One the of most important lessons that I have learned took only a few seconds and after watching a few YouTube tutorials I was convinced. The greatest difference that anything has ever made to my photography is to shoot in RAW and to post-process my photographs in Adobe Lightroom afterwards.
It is of course possible to to post-process you JPEGs (and I often do with my old photos), but when the camera converted those photos to JPEGs (milliseconds after you pressed the shutter), in an attempt to keep the files as small as possible, almost all of the data was discarded and lost forever.
With RAW shooting, all of the information that was captured by the sensor when the photo was taken is all retained. It is available to be retrieved as needed during post-processing
Initially I put my camera into RAW & JPEG mode, so that I would still have the JPEGs which the camera produced based on its knowledge and understanding of how the shot should look. I soon found that the JPEGs were (by comparison) so terrible and that I was not using them or even looking at them, but simply deleting them. After a few days of that, I switched the camera to shoot only in RAW, and avoid the step of manually deleting the JPEGs myself.
Since that day, the camera setting did not change again, and I will never go back.
Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan
I was aware of and had been using Adobe Photoshop on and off at work for many years, but I had always used on of the free photo-editing software that are available for the odd tweak, or to make a logo for my website.
It was therefore no surprise that my first port-of-call when I was looking into ‘switching to RAW’ was the Adobe website.
Please note: I am sure there is other excellent software available, including the free software that probably came with my camera for which the DVD is still vacuum sealed along with the paper manual that came with it, but I simply never tried it and cannot offer guidance on whether it is any good. (For anyone wondering why I never opened the manual, I downloaded a PDF of the manual so that I could take it with me on my iPhone while I was learning about the new camera!).
Back to the Adobe web site, I looked for a free trial of Photoshop, and came across the Adobe Creative Cloud, and the Photography Plan, which is a monthly subscription model giving you Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.
Up to that point I hadn’t heard of Lightroom and wasn’t aware of the monthly subscription model that Adobe had introduced.
That very moment I signed up for the one-month trial, downloaded and installed both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and of course by the end of the month was more than happy for the first monthly payment to be taken (less than $10 per month). For those who do not like the idea of Software subscriptions, you can also buy the products with one-time payments, but of course when the new version is released you will have to buy that too. The Creative Cloud plan includes all updates for as long as you continue to pay.
Learning to Use Lightroom
For all newcomers to Lightroom, I strongly suggest to use the wealth of video tutorials available from both Adobe and from Joe Public on YouTube.
While it is not hard to use, the lack of a File / Open option in Lightroom was enough to set me Googling.
In addition, there are so many sliders that all let you adjust so many different things in your RAW files that having at least some idea what each of them is for and the order in which to slide them, while not essential is really quite helpful.
While the video tutorials from Adobe are really good, I stumbled across Anthony Morganti’s Training Video series for Adobe Lightroom 5, which consists of 58 videos (totaling about 16 hours viewing) which covers every single aspect of the tool, explaining each of the features in a clean and easy to understand way, by walking the viewer through Anthony’s own workflows and thought process.
As soon as Lightroom 6 was released (and available to download by all Creative Cloud subscribers), Anthony began a whole new series for the new version and as of mid-January 2016 already has it first 23 episodes.
To see the older Lightroom 5 Training Videos series, click here