Saturday, June 20, 2009

Photo Editing Software: Photoshop & Lightroom

My friend K.S. Liu blogged on his experience with Adobe's Photoshop and Lightroom software. His blog is in Chinese (which I read using Google Translate), and I offered him my comments on the 2 programs. I'm repeating my comments here in my own blog (with some additions) for anyone interested.

Adobe offers several programs under the Photoshop name. Their most comprehensive product, which started as Photoshop, is now known as CS (for "Creative Suite"), now in version 4 (CS4). It's aimed at professional photographers. At the other end, the most elementary product is called Elements (now in version 7) and provides some basic photo editing tools for casual picture takers with tools much easier to use than those in CS.

I learned to use the old Photoshop (and now CS - I have the previous version, CS3) and it had become my photo editing program of choice. I tried Elements years ago (it was quite inexpensive - sometimes bundled for free with other stuff), but it just didn't have all the tools I needed to touch up my photos to my satisfaction.
My niece's husband, Gian, introduced me to Lightroom several months ago (now in version 2: LR2), and I've become a huge fan.

Once you learn them, CS and LR are very powerful. Alas, both CS and LR require some study before you can use them effectively, though LR, being simpler, takes less study. (I like Scott Kelby's books, but some may not like his CS approach which focuses on memorizing keyboard shortcuts and doesn't tell you how to access the commands via the menus).

LR provides a "left-to-right, top-to-bottom" workflow that helps me quickly edit the hundreds of photos I take at an event. The tools work very well with a touchpad or mouse. It lets me correct a photo and then apply the same correction to all the other photos I've taken under the same conditions, thus saving lots of time. I find I can now get the photos done quickly enough that I'll get them done the same evening and onto my smugmug and facebook webpages for everyone to enjoy.

I still use CS for about 5% of my photos requiring specific touch-ups that I can't do with LR tools. However, CS really requires a pen tablet to work efficiently; using a mouse with CS is quite tedious. I like my IBM ThinkPad PC for this work, where I can select areas directly with a pen on the screen. LR and CS are well integrated - they send the photo to and from each other, keeping a smooth workflow.

Photoshop Creative Suite (CS4) is quite expensive - about $700 at retail. Lightroom (LR2) is about $300. They're available with big academic discounts, if you know someone connected with a school or university. Because they're so expensive, they're also pirated (but reportedly riddled with viruses). Also, Photoshop has gotten more diligent about checking valid registrations before allowing downloads of patches to their programs (though such patches aren't frequent or required). I'm happy, though, to pay for software that works well - as these products do, and I've bought LR licences for family and friends.

The only thing the Photoshop programs don't do well is making panoramic photos. I still use my old Panorama Maker program on my PC to stitch together my panoramic photos (the older version, no longer offered, is better than the one they currently have, since it lets me align adjoining photos manually when the program hasn't matched them properly). For those really interested in panoramic photos, look into Gigapan. K.S. did and bought it, creating some beautiful and amazingly detailed photos (alas, zooming into the detail is provided only on online).

Since I usually take 100s photos at an event, editing my photos is a lot of work. But it's worth all the work to be able to share the photos with family and friends. A picture, as Confucius said, is worth 10,000 words (not the mere 1,000 words many misquote him for), so I get say a lot with all my photos!

1 comment:

  1. Very educational. Thanks Rod.
    Neither Photoshop nor Lightroom can open my 3gb tiff file. I do not know what to do when a file is that big.