Hey y’all. I think a few of us have been drinking from the same well since I’ve seen a few great photography posts this week while I’ve been working on a few of my own (Sew Well talks cameras here, The Cashmerette shares some great photography tips here).
Today I thought I’d talk about something I haven’t seen covered too often, and that is the organization and editing of photos. I’ve tried a few systems over the years; organizing by album on PC, iphoto on mac, a few different freeware photo organization tools. And then I watched my boyfriend using Lightroom and it was like lightning striking.
Lightroom is an Adobe product which is the de facto tool most photographers use. Why? It is incredibly intelligent about how photos are organized, and there are countless ways you can categorize things. There a million ways to view, flag and delete photos as well, which makes it much better than anything else I’ve tried for editing 150 shots down to the 5 or 6 I’ll show on the blog, not to mention managing 10 years of digital photos.
My favourite element of Lightroom is the built-in editing suite. If you don’t need to do any touchups or real Photoshop manipulation, it’s a snap to colour correct, add contrast, convert to black and white etc. etc. And all these changes can be saved into “presets”, so you can apply the exact same changes to a gallery of photos. It took my photo editing time down to under 30 minutes, compared to the hours I used to spend. There are tons of free and inexpensive presets available around the web, so if you’re nervous about playing around with settings, chances are someone’s already done it for you.
Here is a photo from my Coco post with 4 custom presets applied to it so I can compare:
The other great thing about Lightroom is that none of these changes are permanently applied to your photos. It always keeps the original image and merely logs the changes you’ve made. Finally, it makes it super easy to export your images in whatever format and size you want without modifying the original image.
I know there are a few free Photoshop-esque services out there like Pic Monkey, but I will always be a dyed in the wool Photoshop user. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, especially if you want to make great graphics for your blog. It’s very easy to import your Lightroom edited photos into Photoshop to continue editing them; this is generally what I do when I want to add text to photos, or when I need to make graphics for my online store. It has a lot more options for manipulating photos; with a few google tutorials you can easily remove pimples, blur backgrounds and overlay photos in interesting ways. The Photoshop equivalent of Lightroom presets are called Actions, and again, there are tons out there if you want to play around with your photos. I generally leave all my photo editing to Lightroom, but the two programs when used in conjunction are formidable.
FORMATTING PHOTOS FOR THE WEB
To each their own, but my favorite blogs generally have big photos that match the width of the written content. Visually, it’s just easier to look at. Take a look at your blog layout and make a mental note of your content width. This is generally a number between 500 and 800 pixels. That is the width you want to save your photos at.
There are a lot of factors to keep in mind when saving photos, but once you have a rhythm it’s pretty simple. First of all, consider your image quality. Most digital photos are quite large; you don’t need to save your blog photos at the same size because monitors won’t recognize the change. In Lightroom I save everything at 750 pixels wide (the width of my blog content) with a quality of 80 out of a 100 which creates a good quality image that doesn’t take up a ton of space on my hard drive or server (this is for web only; if you want to print your image, you won’t want to change the pixel width, fyi).
Images should be saved as a jpeg in sRGB colourspace. Not to get too confusing or technical, but there are a number of different colour formats; sRGB is the one that will make all of your photos look the same across browsers and systems. If you’ve ever noticed your photos look different on your blog than they do on your screen when you are editing, you may not be saving them in an sRGB format. I think Photoshop uses Adobe RGB as its default which shows up differently than sRGB, so please use the “Export to Web” function under the file command to ensure it’s exporting correctly.
Whatever you use to edit or export images, try to always keep a master file of your image in its original size. Sites like Kollobora ask for images with a minimum pixel size of 2000 pixels if you want to be featured on their homepage banner. Keeping the original image and then exporting to the sizes you need ensures you’re not accidentally downsizing your image permanently. Trust me, I’ve learned from experience.
Finally, don’t be confused by dpi. This setting is really only important for printing. Just make sure your jpeg quality is high and it will look great on your blog.
The only problem with using Photoshop and Lightroom is that they don’t come for free. Adobe has moved away from standalone licenses towards a cloud system. It’s $10 a month for both programs (with discounts for students). You can check out their plans on their site here. I managed to get both programs before they started the cloud system, and after looking around I found out you can buy standalone licenses on Amazon. Lightroom 5 runs at just under $140 here, but a standalone license for Photoshop is almost a thousand dollars (which is why signing up for the Cloud version is probably a good idea). You can also get a free 1 month trial to see if it’s worth an investment. If you do decide to use Lightroom, you might want to check out this Craftsy class that explains how to make the most of it.
Hopefully the exporting/formatting info is helpful regardless of what editing software you are using. Jennifer at Workroom Social suggested I package some of my custom Closet Case Files photoshop/Lightroom actions. If anyone is interested in that let me know, and I will work on putting that together!
I’ll be back next week with another photography post, this time about the gear I’m using. In the meantime, are there any photography editing tips you’ve picked up along the way? I love hearing about how other people work.