Q&A – Plug-in Follow Up

The other week I wrote about my all time favorite plug-in of 2009 and asked for your opinions as well. As I read through the comments I saw a lot of questions pop up so I figured I’d cover them today. Here goes:

Q. Lightroom has plug-ins? Did I miss this because I’m still on version 1?
A. Yup! And I gotta tell you. There is not an upgrade of software that I know of in our field that is a no-brainer more than Lightroom 2 over 1. So if you’re still holding out, get it! :)

Q. Matt, will you do a plug-in workflow video?
A. That’s actually a pretty good idea. Its not going to be revolutionary though. My plug-in workflow is simple. I process the photo in Lightroom, then I jump to Photoshop and do whatever edits I need to there, then I run whatever plug-in on the image, and finally save and jump back to Lightroom. I fit it in when I fit my Photoshop stuff in.

While I have a general order in which I do things (retouching first, and usually sharpening last), I’m not a real stickler for the order in which I do things. If I use, say Nik’s sharpening plug-in, and then decide I want to retouch more or convert to a black and white after, I’m cool with that. I’ve personally never seen it affect my photo negatively. All that said, it would be cool to see it all demonstrated so look for a video on the topic some time soon.

Q. I noticed most plug-ins have Lightroom versions and Photoshop versions. Which one do you use?A. I rarely (almost never) use the Lightroom version of a plug-in. Since all of my photos hit Photoshop at some point I find it easier to just do the plug-in stuff there.

Q. All plug-ins seem to have to work on an exported (JPG, PSD, or TIFF) version of the original raw file. Doesn’t that mean you lose the whole non-destructive-ness aspect of working in Lightroom?
A. Yep! And to the whole non-destructive thing I say Bah Humbug! :)
Actually, I’m not really a non-destructive purist so it doesn’t bother me to work on an exported copy. Check out a guest blog post I wrote a while back if you want to see my take on the whole non-destructive thing.

I hoped these Q&A’s helped clear a few things up. Feel free to drop a comment if you have any more questions and I’ll try to cover them in the upcoming video. Thanks!

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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19 Comments

  1. Matt,
    I missed your guest blog and just read it; it got me thinking about my workflow and that I now realize how many times I go back and change something. Zero! I have LR 2 and the LR 3Beta and use NIK plug-ins for LR. My problem is if you want to use more than one plug-in you have to save and then export again, save and export, etc. I bought the LR set as it was cheaper than the PS version, but it does take longer. I merge layers etc and I know if I want to change something I will have to start over with my saved file. I can deal with that since it hasn’t happened yet.
    Thanks for all your help and Happy Holidays to you and everyone reading this .

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  2. Thank you very much for answering my questions Matt, really appreciate that.

    It would be really cool if you over-did the number of plugins you use in the video just to get that extreme scenario covered (pre, mid and output sharpening, noise reduction, color effects and all of that).

    Since this a LR blog keeping it LR would be very cool but I know that you like to keep things in line with your real life workflow, and that means photoshop of course. It’s just in your LR tutorial videos you mention “how you hardly ever need to go to photoshop anymore” because of this or that new feature in LR… ;)

    One more thing; Do you keep that TIFF copy in your LR database? Both alternatives seem awkward to me. Doubling the database just because you sharpened the image in, say, NIK Sharpener, is not so cost-effective in terms of diskspace and DB handling. But then discarding your edits make little sense as well as you might wanna go back to the image later.

    I guess only I can answer what’s worthwhile doing for me, and I kinda answered my own question above in that if the edit is big enough and/or I feel that the work is not done it would be worth keeping the TIFF. But I’m still really curious to how Matt and the rest of you handle this topic.

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  3. Hi Matt!
    I checked out the web-stie with Nik’s plug-in that you recommended and see that the ‘Brilliance’ plug-in is available in all three of his packages at varying prices: Standard, Select or Complete Edition. You probably got the Complete, but which package would you recommend, given the big price difference? Thanks for all of your great help!
    b

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  4. I have three major reasons for using PS for plug-ins. I start everything in LR because it will come back to LR stacked right next to the original raw file. Now, no. 1, I send it to PS as a Smart Object, which makes the plug-in a Smart Filter. Being able to go back and make subtle changes is neat. No. 2, especially with color plug-ins, I almost always reduce the opacity (which you can’t do if you go straight from LR). Lastly, no. 3, sometimes I use different blend modes. And, oh yes, there is a no. 4, frequently I add a frame from PhotoFrame.

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  5. Barb, I found that when I bought a Wacom Pen& Touch Tablet for something less than $100 it had included (1) full version of PSE 7 and (2) Nik photoshop plug in filter with just a couple of filters but it included the Brilliance/Warmth filter!!!! Since I had been using PSE 5 and was ready for an upgrade I feel as thought eh Wacom Tablet was FREE!

    Peter F.

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  6. “So if you’re still holding out, get [version 2 for plug-in support]!”

    You know, I would… but version 3 is already in beta and will be shipping in the next few months (presumably). I really don’t want to buy version 2 until I know that I’m going to get the upgrade to 3 with it. Failing that, I’ll simply wait until version 3 goes final.

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  7. “I rarely (almost never) use the Lightroom version of a plug-in. Since all of my photos hit Photoshop at some point I find it easier to just do the plug-in stuff there.”

    Hang on a second… first you’re saying that plug-in support is the #1 reason one should upgrade to ver2, and then you’re saying you don’t use Lr plugins.

    Even you should recognize that you’ve completely contradicted yourself!

