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Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure Thomas, February 2009
 

Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure book review

 
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Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure was published in late 2008 as a practical guide to using the latest version two of Adobe’s Lightroom software; we’ll refer to Lightroom version 2 from this point on as LR2.

With LR2 you can import, edit, process, print and upload digital photographs. The book describes the use of LR2 on both Mac and PC platforms for beginners and pros alike. It contains many examples but does not include a CD or DVD. To make the most out of this book you should have LR2 installed.

This review is written by Cameralabs’ forum moderator Thomas, who recently celebrated 5000 posts including no fewer than 20 detailed lens reviews. Thomas is a self-confessed Nikon fanboy and avid nature photographer who uses Nikon Capture NX2 and Adobe Lightroom 2 as his post-processing workhorses, and has almost 4000 images on his flickr account.

Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure content

Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure is arranged into 12 chapters, first detailing LR2’s Workspace and importing process followed by a guide to its various Modules. These are followed by sections dedicated to numerous ‘Developing’ techniques including tuning colour or applying special effects. After this comes a chapter showcasing ‘recipes’ used on-location in Iceland and Tasmania, before the book then concludes with sections on exporting, slideshows, printing and web galleries. We’ll now take a closer look at each chapter in turn.

 

The ‘Lightroom Workspace Revealed’ chapter gives you general overview of LR2’s modules and a guide to the user interface. As LR2 is pretty flexible you learn how to adapt the interface to your needs and the available “real estate” on your screen. This is an essential kick-off where you learn how to handle the new application.

The chapter entitled ‘Importing Images into Lightroom’ is not only about the obvious but also explains the context between images, previews and other information stored in LR2’s vast database. This is very important to understand as it is considerably different from most other image-processing applications. It also explains how to import direct from a camera or any other folder, how to rename files on import, along with using metadata presets to make it easier to tag your images in batches and not just individually photo by photo.

‘Using the Library Module’ explains how to work with catalogues and (smart) collections and how to use the library filter. These are powerful functions that make it easy to organize and search through a vast database of images, be it by location, date, camera, lens, format or tags / keywords (just to give a small selection of possible criteria).

Tagging is a very powerful way to assign keywords to individual images in an easy and well-organized manner. They let you, for example, find all your greatest shots of Aunt Abby in 2003 where you captured her with your Nephew Billy. And you can even make a smart collection that automatically collects all old and future images tagged with “Abby” and “Billy”.

To be honest, this was the major reason for me to buy Lightroom in the first place. After a while you become lost in your ever-growing collection of photos if you cannot organize them professionally. This chapter also shows you how to compare shots to find the best, rate them with stars, flags or colours, or create multiple versions of the same image with virtual copies. It also gives you the basics of working with stacks of images belonging together. But what I missed here were some insights on typical cases for stacks and how some steps of your workflow, such as changing metadata, are best applied for stacked images. The chapter finishes with an introduction to the Quick Develop tools that provide some basic adjustments before you lose yourself in the wealth of functions of the Develop Module.

The Develop module

LR2’s powerful Develop Module is covered in great detail across no fewer than five chapters and 155 pages, which form the heart of the book. The first chapter introduces the basics of cropping, retouching, graduated filters and adjustment brushes, sharpening and noise reduction, then finishing off by fixing chromatic aberrations (coloured fringing) and vignetting (light fall-off in the corners). Each function is explained in detail with illustrations from the user interface for almost every step and example images to show the effect.

 
 
 
 

The author doesn’t only explain the controls to achieve a certain effect – Aaland also details strategies for using those effects, such as sharpening. This provides valuable insights as it’s easy for beginners to overdo an effect, or use them in a less than optimal sequence.

Next up is a chapter on tonal distribution and colour, including using the histogram, adjusting white balance and using the basic and advanced tone controls with the tone curve. This is followed with a dedicated chapter providing an in-depth explanation of what the vibrance, saturation, and clarity controls do, along with the effects of changing hue and luminance. You’ll also find out how to use these controls in terms of specific colours and how to work with split toning. Finishing this chapter are two pages on camera calibration.

Another chapter is dedicated to the possibilities and intricacies of black and white conversions and other special effects. Another nice touch: Aaland shows you what kind of images warrant conversion to black and white.

