My photography workflow has remained largely unchanged for several years. Ever since I started using Adobe’s Lightroom, the first version. Lightroom is a thing of wonder. It’ll import my photos, allow me to edit them, manage my collections and export them to Flickr. If I need a bit more editing power I can open an image into Photoshop directly, and do the extra work there. When I save the image, it’s there waiting for me in Lightroom.
It has a few flaws. Nothing major, it has to be said. And only one that has ever bugged me. It edits in a non-destructively way. In other words, when you’re done editing, you can at any time, even years later, undo those edits. I actually don’t want this ‘feature’. I wish it could be turned off. If I’ve edited an image, I’ve done so for a reason, and I want the change to be permanent. This becomes an issue if you’re reinstalling Lightroom. The changes you made are all gone, and you’re left with the original ‘imperfect’ image.
Now, I know you can save the catalogue of edits and reimport them, and the edits are all back. But this is extra fuss and bother, and it doesn’t always work out. Especially when you install and start using a beta version which doesn’t recognise old edit catalogs. Which is exactly what I’ve done this week. Lightroom 4 beta is available for download, free and legally. I always export my edited photos to my hard-drive though, so my changes become permanent.
Is Lightroom 4 worth giving a try? Absolutely. Within a couple of minutes I’s set it to default – Lightroom 3 is history. The fourth version looks very similar at first glance. But there is one key difference. The Map screen. I used to geo-tag my photos in Flickr, but that had two drawbacks. Firstly, you have to geo-tag in Yahoo maps, and Yahoo maps are absolutely awful. Terrible. Compared to either Google or Bing maps, they are an abomination. The second drawback is that the geo-tagging seems to relate to the Flickr data, rather than embedding the co-ordinates into the photos exif data. So it’s not exportable. So I stopped geo-tagging my photos.
Lightroom 4 uses Google maps, and works like a dream. I’ll be geo-tagging my images again from now on. I like to have this data embedded in the photo because it can be useful when looking back at snaps, when you want to see where you were. Of course, the easiest way of doing this if to have GPS built into the camera, and the geo-tagging done automatically. Any future cameras I buy will have GPS. Any camera without it won’t make it on to my short-list.
If you’ve never used Lightroom before, now’s an excellent time to give it a whirl. I highly recommend it. It’s intuitive, slick, fast and powerful. I mentioned that I sometimes edit photos in Photoshop too. But truth be told, Lightroom’s editing tools are so comprehensive that I rarely need to. Incidentally, I don’t much recommend the built in Flickr and Facebook publishing options. Install Jeffrey Friedl’s plugins (he has one for Picasa/Google Photos too) which work much better.