The more I use Lightroom, the more I am beginning to love the program. I think I made that same statement when I first started using Aperture about a year ago. Maybe it has something to do with it being the “new toy” in the room, or maybe I just like the look of the two square icons in my dock (LR and Ps). I really can’t say what it is, but one thing is for sure, Lightroom is growing on me.
Today I had a good time reading all the comments from my previous post. I stuck my foot directly in my mouth when I wrote that you can’t create multiple Versions in LR. When someone kindly pointed out to me that it is possible, I realized that I am getting just as much out of this process as my readers are! You really can’t beat that. One of my favorite things when teaching students about photography is that moment when they start to take over and teach me.
So, for today’s post, I thought I would do a little clean-up and add a few comments having to do with the Library module, and then move on to the Develop module. I added some more images to my Library this afternoon and imported the salvaged pictures from my trip to Les Saintes last weekend. As it turned out, I had a few images that I thought were worth looking at, so I am going to be using these for today’s post.
One of the things that has often bothered me about Aperture has been how it handles Metadata once my images are imported. Aperture has some pretty nice tools and a well planned out Metadata panel ( I love the bottom controls for displaying IPTC, EXIF and other info, and the multiple metadata views) but it has never been very intuitive for me when it comes to batch editing metadata.
Now before you all jump all over me and explain to me how to do a batch change or a lift and stamp, let me just say, I know how to do it. I just don’t think it is very intuitive. In other words, every time I want to do a batch change to, lets say, the IPTC City field, I have to think for a second, and remember what I need to do to make it happen. Then I have to reassure myself that what I am about to do is in fact what I am supposed to do, and then do it. If I am using the lift and stamp tool, I need to make sure I uncheck the things I don’t want lifted and or stamped, and if I am using the Batch Change feature, well, I just don’t like having to go through the steps of bringing that option up every time.
With Lightroom, they have dealt with batch metadata changes in a way that makes perfect sense to me. I select a range of images, find the field in the Metadata area, and change the value. Once I hit return or tab, the change is made to all the images I have selected. My only gripe here is that if I hit tab, I don’t get the next field highlighted and ready to edit. Often times I want to batch change metadata on the fly to a range of images, and I want to just be able to tab through the fields. I don’t want to have to open a special dialog box; I just want it to work. I hope I’m not asking too much here!
As I mentioned in a previous post, having EXIF variables available for entry into IPTC fields would make the whole process sing– that and being able to tab to the next field. Okay, that’s it.
Let’s move on to the Develop module. I think this is going to require a couple of posts for discussion. Lightroom’s Develop module, in a nutshell, is awesome! The ability to add presets and have them readily available in the left side panel is a really great thing. I do miss the Aperture style Loop tool, but somehow I think I could learn to live without it. It’s a nifty feature, but a little over-engineered, in my opinion. The whole Snapshots feature (which I have yet to really discover) is a great idea. I have always wanted something like this. It makes me feel like I’m back in the darkroom, making test prints and being able to go back and see if I went in the wrong direction at some point. It can really be a great learning tool if used correctly.
The History and Copy and Paste functions are right where they should be and are reminiscent of how I used to do things in Photoshop. There is a ton of stuff to look at in the Develop module, but it’s pretty clearly marked and easy to find. In the right-hand panel I have everything I could potentially need. I’m still getting used to all the sliders and what can be done with the histogram and curves box, but I can say so far that they are incredible. I am also really digging the Before and After compare tools. They seem to make perfect sense to me so far, and they really do work.
I find when I begin to work on an image I sort of go down the right panel sliders and see what happens. I’m pretty sure this is a bad way to adjust images as the sliders aren’t meant to be used step by step, but so far it has worked pretty well. Usually I start by dragging the Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light (very cool) and Blacks sliders and then I head down the list. In Aperture, I typically have a routine that I follow as well, and I veer off this routine depending on the image at hand. It took me a while to develop my skills in Aperture, and I am sure it will take me some time to do the same in Lightroom.
I must say here that I was brought up on Curves and Levels in Photoshop. My professors used to tell me that everything the sliders can do can be done with Curves alone. I used to believe them until I wanted to do things like Shadow Recovery and Fill Light effects. These surely can be done with Curves, but it takes some serious know-how and patience. So, I am migrating back to using sliders. I mean, there are even sliders right there in the Curves box in Lightroom! Now I have a plethora of ways to manipulate the image–perhaps too many.
I am especially fond of how Adobe did the HSL, Color and Grayscale sliders. I like things to be all in once place and easily navigable. I think Lightroom has nailed it here.
There has been lots of talk around the web about Lightroom Vs. Aperture in terms of RAW processing. I think it is pretty hard to tell which application does a better job. Many say Lightroom creates a more natural feel and something similar to a film look, while Aperture lovers have been impressed with how Apple’s CoreImage processor handles high ISO pics (well, they weren’t at first). The thing is, it can be really tough to do a side-by-side comparison because the controls are all different, and you are really comparing apples to oranges. I think the answer is basically, “whatever works best for you.” So far with Lightroom I have been pretty satisfied with how my images have been developing. But, I must remind you, I am new to this application, so they aren’t perfect yet!
Above you will see a screenshot put together in Photoshop and reduced to fit the format of this blog. Now, I am not really a side-by-side bench testing kind of guy, so they aren’t very scientific. The idea was to go through the typical workflow I use when adjusting an image. I started by manipulating an image from the original RAW file in Lightroom. To be honest with you, I basically just played with the slider controls until I had something I was pleased with. I did this in fullscreen mode on a gray surround. I also looked at it with the Lights Dimmed mode turned on and made some final tweaks.
The image on the right I worked up in Aperture following a similar workflow. I wasn’t trying to make them match but rather, simply trying to end up with a good result after beginning with the original RAW file. I then did screen shots and compared my work. The Aperture version, which I edited in Full Screen mode, is slightly more washed out, but I did leave some detail in the background. It’s hard to see, but it’s there. Overall, I thought they both looked pretty good, and very close, side-by-side.
Tomorrow, I am planning to dive into more detail about the Develop module. Who knows, I may even talk about ACR vs. Apple’s CoreImage. Yikes! Please do keep the comments coming, and if anyone out there has a technical explanation of the difference between Lightroom’s Recovery slider, and Aperture’s Shadow and Highlight sliders, I’d love to hear about it.
Click here to see today’s gallery.