Adobe Lightroom for the Hobbyist

Lightroom for hobbyists

Adobe Lightroom has a lot to offer to the photography amateur. Here, some reasons why Lightroom might be right for you.

If you are an amateur photographer, you take a lot of photos. You might shoot in RAW rather than JPEG, and you are willing to go through the extra work that RAW requires because now and again, or maybe more often than not, RAW gives you the latitude to adjust your photos and bring them from “so-so” to “wow.”

Whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG or both, the software you use to manage, organize and adjust your photos is very important. Well-designed, capable software can make or break your desire to sit down and go through your latest round of photos, deciding which to keep, which to delete and which to crop and “fix” to your liking.

Whether you have no money to spend on photo software or you have a substantial budget, there are many options to choose from. I won’t attempt to outline the many options here, but I do want to bring to your attention a piece of software called Adobe Lightroom.

At almost $300, the price of Lightroom can be prohibitive, but if you are able to get the student/teacher discount, the cost drops to about $80. At this price, and even at full price, Lightroom might be just what you need to take your photography to the next level. Here’s why.

Dealing with Incoming Photos

Lightroom is designed to help you effectively deal with large numbers of incoming photos. Once you have imported a group of photos, Lightroom has tools that enable you to easily keep the good ones and let go of the not-so-good ones. The simplest way to do this is to scroll through your photos and tap “P” to mark a photo as a “Pick” and “X” to mark a photo as rejected. Next, you do a simple filter to show all of your rejected photos, then “select all” and delete.

There are also ways to mark photos with stars (1 through 5 stars) and color codes.

For a casual photographer who takes 20 photos per month, this might not be so important, but if you take 50 or 100 or more photos per day, as many hobbyists do, the ability to quickly and easily sort the wheat from the chaff becomes increasingly important to your productivity and sanity.

Organizing the Photos You Have

Lightroom allows you to tag photos, either as they are “coming in” or one by one, and also to put photos in what are called collections. So you might tag photos with certain people in them (“Grandpa,” “Billy”) or put photos in collections such as “Billy – Best Shots.” Note that collections do not remove photos from the actual folders where they live, but they give you an easy way to view certain groups of photos that you have created.

Fixing Your Photos

Lightroom is designed for professionals, so the options available to fix your photos are top-notch. Removing “image noise,” the speckled look that photos get when you use a high ISO, is as easy as adjusting a slider. There are the usual tools for cropping and adjusting things like saturation and white balance, and also more advanced tools that remove blemishes or lens spots.

Keep in mind that if you want to do things like take a face from one photo and put it into another photo, you’ll need Adobe Photoshop or a similar program, but for many tasks, Lightroom is very capable.

There are too many options and tools to mention here, but suffice it to say that if Lightroom doesn’t have it, you — as a hobbyist photographer – probably don’t need it.

Presets, Presets, Presets

A Lightroom preset refers to a specific effect that you apply to a photo (or multiple photos at once) simply by clicking a button. Lightroom comes with 20+ presets, including several black-and-white effects, “aged photo” effects, and split tone effects.

You can also create your own presets, which is very handy for times when you have a group of photos that were all shot under the same conditions. Once you adjust white balance, noise correction, exposure correction and so on for one photo, you can apply those settings to multiple photos at once.

In addition, there are many sources of free Lightroom presets to help you achieve almost any look you can think of.

After I started using Lightroom and Lightroom presets, both those that come with Lightroom and some that I found for free on the Web, the number of compliments I got on my photos increased dramatically. It is possible that my improving photography skills had something to do with this, but I am also confident that presets had something to do with this.

Quite simply, careful use of presets can easily give your photos a professional look. For this reason alone, I think that Lightroom should be considered by any amateur photographer who wants to take his or her work to the next level.

Ease of Dealing with RAW Images

Many hobbyist photographers choose to shoot in RAW format rather than JPEG, but the downside can be the additional time and hassle required to deal with the RAW images. I personally used a combination of Picasa and UFRaw for GIMP for quite some time before I decided there must be a better way. It turns out that Lightroom is, in fact, a “better way,” because you do all of your edits directly on the RAW file before, one way or another, exporting as JPEG.

I won’t go into all of the details here, but also note that Lightroom uses what’s known as “nondestructive editing” for either RAW files or JPEG files. This means that you don’t have to constantly remind yourself to “Save As, Save As, Save As,” in order to preserve your original image.

