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Pro Analysis: Adobe Lightroom
Beyond the bridge and into the drink

Cast and crew from the Wizard of Oz
Cast and crew from the Wizard of Oz, performed by St. John's Catholic School at Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hopkins, MN on March 22-25, 2007.
Alex Bachnick

Cast stars from the St. John's Catholic School production of the Wizard of Oz
Cast stars from the St. John's Catholic School production of the Wizard of Oz. This image was shot originally in the school gym and enhanced later in Photoshop CS2. The background was stretched, and the Good Fairy, Glinda, was given her pink satin gown from the production, as the costume wasn't available during the original shoot.
Alex Bachnick

Glinda, the Good Witch of the north, discusses strategy with Dorothy for finding the Wizard.
Alex Bachnick

Fr. Ralph Goman, lt., and Deacon Jim Murphy
Fr. Ralph Goman, lt., and Deacon Jim Murphy, had a ball playing cameo performances in the Wizard of Oz.
Alex Bachnick

In October 2006, I was diagnosed with type 3-colon cancer. I was in the hospital for 16 days, then returned home Dec. 24 and cooked for friends and family on Christmas Day. I had to deal with some new health issues, not to mention some questions that loomed in my head for 16 days—"How should I spend the rest of my career?"

Since I had so much time on my hands, and a career hanging precariously close to several edges I'd not visited before, I took a lot of time working with Lightroom and Photoshop.

When I downloaded my first Beta version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom I was blown away! I have been making images for nearly 50 years, professionally for nearly 35, and finally, Adobe took some awesome, existing software, Photoshop CS2, and further developed an incredible application that professional and avid hobbyist photographers could use to save time in a workflow increasingly shortened by client demands and requests. Lightroom has had my attention ever since!

Adobe listens like no other company on the planet! I have taken multiple seminars by several presenters, and Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer of D-65 made the best (! They discussed the advantages of shooting in 16-bit color and gave me a workflow that is efficient and forward thinking!

They also gave me the names of Adobe Product Managers, and I have exchanged with them many emails about Lightroom and Photoshop CS2 feature requests, and suggestions for general improvements. They are still listening!

In the April 2007 issue of Studio Photography, Russell Abraham gave us a brief overview of Lightroom, and I'd like to take his lead, and offer you some real-time advantages. My initial response to the editors of Studio Photography was that, from my perspective, Mr. Abraham inferred that Lightroom was an alternative to Photoshop. After working with two Beta versions over the course of about 8 months, and with the Version 1.0 release, I have a thorough working knowledge about how Lightroom fits my workflow, but I still use both applications separately and in conjunction with each other.

I shoot with multiple cameras: from Hasselblad, with an Imacon back, Canon 1dS MkII, Canon D-20, and a Canon PowerShot S3. I've not shot film on a job in over six years. Most camera manufacturers make excellent cameras, but when it comes to software, most are ingrained in proprietary software workflows. This is where Lightroom excels. When I download a CF card from a shoot, I plug the card reader into the Mac, and then launch Lightroom into the Library Module. Once Lightroom is up, I hit Import, and Lightroom gives me a choice of where to copy the incoming files, and I select my newest Seagate Barracuda 300GB External Hard Drive. I create a new folder, and begin the folder name with the date, followed by client, and event name. This folder name should be under 28 characters. I also create a new folder within the previous folder and name it RAW. Lightroom then copies the files to that folder. I also back up those folders to another Seagate Barracuda for redundancy.

Because the PowerShot S3 doesn't shoot in RAW, but rather Superfine Jpegs with 6MP files, Lightroom treats them as RAW, and edits in 16-bit color and Prophoto RGB Color Space.

I recently did some volunteer work for my church's catholic school (St. John's Catholic School, Hopkins, MN). They asked me to shoot portraits for their upcoming production of the Wizard of Oz. The shoot yielded 200 shots of about 25 groups, and once I imported them into Lightroom, I tweaked exposure from group to group. After about an hour, I generated a web gallery from the Web Module in Lightroom. Before the day was even over, the artistic coordinator for the play and the school principal were viewing web galleries at their locations.

Over the course of four evenings, I shot some 2,000 images of the play and actors, which were students, alumni, and some parents, and even the parish priest had a cameo appearance! Each shoot consisted of images from the Canon D-20 and some from the PowerShot, so after importing all the images after one evening performance, I sorted the images by file name, tweaked them all, and had web galleries to the school leaders by the next morning. They were amazed by the color and speed with which I sent them about 400-500 images from each shoot.

From the Library module, select all the images you want to tweak, and if you like, start a collection. In Lightroom, you can organize files by shoot date, collections, keywords, and within these collections, you can further edit down your shoot with labels and ratings.

Once I have selected the highest rated images from a collection, I start tweaking. In the portraits group for the Wizard of Oz, I shot about 25 groups, some with as few as three students, some with as many as 70. So the lighting changed slightly as the groups grew. I selected all the shots within one group, did a tweak for color balance, density, and didn't bother with much more.

The Canon D-20 captures excellent files, as long as you play by the histogram rules and clip neither highlights nor shadows. When the files go to the Web, or to print applications, they sometimes pick up contrast and density, so I've found that by staying below 290% total ink in Photoshop CS2 (go to Menu, View, Info, and find the info palette in the Navigator/Info/Histogram Palette, Set the info for First Reading, Actual Color, and for the Second Reading Total Ink),readable from the little eye dropper in the blackest part of your image where you want to hold shadow detail (this is a summation of the CMYK values); you have room for the file to get 20% darker on press. It can give you the advantage in a Web image that the viewer might be viewing from an uncalibrated laptop, and therefore looking at an image that might be a little dark. In Lightroom, these values convert to about 93% in the highlighted area, and are equal for a white reading. I try to keep the shadows above 15%. Ansel Adams told me detail in the highlights and detail in the shadows, and I've been doing it that way for nearly 30 years.

Once you have these rules down pat, however, you can bend them and break a few of them to your advantage.

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