For a long time now I have been a user and enthusiast for Photoshop. I am however a strong advocate of making photography light weight in all respects and that includes post processing images. I don’t want to be sat behind a computer for hours on end when I could be out taking pictures. No, my life and time are far too valuable for that and this was one of the drivers for me switching to Lightroom. I had reasoned that Lightroom could give me similar results to Photoshop but perhaps, from everything I had read, much faster.
Well, Lightroom is faster, especially where you want to apply the same adjustments to a group of images. It also makes finding an image a breeze and I wouldn’t be without it now. It is not however a replacement for Photoshop and I find that images adjusted in Lightroom still need some extra “polishing” in Photoshop in order to reach their best. It’s not therefore the huge timesaver I had hoped for.
What has caught me completely unawares however is a Photoshop plug-in from Nik Software called Viveza. It’s a very simple application to use and is accessed from within Photoshop but also integrates with Lightroom. What this plug-in gives me is the ability to make key adjustments to my images whilst targeting specific areas. For example I can edit the blue in a sky whilst leaving the ground and clouds unchanged. Yes I could do this in Photoshop but it would take some delicate selections to ensure I did this with a seamless blend, all of which takes time. With Viveza it takes just minutes, looks completely natural and requires much less skill than with Photoshop.
Having now used Viveza for a couple of months through Lightroom I am finding I do less and less in Photoshop. In fact, it’s got to the stage now where I think I can achieve better results with Viveza than I can using Photoshop. My Photoshop skills, painfully built up over years, now seem largely obsolete.
If you are a regular visitor to the Lightweight Photographer site you may be aware that I like to solve people’s photographic problems if I can. One of the problems that seems to crop up with some regularity on Forums is that when shooting with the LX5 using the Dynamic Black and White setting the images come out in colour but the colours look odd. Here is an example below.
The answer is relatively straight forward in that the user is shooting in RAW format. As RAW captures the image data but doesn’t apply any processing the images from a colour sensor will be in colour. If you want the Dynamic Black and White appearance for your image then you will need to capture your images in JPG format or at least RAW and JPG.
But why then the odd colour?
Well it helps add punch to the image when it is converted. The approach chosen by Panasonic is to bump the colour temperature up the maximum, shifting it to the warm end of the colour spectrum and reduce the tint settings for the RAW file (-95) so that the image is also shifted towards green. The internal processing of the camera then applies a digital filter and the result is a higher contrast image with greater tonal separation than a straight conversation. Here is the resulting file Dynamic B&W file.
Don’t however be lazy; lightweight yes but never lazy. Processing your colour images into Black and White will give you much greater creative control. The example at the top of the page was a conversion using Nik SilverEfex Pro 2 and took me around 3 minutes. I think that’s a good investment of my time.
As I have said before in my blogs, I am a huge fan of Lightroom because of the speed and ease with which it allows you to edit your images, converting them from RAW files. I find that in the majority of cases I can get at least 80% of the way to my final image by just using the tools Lightroom provides. It’s then a case of exporting these images to Photoshop for some final “pixel polishing”.
Well this all changed at weekend when I decided to invest in some of the Nik software packages. To be honest, it was the free copy of Viveza 2.0 that came with my recently purchased ColorMunki that convinced me to try Nik’s Black and White conversion software. When I downloaded this for Photoshop (and by the way I was very impressed by the package) I noticed they had a Lightroom version and that I could buy all their packages for use in Lightroom at about half the price of Photoshop.
Over the weekend I took the plunge and purchased the Lightroom collection of Nik plug-ins. As soon as I started to use these I found that I was able to produce higher quality, finished images without the need to step outside Lightroom. This approach is a huge time saver for me and really strips my processing workflow back to the essentials.
That’s not however the end of the story because being able to use these plug-ins within Lightroom got me thinking what other plug-ins do I use that might work with Lightroom. Following up on this I was able to install and use a version of Photomatix HDR software in Lightroom. I then found I could download a free piece of software from Topaz Labs that made their plug-ins available in Lightroom.
Now one limitation of Lightroom is that it doesn’t have the capability to support Layers and Masking, something I use extensively in Photoshop. I remembered something about On One Software developing a package called Perfect Layers that provided this capability so thought I would investigate. That’s when I found I could download Perfect Layers 2 for free from the On One website, I assume because they will be releasing Perfect Layers 3 shortly.
So if you use Lightroom I would suggest a little investigation into third party plug-ins/editors could prove to be very valuable.