After having used it for a year in public beta, I was delighted to be asked to review this programme after Adobe released Photoshop Lightroom 1.0, a brand-new workflow tool that combines image editing and photo management with the ability to produce slide shows, high-quality prints, and Web portfolios. Like Apple’s Aperture, against which it competes, and which I had looked enviously at being a PC owner. Lightroom is designed as a professional-level product that also appeals to serious amateur photographers. After this enterprising Beta testing period, Lightroom is a feature-rich and powerful tool, even in its version-1.0 state. While I found a few glitches and anomalies, they were mostly minor and did little to detract from Lightroom’s impressive debut. I was happy to see a few of these had been ironed out with a new 1.1 upgrade as soon as I had installed and updated it. And at the time of going to press, a further update to 1.2 was available which included profiles of several of the newly released cameras on the market. I will not be able to cover every aspect of this powerful programme, so will do my best to cover most of the basic functions the average user will find available.
Lightroom is built around 5 modules, each of which is set for a particular point in the photographic workflow process. Two of them, Library and Develop, where you will spend most of your time, while the Slideshow, Print, and Web modules are designed for their logically named output functions. The program consists of a suite of categorization, organizational, and editing functions that help refine your workflow and perform a variety of editing tasks.Moving between the modules is simplicity itself: you click on the module name, or, in some instances, press a shortcut key that automatically takes you to a module. Pressing the D key, for example, always takes you to the Develop module, while the G key takes you to the Library module’s Grid view, again very intuitive and logical! It may take a while to get used to the way the programme works if you are not familiar with Photoshop (I have been a user for quite a few years), but it may be a steeper learning curve for some.
Lightroom uses a
contemporary relational database
structure. This means that while you can
put your files directly within a
Lightroom library, you don't have to.
You can add files to the Library that
are located anywhere, on any drive. And
the software will boot up the moment you
insert a flash card into a reader, when
you may then import the images. Because
Lightroom is a comprehensive environment
for working on digital image files, it
follows the same method as Camera Raw of
non-destructive editing. In other words,
any editing changes made to a file (raw
or otherwise) are simply a set of
instructions tagged to that file. From
file import, though sorting,
cataloguing, labelling, tagging, editing
and printing – everything done to the
file is non-destructive, and is simply a
set of instructions applied to the file
when it’s sent to the screen or printed.
If you want to send a file to Photoshop
for some special manipulation you can,
but it then comes back as a new file.
Any file within Lightroom can be
exported to a new separate file, in
different file formats, and with all
editing applied. JPG, TIF DNG with PSD.
This is further enhanced as it also
allows you to search and find images by
an impressive array of metadata
elements--for example, you can search by
camera lens and/or camera serial number.
As you scroll through images in a
filmstrip at the bottom of the window,
you can use keyboard keys to attach
flags, ratings, or colour codes. You can
zip through a couple hundred images in
Virtual reality is one of Lightroom’s coolest features, in that everything that happens inside Lightroom is virtual, not physical. That means that the photos you "import" into Lightroom's Library don't actually reside there, but are represented by Lightroom-generated preview images and associated metadata. Since the software alters instruction sets instead of actual pixels, all visual edits (colour, tone, cropping, sharpening, etc.) are non-destructive. So your actual images remain untouched, whether you're working with RAW, JPEG, TIFF or PSD files. This also means you can view changes in real time, batch-edit large groups of photos very quickly, maintain permanent edit histories, and create numerous virtual file versions instead of space-consuming physical duplicates. To share with others, you can export copies (never the originals) as single images or batches -- in whatever size, quality and file format they need. Lightroom has few of Photoshop's micro-level tools, for instance, you won't find any selection tools. But it offers the same engine for working with digital camera raw-format files, the same as in Photoshop CS3, and it gives you a huge variety of colour and exposure adjustments. The 'Vibrance' slider is like a 'smart' Saturation slider; it only saturates colours which are not heavily saturated already. The 'Saturation slider' would affect skin tones, this doesn't. I gave up B/W photography on going digital, this has got me interested again. Converting colour to B/W generally loses a lot of cloud detail in a blue sky - not here, this is wonderful, and you have complete control. You can now put jpeg's through the same process as RAW, non-destructive editing, you can't do this in CS2. Copying the settings of one photo to another is simply a matter of 'Copy' and 'Paste'. If you're applying your changes, Lightroom gives you four different A/B choices of before-and-after representations of your image, with the B side showing a live preview of the changes' effects. When you click on the application's tone curve, it shows you a graphical representation of safe or reasonable areas to which you can expand your adjustments. Unfortunately, the feature felt a bit sluggish on the 3.0 GHz based Athlon 64 bit system that I use. Perhaps this may be better on Intel type processors, and faster Ram; however the upgrades do seem to provide far better all round performance, and with the excellent support provided by Adobe, I am confident this will continue to improve.
At the time of
writing, further improvements in a 1.3
update, and as I hinted in my
introduction, there are few if any
obvious visual changes in this new
release. Lightroom 1.3 is primarily
about fixing as many bugs as was
possible within a fairly short
timeframe, whilst also putting in place
infrastructure improvements for the
future. The following is a summary of
the main issues that Adobe has addressed
Member of Renderosity since August 2002. I have had a few nominations for AOM in both photography and mixed medium. Born in Cornwall and have a special interest in Wildlife photography. I have travelled widely while serving in the Royal Air Force as a medic, and later working as mental health professional in the UK health service prior to retiring in 2005.