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Using Lightroom with Intent: Doing More Than "Make It Look Better"

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David duChemin, author of Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, explains that his process for getting the best images with Lightroom doesn't involve tricks of the mouse, but rather the mind.
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With the release of Adobe Lightroom 3, the digital darkroom has taken another step forward. It's not a big step; the jump from Lightroom 1 to Lightroom 2 seemed more progressive, but it's a step all the same. With that step forward come new tools, more power, and more potential to make our images look really great or truly horrific, depending on whose hands hold the tools. What it will not do any better than other versions of Lightroom—or Apple Aperture, for that matter—is bring a digital RAW file into alignment with the vision or intention we first had for it.

Three Images

I think that there are three images that go into a final photograph: the one you envision in your mind, the one you actually record with the camera, and the one you finesse in the digital darkroom. The better you are at the second and third (capture and post-production), the closer you'll come to that image you first envisioned.

But there's a problem, and it's systemic in the photography community. The problem is twofold. First, many photographers have never asked themselves what their intent is for the photograph; second, they ask Lightroom to do something it can't do. They want it to "make the image look better." Without understanding what "better" means, how do we go about pushing sliders around, hoping that Lightroom will magically align the image to what we wanted to say with it?

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