Around home, learning Lightroom and more
First of all, while my new iMac is capable of running Windows by using the Boot Camp utility that comes with an iMac, I have decided that I’m not going to “dirty” this new computer by installing Windows on it. The only software that I really needed Windows for was the software for my handheld DeLorme GPS unit, but I have decided that it wasn’t worth the time, effort, or disk space to install Windows just for that software. I seldom use that handheld unit any longer, since the battery life is atrocious, the thing eats batteries faster than I can purchase them. One of these days, I may get around to seeing if DeLorme has finally produced a Mac version of their software, but I’m in no big yank to do so.
For the spreadsheets that I used, I was able to import them into “Numbers”, the Mac equivalent of Microsoft Office with no problems at all. It was the same with my text documents as well, they all imported nicely into the Mac software that came installed on my computer. So, I’m able to do everything that I could on my old laptop, and so much more, like running and learning Lightroom.
To start with, I’ve learned how to get Lightroom to put the images I shoot into the folders in the way that I want them, I had written before that Lightroom created date based folders that I didn’t want. I still find that it works best if I create the basic folder structure outside of Lightroom first, and then let Lightroom create a new sub folder when I upload the images from my camera. Since every one organizes their images differently, my exact folder structure isn’t important, but I can offer this Lightroom tip. Turn off the organize by date check box and check the create a new sub folder check box instead. Then, type the name that you want the sub folder to have in the space provided in Lightroom, even if you include date information in the sub folder. For example, when I returned from my last trip to Muskegon, I put all the images in a sub folder with the name Muskegon_02_28_2015 rather than let Lightroom create dated sub folders. I’m not sure that I’m explaining this well, but the important things are to turn off the check box in Lightroom for organizing by date, and make your own sub folder names instead.
That sounds rather simple, but while Lightroom is relatively easy to use overall, it does so much that it can be a bit overwhelming at first. For example, as I am importing the images from my camera, Lightroom copies them from the camera and puts them into the folder(s) that I choose on the external drive that I store my photos on, it builds previews on the computer’s main hard drive, and it also makes a back-up copy of the images on the second external drive that I have set-up for backing up my computer, all at the same time.
Then, there are all the editing features within Lightroom, and I’m not going to attempt to list them all here. I will say this, even something as simple as adjusting the overall exposure can really make a difference, more than I thought. I had written before that I was to the point where I wished that my camera could adjust the exposure by less than the one-third stop that is the minimum amount of adjustment that the camera allows. In Lightroom, I can adjust by one-tenth of a stop, and I’m finding that such small adjustments can really make a difference in the overall appearance of my images.
I could go on and on about Lightroom, but there are plenty of other sources of information about it that are far more qualified than I am for any one interested in learning more about it. I can recommend two videos on YouTube from B&H photo with Tim Grey, one is…
The other is…
I watched both several times, or I’d be fumbling around trying to figure Lightroom out.
As it is, I’m having a ball learning new things all the time since I purchased this new computer and Lightroom, but one thing stands out, how little I knew in the first place. I’d often heard that if one shot in jpeg, the camera made many decisions on how the image should be recorded in jpeg versus RAW. I had no idea just how much editing of an image went on inside of a camera body when recording an image as a jpeg. But, as I read more about camera bodies and the images that they produced, when two bodies share the exact same sensor, yet one produces much better images than the other, then that has to be because of the “editing” done by the software programmed into the camera. So you can now count me in as a firm believer in shooting in RAW all the time from now on.
I have to include learning Photomatix to create HDR images in this mix as well. As it happens, I’m much happier with the images produced by Photomatix using it as a plug-in to Lightroom than I was using it as standalone software. The final images are now as sharp as what they should be. I believe that is because Lightroom converts the Canon proprietary RAW files to 16 bit TIFF files first, before exporting them directly into Photomatix. As a standalone product, Photomatix handled the conversion of the proprietary RAW for its use. I think that Lightroom is much better at handling the RAW files as they come out of the camera. That’s my theory anyway, and I’ll stick to it until I learn differently. 😉 No matter why, the final images from Photomatix are much better now that what I used to get.
So, since I’ve been getting more brave as far as editing some of my existing images, I went back to the trip that I took up north last fall, and did a new HDR version of one of my favorite photos from the trip using Photomatix to blend three images shot with different exposure settings into one image. Then, even though it looked a lot better than my best single image of the same scene, and better than my previous HDR image, I tweaked it a little more in Lightroom to get this.
