Lightroom Tips

A Comment About Some Comments

Hey folks. I just wanted to say thank you for the time you’ve taken to participate in some discussions on the blog in the last couple of weeks. There’s been some pretty decent topics brought up and it reminds me of what I really like about this blog which is the level of participation from the community.

Also, a number of people ask whether or not I’m going to weigh in and I usually just stay out of it. However, I did want to at least leave you with my final thoughts on two topics of interest.

1) Is it wrong to use some one’s LR settings?
This one garnered over 100 comments. Well, as you already know, I don’t think its wrong at all. I saw a lot of good points on both sides but in the end, I don’t care what you do with my settings. Unless you took a photo at the same time, in the same place, with the same exposure settings, etc… my settings are useless to you. They just won’t look the same.

One more quick analogy. What if a guitar player got on stage and sets his Volume to 6, his Gain to 8 and Reverb to 7, etc… Then he proceeds to play a song and some person catches a glimpse of those settings. He wrote them down and posted them on the internet. If you took those same settings he used for his sound and played your own song, its silly to even think you committed a crime right? Now if you took his song (or in our case a photo) and played it as your own, then you got big problems. But taking his effects/settings means nothing.

Some folks pointed out that my drug company analogy didn’t sit well because the generic versions don’t come out until a patent runs out on the drug. Big deal. The key point is still the same. Whether you use my settings today or several years from now (when a possible patent runs out) is irrelevant. The key question and issue still remains – is it wrong to use that information? I say no.

2) The Retouching I did in the latest Before/After video.
A few folks commented on the retouching I did in the latest before after video (the window and the brown patch of grass). I’m posting my comments here and not creating a whole “Retouching Ethics” post because I think enough of those have been written about before. I’ll leave you with my thoughts though. The retouching I did was to make the photo look like the way it did when I was there. Honestly, when I was there I was caught up in the blue sky, the nice breeze, great weather and everything else about the scene. I never even noticed the brown spot in the grass. Everything looked green to me. But when that photo is printed as a 20×30 on my wall you’d better bet I’m going to see that brown patch. And I want everyone who looks at that photo to see the beautiful red barn, the beautiful blue sky, and the beautiful green grass all uninterrupted. I don’t want them looking at the dead brown patch of dirt and grass on the ground and the very top portion of the fence that appears to be cut off (I couldn’t compose the photo any different because of what was in front of the barn). I know Photoshop and by golly I’m gonna use it to make MY photo that hangs on MY wall, look better then the photo of the person that chose not to use Photoshop. I’ll know I Photoshopped it and I’m OK with that. I’ve created the photo that I “saw” when I was there. It was my vision. The people that visit my house and see my artwork won’t know what I did. But they will know my stuff looks better then the guy next door that doesn’t use Photoshop (sorry I’m competitive to a fault I think).

Oh… and when they ask if I used Photoshop on the photo you know what I’ll say? Heck yeah I did! I’m not ashamed of it one bit.

Well that hopefully puts those two topics to rest. Thanks again for all of your participation.



  1. Jane 10 June, 2010 at 00:12 Reply

    I feel I allready have been told about this subject
    at work yesterday by a mate, but at that time
    it didn’t caugh my attention.

  2. Marcy 9 June, 2010 at 21:26 Reply

    I think I just have been acknowledged about this topic
    at pub yesterday by a friend, but at that moment
    it didn’t caugh my attention.

  3. Judith 9 June, 2010 at 17:47 Reply

    I feel I just have been acknowledged about this issue
    at job 1 day ago by a mate, but at that time
    it didn’t caugh my attention.

  4. Todd 23 July, 2009 at 13:37 Reply

    Leaving photojournalism aside (no one supports manipulating news images, well except the newspapers and major news networks apparently)

    I find that those who squawk the loudest about the use of lightroom & photoshop to enhance photographs are the ones with least amount of skill in either medium.

    In my opinion It is not so much of a ethical dillema as it is a case of simple jealousy and an unwillingness to embrace new tools or to take the time to learn to use them at a masters level.

    To those who really believe in “Purism” I suggest scratching with a burnt stick (which must have been burned by a lighting strike of course) on a cave wall somewhere. You can then proclaim yourself the only “Pure” photographer on the planet, I am sure all the other cave people will appreciate your work.

  5. Dave Henry 12 July, 2009 at 02:30 Reply

    Hi Matt, I really love your blog site and I know grammar correction is frowned upon in this new age of electronic communication so I hope you’ll read it, consider it and delete it. I’m a seasoned teacher so I thought I’d mention this to you. Your use of “then” is sometimes incorrectly used for “than”.

    Such as: “…better then the guy next door…” instead of …better than the guy next door…

    Please accept this as a friendly, constructive comment. I just want you to be the best communicator at what you already excel at.

    Continued success, Dave

  6. some random guest 10 July, 2009 at 19:05 Reply

    Hey Matt,
    wanted to thank you for all the work you’re doing. I find it very impressive how much time you spend for helping others for free and still are able to make a living out of all this. That’s quite cool.

    Your before/after tutorials are plain awesome and a great help. I seriously don’t know what all this non-/purist-comment-writers are talking about: a tutorial is about giving help on how to do things, not why to do them. That’s a personal matter of taste and everyone should be able to make a decision on his own. If people think tutorials are about copying every step, they maybe should stick with painting-by-numbers.

    Anyway, keep up the great work!

  7. Gale 10 July, 2009 at 13:07 Reply

    You go, guy! Love the “Big deal” regarding the generic analogy. That made me laugh out loud.

