Book Review: The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book

Every quarter I teach a one-day workshop on optimizing images using ::amazon(“B0018VH8S2”, “Lightroom”):: at the local art league, and in doing so I’m often asked for a good book recommendation on Lighroom, and my usual recommendation is Martin Evening’s book ::amazon(“0321555619″,”The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers”)::. In short, Evening’s book provides a well-written, comprehensive look at using Lightroom, and mostly lives up to its name well.

Evening’s book begins with a chapter introducing Lightroom, and it’d be easy for a reader to skip past that chapter—but it’d be a mistake. There are a number of underlying concepts a photographer needs to know to use Lightroom, from UI concepts (the five modules and flyout panels) to the underlying architecture (database-oriented, rather than file system oriented) to make sense of Lightroom, and Evening does a great job at communicating them. The second half of this chapter then walks through an example of using Lightroom from import to print, and for someone first learning Lightroom, just this first chapter could get someone “up and running” on Lightroom quickly.

While the basic outline of the rest of the book is somewhat predictable (as it should be!), the contents of later chapters are both broad in coverage and deep in explanation. Evening explains issues both in broad general terms and through the use of concrete, well-motivated examples with enough images and screenshots to make his points clearly and effectively. Evening doesn’t shy away from the Lightroom’s niches, I was pleased to see coverage of subjects like tethered shooting and synchronized spotting. Extensive coverage of topics such as black-and-white conversion and sharpening evidence Evening’s ability to explain both the “how” and the “why”, the big picture as well as details of using Lightroom as part of a photographic process rather than as an abstract tool.

One of the very few places I’d criticize Evening’s book is in its failing to acknowledge the performance (and, for that matter, stability) problems a surprising number of Lightroom users experience. This gap is not a general gap in his willingness to concern himself with performance in general—Appendix B contains a good section on prioritizing which things to optimize for in building a good system to run Lightroom, a section which fails only in buying into some minimum system specifications that will leave many users with multi-second stutters in user interface, which can lead to confusion when learning the local adjustment tools in particular. It’s not that Evening doesn’t care about performance, his section on tethered shooting explains that he uses a Windows rather than Mac system for tethered shooting because the Canon software works “about 4-5 times faster in Windows.” While I’m a fan of Lightroom, coping with performance challenges are part of using the product today, and I think the book would serve users better if it addressed these issues more deeply, perhaps with a dedicated chapter on performance tips and workarounds.

That minor criticism aside, Evening’s book is without a doubt the “go to” first book for Lightroom users. Highly recommended.

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