As part of the Better Pictures Project, I signed up for a month-long free trial of Lightroom in December. Every blogger I know who uses it loves it, including my November Better Pictures Project muse, Closet Case Files. Heather wrote a detailed post about why paying for Lightroom is worth it, and what edits she makes. Then Katie shared this month about how she uses Photoshop, which is in the same suite of tools.
I was curious… and then Google shut down the computer version of Snapseed, my favourite free editing too, which I wrote about here. EEK! (The mobile version still works and is excellent, but I refuse to edit all my pics on my phone!) Before I could download Lightroom though, I had to update my Mac OS, which became a 3-hour saga of annoyance! I’m still trying to find out where everything is on my computer…
Dexter the dog, before and after editing.
But on to Lightroom! To start the free trial, you have to log in with your Adobe ID (cue random guessing what my password might be) and then you can download the program. Except it didn’t download, and didn’t download… so I tried another browser… still nothing… so I restarted and retried… and bingo! I guess I needed to restart? Wish they had told me!
Meanwhile, I watched the intro videos that Adobe provides. They are rather patronising (“Editing photos can be so confusing!”) but quite helpful. because Lightroom is a professional tool, it has a huge amount of options, tools, and powerful shortcuts. It’s not the most user friendly – tool bars surround every side of the screen, and some tools are named differently than in PicMonkey, iPhoto, Instagram or Snapseed.
Behold Lightroom – there’s actually another tool bar to the left that I have collapsed in this shot. I do really like how you can choose a live before and after comparison, along with more editing tools that I could ever want!
Once I started laying around with some pictures though, things got better! It can do everything I liked about Snapseed (like adjusting just one area) or iPhoto (like copying and pasting edits onto other pictures), and whole lot more. In fact, it can do so much that it’s hard to know where to begin and when to stop!
Here’s some of what I’m liking so far:
- adjusting each individual colour in the picture to make it lighter/darker/more saturated/etc in a really natural way, without affecting the other colours (good for making brown grass look green, or making a fabric colour true-to-life)
- using a mask to adjust everything except one area (say, brightening your background without washing out your face or clothes) or using a brush to adjust just one area (brightening the face and making shadows less harsh, for example)
- comparing the original and edited version side by side as you edit
- saving your edits as a preset which can be applied to any other similar picture (i.e. the first preset I saved, I named “cloudy winter day”, and it adds warmth to balance the cloudy light, and saturation to things look as colourful as they did in real life!)
- “spot removal” (i.e. cloning to get rid of something small you don’t want in the picture) is available right in Lightroom, though you can switch to Photoshop if you want to do serious edits.
I’ve edited 6 blog posts worth of pictures with Lightroom now, and overall I’m a fan. It’s not faster than my old approach yet, but I can see how it will be with time. Lightroom seems to be able to make a lot of edits without losing quality or starting to look really fake. I’m still not sure how much it’s going to cost me to have an ongoing monthly subscription ($7-15 is what I’ve heard). I’ll be cancelling my Netflix to help offset the cost! The price does mean it is not for everyone… if I blogged less, I’d stick with one of the less powerful free options.
Have you used Lightroom before? How do you feel about investing in pay-services to support your blog, like Lightroom, hosting, or a Pro Flickr account? It’s something I struggle with justifying, even though I’m quite happy to drop much more money on tangible things like fabric. I do love blogging though, and along with photography, it has certainly become a hobby in it’s own right. What do you think?
ps. Anne used tips from Katie’s post to try indoor pics for her post here!