hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Thursday, November 20, 2008

photo software

... and we walk into my comfort zone.  with my techie, nerdy background, you would think that software would come easily to me.  let me assure you that photoshop is a world all its own and nobody i know of could walk into that program and be comfortable on day 1.  there is so much to learn and so many different ways to do the simplest thing.  i haven't even made a dent on the tip of that ginormous iceberg.  i'll forever be studying this thing.  and they'll forever be coming up with new versions.  i've come to believe that post processing is an art and a skill all its own.  and in our industry, it's almost necessary and certainly expected that upon delivery of final product some post processing was done.   

for a photographer who is just starting out, photoshop can be both overwhelming and painful on the budget.  what alternatives do we have?  when i started on this ride 2 years ago i discovered picasa .  it's google's solution to photo management and post processing.  i loved it and it was more than enough to keep me going for over a year.  let me give you the highlights to this software..
  • first off it's FREE
  • for the organization freaks out there like me, this has a folder system that as a pc user you would be very comfortable with
  • all photos are viewed in one application (even RAW and movies!)
  • it has a flag / rating system for photos
  • it has a web integration that allows you to upload your photos and share them on the web with friends and family
  • it's very user friendly
  • it's got a wide array of post processing tools that allows you to make your modifications with few clicks
  • non-destructive editing
  • it has tools to build collages, slideshows and more with just a few clicks
  • while in picasa, there is a right click feature that lets you send/open the photo in photoshop
  • the bad news --- it doesn't work on macs :(
i used picasa for a year and a half, just enough time for me to get my bearings in the world of post processing.  then i started to learn photoshop.  

i took ONE workshop on photoshop earlier this year and they used the CS classroom in a book to "teach" us.  teaching is a generous word.  they read the book to us as we followed along in its instruction.  if you don't have time to take a good workshop or feel that you want to get to know ps before going to one, i highly recommend Adobe Photoshop CS3 Classroom in a Book sans the instructor.  it's got easy to follow step-by-step instructions.

i love photoshop but it can be cumbersome and time consuming.  i reserve it for the photos that i feel really need that extra punch or a signature look.  i simply couldn't do that for every photo i've taken.  i would be a slave to my computer (more than i already am).  so i did the majority of post processing on picasa and then hooked up to ps for a small selection of favorites.  and then i discovered lightroom...  

it was a 2 day workshop with jack davis (author of the "how to wow" books and the best ps instructor i have ever met) that changed my life.  if you ever get the opportunity to take a class with him... don't hesitate.  just do it.  well jack introduced me to lightroom.  i didn't even own it then and yet i was sold.  i couldn't wait to get home and order my copy.

jennifer owens, a photographer and friend of hanssie, recently asked me what all the hoopla is about with lightroom.  and we come to the reason for this post.  having walked my path, i can say that lightroom is the perfect marriage of everything i loved about picasa with some of the kool features of photoshop all rolled into one and more.  actually... it's

(4/5 picasa + 1/2 photoshop)^2 = lightroom 2

now do you believe i love math?  curtis is laughing at me.  god i'm a nerd!  anywayz... lemme outline some of lightroom's kool features...
  • again, organization is a snap -- folder style
  • photos can be rated, categorized, color coded, keyworded -- this allows sorting, grouping, finding and indexing to the nth degree
  • you can put your copyright on your photos with all the details.  this is especially important with the recent changes to copyright laws for photography (look up orphan act)
  • you see all your photos in one application (including RAW files -- you can't see movies though.. bummer)
  • you can do post processing on photos and apply those changes to a batch with one click!  -- this by itself is the bestest best feature of this.  talk about cutting down on time and energy.  i'm all about streamlining and automating my work. 
  • non-destructive editing --- and some "layering" type capability
  • configurable preset editing -- that means you can create your own flavor of change, save it and use it again and again.
  • create slideshows, a variety of print templates, web presentations (i use this feature for all my client galleries)
  • since it is a part of the adobe suite it has a direct integration to photoshop.
there trully is so much more to this software than i can even enumerate.  i'm only halfway thru the lightroom book i purchased  The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers and already i've learned enough to make me cut down how much ps time i spend.  these days, for every 100 images i process, maybe 5-10 of them i do in photoshop and the rest i handle in lightroom.  it trully is worth every penny.  and the pennies invested in this powerful tool is only half of what you would spend on photoshop.  btw, here's something you should know.. if you are a student, take  advantage of the discounts offered on academic superstore.  you can get software for half the price a lot of times.  it's almost worth it to sign up for a class just for the discount you get.

so there you are.  my 2 cents and then some.  jennifer i hope this answers your questions.  

below are some before and after pictures i processed using ONLY lightroom so you can see what i'm talking about.


  1. I used to love picasa, I introduced my sister to it for easy photo editing. I'm taking another photoshop course right now and loving the tips and tricks for speeding up workflow. Great examples :)

  2. HEY I did Picasa too when I first started off and still love it! I should definitely check and see what lightroom is all about!

  3. I know what you mean about LR being a huge timesaver, there really is a LOT you can do right there without any photoshop at all! Great tips! -Mike

  4. I own an older version of Lightroom (1.0?) and I haven't really used it. It just stares at me when I sit in front of my computer slaving away on Photoshop CS2. I think it wants me to play with it, but I just haven't made the effort to do so. I should soon because a photographer that I admire edits in Lightroom first then finish in Photoshop and her photos are awesome, not overly processed -- which is what most people tend to do when using Photoshop. *raising my hand*

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  6. Oops... I put an "a" where an "i" should have been, and being the OCD type that I am, I just had to fix it. (Ahem) What I meant to say was:

    Have I told you lately how full of awesomeness you are? Thank you so much for sharing your indefinite knowledge and wisdom!

  7. ey michelle... who are you my sister? would rather call you lovelove as we all know back then... just to add on to this post...

    as you call it... switching to nerd mode... but would rather call it drinking up the creative tech juice...

    been a user of photoshop since version 5.0... this software is powerful... now using CS3... currently upgraded my hardware too... with a macbook pro and a wacom intuos3 A5 wide tablet... and did some study on enhancing photos...

    just a thought... maybe we could work on a project when we move there some time next year...


  8. hi kapitbahay miko! ok... ixnay on the loveloveay. yeesh! some things are still kept secret from my american friends. hahah! anyway... i would totally love that! when are you coming home?