lightroom

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop

For years and years, Adobe Photoshop was amongst the most pirated pieces of software on the planet. Not surprising, really. It was, is, the best photo editor available. And it was so prohibitively expensive, the only way the average Joe could afford it was to steal it. Then along came Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, to complement the original. Another slick and essential piece of gear for the digital photographer. It was cheaper too, but still quite a financial outlay. And, as a result,  just as heavily pirated.

Last year, Adobe tried to crack down on piracy by moving their software into the cloud. Would you be surprised if I told you that cracked versions were on torrent sites within days? Perhaps hours. Invariably, despite software creators doing their darnedest to prevent it, the pirates will find a way round any protection that is put up. It’s a pointless battle.

But I’m really, really pleased to say that Adobe has found a genuinely novel, workable and real world model to help reduce piracy. They’ve made their product affordable. Really affordable, with monthly plans that make sense to even the hardest up snapper. Photoshop and Lightroom are such powerful, yet user friendly pieces of kit, that they should appeal to every enthusiastic photographer. I have signed up today for the Creative Cloud Photography Plan. Available to US citizens for $9.99. Us Brits have to pay an inflated, but still reasonable, £8.78.

I love Adobe Lightroom, which is my primary photography processing and management tool. It’s a work of digital genius. I like Photoshop, which I use less often, but it’s such a powerful tool. I love the fact that I now own them both. Two legit installations on my laptop. The latest editions, and I’ll be getting all the latest updates.  Have you given Lightroom a try yet? You’ll never go back to whatever you used before once you’ve given it a fair run on your PC.

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Geotag Photos

I like taking photos. I like processing photos. I like sharing photos. What I don’t like is naming photos. So I don’t bother doing so any more. And I’m not a fan of the rather laborious task of manually geo tagging photos. Although I do like my photos to be geo tagged. Lots of web sites, such as Flickr and 500px, will display photos on a map if they are geo tagged. It’s a useful feature, if you want to find photos you have taken in certain places or if you can’t remember exactly where you were when a particular photo was shot.

Quite a few cameras (but not mine!) these days come with GPS built in, so the process is automated. Or you can by a dedicated GPS device. Which is more expense and just one more thing to remember to take with you when you go out. Otherwise, you are stuck with the task of adding photos to a map either within Lightroom or in your photo sharing website of choice once they’ve been uploaded. Geo tag them one by one for accuracy. Or by batches if an approximate location will do. But that’s lazy.

There has to be an easier way. It’s one of those things I’ve been convinced must be easy but that I hadn’t gotten around to investigating. I have, after all, a GPS device that I carry round with me every where I go, every minute of the day. My cell phone. A couple of days ago I finally did investigate. And it was easy. The solution is Geotag Photos Pro.

I went for a short stroll down to the beach to try out the time-limited trial version. No wants wants to splurge £3 on a full product that doesn’t work. The photos can be seen here on Flickr. This app, I’m very happy to say, works perfectly. Press start at the beginning of the walk. Press stop at the end. Upload the data. Sync through their own desktop app when you get home, to embed the location data into the photos.

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Actually, it’s even easier than that. I process all my photos through Lightroom, and that’s a pretty powerful piece of software. Surely I could add the location data through Lightroom with the .gpx file that Geotag Photos Pro produces? Yes, of course you can – short tutorial here.

The wonders of modern technology. What I’d really like now is to have a new fangled smart watch with GPS built in and this app loaded on to it. To save my phone battery from the drain of having GPS turned on. Maybe one day.

Another thing I noticed. Flickr changed its photo view page recently, and doesn’t display maps within the image profile any more. That’s a shame. You can still check out the map through the options on the home page, but it’s not as good as it was. I hope they bring this feature back. As ever, 500px is doing it right though.

