My Digital Darkroom

I spoke in an earlier blog entry about the abuse of digital tools in photography today.  But the question becomes what do I use in my digital darkroom?

No real secrets here and probably no surprises, either.  I have two primary tools that I use when I am working with photographs.  The first is Adobe Lightroom 1.4.  I use this tool for three primary purposes.  The first is to do my initial view of images after a photo shoot.  If I am shooting from a bird blind or have been out and about for an extended period of time, it is not unusual for me to come back with 300-500 digital images.  While shooting in RAW is my favorite way to capture images because of it’s lossless format, it does create problems when I go back to look at large numbers of them.  Lightroom allows me to see nearly screen-sized images with little to no processing on my part.

My second purpose in using Lightroom is to handle the bulk of my post-processing work.  Lightroom works like a champ when it comes to activities like cropping, dust removal, exposure compensation, color temperature correction, and color saturation.  I can use sliders or I can use numerical values with an equal amount of ease.  If I went too far at some step, I can go back and fix it from that point.  And because Lightroom is non-destructive, I know that my original images are safe from my occasional fits with carelessness.

And my third purpose in using Lightroom is for digital asset management.  Lightroom makes keywording my images a breeze.  This is important to me because when shoot as many images as I do, going back and trying to find my favorites of a particular species of bird or of a particular church would be almost impossible without a good keywording process.  I will talk about digital asset management again in a future blog post.

My other tool is Adobe Photoshop CS3.  With most of heavy lifting done, Photoshop is there for the last little tasks.  I generally will only use Photoshop for fine adjustment to the midpoint, curve corrections, and light sharpening.  I could do most of that within Lightroom, but CS3 I feel has a finer degree of control for these tasks and frankly I just feel more comofortable in CS3 for these tasks than I do in Lightroom.

You may be questioning why I am using older generations of these software packages.  Photoshop is now up to CS4 and Lightroom is in version 2.  I have never been a fan of upgrading just for the sake of upgrading.  If there isn’t anything in the new version that gives me a definite reason to upgrade, I don’t.  Neither newer version stoked my fire enough to want to go out and upgrade.  But at most I will only skip one generation of Adobe software.  I am testing the Lightroom 3 Beta right now and am very pleased with the improvements from version 1.4.  I will definitely purchase it when it comes out.  And I hear rumbles that Photoshop CS5 is not very far into the horizon either.

There are plenty of other tools out there that do a fine job.  But these are the tools that feel most comfortable in my hand.

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~ by Jim Miller on Tuesday, 24 November 2009.

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