Lightroom – How To…

I’m writing this post for a friend of mine who is starting to shoot weddings and needs a list of what to do and the top features of LR and how to use them right now!

So, in point form, here we go:

When Shooting

  • shoot in raw no matter what you’re told or what you’ve read
  • read my post on how to get the best exposure (see below)
  • failing that shoot in program mode (aperture if you know how and why) with auto white balance and an ISO between 200-400 (1600 only in emergencies)
  • learn how and when to use your flash
  • get in closer
  • shoot at eye level
  • fill the frame with image you want
  • if I could only have one lens it would be a fast 35mm f/1.4 or f/1.8

How To Download Your Images (Here’s how I do it.)

  • turn your camera off and take the memory card out
  • put the memory card into a card reader
  • if any software says something like “Hey you’ve got images. Want me to download them?” say no
  • drag the folder into an external hard drive
  • rename the folder using a standard format that you’ll remember (event – date)
  • do the same for all memory cards of the event
  • back these images up by dragging the folders to a second external hard drive

Working with LR

  • Once all your images are safely stored in folders on at least two external hard drives fire up LR
  • Setup your default catalog on one of the external hard drives
  • Setup your Camera Raw Cache Settings to be another folder on the external hard drive
  • (notice we aren’t storing anything on your computer’s hard drive)
  • (I purposely haven’t automated LR to ingest images and automatically store them)

The Library Module

  • Now go to the Library module and import your images from your #1 external hard drive
  • In Library you can see your images in grid or individually
  • I do a first edit of keepers (one star or a colour) which usually reduces the number of images by a half or more
  • Depending on how you work, you can do some basic development changes to one or all (batch processes) of your picked images

The Develop Module

  • I bring my picks into Develop and I usually do a second round to editing keepers (200 or so get two stars)
  • I normally develop each image individually often using presets to speed things up ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I also use NIK’s Colour Efex Pro 4 filters, Silver Efex Pro 2, NIK’s HDR Pro and OnOne’s Perfect Portrait and now Layers for LR where appropriate
  • I need to learn to automate this process more and creativelive.com has videos ($99) of Jared Platt showing how this is done (I bought the videos and they’re great)
  • I calibrate my monitor using a Spyder Pro 3
  • I set the white balance, the white and black sliders if there’s a spike at either end of the histogram, exposure and clarity, vibrance and saturation as needed
  • I often add a vignette and if necessary I reduce the noise using the noise slider which on LR 3 and 4 is amazing
  • finally under the File menu I export a full-size JPG to a folder in my computer’s Pictures folder (using the popup which sets a whole bunch of parameters for your image) which is appropriately named

Finally

  • after all the JPGs are in their folder I burn a DVD of the folder plus I upload a copy of the images to my SmugMug gallery for either client view and/or long term storage
  • I take the JPG folder on my computer and move and copy it to the two external hard drives in the folders that hold the raw images
  • and then I call the client ๐Ÿ™‚

How To Get Outstanding Images

My sister-in-law asked for my opinion on which camera she should buy for an upcoming trip.

I had a long list and eventually she ended up with a very nice point-and-shoot camera with a huge zoom and the ability to shoot faster. (I think she bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20.)

She loves it and it’s going to create amazing images for her on the trip.

Okay so if you’re new to photography or what you want are great snapshots then a point-and-shoot may well do the job. Plus it fits in a jacket pocket or a purse.

If I want to get the very best images, I load up my Think Tank ShapeShifter camera bag (and I can load so much into it that it’s so heavy it won’t pass the weight restrictions for carry-on luggage on international flights) with my Nikon cameras, lenses and flash. And if I was going on a photo-adventure that’s exactly what I would do plus I’d add my MacBook Pro and maybe my IPad as well.

BUT if I am not on a photo shoot I take my Olympus pens which are great vacation cameras. I can carry two bodies (my wife likes to shoot but she doesn’t carry anything when on vacation that’s heavier than a Margarita) and six lenses and even a flash in one medium size over-the-shoulder bag. Plus on the micro four-thirds cameras you’re working with a larger sensor so the cameras capture more pixels and can shoot easier in low light. Plus the lenses are just as fast as my Nikon lenses.

