Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lightroom Article Part 4: Outputting Your Images

As usual, my Blog postings contain two or more topics – at least one of a general nature where I share some images I’ve created, and one a more technical topic, of interest to those who are trying to pick up some photography or photo-editing tips and techniques. I seem to have two distinct audiences within the 100 or so people who are now regularly reading my Blog. The personal ones, friends who enjoy seeing what I’m up to and like seeing some pictures; and the photographer types. My technical topics are really directed at the ‘enthusiast’ who wants to get more out of their images. They’re probably a little basic for anyone higher up the food chain, although I have to admit that I’m always amazed at the little bits and pieces I pick up here and there that enhance my own efforts.
I get sporadic feedback, usually by email. Nothing makes an author feel better than the knowledge that people are actually reading what we write, and how they feel about it, good or bad. Sure, email me. Or post a comment on the Blog itself so others can see it as well.
Do you want to attend an outdoor photography workshop this Spring?

Last year, I tried to organize a workshop up here in the Haliburton Highlands, but some medical issues jumped up and bit me, so that didn’t happen. It’s time to start thinking about this year, so I’ll put it out there and ask you to contact me if you’re interested. Nothing is yet inscribed in stone, so it’s your input that will determine what we do. I’d also like to touch on a little photo-trip I have in mind.
What — This is about outdoor photography. Hopefully the weather will make it easy, but we can’t control that.
We’ll shoot some pictures at dawn, come back and review quickly, go back out and shoot some more, come back again, maybe go out at dusk and then sit together and look at some images on the projector.
This is a peer-to-peer thing. We want to learn from each other. I’ll facilitate by setting some goals and assignments and structure, and so on.
Why — Photo enthusiasts all have different skills and we broaden our comfort zone by stretching outside it and learning from others.
Where — Red Umbrella Road, just North of Minden, ON. There’s an inn called, appropriately, the “Red Umbrella Inn” which has reasonable accommodations and services.
When   around the middle of May. A couple of reasons: the snow should be gone by then (!), the bugs aren’t out yet, there are bazillions of trilliums, people are already out playing in the white water preserve… and there’s a decent chance of reasonable weather (although that shouldn’t stop us!).
How — The workshop should run from Friday night, or maybe early Saturday morning, until Sunday afternoon. The idea is to get together on Friday evening and lay out the plan of what we’re going to do over the weekend, review some basic concepts and hand out some assignments. Why it starts on Friday is because the best time to shoot is at either end of the day, which would include dawn on Saturday. I’ll structure it so that if necessary, people can join later in the day on Saturday. We’ll shoot some pictures, come back and review quickly, go back out and shoot some more, come back again, maybe go out at dusk and then sit together and look at some images on the projector. Sunday, we do it again.
Everyone knows I’m a Photoshop (and Lightroom) fan. This is NOT about photoediting. Sure, you’re going to want to enhance images later, but we want to look at raw images that came out of the camera (I don’t mean RAW, I mean raw. Obviously we’ll have to convert them to view them in a slideshow of some kind. You can shoot in RAW if you want, but you don’t have to).
Who — digital photoenthusiasts. One challenge with workshops like this is to keep it relevant for all the participants. So if there’s someone there who us using a point-and-shoot camera and doesn’t even know what an f/stop is and there’s another participant who is regularly published in National Geographic, well you can see that it would be hard to challenge the one person without overwhelming the other.
So my goal is to narrow the range: I’m looking for people who own Digital SLR’s, have at least a basic knowledge of concepts, and are familiar with their own equipment. I’m not saying no to people outside either end of this range: but we’ll have to try to find a way to accommodate you  before agreeing to have you join us. Maybe we’ll run two different sessions.
How much — It’ll cost you $100 plus accommodations and food. My goal is to work in small groups, not more than 5 people with one facilitator, but we’ll switch around.
So who’s interested? I’m just collecting names for now. Email me with who you are, how to reach you (email/phone), where you think you stand, experience wise, and basically what kind of equipment you have. If you’re a new photographer and want to learn at a more basic level, email me too: we’ll design a worthwhile session for you as well!
I don’t want to use the word “safari” or the word “expedition”… that implies too much. I want to go on vacation this summer and take my camera. OK, I want to take my camera on a trip this summer. Where? I don’t know yet, but I’m thinking by car around Lake Superior, or maybe back to Newfoundland (I love it there!) or, if the Lottery Gods are kind to me, Ireland and Scotland (if they’re REALLY good, New Zealand! Africa!).
The trip revolves around taking pictures, but not crazy (get up every day at 4am to hike in the dark to capture that dawn shot of a grizzly bear catching a fish). I said NOT like that. But it’s about taking pictures.
When? July. How long? A couple of weeks.
Anyway, I’ve done these trips alone in the past, but would not be against having a like-minded travelling companion. It’s fun and challenging to share. Interested? Email me.
Some images
It’s been about a week since I’ve actuated my shutter at all. This time of year, there’s not a lot of exciting stuff out there to shoot. Last weekend, I headed up to Dorset because I heard there was a festival going on but that was on Saturday and I got there on Sunday.
I did, however, come across these guys on snowmobiles doing a really dangerous technique called “water skipping”. A snowmobile will run over open water if you keep your speed up. It’s scary to watch, though. This first shot shows the venue: there’s a channel with fast flowing open water under the bridge, joining the two parts of the lake. I’m guessing there’s about 500m (about 1/4 mile) of open water. On the left is Robinson’s General Store and on the right, the Fiery Grill (a great place for lunch!). Behind me, the sun was setting directly in line with the channel.

