I’ve got a couple of major projects competing for my attention right now. Actually three, but my taxes are nearly complete. It is always surprising when I discover that I made money. As usual, last year it was not much, not enough to live on, but for a landscape photographer anything in the positive is good news. The other two demands on my attention are even better.
|Drowning Pool, Pingvellir National Park, Iceland|
First Susan and I just returned from a to brief, long-weekend, trip to Iceland. I have always wanted to shoot in Iceland, and we managed to stuff a lot in a short period of time. This tour convinced me that I must go back for a longer visit, likely in a warmer season. I came home with over 400 images to work on, and that has reminded me about how dependent I am Adobe Lightroom as an essential part of my picture editing workflow.
I am excited about my up-coming Introduction to Adobe Lightroom Classic Course. The course will meet on six consecutive Tuesday evenings from March 3rd through April 7th at 6pm. It will be a small group gathered around my dining room table in Spofford New Hampshire. There are a couple of spaces still open, so get in touch if you are interested in learning about improving and organizing your images with this amazing program. For more information, check out my article about my spring teaching schedule or give me a call at 603-363-8338.
Given the Power of Lightroom, Is Photoshop Necessary?
People often ask how much of my image editing is done in Lightroom and how much in Photoshop. I feel strongly that, given the power and ease of use, for the majority of digital photography enthusiasts, Lightroom is all they will need to get started with image editing. In my own workflow, I use Lightroom for my RAW editing, but I still routinely finish by moving my images to Photoshop for varying degrees of final touch-up. Often after my full Lightroom adjustments, there is little to do. I scan the image for small imperfections, dust spots or other distractions that I find easier to remove using Photoshop’s healing bush or cloning tool. Subtle local adjustments in lighting or color can be applied more precisely using layer masks, and of course, manipulations of pixels can best be performed from within Photoshop.
I almost always find something to do in Photoshop to complete my image, but how much of a difference does it really make and how much time do I spend using each of these often-complimentary programs? I usually tell people that I get 80-90% of my image editing done in Lightroom, but that is just a guess. I decided to look at the question in more detail as I edited some of my Iceland pictures.
|Steaming, Geysir Hot Springs|
The plan was to measure how much time I spent using the two programs, and also compare the images that resulted from work in Lightroom Classic to that at the end of my Photoshop “touch-up”. I realize that time spent was not necessarily an accurate measure of the contributions made by each program. Lightroom’s intuitive workflow allows for substantial improvements in a relatively short period of time, while subtle refinements in Photoshop can often require more prolonged work. These examples do not include the time that I spend getting the image ready for a full size JPG upload to the cloud (my web site) and reducing the image size for use on my website.
Lightroom vs Photoshop
Three Little Horses
|Final Web Image|
Let me start with an easy one. All over Iceland you will notice groups of small horses seeming to be totally oblivious to the wind and cold. In years past these cute guys were beasts of burden, but now, I am assured, their only job is to look cute at the side of the road and attract tourist to stop for a petting party. We found this trio shortly after our visit to the Geysir hot springs. All adorable, but my favorite shot came when one found the need to comment.
Lightroom: This was an easy edit. I adjusted the whites and highlights to retrieve some detail in the snow, while setting the black point. I boosted vibrance slightly and added a bit of texture and clarity. I usually save cropping for later in Photoshop, but here it was obvious that I had to get rid of the elbow protruding on the left. A bit more work than usual : 15:00 minutes
Photoshop: This is one of those situations where there was little to add with Photoshop. I used my favorite Shadow/Highlight Tool to add a bit more detail to the wind scoured snowy ground. I darkened and brought out the color of the hair. Finally, I drew the eye to the ”laughing” horse with a subtle splash of light. And I was done. I normally do a little sharpening in Lightroom, but I don’t sharpen in Photoshop until I am ready to output the image for a specific size and purpose. Sounds like a lot but only 7:50 minutes
Total : 22:50 Minutes
One of Iceland’s most dramatic waterfalls is the Gullfoss Falls. It was truly breathtaking, but what also robbed me of breath was the hurricane force wind that was screaming up the Hvita River Gorge. I would have loved to spend time exploring all the different angles of this amazing spot, but given the conditions, I could only find two spots that allowed me to stand with a desperate margin of safety. How I avoided being blown away is a story for another time. Back at home I tried to make the best of what I got.
Lightroom: My first concern was to avoid blowing out the highlights in the snow and water, especially in the waterfalls. I dropped down on the highlight slider while watching to avoid making the foreground snow appear a muddy gray. While setting the dark tones I was careful to avoid losing detail in the rocks. I added a little Texture, Clarity, Vibrance and a touch of sharpening. As usual, I corrected the Chromatic Aberration. I reserve cropping for later. 6:12 minutes
Photoshop: In Photoshop, I started by using the arrange tool to compare four versions of this image, side-by-side. Studying all the images at 100% magnification I was able to find one that was reasonably sharp. As my camera and I were being violently blown about, it was surprising that any of the images were sharp. Next, I used the Hue/Saturation Tool to bring out the blue in the water and ice. Finally, I went into the Camera RAW filter to apply a bit more texture and Clarity. I planned to use a layer mask to apply this effect just to the falls, but in the end, I liked how adjustment brought out the rugged appearance across the image. 11:52 Minutes
Total : 18:02 Minutes
I did the time comparison on two other images, both shots I took at the Geysir Hot Springs. For the record, here are the average times for all four:
And for completeness, the average time spent fine tuning, cropping, and sharpening for output of a high resolution, full size JPG to the cloud and resizing and sharpening of the approx. 400kb web image:
Grand Total: 40:58
Note the detail in the water
|Hot Pot, Geysir Hot Springs|
Too Much Time?
Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, Reykjavik
Forty minutes for one image, and these were nor especially challenging. I can spend hours removing a dense net of wires if the underlying image is strong enough. I know some very good photographers who say that if they can’t finish editing in about 5 minutes, they throw out the image. I think they may be missing some great shots. Personally, I know how hard I work to get in the right spot and strive to get the best digit image in the camera. For me, no amount of time is too much in the service of bringing an image to its full glory. As Ansel Adams said, the original negative (or now the raw file) is the score and the final print or image is the performance. I think that these images show that you can create great performances with Lightroom. The differences in the Photoshop image are subtle, and I should note that I could have performed more refinements in Lightroom, if I didn’t plan to move the image to Photoshop for further work
So get going with Lightroom and if you need some place to start, I will be happy to welcome you at my dining room table next week.
For more pictures of Iceland check out my Iceland Gallery. I will be adding more images over time.