The Photographer’s Tools (Getting more out of Lightroom)

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Thanks for reading! Andrew.

Portrait processed in Lightroom

In Mastering Lightroom: Book Four – The Photos (my latest ebook, published last week) I spend some time exploring the idea that photographers need to learn how to create images that fit their creative vision using the tools they have to hand in Lightroom.

But what really comes first – the photographer’s vision or the tools you use? For me, the two go hand in hand. Expand your vision, and you will be forced to go looking for tools that help you fulfil it. But expand your toolkit, and your vision will expand as your mind thinks of ways to creatively use your new tools.

While writing my last two ebooks I purchased plug-ins and Lightroom Develop Presets that I hadn’t used before. As I learnt how to use these new tools, my vision has expanded. My understanding of how those tools work has deepened, and the creative part of my mind is seeing more ways to use them.

The more good quality tools you have, and the deeper your understanding of those tools, the better your photos will be. This is true both when you take the photo (better cameras and better lenses usually equal better photos in the hands of a capable photographer) and during post-processing.

Here’s an example. I took this portrait last week. There are two versions, one colour and the other black and white. Both were processed in Lightroom. They show how I might process the portrait in Lightroom without the assistance of Develop Presets or plug-ins:

Portrait processed in Lightroom

Now let’s look at how the colour photo could be interpreted in a different way. I processed it again using presets from VSCO Film 05 Develop Presets for Lightroom. These presets are expensive, and they’re not for everybody, but I like them and they have opened up new ways of processing Raw files. Here’s the result:

Portrait processed in Lightroom with VSCO presets

Quite different, isn’t it? The portrait has a mysterious, cinematic feel. The colour treatment is unique to the preset used and I don’t think I could have created this effect myself in Lightroom.

I also created a new black and white interpretation by opening the first colour version of the portrait in Alien Skin’s Exposure 6. This is what I came up with:

Portrait processed in Alien Skin Exposure 6

I used one of Exposure 6’s built-in presets, which included the border, and added a platinum tone and some texture in the form of faint scratches. Again this is something I couldn’t have done in Lightroom itself.

I hope these photos show you the value of learning to use new tools in post-processing. Eventually, you may even find yourself visualising how you are going to process the photos when you take them. This is a sign your photography skills are improving.

If you like this idea I suggest you take action and download the trial version of a plug-in that you haven’t used before to see if it is a useful tool for you. You may also like to buy some Develop Presets, or download some free ones, to see if they are useful as well. There’s a list of recommended plug-ins and Develop Presets below.

Recommended Lightroom plug-ins

Alien Skin Exposure 6. You can read my articles about its predecessor, Exposure 5, here and here.

DxO FilmPack 4. I wrote about this program here.

The Nik Collection (includes Silver Efex Pro 2, Viveza 2, Color Efex Pro 4 and more). Read my introduction to Silver Efex Pro 2.

Perfect Photo Suite 8

Topaz B&W Effects 2

Recommended free Lightroom Develop Presets

OnOne Software’s free Develop Presets for Lightroom. These are the best free presets I’ve found. I like Nicolesy’s Matte Presets for Adobe Lightroom 5 and the onOne Signature Collection Presets (available for Lightroom 4 and 5). There are also some presets for Lightroom 2 and 3 if you don’t have the latest versions.

Recommended paid Lightroom Develop Presets

Lightgram presets. These presets are inspired by the beauty and nostalgia of film. I like Lightgram’s presets a lot, and they have some free ones you can try out. I wrote more about Lightgram here.

Really Nice Images presets. These are more expensive, but you get more presets in each set plus a toolkit to help you tweak the settings. They are really good, and also inspired by the analog look.

VSCO Lightroom presets. These are the most expensive of the lot but can save you a lot of time in processing as well as adding some unique looks to your tool kit. I haven’t reviewed them on my website yet but will at a future date.

Mastering Lightroom: Book Four – The Photos

Mastering Lightroom: Book Four – The Photos coverMy new ebook Mastering Lightroom: Book Four – The Photos takes you through ten beautiful examples of photography and shows you how I processed them step-by-step in Lightroom. It explores some of my favourite Develop Presets and plug-ins as well as the techniques I use in Lightroom itself.




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