Final Thoughts

If you don’t currently have $300 (or $80, in the case of the student/teacher edition) to spend on Adobe Lightroom, you might choose to save up for it. Or, you might look into one of the many other photo software options that are available.

Either way, it helps to be aware of how the tools you use affect your commitment to your photography hobby. If one particular tool seems to be cramping your style, do some research and talk with other shutterbugs to find out what else is out there.

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Photoshop through the Ages: How Photoshop Began and Where it Stands in the Market Today

Photoshop through the ages

Adobe’s popular image editing software, known as Photoshop, or Adobe Photoshop has undergone major transformations since its inception in 1987. Today, it leads the image manipulation and commercial bitmap markets and is also commonly described as the “industry standard for graphics professionals,” according to CNN.com. Written in the C++ language, Photoshop began as a tool for professionals and print work, but has also become widely used among amateurs and online as well.

The Beginning

Photoshop was first developed in early 1987 when the University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Thomas Knoll started a program on his early Macintosh Plus computer that would show grayscale images on his black and white screen.

He called this rudimentary program ‘Display,” and showed it to his brother, Industrial Light and Magic employee John Knoll, who suggested that Thomas develop it into image editing software. In 1988, Thomas and John worked on the program, now called Photoshop, and worked out an arrangement with the scanner company, Barneyscan, to distribute the program along with their scanners, says Derrick Story in his article, ‘From Darkroom to Desktop.’

While Barneyscan was distributing Photoshop under the program name Barneyscan XP, John showed the program to software technicians at Apple computer and the art director at Adobe, and both companies loved the presentation. Adobe purchased the rights to distribute Photoshop in late 1988.

Photoshop Today

The newest Photoshop included new support for the Intel-based Macintosh platforms, which were released in 2006, and improved their Windows support to include Windows Vista. Adobe also changed the logo. The iconic feather was now replaced by an icon of white letters on a blue square, an image that correlates with the periodic table of elements themed icons.

They introduced new features to the Camera RAW plug-in and also altered the channel mixer, brightness and contrast, print dialog, curves, vanishing point and black and white conversions. Brand new components include automatic aligning and blending, as well as smart filters that can be applied without destruction.

Adobe improved cloning tools as well as the healing tools and altered the program so that it launches significantly faster. Following the release of CS3, Adobe introduced Photoshop CS3 Extended that added capabilities for scientific images, three-dimensional imagery, along with professional film and video.

Photoshop may be the standard image editor in the industry, but it has also gained popularity among amateurs, and its high market prices have led to an incredibly high rate of piracy among its products. Along with this problem of illegal program use, other companies began releasing graphics editing programs at a lower price to accommodate these amateur editors.

To combat both the piracy and the competitors, Adobe released Photoshop Elements, a version of Photoshop that has many of the professional features removed, and is aimed directly at the general consumers.

Since version 1.0 in 1990, Photoshop has evolved through 10 versions to become the industry leader in image editing. Adobe has adapted to the changing market by adding and improving more tools, security features and plug-ins to their new programs, and they have even combated competitors and illegal use of their programs by introducing a commercial version of their high-end products.

Photoshop has become so popular that its name has been used as a verb to refer to image editing, as in ‘photoshopping’ an image. Adobe highly discourages this, in an attempt to preserve trademark, but it has become a widely used and accepted verb. Photoshop is an excellent example of a program that has successfully met consumer and professional needs, along with providing success and prestige for Adobe.

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Simple Web Design on the Mac: A Comparison of I-Web and Rapidweaver

web design on mac

Below we’ll look at some of the standard software that is bundled with a new Mac to explore how these programs shape up in terms of their cost, friendliness, and efficiency.

I-Web is Apple’s latest addition to the I-Life suite and probably the least developed of the programs to date. I-Web is a simple and intuitive web page design program aimed at the beginner. As part of the suite, it costs about $79 which is pretty cheap considering the quality of the programs that make up the suite as a whole: I-Photo, I-DVD, I-Movie, Garageband, and of course I-Web. Rapidweaver, was the tool of choice for Mac users before I-Web was added to the suite. It is not unlike I-Web in that it offers similar templates, but includes a few extra features too and costs $39.95.

Limited templates

Certainly, both programs can produce rapidly and simply a range of different basic web sites without previous knowledge. The operative word here though is not simple or rapid, but basic. And this is where the two programs begin to show their differences. I-Web has a number of functions that make it so easy to use, but after a while the templates and options become limited. This is always the trade-off with such programs: simple one-click functionality inevitably means limited customization.