Finishing off this series of chapters on the endless possibilities of LR2’s Develop Module is one of the book’s highlights: ‘Develop Recipes from Tasmania and Iceland’. It contains eight recipes from professional photographers that accompanied Aaland on his trips to Tasmania and Iceland, and show how pros make good use of the many functions in the Develop Module. Each of the recipes is presented in the same four page spread format: two pages first explaining in detail the technical how-to and photographic reasoning for applying the changes, followed by two pages showing the original image and the enhanced version. Great!

Exporting, printing and presenting

 

The chapter ‘Exporting Files’ is important with Lightroom as all the changes you do are stored in its database. Only if you export the images for use in other applications does LR2 generate a new file from the original with all the changes applied. This chapter explains the various settings you need to export to another application like Photoshop or one of the many web-upload utilities.

The ‘Lightroom Slide Shows’ chapter explains how to present your selected images in a very professional style and shows how to set up titles, backdrops and overlays. It also shows how to export your slide show as PDF or a series of JPEGs.

‘Power Printing’ explains the two different layout engines (Contact Sheet / Grid and Picture Package), and how you can customize them to your needs. There’s also short introduction to Lightroom colour management but don’t expect this to explain all intricacies of this topic.

‘Creating a Web Gallery’ is easy with LR2. You can either create a bog-standard HTML gallery or a Flash version and let LR2 manage the upload to your website. This chapter explains how to customize your gallery, create a title and description, then add subtitles and captions.

In effect this book is organized like the LR2 software modules. Which in turn are organized along the lines of the typical post-processing workflow. This makes for a logical and well organized read from cover to cover. But the book also includes a comprehensive eleven page index that makes it easy (together with the well structured table of contents) to jump into the book and find a specific topic. This is helped to a degree by repeating some of the hints and tips that were explained in greater detail in other chapters.



Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure Verdict

Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure succeeds in getting you up to speed with the plethora of functions and multiple ways to use them in LR2. It is much better in this respect than the online-help that comes with the software. The text is a joy to read as Aaland's writing style is concise and clear, backed by his many years as a photo professional. The icing on the cake are the examples from two photographic treks which not only show you the "how" but also the "why". The book has some great photographic illustrations and a number of before and after comparisons that underline the point or effect in discussion. It is only let down in some cases by screenshots that are too small to be easily readable.

Was anything missing? Well, apart from the cloverleaf key symbol often missing from the Macintosh shortcut entries, the book gives an almost complete coverage of the software. But there was little on the practical use of a dual monitor setup, while the interesting techniques of making HDRs, panoramas or focus stacks in conjunction with Photoshop were barely touched upon. Although to be fair, these are more suited to a book about Photoshop itself.
 
Ultimately it’s almost impossible not to learn something useful from this book. My favourites include the following:
You can click on the little icons in the thumbnails denoting edits you did in the Development module and go straight to the respective section in that module.
You can rename a batch of individually selected files even after importing them using rules.
You can have import rules depending on the serial-number of the camera. Very handy when photographing with multiple cameras, such as a DSLR, a compact and a camcorder.
Someone finally explained "Clarity" and "Vibrance" to me.

So this book is useful for beginners, as everything is explained from scratch and no prior knowledge of Lightroom version 1 is necessary. But even people like myself who are already fairly familiar with LR2 will learn quite a bit! This is because LR2 has so many features and so many ways to use them, that it's almost impossible to find them out all by yourself. Even if you only find some elusive keyboard-commands this book will speed up your workflow and make you more productive. Or you’ll at least gain an impression of how other pros enhance their images.

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  Summary   Book details  



 
Well written and illustrated, Lightroom 2 Adventure reaches far beyond the typical textbook on software as it incorporates tips and tricks from the pros.

Highly recommended for Lightroom beginners and a good read for those who already know how to work with LR but want to use its full potential.
 
Title:
Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure
Author: Mikkel Aaland
Publisher: O'Reilly
ISBN: 9780596521011
Pages: 384 (incl. cover etc.)
Format: 20.3cm x 25.4cm, paperback, no CD / DVD
Aimed at: Beginners to Experts
 

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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