Lightroom Q&A's

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 ( 🙂 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