Thursday, March 14, 2013

review : clean color for lightroom

I want to start this review off by saying that I wasn't given this class as a freebie to review (I paid for it), and Erin didn't ask me to review it. In fact, even though Erin and I live in the same city, I don't know her and have never met her...but I love the way she teaches!

I was first introduced to Erin Cobb's Clean Color editing system when she came out with a version for Photoshop a couple of years ago. At the time I was enrolled as an auditing student in Karen Russell's fabulous Photographer's Workshop class, and Karen brings Erin in for one week during each session to talk about editing. As an aside, if you've ever considered taking the Photographer's Workshop, DO IT! It's simply amazingly worth every penny. After looking at Erin's photos and editing style I was very much interested and purchased the Photoshop version of Clean Color, which is available to all of Karen's current and past students at a discount (along with Erin's other Clean Color offerings).

I loved what I learned in the Photoshop version of Erin's Clean Color workshop, but I'm really a Lightroom girl at heart (as you may have guessed from this and this). I took the principles of what I learned, but never really popped over to Photoshop to actually put them into practice after completing the tutorial. When I received an email a couple of weeks ago that Erin had just come out with the same type of system for Lightroom instead of Photoshop, I only hesitated about 2.7 seconds before hitting the "Buy Now" button. The workshop is priced at $129, which I know is more than most scrapbookers are used to paying for classes, but I'm not joking when I say that this system can be life-changing for your photography and is worth considering.

The workshop is an instant download and includes an almost two hour hour instructional video, four Lightroom Presets (plus she shows you how to make your own!) based on Erin's system, and several practice images that you can use to follow along with the tutorials.

While the title and main focus of the workshop centers around Erin's editing system, the video covers so much more- importing, sorting, editing, exporting- basically an entire workflow from start to finish, straight from a professional photogapher's point of view. Though I'm by no means a professional photographer, I'm fairly comfortable in Lightroom after using it for several years and I still learned about so many parts of the edit module that I'd never ventured into- gradient filters, the tone curve, and new ways of adjusting exposure.

If you're unsure of whether or not Clean Color can work for you, Erin has a free introductory video that gives an overview of her Photoshop workflow that you can download to see what it's all about (you'll find it on her Clean Color page). It won't be specific to Lightroom, of course, but it'll give you a general ideas of what the capabilities of the system are. You can also read Karen Russell's review of Clean Color for Lightroom here, and see an example of how she put the process to use on one of her own photos.

Both Karen and Erin are professional photographers and have gorgeous images straight out of the camera, so I thought I'd show you some examples of what a non-professional's (barely amateur!) shots look like when edited with this process. All of the photos below are from a trip to the Dominican Republic last December, and when on vacation I tend to shoot quickly and not pay a lot of attention to getting the perfect exposure and white balance for every frame- the perfect images to use to test out this system!

The first two sets of photos (straight out of the camera on top, edited with the Clean Color process on the bottom) are great examples of shots that I would have struggled with previously. I would have over-saturated the color and overdone the contrast, but by following Clean Color I was able to get the scenes to look just as they did in real life.

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This photo, taken in the lobby of our hotel, is an example of what Clean Color does for iPhone photos!

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And I blew the exposure on this one a bit, but thanks to Clean Color I was able to pull it out.

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Erin Cobb's Clean Color for Lightroom definitely helped the last pieces of my photo editing process click into place for me. If you're a Lightrooom user whose skills range anywhere from never-installed-it-before to comfortable-with-your-process, I highly recommend giving Clean Color a try!