Attn: Lawrence and other photographers! This is the tool for yous (if you haven’t got it already)! We finally got raw camera files working yesterday and have been playing around with them in Photoshop. Adobe has a new tool called ‘Lightroom’ in open beta right now – free download good until March or so.
As the name suggests it’s meant for digital photo ‘development’, especially of raw files. Tweaking colour balance and lightness and such that with film would be done in the darkroom. So, I (Sarah) didn’t know this, but most fancyass digital cameras give you a choice to save images in a raw format that is unique to just about every model (and proprietary – grumble), but has a lot more information than the usual JPGs. It isn’t lossless bitmap quality, it’s more like.. well I can give you the best example:
You know, when you take a picture of a person’s face when the sun is behind them, the sky is all white and washed out? Even a lossless bitmap would have big patches of #FFFFFF in the sky and the best you can do is turn them into big patches of grey-blue instead. If you have the raw file, you can actually turn the exposure down, and suddenly clouds and hues appear – magic! The rest of the image would now be overexposed but you can easily adjust for that. Lightroom can do it all with a batch script, though it takes awhile to process each picture. It’s too much for our camera to do itself, so it uses a faster, dumber algorithm that sometimes results in big white splotches where the sky should be.
So – Lightroom has a nice interface, and really puts everything right where you can see it. Much easier to learn than Photoshop, in part because of the much smaller toolset. It does have its limits; you can’t fine tune curves enough or crank things up to 11, and there is no masking at all. But I just found a nifty dial to straighten photos without having to crop, and a crop tool that maintains the image ratio. Heaven!
We’re having fun with this, so please excuse if the next few pictures look a little oversaturated or surreal. Hell, there’s a vibrance dial: Vibrance = lots please!