Why Lightroom?

I am often asked: “why use Lightroom instead of what I already use? I use Photoshop, Photopaint, Picasa, or some other app, and I am happy with it”.

Good question. But yes, there’s very good reasons to use Lightroom.
They include:

  • Lightroom does non-destructive editing. Your original image, whether it is a RAW, JPG, or any other type of image.
  • Lightroom is great at handling large numbers of photos. I have 200,000 images in my library.
  • Lightroom is a fantastic asset management tool
  • Lightroom is great at workflow.
  • Lightroom is great at quick editing. Yes, you can do it all in Photoshop. But it’ll take you get times longer.
  • Lightroom is a great production tool. Whether it’s prints, web sites, books, slide shows, or files, you’ll save oodles of times with LR.
  • Lightroom was made by photographers for photographers, and it shows.

I have saved 80% of my production time since switching to Lightroom full time. Yes. 80%.

Worth looking at, and worth a lot more than the $150 that Adobe charges… But please don’t tell Adobe that I told you so. :-)

Come see me for an hour and I’ll show you Lightroom and I promise you that you will be impressed. The best thing since sliced bread, verily.


Low tech solutions can work, too.

Say that it’s cold out, and you want to shoot a family photo. You would perhaps want to go to the forest, or to a park, to shoot something like this:

(If that’s your family, you have issues).

But going back to the subject for a moment: I didn’t shoot this in a park. Instead, it is in my comfortable studio. And I can shoot this during hurricanes, in the rain, in snowstorms, at 3AM: any time I like.

Now there are a number of ways you can do this.

  • Move to a park, and remove a studio wall.
  • Use “green screen”, then add the park in post-work, in Photoshop. (If you do not know how to do this, search for “green screen” using the search field above).
  • Shoot against anything and just laboriously remove the background using Photoshop.

Or there is the “brute force” low-tech way:

Buy a backdrop with the scene on it. Like so:

So… if you have always wanted to emulate my “nudes in nature” shots, like these:

…and you  never had the nerve (or have never been able to find a model with the nerve), then I guess I have just solved a huge problem for you. Donations welcome!  :-)


Not enough? Then add.

To do a photo like this, just now of talented cellist Kendra Grittani, you need a lot of flash light:

So if one speedlight into an umbrella does not give you quite enough light, you can:

- move the umbrella closer to the subject
- turn up the power
- add more flashes

I did the latter. One more flash at full power on a separate light stand, but aimed at the very same umbrella. It worked. One stop more light.


There’s several magic formulas I will teach you if you buy one of my books or come to a course here or at Sheridan College. Or if you, like today’s student, arrange a private training session with me. Well worth it: individual teaching of exactly what YOU need to know.

So here’s an example from today’s training session. Here is today’s student, three times (you may want to click to enlarge):

  • Photo 1: The magic. Flash. Flash into an umbrella on our left, set to “full power minus 1/3 stop”. Camera uses the magic starting point of: 100 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/8, in order to expose for the background.
  • Photo 2: Same exposure settings, but no flash.
  • Photo 3: Also no flash, but now exposed for the person.

In all three photos I got one essential need right: the sun is behind the person and thus becomes the shampooey goodness light (a.k.a. the hairlight).

But then, the differences.

As you will agree, the flash photo shows a real person. The face is not dimensionless and flat. I can get creative: I can position the umbrella to create split lighting, as I did here, or I could move it more towards me, to get first Rembrandt lighting, then loop lighting, and eventually butterfly lighting.

In the non-flash photos, the face is flat. So is the entire person, her clothing, etc: it’s all flash and featureless.

Also, in non-flash photo 1 the sky and the saturation of the background is fine, but the person is a shadow.  In the second non-flash photo, I exposed for the person—but now the background is overexposed, causing it to lose definition and saturation.

What do you need?

  1. Light stand
  2. Bracket to mount the flash and umbrella onto the light stand
  3. Umbrella
  4. Two radio triggers (I use Pocketwizards, the simple, non-TTL type)
  5. A cable to go from Pocketwizard to flash (see www.flashzebra.com)

And that’s it. Except for the camera, of course. So get the gear mentioned above and use the magic formula for outdoors/bright day (100 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/8; now vary just the aperture), and you can do great creative work.


Footnote: A friend in Burlington, Ontario is selling all her camera gear. Look at the list below and if there is anything you like, email me with “GEARSALE” in the subject line, and I will forward your email immediately.

Here’s her list:



Mission: impossible

Sometimes you are faced with a situation that would be easy to solve with a flash.

Like this church, in which I co-shot a wedding on Saturday:

You can see why the situation needs flash. Without it, I am stuck: I expose for the church, and the stained glass pretty much disappears, as you see above.

Or I expose for the glass:

Yeah, the glass is back. But now I lose the church.

OK, flash then. Simple! (If you have done my courses and bought my books.)

But Wait.

It is a Roman Catholic church, and that church is used to an authoritarian top-down command structure, and in this particular case that works against us. Because the photography rules (and there’s a full page of them) say:

“No Flash”.

Now I am stuck. As my colleague George quite rightly says: “we are here for the people” (and you can imagine him shrug). Right he is.

But hang on. There are still tricks we can use.

One: use the built-in HDR mode in your camera, if it has is. Some high-end cameras do, and my 5D Mk3 is one of those.

Select it and press. The camera now takes three pictures (my choice), two stops apart from each other (my choice), and crunches a few seconds, while it combines them into a JPG file:

Now, the bright and dark areas are no longer 12 stops apart.

And that was the problem: the difference between bright and dark was simply too great for a camera to handle in one image.  Select HDR (which you all know stands for “High Dynamic Range”—right?) and hold the shutter down until it has done three shots (or more, if you prefer).

And then you can work the image a little more in Lightroom, if you like. Problem solved. There’s always a solution.


I have moved to Brantford, Ontario. The new studio and classroom welcome you: call 416-875-8770 or5 email michael@mvwphoto.com.