Lets think about this. Can Lightroom actually improve your photography?
I’m not asking whether Lightroom can improve the overall look and feel of your image but can it actually improve your photography – the way that you capture an image?
There is no doubt that this incredibly powerful software plays an important role in taking a RAW image to a point where your creative vision has been realised – if you’re not yet aware of the power of Lightroom then check out these posts – but I believe that Lightroom can actually improve the way that you capture images. If you pay attention to detail that is…
So, here’s a coupe of ways which I believe you can improve your photography by using Lightroom.
Pay Attention to Composition
Cropping an image because you just don’t have enough focal length to achieve the desired composition is one thing but cropping an image purely to achieve a better composition when you could have got it right in camera is just a waste of pixels. Lets be honest, how often have you looked at an image in Lightroom and reached for the crop tool to create a better composition? Its an easy way to fix the composition but you should really pay attention every crop you make and ask yourself “Could I have improved my initial composition before taking the image?”.
The mistake that many photographers make is to place their subject slap-bang in the middle of the frame and then, if they are aware of the artistic and compositional guidelines, crop the image to a better composition after the fact. Just look at how many pixels you loose by doing this.
Okay, birds in flight are a bit more difficult but with a static subject like this hyena, I should have changed my composition rather than cropping off space to the right of frame.
Another mistake which can be rectified in camera is to ensure that any and all distracting elements are removed before capturing the image. This is not always possible in wildlife photography as there are usually a number of distracting elements just waiting to spoil your shot.
If you are aware of these before you take the image though, a simple adjustment in the position of your vehicle or position of the camera can go a long way to eliminate the need to crop an image back home.
Correcting the horizons in images can also result in a significant portion of the image being cropped in order to keep the horizon line straight. Again, pay paying attention to detail out in the field you can ensure that you minimise the amount of pixels which are cropped from an image when editing in Lightroom.
Study your EXIF info
Whilst the compositional aspect of photography is important, one should never forget about the technical aspect. Chances are, if you’re looking at deleting an image form your library its probably because the content and composition doesn’t tell enough of a story, or because your camera settings were horribly wrong. Lightroom displays your Exchangeable image file information (Exif) for each image and you can learn some valuable lessons from this info!
If for example you have worked though a series of images that you want to cull from your library by flagging them as rejects (using the X key), rather than just deleting these straight away, take some time to see what went wrong and why the image is not worth keeping. Use the following variables to help reverse engineer and diagnose problems in your images:
Aperture affects the resultant depth of field or acceptable zone of sharpness in your images. If you have an image where part of your subject is not sharp and in focus, you either missed the mark with your focus point or, more likely, did not have sufficient depth of field. You can use the aperture value below the histogram to establish what depth of field was used for each image.
Shutter Speed & ISO
We’ve all had images where our subject is not sharp and in focus. We’ve seen how this can be related to the placement of the focus point and depth of field but many an image has been lost because the shutter speed was not fast enough to either freeze the movement of the subject or eliminate the chance of camera shake (remember the 1/focal length guideline?). Check the shutter speed to see whether this is why your image was soft and blurred.
If your shutter speed was infact too slow for the combination of aperture and focal length, you can always increase this by adjusting your ISO. You can check your ISO value below the histogram too…
If your image appears to be too dark or too light the camera may not have metered the scene in the way that you wanted it to. Understanding the various metering modes will allow you to make manual exposure compensation adjustments using shutter speed in manual mode, or manual exposure compensation in AV mode, to ensure that your subject is correctly exposed.
Think about the Adjustments you Make to an Image
Typically, when we edit images we dive straight in and pull a variety of sliders to and fro until we achieve the desired result. Yes Lightroom can go a long way to correcting an image – especially if you are shooting in RAW – but you can also learn from each of the adjustments that you make!
One of the most important sliders which you should be paying attention to is the Exposure slider. This is something you can control in camera and, if you pay attention to the values you dial into the slider when editing an image, you can apply this directly in camera by using your exposure compensation (in aperture priority) or by adjusting your shutter speed (in manual).
Here is a RAW image where my subject is clearly underexposed.
Its an easy fix in Lightroom as i grab the exposure slider to lift the explore by +1.3. The end result is much better and, taking cognisance of these changes, the next time I head out into the field and am faced with a similar situation I will be able to correct the exposure in camera and have a much better quality RAW file to work with in the end.
The take-home Message
The point I’m trying to make is that there is so much negativity around the processing of images and without going down that road, I wanted to look at how software like Lightroom can do far more than just improve the overall look and feel of your images, but can actually improve your photography. I personally strive to create striking images in camera by combining the artistic, compositional and technical aspects of photography, using software such as Lightroom to further enhance my story.
It’s easy to look at it and say “Yeah but I can correct that in Lightroom later” but its far more rewarding to learn from the adjustments you make in Lightroom and make sure you get it right in camera the next time you are out in the field.
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