Yes! That’s what I saw when I pressed the shutter release! So, seeing that, I went back and got my previous best version of that scene.
The differences may be subtle, but I think that my latest attempt at editing produced a much better image.
From the same trip, I had photos of a wood duck, one of which I have already posted after one of my first tests of Lightroom, here’s another.
That was shot at the same location as the landscape photo above, within minutes as well, so you can see the conditions that I was shooting under, not the best for wildlife photos. I’m not completely happy with that one, or the previous one, but I’m learning.
I took a different approach to editing that photo compared to the one in the previous post, overall, I like this one better. I could list the changes that I made to the photo of the duck, but I won’t, as there’s two things more important about that photo that I have to say. One is that as I improve my skill at editing photos taken on my Canon 60D camera, I am happier with it than ever. I’ve said that before, but with every Lightroom session that I do, it becomes more apparent to me just what a good camera the 60D is.
The second thing about these sessions with Lightroom that I’m learning is yes, Lightroom can improve images shot in poor conditions, or make up for having the camera set to less than ideal settings for a particular shot, but the better that the image is that I bring into Lightroom, the better the final output will be. Like this eagle from my last trip to Muskegon.
That probably sounds obvious, the better that the image is that you start with, the better the final image will be after using Lightroom to improve it. However, what’s important about that is learning how to set the camera to get the best images to load into Lightroom. In a way, learning Lightroom is also helping me learn photography even better, an unexpected bonus. In fact, I’m beginning to rethink all my basic camera settings from the ground up. I was afraid that I’d do what some photographers do, get lazy about changing the camera settings, thinking I can fix it Lightroom later. I’m finding the opposite to be true, I want the best possible photos to load into Lightroom, therefore, I’m paying closer attention to even the minor camera settings.
Something else is happening as well, I’m having the urge to shoot more varied subjects than just birds, or even nature. Nature photography has always been my first love, and remain so. However, I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the planes at the Airzoo, and would like to expand to other subjects as well. I’d love to work more landscapes into what I post, along with images of some of the historic buildings from the area. More than anything, I just want to get out and shoot some more photos!
So far, the brutal cold has continued around here, making getting out to shoot photos more of a challenge than I would prefer to face. Today is the 23rd day in a row with colder than average temperatures and during this stretch we’ve been nearly 17 degrees colder than average, setting the record for the coldest February on record. It’s now March 6th as I type this, but we were down to zero again last night.
One thing that I have noticed this winter, my lenses don’t like the extreme cold any better than I do. I’ve had trouble with the auto-focus of most of my lenses being sluggish and/or off slightly during this cold stretch, when I have tried to get out. All that maybe going to change soon, starting the weekend. The weather forecast for next week is calling for temperatures almost thirty degrees warmer than today! That will be so wonderful after this long cold winter, seeing the snow melt, hearing the birds singing, and watching the flowers begin to bloom! It won’t be long now!
That’s really a good thing, as I have few recent photos to use for this post. As spring finally gets here, I’ll be swamped with images to play with. But until then, I went back in time to some of my older photos to play with in Lightroom, just to learn how to use it. I still need to develop a step by step approach to editing my images, learning the best order to make adjustments in. That will come in time as I learn the way that Lightroom works on photos taken with my camera. Most of the wildlife photos need some noise reduction, since they are typically shot at higher ISO settings. I should start there, as otherwise the other adjustments work on the noise as well as the parts of the image that I want to keep. I’ll learn, as you can see.
Okay, I’m officially amazed by what Lightroom can do, especially in that last photo. Just a couple of clicks, and it went from so-so, to not bad, not bad at all. By brightening the shadows a little, it brought out the details of both the hawk and the kingbird. That works really well in landscapes as well.
While that last one may have been better if I had done a HDR image, the Lightroom alone version is a huge improvement over what came out of the camera. The leaves are green, not black from being in the shadows, the sky is the same deep blue that I saw when I shot that photo, and the white clouds aren’t blown out. By the way, do you notice that I’m using photos that are a preview of things to come? 😉
A mostly black butterfly on a white/light green flower, and Lightroom made all the difference in the world to that image. I was able to bring out the details in the butterfly’s wing without blowing out the flower too badly to use that photo.
