My Lightroom Adventure book tech editor, Doug Nelson, and I got in an argument the other day about the value of placing certain camera EXIF data under the Library module Histogram.
Tech editors, I should point out, have an inherently adversarial relationship with authors. Their job is to push us into areas we don’t normally go, or want to go. I’ve been working with Doug for many years now. He’s one of the best in the business, and also runs the very popular web site retouchpro.com. There is a predictable pattern to our conversations. At first, when he makes a comment, I usually yell, and scream and say “what are you talking about?” Then I calm down, think about it for a moment, and almost always end up agreeing with him.
Anyway, on this particular occasion, Doug wasn’t complaining about something I wrote for a change, but something Lightroom did that he totally didn’t understand. Our conversation went something like this:
Doug: “For the life of me I don’t understand why Adobe places ISO, focal length, f/stop, and shutter speed information under the histogram, as if that information is just as useful as the histogram.”
Me: “Doug, it’s not my fault.”
Doug: “What’s with the obsession with f/stop, ISO–which I still think of as ASA– and shutter speed? Magazines and books always show them under photos, but is this actually useful? Would we ever go out and emulate them? Would we ever say, “beautiful photo, shame it was shot at f/11″? Or, “ah, ISO 400, brilliant choice!”
Me: “Doug it’s not my fault.”
Doug: “It’s particularly odd in the digital age, since ISOs are simulated, shutters can be semi-virtual, and f/stops and focal length are arbitrary unless referenced to chip size.”
Me: Doug, it’s not my fault.
After our conversation I pondered Doug’s point. I’m a big fan of metadata. I love how you can search for something in Lightroom based on information provided automatically by a digital camera. I also like setting up my thumbnails in the Library grid mode to give me verbal information about my image at a glance. As for the information under the histogram in the Library module…well, I like seeing at a glance what my ISO is and anticipating whether or not to apply de-noising to a high ISO image. I like knowing my shutter speed. Slow shutter speed? Watch out, could mean a blurry image.
But then I’m thinking about what Doug said at the very end of our conversation.
“Just look at the darn photo, for gosh sakes!”
Good point, Doug. Funny how we sometimes forget.