I-Web templates offer a small, but tasteful selection to get going with. Rapidweaver, on the other hand, provides uninspiring templates, but with more customization potential and plenty of 3rd party examples to use or to buy. All Rapidweaver templates can be edited from the standard theme edit within the program or via the HTML code or CSS option outside.

Image editing and size.

I-Web offers a wonderfully simple interface for adding graphics and text, with desktop publishing-like interface and drag and drop settings. But it falls down on not reducing image size (just a crop function) which makes for larger file sizes and therefore slower upload speeds. If site size is important for you then consider this: The same site designed in I-Web at 24mb, in Rapidweaver, totaled under 8mb.

Rapidweaver partially does this by allowing a re-size function but does not allow the range of page layout tools that I-Web offers unless you use a 3rd party add on like Blocks. Both programs work alongside the I-life suite and integrate well.

Perhaps more importantly for bloggers looking to include HTML links in their sites, I-Web does not allow for HTML editing, as it made up of Styled Text. This means the addition of Google Adsense or other adverts necessitates a 3rd party ad-on, specifically I-Web Enhancer.

HTML

Finally, I-Web rewrites the date each time it saves your site so that you will need to upload the whole site every time you make any changes, whether it is just a comma or a complete site redesign. Combined with the need to use the I-Web enhancer, this makes uploading changes a laborious affair, something that hopefully Apple will address with I-LIfe 07.

In the meantime, Rapidweaver uploads quickly allow for HTML coding, template changes, but perhaps lacks the panache of I-Web. In the long term I-Web could be a great new design, but in the short term, if you want to get your site up and edited the way you like it, all on the same day, then maybe Rapidweaver will have to be the choice of the moment.

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Free Software from Web design to Bookkeeping: Shareware and Free Computer Applications for any Purpose

free webdesign software

While Microsoft, Adobe Software and other giants have sold billions in application products, there are excellent free or what is termed, shareware applications, available at virtually no cost. If one has just purchased a computer on a tight budget and wishes to have most every application that others might pay handsomely for, a host of excellent free programs exists with limited drawbacks. While Microsoft has virtually invented the home/business computer in terms of the plethora of software applications, there are many great programs and applications available to anyone for free.

Google Leads the Way in Free Software Applications

Google’s search engine dominance has opened the way for anyone to do almost anything for free using Google’s software tools and applications. The trade media has long chronicled the battle between Google and Microsoft, yet the real winner is ultimately the computer user. Google has released so many excellent tools that are freely available to the end-user such as:

  • Google Desktop – A quick, efficient way of funding documents on the computer
  • Google Earth – A fascinating look at the world or any address in the world
  • Google Video, Images – A listing of both images and video by topic
  • Google Doc – A word processing and spreadsheet application
  • Google Picasa – A way to organize and edit images
  • YouTube – A way to watch, upload and share videos

And this is only a fraction of the number of products available for free.

Other Software Vendors

Google is certainly not the only provider of good free software. Merely running a search on free software or shareware applications will open up a whole new world of web experience. Even if someone wishes to run a small business with free software, there are many options. Many other sites including tucows.com, brothersoft.com, shareware.com, cnet.com, and many others offer hundreds, if not thousands of programs to choose from. Many of the programs may have pop-ups urging a user to buy the more advanced version of a program without the pop-ups, but if a user doesn’t mind a minor intrusion, it’s not usually a problem.

Many software companies are not really companies, at all, but rather an association of users that help to write or modify software that that is kept in the public domain. A good example of that would be Seamonkey or the Seamonkey project. SeaMonkey uses much of the same Mozilla source code which powers Firefox, Thunderbird, Camino, Sunbird, and Miro. These programs are mostly browsers with many added capabilities and are all free and quite reputable.

Free Trials on Software

Many software companies offer free trials by offering the user a 15 or 30-day window to decide whether to buy the program or not. Often these trials have limited capabilities, which may be annoying to a prospective buyer. A good example might be an MP3 recorder/converter program that only allows the user to convert one half or a small percentage of a song. This has the unintended side effect of angering a potential customer who winds up purchasing another program or using a truly free MP3 converter program from another software company.

Another problem to avoid is that some “free” programs come with spyware or in extreme cases, viruses built-in. Therefore, before downloading, a user should check the program out by running searches and determining if the software is from a reputable company. In any event, users must be vigilant and always have a good anti-virus and spyware program in place before downloading any programs from an unknown source.