Even my best images look better after a tweak or two.
If only I had been shooting in RAW when I took those. Oh well, now that I can see the advantage of doing so, and have the storage capacity to handle the larger files, from now on, I’ll always be shooting in RAW.
Well, I went for a short walk today, despite the cold, made even worse by a stiff wind out of the south. I think that it was because of the cold and wind that I didn’t see many birds at all, and only this poor squirrel trying to stay warm.
It was also trying to stay out of sight of a Cooper’s hawk that was roaming the area, but I never got a shot of the hawk. That’s common enough, but something unusual did happen, in a way. I shot a few series of photos with the intention of playing with in Photomatix and Lightroom. I doubted if I would use any of them, but I’ve changed my mind on that.
I’ve told you what a difference that post-processing can make, and I’ve shown a few before and after photos in the past. Proving that the learning never stops, here’s a series of before and after processing images that I shot today.
Okay, I know that I have a tendency to under expose my photos both to protect the highlights, get better color saturation, and to add a little more contrast to my images. It’s rather obvious that the after images are brighter, but there’s a lot more than that going on in these photos, there’s more vibrancy, for the lack of a better term, in the after photos. You can see the sunlight playing on the various parts of these after images that you can’t see in the before versions. In both, the after is much closer to what my eyes saw, I suppose that’s a given, or should be by now. In both of the after photos, there’s more color, and the colors seem livelier as well. That’s especially apparent the background of the Fence scene, you can see the colors of the trees and bushes in the background of the after image, whereas they are a dark mess in the before version.
One thing that I have to keep in mind concerning HDR images is that doing one does not expand the dynamic range so much as it pulls colors and tones from the middle of the spectrum. In photography, you have white on one end of the scale, and black on the other, that doesn’t change, it can’t change, black and white are absolutes in photography. The reason for making a HDR image is to bring out the colors, tones, and details lost by the camera’s sensor inability to accurately record them.
It may be difficult for you to see exactly what I’m talking about in these smaller versions of the photos, and of course, you haven’t seen the other subtle changes in my photos as I’ve played in Lightroom, but I think that it is time to rethink all of my basic camera settings. I won’t bore you any longer with those thoughts, but I do have one more thing to say.
I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve had Lightroom for about a month, and I haven’t gone crazy with the adjustments for color saturation or contrast yet, and doubt if I will. My reason for using Lightroom is to make the most accurate reproductions of what nature reveals to me, not surreal “art” that is barely recognizable as something from nature by the time the “artist” is finished.
Well, one more thing about Lightroom, and that is how easy it is to find images that you are looking for, and I’m just getting started there. Today I was looking at the metadata for an image and noticed arrows next to some of the metadata, including date, cropped size, lens, among others. Not knowing what the arrows did, I clicked on the one near the lens info, and Lightroom brought up every image shot with that lens, way cool!
Sorry, it’s a few days later and I have even more to prattle on about. Yes, I’ve changed many of my basic camera settings because I’m now shooting in RAW and using Lightroom to tweak the images I get. However, between going back through my old photos looking for candidates to use to learn Lightroom, and trying to improve both the older images and the new ones I’m shooting, I see that I have to rethink my entire approach to photography if I’m going to improve my photos. Lightroom is great, but it can’t fix stupid, and I make a lot of stupid mistakes while I’m shooting photos.
To fix that, one thing that I’m doing is using my monopod more often when shooting macro photos. Using my tripod would be better, but the monopod helps.
Seeing these, I wonder what those white “fibers” are?
Anyway, another thing that I’m doing is paying more attention to the background in my photos.
I do wish that I lived in a more photogenic area, when I went for my walk yesterday, the light was magical for about half an hour, but these are the best photos that I could get around here.
I wonder if I could edit out the snowmobile tracks?
On Sunday, I went to Muskegon again, and I also paid more attention to the lighting, background and other details much more than I usually do. I’ll do a post on that trip, more photos, fewer words, but I want to show you what I can do when I pay attention to details.
Of course, better light, lower ISO settings, and getting closer to the subject go a long way towards making a better photo. 🙂 But, I am learning, more every day. More about using Lightroom, but even more about getting better images to load into Lightroom before I begin the editing process.
So, since this is already longer than it should be, I’ll end it here. Be forewarned, I’ll probably be prattling on again soon as I continue to learn this stuff.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!