If you’ve spent most of your time behind the lens shooting JPEG files, the format most casual point-and-shoot cameras capture by default, making the leap to shooting in Camera RAW is a revelation.
The uncompressed RAW image format allows unrivaled control over your finished product. With RAW, you can effectively go back to the scene of the shoot and re-adjust the exposure, change the white balance, alter the contrast and make dozens of other tweaks that JPEG files don’t allow for. That’s why the RAW format is preferred by the vast majority of digital photographers, from the professionals down to the serious hobbyists. Once you go RAW, you don’t go back.
However, Camera RAW images make for a much more complicated workflow. Gone are the days of plugging your camera into a computer and seeing your images printed on paper or posted to Flickr instantly. Given the increased complexity of Camera RAW images, it’s not surprising that whole new crop of images editors have come around to help you deal with the workflow requirements.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 ($300, or $100 upgrade) is one such image editor. It has much of the brawn and brains of Adobe’s flagship Photoshop app, but it’s been built to more specifically fulfill the unique demands of the Camera RAW workflow. The software industry calls these “digital darkroom” applications because they are set up to closely mimic the steps you’d take while making a print in a darkroom from a strip of film.
Lightroom offers just about everything you need (organization, tagging, metadata capture, editing, printing and exporting to the web) and very little that you don’t. But even though it’s stripped down, Lightroom is unlike most other image editors, and it can take a little while to adjust to this new, RAW, way of working.
To ease the transition, we’ll walk you through the basics of the Lightroom interface and explain how the software works in Lesson 1. Further lessons will dive into specific tasks like organizing (Lesson 2), editing (Lesson 3) and exporting (Lesson 4). We also have a page at the end of the tutorial dedicated to additional advice.
So pop the cork on a fresh jug of moonshine and let’s get started.