RAW, Lightroom and stuff… (2)

Part 2  – Enter Lightroom…

A few years back I had bought a computer magazine that came with a CD containing a trial version of Lightroom. That was still before my Photoshop training and experience and I could not make heads or tails of it. And that it had emptied my Picasa of all photos to take over the ‘categorizing’ in a way that only produced a headache for  me was the reason I had uninstalled it rapidly and had reinstated my poor bereaved Picasa as the manager of my pictures. It seemed a better idea to try and understand PS first. That was in the first months of my digitizing process. Maybe now it was time to have another look at it…

I did not want to use the old CD with the (very) old version and went looking for LR on the internet. The first version I found was the 3 (beta), still being debugged  as I could see on the forum. In my obstinacy of still using Win XP on my desktop I suspected compatibility problems anyway and ended up downloading LR 2.6 for a 30 days trial. As an unexpected bonus, somewhere halfway the trial period I was prompted to download an update, the version going up to 2.7 and the trial period apparently starting all over again. Nice one… 🙂 This newer version turned out to be less dominant than the one I had tried earlier and nothing was changed in Picasa or on my computer. That seemed promising. Next I had a first look at the ‘controls’. Importing a few RAW captures to play around with was no problem. I had included a few older jpg pictures too where e.g. the white balance had gone wrong, just  to see how far I could correct. And all that time I was wondering why I had thought it such a complicated monster the first time. What a few years of photoshopping can do… 🙂

As the color photos hardly needed a workover, after trying more or less all sliders I decided that the less I did, the better. Just a touch of correction every now and then.  And in the beginning that was the hardest part of the learning – keep my hands off too many sliders. Coming from the black and white school, I tended to forget that  every little correction in a color photo, e.g. a tad more contrast, will give a twist to your colors too. Then you start correcting the color that went off but some other color is influenced by that…. It is lovely that you can work all the colors separately but hardly any color is pure on a photo. So if you try to accentuate a bit more a yellow blouse someone is wearing, you may find the person’s face suddenly grows slightly sick as if she had an acute attack of hepatitis…  or that the summer trees in the background suddenly seem in need of some watering, losing their  lovely green… And you end up resetting the whole thing and have to start all over again. It really takes some time to find the right balance there. But it does open fine-tuning possibilities that are a lot of fun to discover.

For example, one of the nightmares of a lot of photographers  > white skies, all burned out and dead.

Sure, in PS you can do something about that with a few layers and some fiddling. I had even created a ‘clouds db’ of my own for all the hopeless cases to replace the whiteness. If it has gone completely wrong and there is really nothing to show, well, PS still is the solution if you think the rest of the picture is worth it. But it was with RAW and LR that I discovered how much more detail is captured by the sensor and then compressed away to an ‘acceptable average’ when you work with jpg.

Take this picture:

If this were taken as a jpg, I would have had to dig into my ‘clouds db’. With the tree in the background, selecting would have been precision work if I did not want the tops of that same tree to go black (or white) on me, telling all the PS users the photo had been (badly!) manipulated. Or I would have had to keep it to a minimum with a partial ‘paste into’, some adjustments to transparency to give it a natural look… sure, that works too in a lot of cases. But you still know it isn’t the light you saw that day and hope no one else will see it.

In this case the original was a RAW. And I knew it had been cloudy with patches of blue. So, the first thing I tried was to click on the color blue and take the luminance down to the negative side to check if there was anything else but the white I saw.





This is one way of finding out. Another way is, depending on the photo, the ‘recovery’ slider which is a tool made especially for the recovery of whites, skies showing no life at all – if there is anything at all to show, that is. In our case we can see that it produces a quite different kind of blue:





What’s also different is that the building gets slightly lighter, more greyish while the clouds get more pronounced. You can see that in the second picture. Here it is the contrasts that are being manipulated. Of course you can still play with the color slider after recovering the details. What I would do would be keeping the sky and later selecting the building in PS with all its different selection tools and restoring the original contrast only for the building.

An example of what you can do with white balance gone haywire :

That was the day I had discovered that my Olympus E500 had no idea what to do with ecological lamps.

Do I hear  “Why, you can do that with PS too..” ?  😉  Of course you can. I have seven or eight versions of this same photo to prove I tried. But it gets complicated in PS. At least with the outdated version I have. And I also tried my little stash of photo freeware. Each of them gave me a different result like with the colors from part 1…

Happy with LR so far, I finally selected a RAW picture I thought suitable for b&w and clicked on ‘greyscale’ (black & white in the newest 3.6 version), my personal ‘main menu’…


Klik voor Nederlandse versie (2)

Klik voor Nederlandse versie (3)

2 thoughts on “RAW, Lightroom and stuff… (2)

  1. This is a good write-up also. I have never been able to warm up to lightroom. I started with PS3 and now (because I refuse to “rent” PS) have stopped at CS5. I also regularly use On1, NIKsoftware, Nikon NX2, and Photomatix… I have no doubt that I will add more to my stable.

    • Thanks again… 🙂

      About renting PS, I am on PS5 too and refuse the renting bit 🙂 Same for LR that is stuck at 5.7… In Adobe Bridge that I use to import the photos from the camera my little Sony is not recognized any more but is imported nevertheless. It’s only by taking them to LR that I can see them, though… The reason that I go through Bridge is that LR tends to make hashed meat of my file system if I let it import… it does have its own mind and wants me to use its database, saving things in places where they don’t belong… which I don’t agree to 😉 So it is only used for corrections and then emptied. To keep an overview, I use Google’s Picasa (as of this year not supported any more but still working fine, just not being updated any more)…

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