Digital Cameras, and another Adobe Lightroom Plug

This time, from a much higher-profile blogger than me–Tim Bray.  The bulk of the post is actually about digital SLRs (DSLRs), more specifically, Bray’s follow-on commentary to this post by Dave Sifry.   The starter kit looks decent, but the estimate of how many RAW files a 4GB Compact Flash (CF) card will hold makes me wonder if Canon’s RAW files are bigger than Nikon’s.  I have a D70s I’ve been shooting with for about two years, and a 2 GB CF holds over 350 RAW files.

The only place where I might differ with Bray’s additional points is the first one on camera brands.  Canon and Nikon between them own the vast majority of the film and digital camera markets.  This is important because it means you’re far more likely to find used equipment of good quality in those brands than with Pentax, Sony, etc.  In my own case, the reason I got the D70s was that my friend Sandro found a refurbished one for $600 at Penn Camera.  Maybe 6 months before that, the same camera cost $1200 new.  New lenses get pretty expensive once you get faster than about f/4, so good used ones also keep things affordable.

Lightroom: Day 24

My earlier plan of a longer series of posts on the ins-and-outs of Lightroom was devoured by work, holiday stuff, etc. In this post, I’ll talk briefly about Navigator, collections, and the Slideshow portion of the workflow.


This feature, available in the Library and Develop portions of the workflow lets you look at various areas of a selected photo. You can zoom in as far as an 11:1 ratio. It’s quite useful in Develop, since at least some of the edits you can make (red eye reduction, spot removal) are most successful when you get in really close. I haven’t used this feature a ton, but I certainly haven’t found anything like it in iPhoto.


Collections are the mechanism for organizing groups of photos in Lightroom. They appear to be equivalent to iPhoto albums. In Lightroom, photos have to be in a collection before they can be sorted. Unlike iPhoto, Lightroom allows you to sort photos both in the filmstrip and the grid view. The number of photos displayed per row in the grid view also adjusts automatically based on how large you make the application window (it’s a manual adjustment in iPhoto).


In this amount of time using Lightroom, I only have one complaint: when you play a slideshow directly from the software, it starts reverting to earlier slides after you’ve displayed around 50. At least, that was my experience when I used to help a friend present photos from his trips to various Seventh-day Adventist churches. I’m hoping it’s some sort of trialware restriction, because that would be a pretty major bug otherwise.

Slideshows export as PDFs, with one slide per page. There are five default templates, and the software lets you create your own. You can change slide backdrops, text overlays, and layouts in a number of interesting ways. If I get some time before the trial runs out, I’ll make some sample outputs available in a subsequent post.

In retrospect, I should have used the Preview app in slideshow mode to present the slides, since there weren’t transitions, music, or anything else requiring Lightroom to run it.


If Lightroom is on when you connect a camera or memory card to your Mac, a dialog pops up that lets you decide how to import the pictures. It didn’t interfere with iPhoto when I used it.

Lightroom: Day 1

If you love iPhoto, I warn you–stop reading now. Once you read even a little about what Adobe Lightroom can do, you’ll want to try it. Once you’ve tried Lightroom, you simply won’t be content with going back to iPhoto. I’m only 1 day into the 30-day trial of Lightroom, and I’m done with iPhoto. I haven’t even tried Apple’s Aperture yet. If you’re still reading, it’s already too late. I can’t be held responsible for the money you will almost certainly spend.

Metadata Browser

After importing around 200 photos into Lightroom, this was the first feature I played with. It lets you filter which pictures you see by any one of a number of variables, including lens (if you use more than one), aperture, shutter speed, and ISO speed rating. So two clicks let me see how all the photos I shot at a shutter speed of 1/500th second looked. Two more clicks, and I could see how everything I shot with my 50 f/1.4 looked, or how what I took with my zoom lens looked.

Quick Develop

This feature enables you to apply changes to crop ratio, white balance, and tone (including exposure) across multiple photos. So when I needed to change the white balance in a group of my shots, it was as simple as selecting the group, changing white balance to “Flash” from “As Shot”. The same is true of underexposed shots. My friend Sandro pointed out four photos that were underexposed. I simply selected the four he pointed out, and pressed the button for +1/3 of a stop until they were bright enough for my taste. In retrospect, a single click of the +1 stop button would have been even faster.


This is the step in Lightroom’s workflow where you make more detailed changes to individual photos. Each change you make to a photo shows up in a “History” widget to the left, so you can rollback individual changes with ease. I only cropped photos here, but I could have changed any number of things about them.


While this feature isn’t so much about the photos themselves as it is about how you can share them, this part of the workflow is where Lightroom really shines. Generating this page took a few clicks, and a couple of slider moves.  On top of that, I didn’t even have to use another application to upload it to the web–I did it directly from Lightroom.  There are quite a few different page templates to choose from.

The features I’ve described so far barely scratch the surface of what Lightroom can do.  One of the things that impresses me about Lightroom is not just the amount of things it does that iPhoto can’t (or does badly, *cough* iWeb *cough*) but how much less time it takes to handle hundreds of photos by comparison.