Review: Essential Development for LR5

Review: Essential Development for LR5

Torben Photography_LR5 Essentials_Book Review (220)Essential Development for LR5”

Author: Sean McCormack
Publisher: Craft & Vision

Just released, Sean McCormack’s latest update discusses most of the new features to Lightroom (Lr) 5.0; quickly bringing photographers up to speed on this latest release.  Having used Lr for a while myself, I appreciated the updates. It has accelerated my adoption of new features.

Lightroom’s come a long way in just a few years. Initially exposed to it in Lr 3, I adopted it full time in Lr 4.  With Lr 5, there are a raft of new features…some incremental, some more significant, making it even more worthwhile.

The book is attractively formatted, easy to view.  The page size ratio is approximately 1.5 | 1. That’s not quite 16:9.  My preference, easier to read on my iPad, would have been 1.3 (4:3).  At 1.5, it doesn’t fully fill the frame of a 16:9 desk monitor and for the iPad, it is a bit wide, causing things to be too small for easy viewing. Given that it’s an ebook, not being (that I know of) delivered in print format, makes me wonder why this ‘not quite right’ size format was chosen.  This is pretty much my only nit with the book and has nothing to do with the content within.


Sean starts with an overview of the Histogram.  Photographers seem to be in one of two camps.  They live for the histogram, or, they despise it. Very little in-between.  As a result I appreciate any objective discussion of the topic, as applied on the back of a camera or within Lr, so I really appreciated his review.  Me, I feel like I’m a bit of a rarity. The histogram’s a valuable tool, particularly letting me know if I’m clipping highlights or darks. But I don’t feel the need to get spend a ton of time debating it’s worth.


As our digital tools continue to evolve, I am always paying attention to how other photographers employ them.  The workflow (steps I take to process my pics) used even 6 months ago has evolved compared to what I do today.  In Essential Develop0ment for LR5, Sean walks the reader through his general approach toward post-processing in Lr5.  Long story, short, he starts at the top (in Develop module), and works his way down.

Making White White

This is perhaps the most valuable chapter.  One of my services is small-product photography. Most of my product shoots are on a white background.  However that background all-too-often is an off-white once the picture’s been taken.

Two key techniques I have used in addressing the issue is to increase the exposure (e.g. +1 Ev) and ensure White Balance is correct.

Sean starts the discussion by addressing white balance in camera, using a grey card to set custom white balance, or tools like the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport.  Quickly moving to Lr, he walks through use of presets, light temperature, and the eyedropper.

These steps certainly get you a lot closer, staying in Lr.  Separate techniques I have learned, include external editing in Photoshop (or PS Elements) to adjust Levels.

Beauty Retouching

For those of you shooting portraits you will find this extensive discussion very worthwhile. For those just getting into portraiture, you may find this section along justifies purchasing the book.

Step-by-step, Sean walks through how he retouches the portrait of a model. Done at just the right level, blending concept with the tools to execute, he takes the reader through:

  • Blemish Removal
  • Advanced Healing (free form)
  • Skin Softening
  • Dodging & Burning (de/emphasizing features)
  • Eye whites

Since my focus is not portraiture, I found the overall discussion very enlightening.  Some of these technique may be applicable in product photography as well.

Torben Photography_LR5_Before After

At about 150 pages, including Appendix, I feel very comfortable recommending this book.  It’s a nice over view of significant new functionality, done in a manner illustrating what can be done with the tools—rather than a sterile technical review.  And, there are two bonus components.  One, is the casual mentions of a number of short-keys available in Lr.  Second, an included collection of Sean’s Lr Develop Presets supporting the processes he discusses.

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