I started on the narrow bridge and tried some shots up-sun, and turned around to get the scenic shot. With the angle of the sun behind me, the water reflected the dark blue of the sky. I exposed for the scene using the matrix or averaging mode (I don’t remember which) and I set exposure compensation up one stop to get nice white snow. Although some of it is blown out a bit, I was able to compensate in Lightroom and even burn in a little to get some detail back.
The rider came back. I had time to switch to the long lens and capture a nice tight shot of him coming at me, with a nice down angle and a long rooster tail behind him. I chose to crop tightly, to put him in the “thirds” position with lots of visual space for him to be moving into. I experimented with exposure, wanting to get some motion in the water spray, but keeping the sled in focus by panning slightly with him. All I got was a 3-shot burst, remember he was moving at probably 100kph.

I took a few more shots from the high angle, then walked down to the water’s edge to try for more action. These were tough, with the bright sun behind the riders. I switched lenses and to spot metering. Again I left the 1-stop exposure bias. I took a series of shots panning with the rider, even though the shutter speed was fairly high. Autofocusing, even with continuous tracking on was a challenge at these speeds. That’s an argument for replacing my 24-120 lens with the pro-series 24-70 which is not only an f/2.8 lens, but also has the faster Silent Wave Motor in it for autofocusing. That said, this shot was at 120mm. I guess I could have left the big lens on.

Now I moved to the highway bridge you can see in the first picture. I wanted to frame the action with the attractive curved narrow bridge. The challenge was, shooting directly into the sun. Even my spot meter couldn’t compensate enough. Here’s a shot with the bridge,

And here’s a silhouette into the sun – 1/8000 second at f/8! There wasn’t much colour so I made it a monochrome shot.

So change your shooting position, lens, metering… you’ll get completely different shots!
That night, I thought I’d try to get some pictures of a cappuccino made with my new machine. It was late – midnight – so I didn’t want to drag out a background or the light tent. I just threw a white towel behind the machine and even used the texture in some shots. The image I like best is this one, where I burned out the background and cropped tightly.

I’m going to use this as an example in my lightroom article, which is coming, right NOW!

Lightroom Article part 4 – outputting your images

What we’re doing here is documenting my conversion to LR, with a focus on “WHY” one would make certain choices, not “WHAT” or “HOW”. For how to use the program correctly, pick up Scott Kelby’s book “The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book for Digital Photographers” which is available at You don’t have to be a NAPP member to buy the book, but if you do join NAPP, you’ll get a discount and all kinds of other benefits, including a subscription to Photoshop User magazine which is worth its weight in gold. If you decide to join NAPP, use this link so I get my brownie points!

You might also consider contacting Jim Camelford at Jim is the local LR guru and not only does he teach LR courses but he imparts a great deal of wisdom about the right way of doing things.
This series of articles looks at three of LR’s strengths: “Organizing your pictures”, “Editing your Images” and “Creating Output Files”. LR does many things well, but these three were the factors that convinced me to convert to LR. Combined with Photoshop (PS) LR provides an elegant way to handle your workflow, whether you’re a high volume user or just starting to delve into the world of Digital Photography.
These articles are intended for those who have converted to LR or are considering doing so and want to start it the right way from the beginning. Or those who might need a little convincing!