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  8. Yeah, Matt? When LR2 was released you kept on pushing how the adjustment brush and plug-ins feature was reason enough to upgrade to version 2 and that you to a great extent would no longer need Photoshop.

    I realize you are tight with the Adobe team and want to keep it that way, but some honesty (or at least consistency in the pink clouding) goes a long way! :-D

    One could argue that Photoshop (with Bridge) and the Nik Software suite makes Lightroom redundant.

    Buying Photoshop, Lightroom, NIK and OnOne suites and a few Kelby training vids adds up to quite a big chunk of cash you know (some of us need to pay for this stuff!).

    /AC

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  9. I am curious why all your photos hit photoshop at some point. Is it because of a tool that is missing or lacking in LR (such as sharpening is better in PS vs LR), or is it more of a preference.

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  10. Thank you for this post. Some of the items you talked about are the way I do them. It was nice to hear that others do it the same way.

    As far as having to edit the image in Jpeg after working in Raw. If you don’t like how it turned out just go back to the the Raw and start over, or start from where you finished off. That is presuming that you didn’t throw away the Raw. To me it is no big deal, because the editing process is a bit like being an artist.

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  11. Hey folks: Whew! I kinda feel like I’m defending myself today. Words like “contradicted” and “honesty” thrown around is a bit much for a simple Q&A post. Remember two things:
    1) They were your questions not mine.
    2) If you don’t want to use LR2 or upgrade or would rather use Bridge/ACR/Photoshop/other plug-ins, then go for it. You could argue the point of what you can/can’t do in each program for hours. This is what I do, what I recommend, or my personal feelings and answers to questions I get. So while I fully expect (and ask for) your input, don’t question my integrity. You’re here because you trust my input on things. If you don’t, then go to another Lightroom site.

    OK, so here’s some answers to comments:
    Mike C: Good point. It would be tough to buy LR 2 now knowing that LR3 is out in beta and will eventually come out. If you’re a working pro I’d say you’ll make your money back from it in no time and it would be worth it. If you’re not making money from this stuff, then yeah, its hard to justify.

    Mike C (again): When I said that LR 2 was a no-brainer, I meant more for the adjustment brush. Personally, I think its probably the biggest feature to hit camera raw, well… since camera raw. If you re-read you’ll see I never said plug-in support was the “#1 reason”, I just happened to answer a question that asked about plug-in support.

    Corbin: I still do feel that way. 90-95% of my work is done in LR. Every photo hits Photoshop because every photo needs some retouching. I don’t spend a lot of time there (sometimes just 60 seconds) but at some point they all hit Photoshop.

    Thanks!
    - Matt K

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  12. Matt, I think many people concluded that 90-95% of your images are handled completely in LR only, and 5 – 10 % of your images go to PS. When in fact, each and every image is handled in LR for 90 – 95% of the work, but each image is also handled in PS for 5 – 10% of the work. That’s a big difference, especially for those who believe that LR can manage the workflow from start to finish. I wonder if the Adobe LR Evangelists use LR & PS the same way, and if they are bothered by that. Hopefully they are, because perhaps that would mean that future versions of LR would eliminate the need for PS for 95% of all images, not just 95% of the work on each image.

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  13. You said: “I rarely (almost never) use the Lightroom version of a plug-in. Since all of my photos hit Photoshop at some point I find it easier to just do the plug-in stuff there.” That’s fine if you have spent a fortune on maintaining the upgrades to PS. Some of us are still in the PS dark ages with versions that don’t support the latest PS plugins. However, that ‘dark age’ version of PS still does its job. So these days, if a Lightroom-only version of a Plugin is not available I don’t even consider it. There is only so much disposable income to spread around and software upgrades (and plugins) compete for attention with other photographic equipment – like lenses, lights, etc.

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  14. Hey Matt,
    I’m really thankful for this blog and the other work you do. It’s a great resource and I still learn a lot.

    I see the tendency that you use Photoshop a lot. I know, I know… there’s so many people, so many preferences. But I think a lot of people use Lighroom to avoid Photoshop and I personally like to reduce my post to one app to speed up my workflow.

    I’m hoping to see more focus on LR again. This blog is dedicated to it anyways, right? ;)

    Again, thanks, great work!

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  15. oh… and I got a question too:

    To make it simple, let me put it that way:

    I use a external hard drive where I store my photos. I save the catalog local on my laptop. If I go on the road – can I simply duplicate the external hard drive to a mobile external hard drive an continue to work with the same catalog?

    Thanks for your help!

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  16. I also use Lightroom for basic edits and usually jump to Photoshop for the fun stuff. Lightroom is a great program but it just doesn’t offer the same amount of creative flexibility that you get with Photoshop. I view them as a team that work together rather than looking at it like you can only use one or the other.

    Granted, some photographs are more fun to work on in Photoshop than others. If you get the shot right in your camera you may not need to edit further in Photoshop.

    I think the special effects you get by using layer masks are the main reason for jumping to Photoshop.

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  17. Matt,
    When I do a Lightroom back-up, after I do the back-up can I delete the previous back-ups from my hard drive? They tend to take up alot of space after a while!
    What’s the best work-flow for back-ups? Do I need to archive the old ones on my external hard drive?
    Thanks —-Jeff

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  18. Hi Matt,

    I am needing to upgrade my computer system. I am currently running Windows XP Pro. The machine I am looking at is running Windows 7 -64 bit. Are you aware of any issues with running Adobe Lightroom 2.5, and Photoshop CS4 on this platform?

    I look forward to your reply!

    Thank you
    Joe

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