Lightroom is such a rich program with such an apparently simple interface that, at first, you may not appreciate how powerful it really is. Wonderful as it is to be able to process one’s images non-destructively, the further you can push it to do as much of your work, the more good it does to have the work done non-destructively (meaning that all of the information recorded in RAW format remains completely intact).
Some things you supposedly couldn’t do non-destructively, Lightroom now can do non-destructively. For instance, in the latest beta versions, you’re able to straighten, crop, and re-scale to full-size. You can also spot and heal (though you can only do that inside a circular shape, so you’re pretty much limited to fixing sensor dust and zits). Also, you can also do initial sharpening (fixing the slight “smearing” that interpolating the sensor’s Bayer pattern causes) and some repairing of color and luminance noise.
But the feature who’s power I didn’t really “get” until I’d played with it a bit is the regional curve adjustment “dot” that you see when you’re working in the Develop module and open the Curves panel. It can often create an HDR image from a single RAW frame without even having to open that image in Photoshop at all. I discovered that when I decided I wanted to do a collection of photographs of trails. I’d photographed a forest trail in direct Winter sunlight. Some of the detail in the trail looked entirely blown-out and the detail in the shadows was pretty much missing as well. In fact, here’s what the picture looked like.
Since I wanted to make the slideshow in the Slideshow module of Lightroom that I could record to CD’s and mail to card and calendar publishers, I thought it would be nice if I could do the whole thing in Lightroom. Ok, I’d had a temporary memory lapse and forgotten than I could easily create a pair of exposure from the RAW file, combine them in Photoshop, and then bring them back into the Lightroom Library and then flag it for the slideshow. Still it would’ve taken much longer. Here’s the “HDR” (High Dynamic Range) image I got from Lightroom and the regional curves adjustment:
By the way, it’s a topic for another blog, but another thing I really appreciate about Lightroom is the ease with which you can go from Lightroom’s Develop module straight into Photoshop, do anything you really can’t do in Lightroom, and then come right back to Lightroom with the result of your work in a Stack with the original. It’s amazing how efficient that becomes when you’re going through your files looking for the best version of an image that you’ve done… especially when you’ve had some new inspiration or knowledge that makes you think you might be able to improve or recycle it.