There’s an important piece of the travel photography puzzle that often gets overlooked in all the buzz about cameras and destinations. I’m talking about the tools and the software we use to actually manage our photos after the shooting day is over. And travel photographers have special needs in this department. While most photographers have a high-powered computer setup at home with ample storage and processing power, travel photogs need to do at least some of their initial uploading, sorting and editing work on the road where streamlined workflow is vital.
For this reason, my go-to photo management software has long been Adobe Lightroom. Whether I’m traveling for work or pleasure, its Swiss-army-knife-like functionality makes it the best photo software for me. I’ve stuck with LR through many iterations, and I’ve been pleasantly suprised as each new software release comes with an ever expanding set of features. Over the years, Lightroom has gone from essentially a library tool to a full-fledged photo processing center that I can use to upload, explore, edit and publish all of my images.
So I experienced a certain amount of nerdy joy when I got an email a couple months back from a Adobe representative, shortly after the release of the new Lightroom 5, asking if I’d like to test out the updated software and get a personal tour of the new features with Lightroom’s product manager Sharad Mangalick. Um…yes please!
And I have to say, from a travel photographer’s perspective, this latest version of Lightroom definitely has me stoked, thanks to a handful of new features. The following are my top three favorite new features in Adobe Lightroom 5. Hopefully you’ll find them as exciting as I do!
Hands down the coolest thing about LR5 is the new Smart Previews feature. In all the older versions, you needed to have the actual image files with you—either on your computer or an external hard drive—in order to work on the photo. No more! Smart Previews lets you view, edit and publish images without having to bring the actual images on the road with you (which in my case would mean packing many terabytes worth of external hard drives. Any changes you make to a Smart Preview gets automatically applied to the original image when you plug your drive back in after a trip.
As cool as this sounded, I had two questions for Mangalick. First, obviously Smart Previews will be another set of data you need to store on your computer, so how much space will that new collection of Smart Previews take up? “It depends on the original file size, resolution, etc.,” Mangalick explained. “But as an example, 500 original images captured with a 12.1MP Nikon D700 is roughly 6.99 GB. The Smart Previews for those same 500 images are roughly 350 MB—a 96 percent savings in hard disk space.”
My other question was about the resoultion. If a Smart Preview is 4 percent the size of my original RAW file, then clearly it won’t have the same level of detail when I’m zoomed way in for image sharpening. And alas, that is true. Mangalick suggested that fine detail processing is best done when you have access to the original file. But still, the ability to have portable library of all my photos available to post on the blog and social media, is a nice touch and something I find useful.
With each update, Lightroom is becoming an increasingly capable photo editor, incrementally incorporating many features from its big brother Photoshop. The advanced healing brush is one of those features. It’s actually an improvement on the existing spot removal tool, but the whole thing has been kicked up a notch, including a souped up engine below the surface so that it just works better. But in addition to that, they’ve also made it more dynamic. The previous spot removal tool was literally just that, only fixing a circular “spot” on the image. Now you can actually draw over the shape of the area you want to heal. There’s also a cool “visualize spots” checkbox that amps up the contrast so you can easily see subtle spots that need fixing. For travel photographers in the field, where it’s easy to get dust and detritus on your lens without noticing it, these improvements make it even easier to fix those spots back at your computer.
Another issue that can particularly plague travel photographers are images that aren’t quite level. Oftentimes, we’re shooting photos as we move around a destination, hand holding our cameras rather than staying in one spot with a tripod. Doing this can often result in images where the horizon or other horizontal lines are slanted. The new upright tool not only provides an easy, automatic fix for skewed horizons, but it can also help fix lens distortion and perspective. Below you’ll see an example of a photo I took along the waterfront in Jaffa, Israel. Not only was the horizon slanted, but lens distortion made the fishing pole in the foreground look curved. All I did was first click the checboxes for “Enable Profile Corrections” and “Remove Chromatic Aberration” before clicking the “Level” button. In just seconds everything is nice and straight!
More Lightroom Resources
- Download Lightroom 5
- Adobe Lightroom Evangelist, Julieanne Kost has an awesome blog full of videos, tips and tutorials.
- The Lightroom Community on Adobe’s website