I’ve made a lot of mentions of my lens changes and my swap from Canon to Nikon but I’ve not mentioned another change I made almost two months ago now.
This change isn’t a kit change but it’s impact on how I work has been just as big.
I’ve moved over from using Adobe Bridge and Photoshop to using just Adobe Lightroom 3.2.
Like my swap from Canon it was a move I didn’t think I would make. I took a good look at Lightroom 1.0 when it came out and found it lacking many features. Having purchased a copy of Photoshop CS3 around the same time I just couldn’t see why I would want Lightroom. With the release of Lightroom 2.0 I again downloaded the demo and tried it out. The multi monitor support was great but I still couldn’t see why I would buy it when I still needed Photoshop for things such as watermarks. Instead of buying Lightroom I upgraded to Photoshop CS4.
The turning point finally came when Bridge started to creak with the amount and size of my collections. With large numbers of photos from air shows to work through this was starting to become a problem for me. I downloaded the Lightroom 3.0 demo to see if it handled the collections any better. My thinking at the time was to use the demo period to get through air show season and then uninstall it or maybe buy it in the winter.
Importing my photos was done quickly with all my keywords, ratings and process settings imported from the XMP files. It didn’t take long either to start to make headway into my backlog of images. Lightroom was easily coping with my collections and the multi monitor support was a useful as ever. It wasn’t long before I started to find lots of other really useful features….
I was impressed, much more than I expected. It was quickly becoming apparent that my ‘get out of jail’ use of Lightroom might become more permanent but it was one feature that swung it finally.
Unlike some photographers I don’t keep high resolution or a variety of resolution images in JPEG. I always produce the JPEGs I need at the time and leave the image in its RAW format with the XMP sidecar file with the processing settings. If I received a request or needed to reuse an image I would load it up in Photoshop using a resolution as close to the export size as I could, do some final adjustments, sharpen it and add a watermark if needed before exporting the results to JPEG. It was a far from streamlined process but I didn’t want to have full sized JPEGs I just resized (I’m not a fan of resizing) and usually either my skills or technology has moved on allowing me to produce a slightly better result that last time.
With Lightroom I could apply all of my settings including the final touches, sharpening and watermark. These are all saved in the catalog against the full resolution image allowing me just to export them out at any resolution I require with or without the watermark with a few clicks if I needed it quickly or create a virtual copy then rework it if I felt I could improved on what I did originally. A great amount of flexibility!
It’s not all a bed of roses though, Lightroom is a lot more CPU hungry than Photoshop. Some people say this is down to Lightroom not using GPU acceleration but I feel it’s the cost of dealing with full resolution images and supporting multi monitors. I found myself having to upgrade from dual core to quad core to get the most out of the application. I also upgraded one of my TFTs to give me more space to work; the menus and control panels around the sides do eat into screen space.
I have found that in some aspects Bridge does a better job of displaying keywords. When I import a new set of images I use to use Bridge to keyword the aircraft serials in early in my workflow to make sure I don’t end up removing all the shots of one particular aircraft. Lightroom displays the keywords via a dropdown rather than on a sidebar making this a slower process. I’ve only been using Lightroom for two months, I may yet find a better way of dealing with this.
Finally, my last little gripe is that I spent a lot of money on Photoshop CS3 and CS4 and now don’t use it!! Having purchased Lightroom 3 before my trial period expired I can say I’m totally converted and can’t see me going back.