Thursday, April 3, 2008

Let There Be Light

Ah, the ease with which stern resolutions fade happily away. Seriously, I am going to clean off the livingroom table one of these days really soon, but in the meantime, is here! It was waiting for me on the porch when I got home from a Hillary Clinton rally at which Bill himself spoke, not that I actually got to see Bill speak because he ran three-and-a-half hours late and I had to leave two hours before he actually arrived to go get Willow from Montessori, but still, I went. Here's a photo of a crazy old coot to prove it:

So anyway, Adobe Lightroom is the miracle program that's going to replace my eight-year-old bootleg Adobe Photoshop that suddenly refused to function or reinstall correctly a few weeks ago--I suspect that something in my Microsoft auto updates was actually some sort of sniper program for bootlegs, and although Matt calls this unduly paranoid, he certainly can't come up with a better explanation. Lightroom is Photoshop, only geared toward "professional and serious amateur" photographers--I'm a serious amateur, y'all! It's pared away all the gadgets and tools that are useless to you if all you use Photoshop for is photography editing, and at the same time it's made all the tools you do use for photography editing readily available and more intuitive--for instance, the access points for tone and color and level changes and stuff are always on the screen, and you can scroll down through them, and you can always see your histogram and how every change affects it, which I think is really helpful for developing an internal and intuitive model for editing. Ooh, and you can make metachanges to an entire group of photos, like if you know that all the photos you took at a certain shoot need additional exposure, you can make the same change to all of them at once, saving time. And you can overlay a grid that will allow you to crop to your magic thirds, and you can set it to crop at a particular ratio, say an 8x10 photo, and however you move your crop around or expand or narrow it, it will stay at an 8x10 ratio, which is awesomely less maddening than in Photoshop.

Developing a photo, and the creative additional changes you can make, is really important, because even a well-shot photograph, especially when taken spontaneously in an uncontrolled environment, will need a lot of tweaking to make it perfect. Take this photo that I took of the girls after school on Tuesday:

It was a really grumpy day out, and the light was just lousy. This is pretty much how it looked right then, but that's not the moment I wanted to capture. But after half an hour with my freshly installed Lightroom, not even having read the manual, this is the moment I captured:It's still not perfect, of course--I actually have to read the Lightroom manual, but it's much closer to what I wanted it to be.

Photography is really important to me, and having a good digital editing program that I can use on my laptop is as crucial to me as having an excellent (though bell-and-whistle-less) digital SLR. A digital darkroom is less expensive than a physical one, it takes no time away from my family, it's better for my health and for the environment, and frankly, although old-school photographers are going to freak at this, it allows much more scope for creativity. When I was a postpartum mom, my camera gave me something creative and intellectual to do while following Willow around all day to library and park and Wonderlab, Sydney in the sling, instead of sitting around looking and feeling like a bored, mindless slug. One of the many things I want to leave my daughters are thousands of beautiful, loving photos of them, showing them just what awesome kids they were and what precious childhoods they had. And when they ask why I'm never in any of these photos, I'll say, "Momma took these photos of you. Momma was looking at you the whole time."

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