The Digital Darkroom is a new series of weekly posts for those who have just started or want to know more about image editing. There are many different editing programs out there, the flagship being Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. We should not forget Gimp, Photoplus, PaintShop Pro and Picasa. In the Digital Darkroom series I will be focusing on Photoshop and Lightroom.
If you wish to watch the companion video for this series you can so here
Is there a difference between Lightroom and Photoshop?
Lightroom is primarily a File management system with “basic” editing adjustments. Created for the digital era, Lightroom was design for people taking a lot of photos downloading, sorting and then editing them, before sending the files out for multiple uses; web, publishing, cd and print. Photoshop was design in the era when files were scanned 10 at a time and editing was for one output, printing. Photoshop’s file management, Adobe Bridge, was coded later as the digital revolution took hold. Photoshop does have more power than Lightroom and although 90% of editing can be done in Lightroom there will be a need from time to enter Photoshop.
One way to look at it is, Lightroom moves pixels and Photoshop bends them.
Editing software can be daunting the first time you open them as there is no hand holding while you and your precious files are pushed into the deep end. I learnt nearly everything I know about photo editing from experimentation, reading tutorials and books about how to edit pictures. To really learn Photoshop and Lightroom be ready to make mistakes and come back to pictures and edit them again. Even after using Photoshop for 10 years I still pick up new things all the time.
Before you jump into editing software you need to think about file management. I know I sound like a kill joy.
“I want to edit!” you may be screaming, but with a little work now you will save yourself a bit of a head ache later. Trust me, I have spent hours trying to untangle a huge migraine. You need to think about where your pictures will live. I have a dedicated Hard Drive called photography where all my work can be found before it is backed up. In having a dedicated space for your Capture (files from your camera), Editing and Output files can help when you need to find, back up or make changes to an existing file.
Photoshop and Adobe Bridge
Photoshop comes with a program called Adobe Bridge, designed to be a file management program for all Adobe products (except Lightroom more about that later). If you don’t have Lightroom and only have Photoshop I would use Bridge for your file management.
Downloading pictures from your camera is simple with Adobe Bridge. You connect your camera and then click the icon at the top with the camera and the down arrow. Select your device (camera) and say where you want the pictures to go.
This is the beginning of file management. I would recommend creating a folder for your capture files to be downloaded to. I have a folder called “Digital Negative”, inside are sub folders dated with a quick description of the shoot or what I shot, for example “2014-03-28 Lady Bird”.
Organised like this you can then locate a file first by when and then it’s content.
With Photoshop I would also create two other folders Editing and Output. All of the editing files can be saved in the editing folder and Jpeg versions of the editing files can be saved to output. In these I would create separate folders based on content, for example; Holiday Las Vegas 2014 and inside are all those pictures.
If you already have a big mess this would be a good time to try and sort it. It does mean a bit of sitting down and concentrating but the benefits of quickly finding a file will save you so much time in the future.
Lightroom has its own system for managing your files, because it has file management built in at its core. As with Adobe Bridge you need to find a home for your photographs. Clicking on import, just as with bridge, you will need to choose and name a location for your capture files to be downloaded to. However unlike Adobe Bridge you don’t need to worry about editing locations as all editing in Lightroom is saved in a side car file (a separate file linked to the picture) this means that all editing is non-destructive and at any time you can reverse the changes you have made.
Lightroom has three parts to its file management.
Catalog– where all the information for your pictures are stored; edits, metadata, previews. You can create multiple catalogs but you can only access them one at time. Each time you want to switch catalog Lightroom restarts with the selected catalog.
Folders– the location of your pictures as dictated by you. If you ever move an imported folder you must do this with Lightroom, if not it will cause a headache with your catalog and extra work to sink everything back up together.
Collections– Personal groups of photos within a catalog. By creating a collection you can group all landscape, food, holidays, children, blog …. photos in one place. A picture can be in multiple collections, in the Las Vegas holiday collection as well as Black and white, landscape and portfolio collection. Lightroom also has Collection Sets where you can group collections, for example Holiday (collection set) with all Holiday picture collections inside. If you remove a picture from a collection this does not delete the picture from the computer it just removes it from that group.
With files in the right places we can begin editing.
The Digital Darkroom Series is all about learning and the part of learning is asking questions, if you have any questions let me know in the comment box below.
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