Lightroom Pro Q&A with Chris Orwig

Hi everyone. Here’s another in a series of mini-interviews with some of the Lightroom pros out there where they’ve answered a short series of questions about how they use and feel about Lightroom:

Today’s Guest: My good buddy Chris Orwig.

Bio/Intro: Chris Orwig is a celebrated photographer, author, and is on the photography faculty at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Chris brings his unique perspective, creativity and passion to all that he does. As a photographer, he subscribes to Marc Riboud’s observation that “Photography is about savoring life at 1/100th of a second.” Find inspiration and see his work at, his blog at or learn about his most recent book at

Q. How many presets do you have in the Develop module?

A. One of the biggest challenges in digital post-production isn’t tools and techniques, it’s style, voice and vision. When it comes to presets, I know a number of really successful photographers who aggressively use presets to refine, develop and communicate their style. In contrast, in my own workflow I tend to be a bit more of a minimalist when it comes to presets. I only have a few custom presets and many times these help me to not only speed up my workflow but to think more creatively about how I might process a photograph. In sum, when it comes to presets, I’ve found that having a more condensed list of presets has been more helpful than having hundreds and hundreds of options. Otherwise I just end up “channel surfing” all the presets searching for the perfect look. That being said, we’re all different. Most importantly, in your own workflow, experiment with presets and seek to determine a system that works best for you.

Q. What’s your favorite panel besides the Basic panel ( ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry the basic panel is too much of a gimmee)?

A. Like most Lightroom users, I spend the majority of my time in the Library and Develop module. And the bulk of that time is spent in the Basic panel. After that comes work with the Black and White and Detail Panels. If I had to pick my favorite panel (besides Basic) I’d have to say it is the panel that isn’t included. I’m glad that Lightroom, even in its most recent release, hasn’t been bogged down with an excess of features. It is simple and strong.

Q. What panel/slider/feature do you use the least?

A. It used to be the Camera Calibration panel in the Basic module and the Slideshow module. Yet, now this is completely changing. With the release of Xrite’s Color Passport and the ability to create a camera profile, I now use the Camera Calibration panel all the time. And I mean that. If you haven’t checked out this new color tool, you’ll want to at least google it to learn more. In regards to Slideshow module, I now use that because Lightroom 3 finally has the ability to export a slideshow to video. It’s incredible to be able to create a different narrative by combining design, image order and audio. Being able to share these shows is a tone of fun.

Q. Do you keyword (All the time/Sometimes/Never)

A. In my own context (commercial photo shoots, personal projects, writing and teaching), I keyword when I need to. In certain situations, I don’t keyword at all. Maybe even more importantly, I’ve found it effective to have my studio manager, digital techs or assistants take on the task of adding keywords. Having someone else add keywords has been working out really well and is definitely something you might want to consider.

Q. Do you use Collections (All the time/Sometimes/Never)

A. I agree with one of my students who is fond of saying, “Collections are cool.” In fact, they are a foundation to everything that I do in Lightroom. I use them for many purposes: organization, speed, creativity, client communication, etc. If you’re not using Collections, perhaps its time to catch this wave. It will give your workflow a boost and buoyancy which will help you to become more effective and creative.

Q. Favorite Lightroom Plug-in?

A. My favorite plug-ins are created by the folks at onOne Software and Nik Software. I use many of both company’s plugins on a regular basis. It’s hard to pick a favorite… so how about if I list a few of my favorites, here goes: Nik Color Effects Pro, onOne Focal Point and onOne Photo Frame. That being said, I like to work with plugins in non-traditional ways. In other words, I rarely use a plug-in as a way to finish a photograph. Rather, I use a filter almost like a cook uses spices or seasoning when creating a meal. The spice or seasoning is used in subtle ways to bring out flavor. I think of using them to add just a bit of style so that it doesn’t over-power the image.

Q. If you could add one feature to Lightroom what would it be?

A. More accurate masking with the Adjustment Brush. That being said, the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is good. Yet, I look forward to the day when we can “paint” in adjustments with even more accuracy and speed.

Chris Orwig


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  1. I have used light room for a few years but I have run up against a problem. my computer hard drive is small and now I find that I can not move the catalog to a external hard drive. Is there away around this or am I out of luck My drive is 260 GB not big by today’s standards. Thank you

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  2. I liked the last one most ๐Ÿ™‚
    If i could add another feature to Light Room then it would definitely be a button to optimize the sharpness and the contrast more perfectly just by one click ๐Ÿ™‚
    these are the two most important part for Wedding photography. it took too much time to optimize the images ๐Ÿ™

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  3. Can Lightroom 3 be used to softproof? Naturally, a program made for serious photographers would, but there seems to be a bug in mine in which it doesn’t. How do I softproof? Should I just wait and fork over another overseas price for Lightroom 4? WooooHoooo!

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  4. Great interview with Chris! I have been following Chris’s work for some time and he is an incredible photographer and Lightroom trainer.


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  5. Matt,

    Can lightroom 3 be use to upload to Photoshelter I donย’t us Flicker. On LR 2 it was very easy to do.

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  6. Finally ๐Ÿ™‚ And how sneaky of Adobe to just release it without any warning ๐Ÿ˜› Although I prefer it this way I guess.

    Just ordered the student version through the website, it’s only ย€69!

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    • Crap, posted to the wrong thread… It’s confusing when the comment link is post above the post ๐Ÿ˜›

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  7. I’m with Chris on the adjustment brush. If you’re an impatient soul it’s not going to work for you. I haven’t had a chance to test drive LR3 yet but by all accounts there’s some interesting changes to Adjustment Brush functionality. I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

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  8. Lightroom 3 is available for download at
    The wait is over.

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  9. Chris is a fantastic artist. I really enjoyed is visual journey he did a few years ago, posting new photos almost daily. Thanks for featuring him!

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  10. Presets question: Are presets from Lightroom 2 completely compatible when using those same presets in LR3 Beta 2?

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  11. “…Xriteย’s Color Passport and the ability to create a camera profile…”

    I’d love to see an example, or tutorial on doing both doing this, and the value of it. Anyone out there have such info ?

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  12. Matt and Chris,
    A question on LR Presets. How do you determine what a preset does if it is one you downloaded from the internet? For example I have several that I have downloaded from this site. Some of the features are neat. But I have had a situation or two where I have said to myself, self, wouldn’t it be great to have a preset with less contrast or change the tone etc. Problem is, I can’t seem to find a way to “view” the instruction list for the preset so I can recreate the preset with the changes I want. Is there a way to read/adjust the instruction set for presets?

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    • Hey Vincent, I am not Matt or Chris, but I think I can answer your question. You can still make all your normal adjustments after you apply a preset.

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      • Thanks Ryan,
        I guess I didn’t word my question well. What I want to know is what instructions are applied to a raw file by a preset. Where can I get that information? So for example, which sliders are moved and by how much for a given preset.

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  13. Chris just rocks! I love his style, his atitude and how he shares his passion with us. It is extremely contagious.

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  14. Just wanted to say that I purchased Chris’ book Visual Poetry several months ago and it is one of my favorite photography books. Lots of great stuff.

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