Tuesday 22 June 2010

Lightroom 3 for wedding photography

My website: Wedding Photographers in Kent

I've just processed my first wedding with Lightroom 3 and I'm very impressed with the new version. It features an updated Adobe Camera Raw processing engine which provides a subtle, but noticeable, improvement to image quality. My initial impression is that there is also better recovery from highlights (though I've not had the inclination to carry out any proper control experiments).

There's a slicker import dialogue and the rendering of standard previews is faster, as is flicking through images in the library module.

The standout new features are in the development module - automatic lens correction profiles to deal with vignetting, chromatic aberration and distortion etc and a manual transform tool to minimise the effect of perspective distortion (I really like this as I often shoot very wide in compact venues). Applying a lens correction profile to an image seems to slow down some subsequent tweaks - particularly cropping and rotating. Be aware that currently many lens profiles are built in for RAW files but less so for JPEG.

Noise reduction and sharpening are improved over Lightroom 2 but I still intend to use my existing workflow - exporting to Photoshop for noise removal with a NeatImage plugin (with automatic detection of the ISO setting) followed by sharpening. The vignette option offers a lot more control too.

Tethered shooting was possible in Lightroom 2 with the watched folder option but it's a lot more straightforward in the newer version - though I doubt many wedding photographers will be making use of this. Copyright watermarks can now be applied on image export.

I'm still very disappointed that they've not bothered to add flash exposure compensation settings, which is fundamental exposure information after all, to the displayable EXIF data (and after I'd personally requested it on their new features suggestion page too!) If Aperture can, why can't Lightroom?

If you want to play music with a slideshow you can no longer access iTunes playlists, only individual audio files on your hard drives, and only one per slideshow! Definitely a retrograde step. To play more than one song you need to stitch audio files together - which I did this morning using an excellent piece of freeware called Audacity. Hopefully this situation will be remedied in a forthcoming update.

Many people have been struggling with the performance of Lightroom. I've never had any major performance issues but I've been using a reasonably powerful machine for the past 4 years - a 2006-vintage MacPro with two 2.66 GHz dual-core Intel Xeon Woodcrest processors and 9Gb of RAM.

I have Lightroom set to work in 64-bit mode. Apparently you need more than 4Gb of RAM to see a difference, though I have no idea if this is true as I'm not removing RAM for the sake of comparison!

When importing photos I apply a series of custom development settings and ask the program to render standard previews - it means you'll be waiting at least half an hour if you import 500 photos but once you're done it allows you to whisk between images in the library module. If you forget to do this on import just select all the images and then go to library - previews - render standard previews. The previews are stored adjacent to your catalogue file in Previews.lrdata. In catalogue settings - file handling you can chose the preview quality and size (depending upon the size of your monitor - I choose medium quality at 2048 pixels) and the length of time that these are stored (I choose one week). Do make sure though that they match the size of the area you view the photos in. With a 30" Apple cinema display I have an area of about 2000 x 1400 pixels left for image display after taking account of all the menu windows. Hence it's worth setting previews to 2048 pixels.

To improve performance in the develop module you need to go to Lightroom - preferences - file handling and then camera RAW cache settings. By default it's set to 1Gb, but increasing this (up to 200Gb in Lightroom 3) means that, as you flick between images displayed in the develop module, they're being loaded from your hard drive rather than being freshly rendered. You can move the cache to any hard drive - I have it where the operating system is since this disc is always spinning and ready for action.

Another useful tip. When you're in the develop module go to view - view options and untick the show message option at the bottom. You can make changes to your images whilst the loading dialogue is displayed but I always seem to wait until it's finished before I do - this removes that distraction.

My website: Kent wedding photographers

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