Before and After: or, The Magic of Lightroom

My father got moderately serious about photography some years ago, buying gear and software and taking lessons and so on. I, being less serious about photography, would occasionally ping him for tips, but resisted his suggestion that I invest in a program called Lightroom, because I wasn’t interested in doing all of that post-processing on photos.

Last fall, I made a mistake: I brought a couple of my Poland photos over on a thumb drive and asked my father to show me what Lightroom could do.

I could try to describe to you all the speed with which I fell. I could recount how I told my father on the spot that the only thing I wanted for Christmas was that program. I could rave at the magic even a simple click on “Auto-Tone” can work (on those occasions when Lightroom has good ideas — sometimes I have no idea what crack its algorithms are smoking). But pictures, words, conversion ratio thereof, ne? So here’s a shot I snapped at the Asian Art Museum today. Took this with my phone’s camera, through glass, so not what you would call ideal photography conditions in the first place.

Not only is it not a great photo, it isn’t even a great representation of what my eye saw, standing there. Apart from being fuzzy, it’s too yellow, and you can barely make out the designs on the body of the pot.

So when I got home, I popped my camera pics into Lightroom and commenced mucking about. Here is the result:

I’m not quite done futzing with it; I want to see if I can get rid of that odd contrail on the upper left (one of several artifacts from reflections in the glass). But HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. Night and day. There’s just . . . I make my living with words, you guys, and all I can do is sit here and gesticulate at the screen while making random noises. This is what Lightroom can do for you.

As my father and I have discussed before, I didn’t like the notion of “photoshopping” pictures. There’s something to be said for doing funky effects on things, but for the most part, I want my photos to look like the thing I was looking at. What I didn’t appreciate is a) how much the camera mediates that result, whether you want it to or not, and b) how much of what I’m doing here was a part of high-quality photo developing, back in the days of film. I’m sure Lightroom can pull off effects well beyond those of ordinary chemicals — but the point remains that the process of photography doesn’t end when the shutter closes. It never has. And thanks to this program, I can be a better photographer.

It’s a lot of work, of course. (Especially when you’ve built up a library of six thousand photos before you start editing.) But the results are so, so worth it.

I have drunk the Kool-Aid. I thought you all should know.

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5 Responses to “Before and After: or, The Magic of Lightroom”

  1. Marie Brennan

    It’s in the gallery of Chinese jades at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.

    As for the rest, thppppppppt. 🙂

  2. wshaffer

    Well, that handily settles the, “Gee, now that I have a decent camera, should I get some image editing software?” question.

    • Marie Brennan

      Fair warning: Lightroom takes some learning to use. (Which is probably true of other programs, too, but this is the one I know.) I can show you the basics, if you decide to pick it up, and I have a book you can borrow, too.

  3. akashiver

    Nice! I’ve never tried Lightroom – will keep an eye out.

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