTIN: I have two large LCD screens working side-by-side, but it helps to have at least one big screen to work with and toggle between the different programs. Three is excessive!
MYMAC: You suggest a LOT of keystroke operations and shortcuts. Have they completely replaced mouse operations for you, and for power users of PL2?
MARTIN: Well, it’s more a case of me trying to be as thorough as possible and letting the readers decide which ones they want to memorize! You know, when I review my books I am often learning shortcuts and tricks that I had forgotten about. Most of us can only remember so many shortcuts and these have to be learnt just a few at a time.
MYMAC: Your screen shot descriptive balloons are the best! What software and settings do you use to make them?
MARTIN: These are simply vector shapes copied and pasted from a standard bubble shape that can be found in the Photoshop shapes presets. There was nothing particularly tricksy about how I produced these, but yes, I kind of think they are the best way to annotate some of the screen captures of the Lightroom interface. The thing is with Lightroom, is that you have to do everything you can to make the screens legible, which is why I make them fill the full width of the page. In a lot of places, I also included blow-up views of the key panels so that these were easier to read. Still I hear a few readers wished they could be bigger. I’ll see what can be done for future editions.
MYMAC: How do you make those keyboard screenshots with blue active keys?
MARTIN: I use a special keyboard font, supplied by the publisher. It looks nice on the page, but tricky to find the key combo to use for some of the more esoteric keyboard shortcuts!
MYMAC: How many photos do you now edit/enhance using PL2, instead of Photoshop?
MARTIN: I probably shoot on average about 1,000 photos a day when working in the studio and maybe just several hundred a day when I am out shooting general scenic pictures. The main catalog on my computer has all the recent work on it and is currently up to 65,000 photographs.
MYMAC: Tell us a little about the Lightroom News web site.
MARTIN: Lightroom-news was set up around the time of the launch of Lightroom 1.0. The main contributors are Sean McCormack, myself, and Jeff Schewe. We post stories on Lightroom-news as things happen in the world of Lightroom. There isn’t as much going on as with Photoshop, but it has also been a good blog site for finding out some of the high-level stuff and both Sean and myself have written some quite detailed tutorials on using Lightroom.
MYMAC: Thanks, Martin Evening.
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The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers
by Martin Evening
Adobe Press / Peachpit Press
ISBN 978-0-321-55561-8, 601 pages
US $49.99, CN $54.99, UK £31.99