Saturday, 16 February 2008

How to start to learn Lightroom?

OK, so I've downloaded Lightroom and I've got 30 days to decide whether to commit to it or not - so how am I going to learn how to use it?

There is no problem using the actual software as it is a fully functional version, just time limited to 30 days. If I decide to buy it I can just enter the code in the version I am using and I will not lose any of the work I have done in the trial period.

First off the version I have downloaded is Lightroom 1.3 - why is this important? Well when Adobe first brought out the commercial version of Lightroom (v1.0) they very soon brought out a significantly improved version with over 100 improvements in v1.1. So quickly in fact that most of the tutorial material and books written early on were based on v1.0 and are not very helpful if trying to understand what v1.3 can do. v1.3 is very similar to v1.1 so any books based on v1.1 should be fine.

When trying to learn software like this I tend to try to find a few books on the subject and possibly a video tutorial. I then watch the video the scan through the books while trying the software - so this is what I did this time. I don't tend to use the web at this stage for general learning other than to find out where to look for good source material (and to buy them of course) but later on the web is invaluable for answers to specific questions.

First I knew that Michael Reichmann (the publisher and primary author of my most used source of photo information web site - Luminous Landscape) and Jeff Schewe had produced a series of downloadable video tutorials including a v1.3 update - about 5 hours in all for $14.95. So I bought them and watched them over Christmas.

Secondly I normally try to see what books I can get from the library - Oxfordshire County Library service has an excellent on-line catalogue search and book ordering system. For 85p I can get any book in the catalogue sent to my local library from any of the county wide network on libraries. Unfortunately for fast moving technical subjects like this they do not often have many books.

I found Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: Digital Photographer's Guide (Lark Photography Book) by John Beardsworth which I picked up from my local library a few days later.

I also decided to get three other books which I thought would cover it all by authors I have read before and been impressed by or have been recommended:

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book: The Complete Guide for Photographersby Martin Evening - this covered v1.0, but the publisher had caught up with v1.1 by offering a pdf update on their web site, which I downloaded and printed out as a companion to the book. I have always found his Photoshop books really helpful.

Photoshop Lightroom Adventureby Mikkel Aaland - a general all round intro to Lightroom v1.1. This book if recommended by Michael Reichmann so I thought it ought to be interesting.

Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS3 (Real World)by Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe - since the develop module of Lightroom v1.1 is supposed to be almost the same as Camera Raw 4 which this book covers and I use PK Sharpener for most of my image sharpening in Photoshop which was developed by Bruce Fraser et al I thought it ought to give me as good a guide to RAW conversion in Lightroom as any.

I read John Beardsworth's book first simply because it arrived first - it turned out to be an ideal real introduction to newbie Lightroom users, although based on v1.0 as far as I could see. It's quite short, well illustrated and easy to work through. Also at the back is a one page of key keyboard shortcuts (I have found a few on the web, but they are so complete that they cover several pages and I can never find what I am looking for) - in fact I liked the book so bought it despite it not covering v1.1.

By the time the 30 days had run out, just after Christmas, I had watched the video tutorials, read John Beardsworth's book, started on Lightroom Adventures and skimmed through Martin Evening's book - in both cases focusing on specific issues that arose while playing with the software. I have yet to work through the Camera Raw book, but have every confidence that it will be really useful as all their previous books have been.

So what did this all do for me? Well after about a week I had pretty much decided that v1.3 did enough of what I wanted and I bought it at the end of the 30 day trial period.

Essentially the cataloguing worked well, but I still download through Downloader Pro (into a watched folder in Lightroom) and use Breezebrower Pro as my viewer to edit as it is much quicker and tuned to my needs for now. I will continue to use Qimage for printing display photos (I'll post my comparison between Lightroom and Qimage in due course). I'll use Lightroom for image management (when I have finished keywording the 6,000 photos in the library) - I really like the stacking function and virtual copies, contact printing, RAW converting G9 photos (I have not done any comparison with Capture One LE for the 10D & 30D yet) and any web work I get around to doing. My early B&W conversions and prints in Lightroom have been encouraging.

... and continue to learn how to use its huge functionality and adapt my photo storage from a folders based approach to a catalogued keyword approach.

I will post further thoughts on Lightroom over the next few weeks as I find interesting (to me at least) things to say.

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