The constant software update dilemma

Back in the day we used to occasionally try out new chemicals and different printing papers. We used to experiment with new film stock when it hit the market and, on the whole, it was a welcome distraction from the day-to-day work. In the digital era we have to get new cameras a bit more often and we need to keep our IT current but the biggest battle and the largest dilemma is software. Because I teach a bit and because I am a complete anorak** I always have a look at new software packages as they become available.

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Keeping up to date is not cheap. Upgrades are often necessary – especially when none of the software companies make their RAW converters backwards compatible when new cameras and new lenses hit the market. The move by Adobe towards the monthly or annual subscription model is very interesting and brings into very sharp focus the real cost of having the latest software. I have written before about making the business case for buying new gear and the same formula should apply to upgrading software. Every time I talk or write about these kinds of financial decisions, the same piece of music pops into my head… Bruce Springsteen’s song “Cautious Man” where there is a line that says:

“When something caught his eye he’d measure his need
And then very carefully he’d proceed”

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This week, to misquote the wonderful Fast Show, “I are mostly been playing with Lightroom”. To be more precise I have been looking at the new Lightroom 5 beta that Adobe have made available. This comes against a background of having experimented with pretty much every version of Lightroom since it hit the shops back in 2007 and found that I wasn’t entirely sold on the application despite seeing why others love it so much. And that is a huge part of the software conundrum – there are lots of options that achieve pretty much the same end result but get there via very different routes. If, like me, you shoot RAW pictures you need to have a way of editing, captioning, renaming, converting, saving, delivering and archiving your work. This can be achieved using a single application or you can use three , four or five different ones – it really doesn’t matter as long as your workflow is repeatable, flexible, efficient and accurate.

I will write a lot more about Lightroom 5 when I have really used it properly but I have to say that it seems a lot quicker than the previous version and the interface for Adobe RAW Converter is even closer to to the version that I use in Photoshop CS6 than ever – making using Lightroom a lot easier for me. I have also realised that Adobe’s efforts to create a programme for photographers to edit their work in are bearing fruit. The time has definitely arrived when I could easily do without Photoshop altogether and run pretty much everything from Lightroom. Of course that doesn’t mean that I want to… yet.

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