Summary of Part 3: Editing your images

Last time I talked about the concept of LR as it relates to editing your images. Here’s a summary:

  • LR is not PS. It will not replace Photoshop as your high end photoediting program but it will handle 90% of your images and you can pop out to PS and come back seamlessly.
  • Virtually everything you do in LR is non-destructive because you’re not actually changing your images, you’re changing a database listing of modifications to your pictures.
  • There are some very neat tools in the LR Develop module that work intuitively and simply
  • You can work on the image as a whole or just on a selected portion of it
  • You can synchronize changes for a collection of images by changing one then applying the changes to the rest of the group.
Part 4: Outputting your images

This article presents an overview of the export function in LR.
 This is the fourth article in this series dealing with why I switched to Lightroom and talking about some of the things I learned while making the change. This one is about how to do something with those images you’ve painstakingly worked on.

Here’s the starting point for this article: you have a subset of pictures in LR which you’ve finished working on and you want to do something with them now. Makes sense — you didn’t spend all that time for nothing! So I’m going to assume that you have a bunch of pictures that you want to do THE SAME THING with. For instance, you want to send them out to a service bureau for printing, or you want to post them on your online gallery for others to enjoy, or you want to use them in a slideshow, or prepare them for use in your upcoming book or produce high quality art prints to sell to your adoring public, or enter them in a photo contest… or all of the above!

Now most of these uses require different parameters. For example: if you want to make an 8x10 print at Costco, you probably want (OK, you DO want) an image which is 1920 px wide by 2400 px high at 240 dpi, which is sharpened for glossy paper (if that’s what you’re ordering). If you want to submit the same image to the GTCCC for their upcoming competition, the image has to fit within a 1024x1024 px box, be sharpened for screen viewing and have the resolution set to 72ppi (I don’t want to get technical. Please don’t tell me I’ve used “dpi” and “ppi” in the wrong context… you know what I mean!). To print these images on a real printing press, they need to be converted to CMYK (I dealt with this in an earlier Blog article – look it up!) and set to 300dpi.

The above paragraph has to do with why I said that you wanted to do “THE SAME THING” with the group of pictures you’ve selected for output. LR can easily do all of these things but not all at the same time. So just for example purposes, let’s assume you want to prepare a bunch of pictures for the Richmond Hill Camera Club, which has a great projector and they’ve set their requirements at 1280px wide x 1024 px high x 72dpi. Your pictures have to fit in a box that size. You probably saved them in a collection or marked them with a colour label, or something. You have them onscreen in LR, you’ve selected the ones you want.

OK, now hold onto your chair because this is hard. Open the “Export” dialogue from the LR file menu. Tell it where you want to save the pictures to (say a folder called “RHPhoto contest pictures”), what filename convention you want to use (often just accept the existing filename), what format it should be in (JPEG?), the image sizing (resize to fit in 1280x1024x72), tick off “sharpen for screen” and turn off the watermark. Now click “Export”. All done!

Suppose you want to post the same pictures in your online gallery. These would go at full size and you want to make sure your watermark is there to make it difficult for someone to steal them and use them on the front page of the Toronto Sun without paying you for them. Now I’m going to get complicated, so think about this carefully. There’s more than one way to do this, but let me deal with the most common one first. Suppose you want to save the pictures in a folder on your computer and upload them manually later on. Here’s what you do:

Open the “Export” dialogue. It remembers the settings you used last time. Tell it where to store the pictures (you can create a folder easily in the dialogue – say “Files for uploading to my online gallery”). Unclick the “resize to fit…” box. Click the “watermark” box. Now click “Export”. You’re done. That was tough! Go get yourself a glass of single malt scotch to celebrate. Get me one too!

As I said, there are several ways to do this. For instance, if you subscribe to an online photosharing service (Smugmug, FlickR, etc) there are preset plugins available, usually free, that not only set the parameters for your pictures, but will skip the step of creating a local folder and connect you directly to your gallery and upload the pictures there. It’s totally seamless and is one of the big reasons I like using LR – no muss, no fuss, just click and it’s done! There are similar plugins available, for instance, if you want to send pictures to Costco for printing. The plugins are generally either free or very very cheap.

