Tim Grey’s Lightroom Book Can Simplify Your Workflow

I am impressed by Tim Grey’s book Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroomâ„¢ Workflow—it’s thorough, well-written, and walks you through the ideal Lightroom workflow, from start to finish.

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Photoshop Lightroom is not all about Camera Raw—it’s about workflow. Camera Raw has been the buzzword in the digital photography industry for a few years now, but Lightroom is a response to the question of handling these images from import to printing and presentation. It can be a complex process but Lightroom makes it easy—and Tim Grey’s new Sybex book Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Workflow walks you through the full workflow options available with the application.

I had never read a Tim Grey book before but it appears he has written several, including books on Photoshop Elements 5, color management, Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop for nature photographers, among many others. I did get the opportunity to watch Tim present a seminar on Lightroom basics at the recent Photoshop World, and I was very impressed by his speaking skills and knowledge of Lightroom. I wondered to myself why this man was presenting in one of the trade show theaters and not in one of the classrooms like the big shots. When I got my review copy of Lightroom Workflow I learned that Tim is also a good writer: the book is well-written, clear without being dry, and the material is well-organized. I especially liked Tim’s habit of letting the reader know what settings and actions he recommended without demanding they be used. This passage is a good example of his style:


The Default Library settings relate to the database containing all the information about your images. The first dropdown allows you to specify which library file (the database) should be opened when you start Lightroom. For most photographers this isn’t a significant consideration because you aren’t likely to use more than one library. Therefore, I recommend simply selecting the “Load most recent library” option. The second dropdown determines when you would like the library to be automatically backed up on Lightroom. Assuming you already back up all the data on your computer on a regular basis, I recommend the “Once a week, upon starting Lightroom” option. If you have a particularly consistent and reliable back up system already in place, you could even skip this backup, which would save you the additional time required upon startup. However, my feeling is you can never be too careful with your important data, so I recommend taking advantage of this additional backup option. (p. 24)

I get the feeling with this and other passages that Tim is writing to Lightroom newcomers (more on this later). If you are a pro photographer at the top of his game and have tweaked your own workflow to perfection, you will find Lightroom Workflow something of a primer on Lightroom and probably unnecessary to use Lightroom. If you are a relatively inexperienced photographer, or if Lightroom is your first solution for a photography workflow, then Lightroom Workflow will be an excellent book for you.

TEXTBOOK-STYLE

A lot of design books nowadays are designed, with slick candy-colored sidebars, sans serif text and lots of little tips and hints sticking out all over the page. Lightroom Workflow has very little of this—it feels like a textbook. 99% of the photos are Lightroom screenshots, which is the way it should be. There are no sidebars, and less than ten major pullouts that are defined by a light green box below them. There are plenty of pullout notes defined by a green box and eye icon, and these are very helpful—I look for these the most in the books I read because they often reveal tips I haven’t heard elsewhere. Some readers may want a flashier or graphically exciting book, but Lightroom Workflow looks good without being loud and is cleanly designed without being too boring.

There’s negatives to the textbook design as well. It’s very difficult to find keyboard shortcuts because they are buried in the body copy. I like it when books place these in the sidebars or at least include a shortcut list at the end of the book, but Lightroom Workflow keeps these important shortcuts well-hidden. I also wish the book did more with its photographs: there are a lot of buttons and tools in Lightroom, and they are shown many times in screenshots, but good books will circle the icon or show it next to the text that discusses the tool. Lightroom Workflow sometimes puts the icon next to the text that discusses it, but not always—and it often needs to, or else the reader has to refer back to a screenshot on a previous page and remember which one is which.

Altogether, I think Lightroom Workflow is well-designed but fails to capitalize on some basic ways to improve its readability—sidebars, pullouts, and screenshots with visual cues that tie them to the text. The end result is a book that feels very much like a textbook, with long blocks of text and images that need to be waded through. This is the kind of book one reads cover-to-cover, then refers to it only rarely after that—it will be hard to find that one little keyboard shortcut or tidbit of knowledge that you remember reading but can’t quite recall.

O, ANDRÉ COSTANTINI!

Designers are often marketers—they have to be or they can’t land their next client—so we know when we’re being sold to. That’s why it drove me absolutely nuts that every chapter had a note mentioning that the photos shown in the Lightroom screenshots were by photographer André Costantini, and touted his wonderful wonderfulness (yes, I know that’s not a word). These are the kind of notes I was subjected to:

Whenever I’m making a presentation about digital photography I wish my images were as good as those provided by photographer André Costantini (www.sillydancing.com)…. (p. 136)

Photographer André Costantini (www.sillydancing.com) provided all of the beautiful photographic images for this chapter, for which I am very grateful. (p. 42)

The images in this chapter were generously provided by photographer André Costantini (www.sillydancing.com). I can assure you I had a very difficult time finding images from him that needed much adjustment at all. (p. 80)

I can only assume that Costantini’s dad is the president of Wiley Publishing (the publishers of this book), because these notes make him sound like he’s the Czar Of All Photography—I’ve never seen such fawning over photography that’s not even the central subject of the book! Lightroom Workflow lost a bit of credibility after the fifth time Costanini’s greatness was pointed out to me.

CONCLUSION

A very good book for Lightroom beginners and those looking to form a solid workflow. Tim Grey does a good job communicating the features of Lightroom from importing to creating web galleries and everything in between, and his writing style is clear and easy to follow. The textbook layout of Lightroom Workflow makes it hard to find details the second time around, but also enjoys the benefits of not being too flashy or over-designed—which I appreciate very much! For a $39.99 book I would have expected a thicker book or one with a CD included, but this is a dense book with a lot of text in its 200 pages, and if you want to maximize your Lightroom workflow then this is an excellent book for you.