And, I also carry a relatively cheap FujiFilm XP150 camera which is waterproof, crush proof and dust proof. This is the camera that does fishing, swimming, white water kayaking ย and sailing. The images aren’t as good as my other cameras but they’re good enough and the camera is expendible. It’s also the only camera I’ll hand to someone else to use.

BUT what if I want the very best outstanding images?

Then regardless of camera, so long as it will shoot RAW image format, (I can work with JPGs and often do but they don’t have the amount of pixel information that a RAW file has.) here in point form is how to get outstanding images:

Pre-Shooting:

  • I use an external light meter ย (especially for wedding and landscape photography). I recommend the Sekonic L-358.
  • I’ve introduced an ExpoDisk to help find the correct white balance for shooting. (Yes you can change the WB in software but it’s better to get it right in the camera.)
  • I’ve also introduced a Color-Checker Passport so I can create custom camera profiles for using in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Shooting:

  • I recommend using a full-frame 35mm DSLR (either Canon or Nikon). A DX-format DSLR is fine. A less size format will still yield stunning images but we’re compromising the image now.
  • I use lenses manufactured by the camera manufacture. Yes they’re more expensive but they are also, in general, better. I also shoot with prime lenses instead of zooms.
  • I know how to use my flash off camera (In Nikon I use CLS and it works fine for me).

After Shooting:

  • I download my images in their file folder to my external hard drive # 1 and I make a copy in external hard drive # 2.
  • I open up Lightroom 4 and use the Library and Develop modules to work on my images.
  • If the image has problems I can either move the image from Lightroom 4 and open it in Photoshop CS 6 (think using PS’s curves as an example),
  • Or I can open the original RAW image in Photoshop Bridge and work on the image in Adobe Camera Raw*.

After The Processing:

  • Regardless of which software I use, I export all my finished images as full-size JPGs. (In other words these are images which have all the adjustments baked in and are essentially unchangeable.)
  • All of my finished projects get uploaded to my SmugMug and/or Flickr account for either storage or display.
  • If the job is important to me I burn a DVD of the folder of JPGs.
  • I have an Epson 3800 printer which can print an archival museum quality 16″ X 20″ print (but it costs $500 to replace the inks) which I can display and sell.

* Thanks to Creative Live’s online Photoshop workshop by Ben Willmore (who is an amazing photographer and an even better instructor) and Creative Live’s Lightroom workshop with Jared Platt I’ve learned that I can use Lightroom 4 to ingest my images and do global adjustments very quickly and essentially interchangeably with Photoshop Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw. BUT and it’s a big but, but working in Adobe Camera Raw in conjunction with Photoshop itself, we have much greater control over the pixels in our images.

Essentially Lightroom is great for all images shot on vacations, weddings, landscapes, etc., right up to the moment you find you’ve got an image with serious problems. Problems we all run into are grossly underexposed images where PS can save these images better than LR. (And my biggest problem is often with images of people with ruddy complexions who end up looking too red in the image. PS is much better at making selected adjustments on your important images.)

LR 4 is waaaay faster than working in PS CS 6 but PS CS 6 can do things that LR can’t do at all.

Now to complicate all this, I love NIK’s special software for Nikon cameras called Capture NX2ย ($179)ย  and Aperture for Macย (at $79 this is a steal) is terrific and if I didn’t have so much invested in LR and PS I’d buy this right now. If I only had $99 or so I’d buy Photoshop Elements for the PC which will do most of the above and is not only mucho cheaper but really easy to use.

JPG image software such as IPhoto or Picasa really can’t do any of the above but are super easy to show your images and create slideshows.

CreativeLive = CreativeLove

I watched all six hours of Ben Willore teaching Photoshop live on CreativeLive yesterday.

Part two or this three-parter starts today at noon but CreativeLive also runs a rewatch which just started (7am).

Best tip yesterday: Anything Ben does in Bridge or Camera Raw you can do in Lightroom. But Lightroom can’t do some of the things you can do in Photoshop when it comes to adjusting individual parts of the image.

Ben’s workshop is so good I upgraded to Photoshop CS 6 ($200) and I bought the videos of the workshop from CreativeLive ($79).