    Hey, I use Photoshop like there’s no tomorrow and phooey on anyone who thinks that only judicious uses of it are “ok”. I use it to high heaven. I use filters and overlays and the clone tool, gaussian blur and the Kubota tools. I love it all.

    Cool for those who only use a snippet of smart sharpen and they’re done. Bravo. For me – my photos are more a painterly approach to what I saw and equally as artful, in my eyes. It’s my emotional response to the image that I’m trying to convey and I do that however I see fit.

    Love the blog!

  8. Stephanie Barnard 9 July, 2009 at 22:03 Reply


    Great post. I always find it odd when people ask if I ‘Photoshopped’ a photo…I’m an artist…does a painter use paint thinner? Of course.

    Use as needed to create a masterpiece. 🙂

    I guess this debate will be like the “What came first, the chicken or the egg”…. {grin}

    Thanks for the great blog!

  9. MikieB 9 July, 2009 at 20:52 Reply

    Re the issue of retouching … I don’t see the difference between what Matt has done and someone who uses paints and a canvas to record a scene. The image is what the eye of the person creating the work saw. It’s subjective. In the case of digital photography, it just takes an extra step to accomplish.

    Photojournalism is another issue altogether. In that case, one expects a non-retouched image to avoid subjectivity.

  10. Eric Myers 9 July, 2009 at 16:12 Reply

    RE: Photoshop.

    Not all photography is photojournalism. Not all photojournalism is good photography. Is posing a shot, “dishonest?” How about adding a prop? If I cover the brown grass with a prop (a tractor, or three sheep, whatever) before a snap the shutter, is that more honest than if I cover it in post?

    Photo manipulation through cloning (adding/removing items from the image) is only dishonest if you’re selling the item in the image, or selling the image as journalism. Other than that, it’s art. (come to think of it, how “honest” is any advertising image! From McDonalds to Mercedes, it’s all highly manipulated!)

    Photography is manipulation of reality by definition… from the lenses we choose, the cropping, flashes, reflectors, etc.

  11. Terry Crooker 9 July, 2009 at 13:01 Reply

    The people who are really good at what they do, usually share what they know. No technique is going to make a poor photograph into a great one.

    As to Photoshopping a photo cheating, it’s just silly. Photographers have been cheating since photography’s inception. People have to get over the idea that photos show reality. They don’t. They can if done carefully and enough additional data is also recorded, but usually a photo is an abstract of reality. A photograph is a two dimensional view a of three dimensional world to begin with. Also I like to keep in mind that photographers make photographs, not take photographs.

  12. Ed Macke 8 July, 2009 at 15:48 Reply

    Re: Copying LR Settings
    Seems to me that people who are really good at what they do are always willing to share information and help people, and the people who are scared somebody will discover their “secret” are either insecure about somebody being better or delusional about how secret and important their work really is.

    Ansel Adams literally wrote books on how to do what he did – the back-in-the-day equivalent of publishing his LR settings. That didn’t turn any of us into Ansel Adams!

    Re: Photoshop
    I used to worry about this a lot when I switched from film to digital – it somehow seemed like Photoshop was cheating. My thinking was: Hey, if you’re a good enough photographer, you don’t need Photoshop!

    Well, maybe that’s true. But the simple fact is that I’m not that photographer. 🙂

    At the end of the day, I think it’s about context and intent. If you Photoshop an Iraqi war picture to add some extra smoke you’re probably crossing some ethical boundary. If you clone out a telephone pole in your vacation pictures, that seems OK.

    Photoshop is to images what make-up is to women. Ideally, you don’t need any. But if you do, use it minimally so nobody notices, and only use it to hide minor flaws.

  13. Bryan 8 July, 2009 at 12:50 Reply

    wow, I didn’t even know there were anti-cloning purists! haha 🙂

    Thanks for all the great tips Matt, I’ve added many of them to my work flow. Keep up the good work!

  14. Steve 8 July, 2009 at 10:41 Reply

    To Point 1: Personally I am not a fan of presets in general because I also think that because each photo is different you need different adjustments for each photo to get it to look its best. I do not use presets often and if/when I do I usually tweak the settings after applying them.

    To Point 2: I TOTALLY Agree with you Matt. And the things hanging on your wall are as much photographs as if they were taken with a black and white film camera. (was the grass REALLY that shade of gray???). If the “purists” had their way we would not even have photography because the first cameras ever made were useless as they did not show color!

  15. David 8 July, 2009 at 10:14 Reply

    What!!! There is not a make my photo look like Matt’s button…..oh my, just what will I do….I could perhaps retouch it….but that could possibly make it look better …..does an artist who paints ever makes something better by changing a color or removing some brown grass.Its all an interpretation. How much salt do you put in your soup?What is the right amount for you.

    Thanks Matt!!!!!!! You are still a rock star

  16. Tim O 8 July, 2009 at 09:57 Reply

    Hellls yeah Matt!!!

    You’re an Artist – not a Journalist… You can make the sky green, the grass blue — do whatever you want. You’ve got mad skillz and should keep teaching us 🙂

    Thanks for all you do!

  17. John 8 July, 2009 at 09:47 Reply

    –sarcasm– You mean there’s not a “Make My Photo Look Like Matt’s” button in lightroom? How will I ever survive as a photographer? –sarcasm off–

    Other’s presets to me are a learning tool. At the end of the day, it’s going to be my skills, judgement, and creativity that will create the photograph.

    As far as the cloning, there’s rules here????

  18. Julie McLeod 8 July, 2009 at 08:45 Reply

    Thanks for addressing these and yes, wouldn’t it be nice if these topics could now be put to rest? 😉

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