How Learning More About Lightroom Made Me A Better Photographer
February 11, 2014
2 comment

When I started Lightroom Fanatic last year, I did so for two reasons. First, I wanted to learn more about the tool that handles so much of my photographic workflow. Second, I wanted to share what I learned with the incredible community of Lightroom fanatics. What I didn’t expect, though, was how learning more about Lightroom would also make me a better photographer.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (2013)

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (2013)

I started taking pictures on an old Kodak Instamatic 110 camera when I was eight year old. Back then, I didn’t give much thought to processing my images. Instead, I dropped off the plastic cartridges at the booth in the drug store and picked them up a few days later. When I was in middle school, I took one photography course and spent enough time in the dark room to know that I didn’t like spending time in the dark room. By the late 90s, I was already firmly on the digital photography bandwagon thanks to my affinity for technology and my lack of interest in chemical-induced headaches. Even though the images coming out of the early digital cameras wasn’t even close to what I could get out of an analog camera, I knew it was only a matter of time before the digital revolution took over.

Around the same time, I started experimenting with Photoshop and manipulating my images on a computer. Again, it wasn’t much compared to what we can do today, but it planted the seed in my head that the future would involve marrying the digital camera with the digital dark room in to the future of photography.

But Photoshop was big, and complicated, and it included so many features that I would never use for my photographic workflow because it wasn’t just a photography tool. It also wasn’t a photo management tool, so for all the wonderful things it could do, it didn’t do what I needed it to do, so I drifted to other tools that better filled what I needed in my workflow.

Then I met Lightroom.

Lightroom, for me, combined all the best pieces from the software that I had used in to one application. It had excellent raw file handling, metadata and library management, and included the features from Photoshop that I used most with my Photography. While version 3 was where I jumped in, version 4 was the game changer for me, and where I dropped every other tool except for Photoshop, but also where I found that I needed to actually go in to Photoshop very rarely.

Still, though, while I felt I was a good Lightroom user, I knew there was more I could do with it, and that’s why I committed to learning more about it. And so I started taking more pictures so that I could import them to see what Lightroom could do with them. Overexposed, underexposed, low light, back light, landscape, portrait; I easily doubled the amount of pictures that I took last year compared to any year before. Not for a client, I took the pictures because I was curious, and because I love photography, and because I wanted to better understand the tool that accounted for so much of my workflow.

And then it hit me…my pictures were improving. Not only because I was getting better at Lightroom, but also because, by taking so many more pictures, my eye was getting better. I was getting more familiar with my camera. I was putting myself in a bunch of different shooting situations. As I learned more about Lightroom and what it could do and what its limitations were, that knowledge also affected how I shot. When I got my images in to Lightroom, I was managing my images and processing them much more efficiently, and achieving better, more consistent results that mirrored the photo I had in my head and the message I wanted to convey or the emotion I wanted to evoke when I pushed the shutter release.

My photography isn’t only about what I capture in the camera. My photography is the union of the images I take with the camera with the decisions, however dramatic or subtle, I make as part of my workflow. Whether those decisions are made in a dark room or on a computer, the output of that union is my art.

My, how I’ve grown.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (2013)

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (2013)

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There are 2 comments

  • Harjeev Singh Chadha says:

    So true David. Though I jumped a bit late into LR (lr4) my workflow too hasn’t been the same ever since.
    LR has complete transformed the way I look at & capture images and now I look back, my workflow and images(to some extent) have been improving as well. Still a long way to go and capture images the way Pros do. But atlast I know that I’m getting somewhere.
    I always used to feel a bit lost in PS and if I may call it so, I still have a bit of PS phobia whereas in LR I feel right at home.
    Thanks for creating this wonderful blog. Looking forward to your future posts.

    • dave says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Harjeev, and from what I can see, you’re images are already those of a pro. Keep up the good shooting, and glad you are enjoying the ride!