In Detail: Editing Images using Lightroom 3
Lightroom 3 is a more sophisticated image manipulation program than its predecessors, and although not intended to match the versatility of Photoshop, Lightroom does now contain a decent suite of editing tools. These include a red eye removal tool, a spot removal tool, a graduated filter, crop tool and multi-purpose adjustment brush. A minor but very welcome change is an improved curves tool.
Like Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop, Lightroom is also equipped with camera profiles for some DSLR's RAW files (which mimic the various color and tonal presets available in-camera), although support is still far from universal, and to all intents and purposes limited to Canon and Nikon DSLRs.
- Crop Overlay: R
- Spot removal: Q
- Red Eye Correction: no shortcut
- Graduated Filter: M
- Adjustments Brush: K
The only thing you need to be aware of when using all these tools, is that unlike Photoshop, you can't hit 'H' to return to the hand tool to track around your image. Instead, holding down the spacebar temporarily activates the hand tool.
You can also track using the small navigation pane at upper left, or deactivate whatever tool you're currently using. You can do this by clicking on the active tool's icon, which deactivates it, or hit whatever shortcut key, so K for the adjustment brush, R for crop, M for graduated filter, and so on. We'd question why the shortcut keys are so bafflingly obscure given the function of the tools to which they're attached. 'M' for graduated filter....? Whatever tool you are using, hitting the 'Z' key toggles between zoom levels.
Image manipulation in Lightroom 3 is non-destructive. What this means is that when you make an adjustment to an image in the Develop window, the original is untouched. Your changes only get 'baked' into permanence when you export a file from Lightroom, but even then, the exported file is a only copy of the original, which remains untouched.
Speaking of copies, Virtual Copies are a useful feature of Lightroom. If you right-click on an image in the filmstrip or loupe view, you'll see an option to 'make virtual copy'. Very simply, this creates a new preview image, allowing you to experiment with multiple versions of the same shot without doing anything to the original file.
Lightroom 3 features sophisticated controls for creating black and white images. As well as an 8-color mixer, it is also possible to create a split toning effect, and to add noise to mimic the look of film grain.
|Click this link to download original color version|
|In the B&W tab of the Develop window you can find a versatile channel mixer for creating the ideal mixture of tones in your monochrome image.
I've also added a vignette, and put a neutral density graduated filter over the top third of the sky.
|Beneath the B&W mixer controls are sliders for split toning. I've given this image a basic sepia tone in the shadows.
The final step in my workflow for this shot was to add a film grain effect, using the grain control in the 'effects' tab.
Editing JPEG files
Although it is a powerful RAW file editor, Lightroom can also be used to catalogue and edit JPEG and TIFF files. Naturally however, the amount of editing that JPEG files can take before image degradation starts to occur is less than RAW, partly because the bit depth is so much smaller, and also because gamma adjustments have already been made to the files.
That said, it is possible to make fairly extreme brightness and color balance adjustments successfully to JPEG files in Lightroom 3 before any nastiness becomes visible in the images. There is more data in TIFF files, but even a 16-bit TIFF isn't quite as malleable as a RAW file, where all of the tonal data is essentially fluid. In JPEG and TIFF files, the RGB values are fixed in relation to one another, and any adjustment takes the form of compressing or stretching their values from this fixed starting point.
Exporting files to External editor
Lightroom 3 is a very capable program, but there are still some things that it cannot do, or for which you might find that Photoshop or another similar program is more suitable. If you have Photoshop installed on your computer, Lightroom will set it as the default editor when you hit the ready-made Ctrl+E (or Apple key + E if you're on a Mac) shortcut. This opens the file in Photoshop's editing window, at which point you can make whatever adjustments you like before saving and closing as you would normally.
Assuming you just click 'save' and don't change the filename or select a new location, the edited image will then appear as a .tif in your Lightroom filmstrip alongside the original (remembering of course that all of these images are just previews). If you don't use Photoshop, you can specify which program you want to designate as an external editor in the 'external editor' tab of the Lightroom 3 Preferences pane, and the same Ctrl+E shortcut will work.
For more in-depth image adjustment, you can send files to Photoshop as Adobe smart objects. If you're working with RAW files, by exporting as a smart object the RAW data is preserved, including any adjustments that you made to exposure, white balance etc., in Lightroom 3. To access the RAW file in Photoshop, double click on the smart object layer in the Layers palate and it will open in Adobe Camera RAW.