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Lightroom "Pro" Q&A with Sean McCormack

Hi everyone. Today is the first 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: Sean McCormack from the (photo credit: David Hobby)

Bio/Intro: Hey Matt, thanks for the chance to do this. By education, I’m an electronic engineering graduate, but all through college I mixed sound. From that I started shooting band photography in 2003. That lead me into photography proper eventually. These days I shoot people and landscapes, often together! I love location shooting with artificial light, and am now based off an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra system. My Lightroom involvement began with the first public beta in 2006. Since then it’s been my program of choice for photo management and Raw development.

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

A. Hundreds. I’d actually be afraid to start counting. There’s over a hundred in the grad pack, and that’s only one small part of them. A lot of them are partial presets, so they allow me to preview a change quickly by hovering over them and viewing the Navigator panel. I quite like your Sunset presets actually.

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

A. Easy. Split Toning. I’m a lover of the cross processed look and have 50 or 60 presets based on variations of this look using the Split Toning panel.

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

A. While I do make use of Profiles in Camera Calibration, I rarely ever use the rest of the panel. In fact, if Profiles were moved to Basic (where I think they should be), I wouldn’t touch it at all.

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

A. I always put in generic descriptive keywords at import. I keyword additional tags on final/keeper images. I do think keywording is important, but I don’t think every single image I take deserves that attention. If there was something specific in a photo that I suddenly needed, I can still get close with generic keywords to be able to find it quickly with a visual search (90,000 images in the Catalog). If I was a stock photographer exclusively, then I would probably spend more time on it.

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

A. All the time. My entire workflow in Lightroom is Collection based and I recommend them to anyone who’ll listen. They’re just so versatile. I do keep a structured folder system (just in case), but Collections are king.

Q. Favorite Lightroom Plug-in?

A. I’m not trying to get a free plug, but I really love my own web plugins. My 3 photo websites were built with them. See I’m not even going to name them. After that it would have to be Tim Armes LR2/Mogrify, which is great for branding and watermarks. While LR3 does have a very cool watermarking system, Tim’s plugin still does a better job.

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

A. Well, now that Tom Hogarty has announced there will be Lens Corrections in Lightroom 3, I guess that means my next favourite request is on top: Books. I really want to be able output books from Lightroom. I know Custom Package gets us closer, but I want more layout options and export options. For example Blurb and Lulu can take PDF files to print from. I know we have ‘Print to Jpeg’ in Print, but the quality from it, is not as good as from Export. Mark Sirota, a fellow Lightroom Guru, recommends 600ppi/No sharpening when using Print to Jpeg. From there you import the files and then export at 300ppi to get the best quality output. Can we fix this and add books for LR4 please?

Sean McCormack
Author: Photoshop Lightroom 2 Made Easy



  1. JustinC 17 May, 2010 at 08:59 Reply

    Great interview, and I love that David Hobby ( took the photo. That is fantastic. Love your blog, you have given me such great tips and new ideas.

  2. Glyn Dewis 14 May, 2010 at 17:48 Reply

    Great ‘Interview’ Matt.

    It’s’ always interesting to hear how others make use of Lightroom. I see Sean has many (understatement) presets which is something I’ve not really got into apart from the odd contrast boost, sharpening etc…

    Defintiely with Sean on the future option of being able to produce books as being on the ‘wish list’; maybe a Blurb plug in as there is in Aperture?


  3. Dennis Fahringer 14 May, 2010 at 16:17 Reply

    Re. the profiles section: I’m an eager user of the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport since it first came out. It’s integrated very well in LR. The profiles it makes (very easily from camera to LR) show up only for the specific camera used under Camera Calibration>Profiles. I’ve even started using it with my new Canon S90 compact with its RAW files. (It’s one of the rare small cameras that shoots RAW, one major reason I bought it.)

    It easily allows matching color between cameras (via DNG files), especially between brands and models (that might be used by two shooters at a wedding for instance) as well as identical camera models that can also differ from the factory in their color rendition.

  4. Iza 14 May, 2010 at 13:54 Reply

    Hi Matt, I think those interviews are an excellent idea. I really enjoyed reading about Seans preferences, and it lets me look at my workflow in a different way and learn something, which is always a purpose. Thanks a lot, and looking forward more interviews with more Ligthroom pros!

  5. Steve K 14 May, 2010 at 13:42 Reply

    You were talking about keyboard shortcuts the other day, and the comment her about camera profiles being so handy (and the fact that they’re the first thing I do) makes me want a quick keyboard way to get to them.

    Any ideas?

    Any easy way to set and forget (such as on import)?


    PS Sure wish I was going to Oregon with you….

  6. Tom Compton 14 May, 2010 at 11:31 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Just wanted to send a thank you out to you. I am a member of NAPP and use the videos to further my education.

    I have watched many of the other teachers but when it comes to Photoshop and Lightroom I find I learn more from you and the lessons are easy to follow and retain.

    You are a great teacher. Thanks!


  7. David Schoengold 14 May, 2010 at 10:32 Reply

    I hadn’t seen the comment on the quality of “Print to JPEG” before. Matt — I wonder if you’ve found the same thing that Sean says.

  8. Steve H 14 May, 2010 at 07:55 Reply

    Thanks Matt – nice bite sized interview, short and to the point. You don’t happen to have the reference or link to Mark Sirota’s tip about JPEG export, and as an aside, what’s your opinion on that ‘process’?


  9. David Kelly 14 May, 2010 at 05:12 Reply

    Hi Matt. Really like this new feature in your blog and looking forward to the future interviews. Thanks also to Sean, for further insight into his approach to Lightroom – similarly with Sean, I’m looking forward to see lens corrections in LR3.


  10. Matt Sanderson 14 May, 2010 at 05:07 Reply

    Woo! Another fan of split-toning! Probably my favourite panel in Lr too. I gave away some presets recently too – pertaining to split-toning – Check them out on my website.

    I’d also like to see layouts added to the print module too. Designing wedding albums would be sooo much easier, and being Lightroom, quicker too. Maybe in v4.0… 🙂

    – Matt

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