I’m not kidding: CreativeLive = CreativeLove.

Creative Live Photoshop 3-Day Online Workshop

Noon today starts a free ($79 if you buy the videos) online workshop at Creative Live on Photoshop.

The last couple of online workshops on wedding photography by Joe Buissink and Lightroom by Jared were so good I bought the videos at the special show price of $99 each.

I’ve been watching the Lightroom videos and Jared Platt is showing me a lot of things I either didn’t know or didn’t understand the significance of the tools. And Joe’s wedding photography setups is worth the price of admission alone.

But today, if you’ve got a few hours drop by and watch some of the PhotoShop workshop. If you like what you see, then you can either hang around for three days or buy the videos. BTW there’s a replay of the day before’s video prior to the new day’s workshop. So for those of us in Toronto the actual workshop starts at noon and the replay starts sometime in the early morning hours on Thursday.

If you miss the show special price, the videos are available from Creative Live for a standard price which is still pretty cheap when you figure a day-long workshop with any of these guys would cost hundreds of dollars.

Capturing The Moment

Why do documentary-style photographers shoot so many frames in each project?

It’s because this style of photography depends on capturing the moment. But here’s the weird thing about capturing a moment: Using our DSLR cameras we never actually see the moment that we shoot. And that’s because of the annoying split-second when the mirror in your camera which is reflecting the image coming through the lens up into the eye-piece prism needs to flip up to allow the image to hit the sensor located in behind it.

Well sure you can look at the display on the back of your camera but then you’re not seeing what’s happening in front of you. And here’s a trick I use: When shooting in my traditional photojournalism (PJ) style I turn off the LCD display on the back of the camera. In this way I’m not tempted to look at every image I shoot. Besides I shoot without my glasses using the camera’s eyepiece adjustment to allow me to see the image clearly through the viewfinder. But this mean I need to put my glasses back on to see the image clearly on the LCD. I do have a Hoodloupe which I highly recommend but I only use it when checking my initial photos to ensure I’ve got the camera setup correctly or when shooting landscapes or formal portraits. And again I have the Hoodloupe setup for using without glasses.

So if you’re using a DSLR and you’re shooting PJ, then you’re chances of capturing the moment go way up if you shoot a lot.

Which brings us to the Leica rangefinder cameras. Horrendously expensive and exquisitely manufactured the Leica camera has been the PJ camera of choice since it was introduced in Germany in 1925.

You see the Leica camera uses a separate optical viewfinder. In some of the Leicas with speciality lenses the viewfinder was a clip-on accessory.

So the advantage of the Leica, aside from its diminutive size and almost noiseless operation (remember there’s no mirror slapping away inside the body) is it’s ability to allow the photographer to see exactly what he or she is going to get when the push the shutter button. In this way photographers using Leicas tend to shoot way few images relying on the camera and their own ability to capture the moment as it happens and not be guessing on whether or nor they got it.

Be Amazed – onOne Software

I just finished watching a free webinar by the folks at onOne Software and I was blown away.

As many of you know I use a lot of presets and external editors when I’m working on my images in Lightroom or even Photoshop. Presets and external editors make photo editing really quick and for the most part do the job I want done really well.

I’m pretty competent working in Lightroom or Photoshop and I can even get Aperture to work for me so for the last little while life has been pretty good.

And then came onOne!

What I saw today from their free onOne Perfect Layers Two package was (and I said this online to demonstrator) “AMAZING”. Did I mention it was free?

You’ve got to watch the webinar yourself but honestly when the demonstrator opened two images of two beautiful girls and using the automatic layering system just erased one girl from one layer so another shot of her emerged from the lower layer my jaw dropped. That was it! There was no complicated drawing outlines around what you did or didn’t want. There was none of the fixing edges that didn’t quite make it. There was no half an hour working on the image.

All the guy did was put the two images in layers and erase the image on the active layer and the second image emerged.

Then he went on to something that would take me tons of time to do and that’s the multiple image shot of the snowboarder flying off a hill. You’ve all seen this shot that has four or more images of the same guy as he takes to the air. It looks like you captured it shooting 20 frames a second and merging the images. But here all you do is open four images shot in sequence which just about any camera can do and just add the kid from shot to shot until you’ve got it. Takes about 30 seconds! BTW the shot was done hand-holding the camera. You’ve got to see this to believe it.