If you have some webspace and want to put your own gallery up, LR has some neat presets that let you do that too: click on the “web” module and select which of the viewers you prefer. When you’re ready, click “Export” (this time use the “Export” button at the bottom right of the screen).

OK, get the picture? LR has quick and easy methods for sending your pictures wherever you want (even if you want to email them to someone. Now that one isn’t quite as painless and there have been some comments, especially by MAChead Aperture users. On PC, LR requires that you have an email program installed, and you need to install the app to use it: go to and click on “Other Goodies” and download the MAPI Mailer. Do what it tells you to do in the ReadMe file.)

Anyway do you get the concept? As I’ve been saying, Lightroom doesn’t contain your image files: it has a catalog of links to your images and changes you’ve made. The original images are still there, untouched. So there are export presets in LR that will send copies of your files wherever you specify, modified according to what you want it to do.

Here’s an example. I took a picture of a cappuccino fresh out of my new machine. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with it, there were several ways to frame it and what to do about the background? So I created two “virtual copies” (in the Develop module, right click the picture and select “create virtual copy”. Tough, huh? Now you can change them separately and the resulting images are independent of one another.

By the way, they’re not independent of the original! If you edit the original in Photoshop, ALL of them change. In this case, I cleaned up some reflections on the original and all three pictures changed.

I haven’t created new pictures. Only new links to the original in LR. Now I reframed (cropped) them differently, did some work on the background of one of them and then selected them for export. Done!

Cropping is probably the best example, and if you’re used to cropping in other programs like PS, the concept is a little disconcerting. You’re not actually cropping your picture, you’re telling LR, “when you export this image, reframe it like this…”. So you don’t actually tell it how many pixels by how many pixels, you tell it what the aspect ratio should be – let’s say, 8x10. 8x10 what? Haven’t you been listening? 8x10 anything. 8,000,000 pixels by 10,000,000 pixels (OK, that’s an exaggeration!). 16”x20”. 4”x5”. 32”x40”. It doesn’t matter. You’ll tell it what actual size you want in pixels when you actually do the export.

Now if you’re like most people (or even like me, in this case!), you’ll be doing the same things over and over. Exporting for competition. Sending stuff to Costco for printing. Posting stuff to your website. Adding pictures to your Blog. So you can create a preset for each of those things in your export module. Just specify what you want LR to do with your photos, click “Add” and name your new preset so you can find it again. Next time, just click on the preset and LR sets all of those things for you! Don’t worry if you need to change something – you can easily override the settings and you can even re-save the preset if you’ve made a mistake or want to change it for future use.

Today I exported a bunch of images for this Blog entry. All I did was to select the pictures, choose the Faczen Image Blog preset that I had created and clicked “Export”. To do the screen capture below, I captured it, imported it to LR, chose the preset and exported it.

OK. Here’s a summary of what LR had done for me.

I’m able to take images that I’ve uploaded to my computer and create listings for them in LR so that I can find them again using keywords, flags, star and colour ratings, or even by where I shot them or which camera or lens I used.

I can make changes to what the images look like, either to the image as a whole or to a carefully selected portion of the image, then reframe it and tweak it whatever way I want without touching the original image. If I want, I can go to PS and add other effects and come back and do more non-destructive editing in LR

When I’m ready to export the images, for whatever purpose, I can do it with a few keystrokes and even make it match other images that I’ve chosen to export for the same purpose. I can export as many different versions of the same image that I can dream up with the same simple process. I have presets created for the exports that I do all the time: Blog, competitions, my Smugmug gallery, web images for my commercial sites, printing at Costco and for my Blurb books. I can send any picture to any of those destinations with a couple of keystrokes.

With all of this, there is only one original copy of my image in the computer (plus whatever backups I’ve chosen to make) that I can always go back to. So not only has Lightroom changed and accelerated my workflow, it has given me a mechanism to organize and control the thousands and thousands of images I’ve loaded into my computer or external drives.

Adobe has a new version of LR in the works: version 3. I haven’t tried it because it’s still in Beta and once you change over, its catalog is not backwards compatible: in other words, you can’t go back. So when they publish the full version, I’ll consider it. Although it’s not a cheap program, with educational discounts it’s quite affordable and in terms of all the work it’s going to save you, worth every penny.

Try it, you’ll like it.

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