It is certainly possible to browse the internet and use many different applications that are free. Some have drawbacks in terms of usage, capabilities or pop-ups. At the end of the day, if a user can put up with minor annoyances, the results are quite acceptable.

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Landscape Design Software: Visualize Completed Landscape Before Planting

Landscape design software

Not everyone is able to envision a finished landscape while looking at the bare ground. Landscape design software helps visualize arrangements of plants and fixed features to create the desired end result. Used in combination with good references books about plants adapted to a region, a landscaper will make better decisions and be more pleased with the result than landscaping through a haphazard purchase and planting process.

design software for landscape
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Getting Started With Landscape Design

Professional landscape designers use eight basic principles to guide their designs— unity, simplicity, balance, color, natural transition, line, proportion, and repetition. The landscape design includes more than plants; it also includes fountains and ponds, statues and sculptures, and paths. So the options available for the final look of a home landscape are almost infinite.

Before beginning a home landscape design, visit local botanical gardens, show homes, and upscale neighborhoods to generate landscape ideas. Consider the common characteristics of appealing landscapes and make note of the plants and complementary features used. The Landscape Design Advisor offers information and example pictures of 11 general styles including Tuscan, formal, informal, desert, xeriscape and Asian.

Think about the care and maintenance required by plants being considered. Some landscapes look great because the owners spend hours pruning, mulching, and pampering their plants. Plants that are not adapted to the region in which they are growing may require a lot of extra water and soil amendments to survive. In the long run, an informed decision before planting will lead to a better outcome.

Using Landscape Design Software

There are many software solutions to help design a landscape. These software packages range in price from free to computer-aided-design programs that cost several hundred dollars. The landscape design programs vary significantly in terms of capabilities and ease of use. Here are some software features that many people have found useful in creating a landscape design for their home:

  • The ability to use a photograph of the home rather than just a line drawing of a generic house.
  • A large database of plants
  • 3-dimensional views of the landscape
  • A night view of plants with landscape lighting
  • Editable graphic objects such as paths and water fountains
  • Adding fixed features such as fences, hot tubs, decks, and patios
  • Editable templates to begin the design
  • A training CD or on-line tool tutorials

Planning a home landscape that will be pleasing for years to come and can be accomplished within one’s budget, time available, and gardening capability requires a commitment of time for planning. Landscape design software can help.

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A Guide to GIMP Photo Editing Software: Can This Free GNU Image Manipulation Program Deliver Good Results?

Photo editing software

Commercial photo and image editing programs don’t always come cheap. Although there are many different freeware alternatives that can be used to replicate some of the features of commercial packages, many users find that they just don’t have the same clout as the big names.

GIMP’s photo editing free software package, however, is often favorably compared to Photoshop in terms of its functionality and features.

What is GIMP?

GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) was first conceived in 1995 and has seen various version releases over the years. The software is designed to allow users to edit, compose, manipulate and retouch photos and images.

As part of the GNU free software program, GIMP is free to download and to use. Users can simply use the base program if they wish or they can extend its functionality to suit specific needs via a wide range of free plug-ins.

What Does GIMP do?

The software can do just about anything in photo and image editing terms. This may, of course, depend on the plug-ins that are downloaded and used on projects. Some users will use it for simple tasks such as retouching occasional photos. Others may use it for more complex projects such as animation production and video editing. Some of the more popular features of the program include:

  • Drawing/paint tools
  • Video editing capabilities
  • Animation tools
  • Photo retouching/enhancement
  • Image/photo editing and manipulation
  • File format conversions

The software works via a series of different tabs or windows that can be hidden or shown as the user wishes. This can be especially useful when working on more complex projects. Initially available for Unix users, GIMP can now be downloaded on to various platforms, including:

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Mac OS X
  • Sun OpenSolaris
  • FreeBSD

It can, of course, still be run on GNU/Linux operating systems as well.

The Advantages of Using GIMP

One of the main advantages of using GIMP is that it can be as simple or as complex as its user wishes. The program is easy to learn how to use yet offers the kinds of features and functions that tend to be otherwise reserved for commercial products. Unlike many another freeware photo/image editing packages this solution probably comes closest in terms of matching overall functionality to the commercial market leaders.

Cost is also a primary factor for many users trying out this kind of package for the first time. The fact that GIMP allows a user to access advanced kinds of photo/image creation, editing and manipulation tools completely free of charge may make it worth a look. Given the high costs of commercial software packages in this sector, many will try out GIMP as an alternative first so this may be worth doing.

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