Saturday, March 9, 2013

Continuous improvement process

Over the years, I've followed a number of photography blogs and forums. They are a great place to find inspiration, hints and tips. It was in venues such as those that I learned that my photographic output might be improved if I started shooting and processing raw files. So off I went to purchase Lightroom 2.

Before shooting raw, I did most of, if not all, of any post processing in Jasc's Paintshop Pro. Always amazed me how I could get that extra bit out of a photo shot as a jpeg. Straightening the horizon, correcting perspective, boosting the saturation a tad and tweaking the brightness and contrast. Minor tweaks mostly and the results? Wow! what an improvement.

And then I started processing raw files with Lightroom 2. Really loved how it allowed me to recover blown highlights, and bring a great deal more detail from out of the darker parts of a photo. I tweaked exposure, capture sharpness and maybe saturation and then pass a tiff file over to Paintshop Pro to finish up. Again. I'd see an improvement to the final photo.

Paintshop Pro was purchased by Corel. I tried a version, but preferred to stay with Jasc's last version. Lightroom came out with Version 3, but I didn't see enough of the people I followed get really excited about the improvements in the newer version, so I did not upgrade. Did learn a few new tweaks to my workflow with LR2 and PSPv9 to achieve better results in post-processing, so life was good.

Adobe released Lightroom 4 with a significant decrease in price. And I started reading in the blogs and forums I followed about how much better LR4 was to all previous versions. So I upgraded.

To be honest, I was not initially impressed, When applying my previous Lightroom workflow, I found I had to do a great deal more work to achieve similar results which would still pass to PSPv9 to finish.

I found a few tutorial on the web on how to better understand the Develop module. I purchased George Jardin's Lightroom Develop Module. Came across another tutorial series (Lightroom training : Lightroom Nuts and Bolts by Hal Schmitt ) that was free for a day. Needless to say I grabbed that one. Both great tutorials. George's more right-brain, creative, Schnmitt's much more left-brain, you can tell he trained military personnel. For me the two tutorials complimented each other perfectly. After watching and digesting both series, I was seeing actual improvements in my Lightroom processing.

Read a recent blog by Matt Kloskowski where he advised us about onOne Software offering their Perfect Effects 4 Free for downloading. He specifically mentioned the 'Tonal Contrast' effect as a 'must have' for any photographer. When Matt recommends something, I tend to pay attention, so I went and grabbed it. And played with it. And added to my post-processing workflow.

Another blog I follow, Fleeting Glimpses, is written by Rikk Flohr. Rikk has often commented how editing software continues to improve and because of that, we should re-visit old images to see if we can improve upon what we had previously done. So armed with better understanding of Lightroom 4 thanks to Jardine's & Schmitt's tutorials, the additional software recommended by Kloskowski, I put Flohr's suggestion to the test. The images that following show the progress and final results.

Raw file as shot in camera

LR2 Tweaked Raw exported to PSPv9

Final edit using LR2 and PSPv9

Taking the original Raw capture, processing it in Lightroom 4 with everything I've learned from the tutorials and then giving it that extra boost by applying Perfect Effects Tonal Contrast, and this is what results.
Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia
Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

To me personally, I see a remarkable improvement. What say you?

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