Yet another great feature of Lightroom is that you can use a more advanced external image editor to work on your images if Lightroom can’t do what you need it to do. Now don’t get me wrong, Lightroom is incredibly powerful and there isn’t much on the market that can surpass the Develop module that I have found. But there are those rare instances where I need to go in and do some work on an image - and Lightroom isn’t up to the task. If an image needs extensive spotting I just find it easier to do this in Photoshop. If I want to see how Nikon Capture NX will render colors on a raw image I can open that image from Lightroom into Nikon Capture NX. Or if an image needs some local adjustments I can go to Photoshop quickly. This topic has been covered by many of my peers on this blog already but I just thought I would revisit it and explain how I work with this option.
First, to set these options up you’ll have to adjust your Lightroom preferences - setting the External Editing presets to the software applications that you would like to use (as in the image below). Since I shoot Nikon, my external Editors are Photoshop CS3 and Nikon Capture.
Then when you want to work on an image in an external editor you can go to Photo > Edit in Photoshop CS3 or on the Apple platform just use the keyboard shortcut “Apple E” to export the image to your first choice of editing software as below.
Once you have finished working on your image in the external editor you can then save it and it will be updated in Lightroom. And depending on your choices when you exported it will either appear as a copy in Lightroom or just update the existing image. As in the dialog box below - when I export an image to an external editor I prefer to “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments” and have it stacked with the original in the Lightroom catalog. I prefer this because I don’t want to alter the original raw file in any way and usually I have already worked up the image in Lightroom about as far as it can go. For raw files this is the only choice you get.
For portraits I have found Lightroom to be exceptional in rendering accurate skin tones as long as I used a custom white balance in camera (see my earlier blog post on using a Custom White Balance). But every once in a while I open an image into Nikon’s software to see how Nikon Capture will render the colors. Sometimes they are better - sometimes not. The point is that every raw processor renders colors differently. If I prefer the Nikon colors I just save the image in Nikon Capture and then when the image appears in Lightroom I can continue working it up or export it.
One of my pet peeves with the default Lightroom settings is that it uses a “-Edit_1″ suffix for every image that is worked up in an external editor. Luckily this is customizable so you can adapt your own naming convention to images that have been worked up elsewhere.
By going into the preferences dialog again - in the External Editing section there is a place at the bottom of the panel where you can customize the naming conventions of your externally edited images. Click on the toggle, than cruise down to “Edit” as in the image below.
Once you are in the edit panel (as below) it is set up to work exactly like the Batch Rename dialog. Instead of the “-Edit_1″ suffix I prefer a simpler “v2″ or “v3″ suffix which just indicates to me that I have version two or three of the original.
The external editing feature is nice because it simplifies the process of working your images up in multiple software applications at the same time. This feature comes in handy especially if I want to use Noise Ninja to work on noise reduction in an image - with Noise Ninja as a plug-in for Photoshop this is really an easy way to deal with high ISO noise, especially since Noise Ninja currently doesn’t work as a plug-in with Lightroom.
That’s it for this session. See you next week.
Adios, Michael Clark