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Memory v Masterpiece

I recently rediscovered a cache of forgotten photos on a CD from a trip to Mexico in 2003. What to do with them? Well, get them all uploaded to Flickr, obviously. But how much did I want to ‘play about’ with them? For the last six months or so I have been going crazy with filters (or more correctly, presets) in Lightroom. Filters are the lazy mans way to create cool photographs without having to worry about owning decent equipment, having any talent or even using ones imagination.

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I am sure my photographs are cooler for all those filters I’ve applied. But those rediscovered photos had me thinking. They contained so many memories. Did I want to play about with them? After all, the application of creative filters distorts the image. It recreates a scene, turning it into something that never was. It’s for artistic purposes only. You gain your masterpiece, but lose a memory.

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In the end, I applied some sensible post processing – cropping, added contrast and the such. And left it at that. I uploaded the results to Flickr. Then I went back and did my filter thang on a select bunch of them. The best of both worlds. I have unlimited space to upload onto Flickr, so what the heck – duplication is fine!

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This exercise has given me a bit of food for thought as to how I approach my photography though. The snaps I take today have little to no nostalgia attached to them. But a decade or more down the road, they will be priceless snapshots of life long ago. Do I want sets on Flickr full of masterpieces or sets full of memories? I must give this some thought and find a balance.

Stuck in Winter

Using filters in Lightroom helps bring out the best in what are often fairly ordinary photos. I like the image below. It has a glow/finish/saturation that appeals to me.  It appeals much more than the original. It’s one of a set of photos that’s been sitting in Lightroom waiting for some post processing for a few months. I purchased a bunch of presets from Stuck in Customs a while back, and recently got an email telling me to go download them again – there’s a new pack of filters waiting for me. At no extra charge. So I put those filters to good use. You can see the set of photos I ran through these filters on Flickr by clicking here.

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Filter Frenzy

If you looked through my recent photos from Marrakech, you probably noticed that the majority of them had had filters applied. Or, more accurately, Lightroom presets. There are pros and cons to this treatment. They can make an image look better. They can rescue an image that was otherwise blurred or imperfect enough to normally warrant deletion. On the other hand, the effects can sometimes look not so good when the image is viewed on bigger monitors. I noticed some of the Marrakech shots, which looked great on my laptop, did not look quite so great on our 37″ TV. I don’t buy into the purists argument that filters distort an image, disguising the photographers flaws and therefore ruining the photo. At least, I don’t buy that it ruins the photo.

But when looking at those Marrakech shots, do they remind me of what I saw with my own eyes? No, they don’t quite match what I saw. That does trouble me a little. But fortunately, Lightroom doesn’t ‘destroy’ the image. In other words, you can always go back and remove the filter. Even years later. Providing you’ve backed up your catalog. If you haven’t backed up your catalog? Then it’s the changes you’ve made that you lose, not the original photo.

The snap below of Mrs P is, she tells me, the best I’ve ever taken of her. There is a preset applied, although in this instance a very mild one. I have hundreds of presets installed, but there’s about twenty that I use regularly. My favourites. Do you want to try them out? You’ll need Lightroom, of course. Then you can download my Top 20 Lightroom presets by clicking on this link. Save them in a folder somewhere safe. Then, in Lightroom’s Develop module, right click on the User Presets bar on the left of the screen. Import. Point it to the folder of presets. Select them all. Voila. For those of you who are not fans of presets or filters, then I have this set on Flickr, from our recent trip to Marrakech. They all feature Mrs P, occasionally me too. And whilst a couple have had ‘the treatment’, at least half of them are out of the box images. Another 45% have only been cropped or rotated.

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London Presets

I’ve been adding to my collection of photos of London, using a variety of Lightroom presets – click here to see the set. How good is Lightroom? I love to experiment with new tech. I flitter between Apple, Google and Microsoft products. I’ve swapped from MyOpera to Blogger to WordPress. I use different video editing software from time to time. But I’ve never, ever been even remotely tempted to switch away from Adobe Lightroom. Ever. It’s the most slick piece of software of any kind of the market.

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