Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Photoshop Lightroom, Part 2
Although Photoshop gets all the glory, in Photoshop Lightroom, Adobe has created a tool that will help professionals take control over their image libraries and catalogs of work
The Left Panel Of Develop
I'll get to the Presets function in a moment, but wish to dwell a bit on Develop's History function. No, it's not like Photoshop's History (although Mark Hamburg, who wrote Photoshop's history feature, also did this in Lightroom).
History is a metadata recording of potentially each and every Develop step you make to an image. It's not the actual pixels as Photoshop records, but it's metadata—and it's linear, meaning you can't move steps around or delete single steps.
About all you can do with it is check it and step back and forth in time if you wish. A more useful and still related function is Snapshots. At any point in History, you can create a snapshot of that stage.
A Snapshot allows you to collect a variety of different image settings and store them in Lightroom as different versions of an image's settings. It's not like Virtual Copies, which spins off a new copy of the master image. A Snapshot just enables you to store multiple settings and return to them at any time—while in Develop.
The Tone Curve
Fundamental to any photographic image adjustment is “adjusting the curves.” Because of the way digital cameras capture light, invariably, the sensor's rendering is less than optimal. As a result, adjusting curves is critical to fine-tuning an image's rendering.
Well, forget about everything you thought you knew about setting curves à la Photoshop. Lightroom's curves are called parametric curve adjustments—meaning you adjust the curve not point by point, but rather zone by zone. You don't even need to use the slider—you can use what Lightroom calls the “Targeted Adjustment” method. By turning on the target at the upper-left corner, you can roll your cursor around the image and adjust the curve by using the up/down arrows. No, you can't actually set and move a single point—and this has some detractors—but for efficiency and for photographic (as opposed to numerical) precision, it can be a joy to use.
I think this falls under the heading of “be careful what you wish for,” but the control is powerful and addicting. Lightroom allows you to adjust images based upon Hue, Saturation and Luminance (HSL), as well as gives you multiple forms of the controls to aid in the adjustments. And, you may note, the colors aren't your typical additive and subtractive spectral-based primaries; instead, they're based more on photographically important colors, eight colors to be precise. Here, Hue, Saturation and Luminance are separated out as discrete panels. This is the space-saving version of the control set. I'm pretty sure the engineers and the UI designers decided to break this control to the users gently—the default shows only eight sliders at a time. But for the brave at heart (and if you have a high-resolution display), try clicking on the All button.
Careful, you've been warned. You see? Now you have 24 sliders to deal with. Cool, huh? Notice that each individual area—Hue, Saturation and Luminance—also has the Target Adjustment tool available. That's how you can use the HSL controls without going “slider crazy.” Just activate the specific target you wish to adjust, use your cursor to select the target zone in your image and let your arrow keys do the work.
It should be noted that when configured under the Color arrangement, the Target Adjustment tool isn't available. Personally, because of this limitation, I rarely use this mode of the controls. You'll also note that the last area, Grayscale, has yet another set of functionality—which I'll get to in a bit, but suffice it to say that the black-and-white conversions you can do in Lightroom are impressive.
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