Anyway go to onOne and watch the webinars and demos. Really cool stuff.

BTW I’ve already got a copy of Perfect Portraits which was part of package at a workshop I took this summer. I’m still working with it but so far it’s also very cool. It’s great for lightly erasing some of the age lines we’re all getting as well as automatically whitening teeth and eyes and if you’re shooting teenagers (remember what your face looked like when you were 16) then this is a must-have ๐Ÿ™‚

Oakville Jazz Festival 2012

What makes the Oakville Jazz Festival special for both photographers and music lovers?

This is one of the very few jazz festivals which offers intimate stage setups which can accommodate large crowds easily. The two main stages are located off street in the town square and the main library a few meters away. There is plenty of room for people to bring chairs and tons of standing room. These are really nice locations to watch and photograph concerts.

For photographers there’s easy access to the front of the stage where there are lots of shooting spots that aren’t right in front of the audience. And, if you have to, there’s usually room to sit on the ground at the edge of the stage and shoot up at the artists.

Lots of amateur photographers will shoot from too far away so you should have the stage pretty much to yourself. At least that’s what I thought until a really old guy (I’m an old guy and this guy could have been my father.) rolls up in his wheelchair and parks himself at the edge of the stage and records the whole night on his IPhone. Amazing. A fellow photographer as far as I’m concerned and good on him.

BTW remember not everyone has a lot of experience shooting in these sort of situations. After years of shooting for newspapers I’m really good at figuring out the best sight lines to shoot from (For example, which hand is the artist holding the mic. Get on the other side so the mic doesn’t block the face.) and sometimes another photographer thinks it’s okay to step in front of you. I don’t mind a shot or two but if they are setting up camp I’ll ask them to move. Usually this is done with a loving tap and gesture. And to be fair, I will move around to allow others the best places as well.

When the headliner is getting to wrap up I’ll move off the sight lines and stand at the edge of the stage and as they stand and the applause breaks out I’ll walk in front of the audience who are collectively getting to their feet and shoot from a standing position and nobody cares. At my age it’s tough to get up quickly from the cold concrete so I preplan this.

There are several side stages setup on the roadways which are blocked to traffic and they allow for easy shooting opportunities although occasionally you do have to politely move in front of folks as everybody is at the same level standing on the roadway. BTW never, under any circumstances stand in front of a senior who has brought their lawn chair and is setup to stay for the duration. This is especially true if the senior brought a cane. Just kidding but you get my point.

Another big feature of the Oakville Jazz Festival is all the venues are free! Where else can you go hear artists like Holly Cole (who was amazing) and Allen Toussaint (who simply blew downtown Oakville away) and Paul James and Fathead who played on Sunday afternoon for free and stand at the edge of the stage?

And unlike a lot of “jazz” festivals in the GTA, this festival actually featured jazz by world-class performers. Very cool.

Best lenses for shooting this type of festival are fast (f/1.4 or 1.8. F/1.2 are lovely but too heavy to carry all day.) 28 or 35mm wide and 85 or 105mm telephotos. Avoid all zoom lenses that aren’t f/2.8 as they’re too slow once the sun starts to go down.

Don’t count on vibration reduction to stop action on the stage. It will help eliminate camera shake from your hand-holding but remember you’re still shooting at pretty low shutter speeds. And you can’t use a tripod in crowd situations and a monopod isn’t really going to help either.

Set your ISO according to what your camera can handle. For me, in the available light at dusk and augmented by stage lights an ISO of 400 was fine. I could easily have gone to ISO 800 or higher but there was no need to do so.

If you’re camera has a built-in flash and you’re shooting at night, you might use it after the performance as the artist is taking a bow just to add a tickle of light but don’t use it during the act. Some artists don’t like flash and the audience sure won’t if you’re banging away during the performance.

As I said in a previous post, I used a 35mm and 85mm f/1.8 lenses for 99 per cent of my shooting at the Oakville Jazz Festival and I’m really pleased with the results. The 60 shots or so that I’ve uploaded to my gallery are the best from 1,800 frames shot during the three-day event.