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 no time.
 

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 in 1.3:

* An issue with the preference to automatically write metadata to XMP has been corrected, so the performance degradation that some users experienced should be reduced. More information here. The major complaint of Lightroom has been the performance degradation that comes with the use of the "Automatically write changes into XMP" functionality. In fact, many users found Lightroom was almost unusable when this preference was on. The good news is that 1.3 includes fixes for the underlying problem, so most users should see significantly better performance than before. Even so, it's probably best that you leave this preference unchecked, that is unless you a have a specific requirement for all of your Lightroom applied adjustments and metadata to be written into the XMP header of your photos.
* Printing with the native resolution option enabled no longer sets the wrong dimension for portrait oriented photos.
* Prior to Camera Raw 4.3 there was the possibility that artifacts in edge transitions could be introduced through the Bayer demosaic and luminance noise reduction algorithms. This has been corrected.
* The Canon sRAW format and the Fuji compressed RAF formats are now supported.

Summary and final thoughts:

Given the large number of options for organizing, editing, printing and publishing photos available in this software, the £150 / $299 price tag seems to be quite fair. A photo shoot for a professional photographer will certainly cover the cost of the investment.
With this product, Adobe has made it possible for serious photographers who work with digital photos to spend less time stuck behind the computer and more time letting their creative juices flow behind the camera. Your images will appreciate the affects available in Lightroom as well. With the ability to remove spots and touch up skin imperfections, photographers will be able to use the programme to show the images to prospective clients with the excellent slide show and get them excited about having their photos taken. And when having selected the images, print them on the spot. The Web Module is available for creating online presentations in the format of slideshows. Available as either Flash or HTML galleries, users can preview their files in Photoshop Lightroom and then upload to their own web server for client viewing. The slideshow view has a lot of customization options, including: setting to music, timing for transitions, and slide viewing. Identity plates and backdrops are also options. The final version of Photoshop Lightroom 1.3 is a significant addition to Adobe's imaging software portfolio. It's a wonderful compliment to Photoshop CS3 and further establishes Adobe as the leader in photographic imaging software. There are other excellent photography workflow software packages available. But it's hard to compete with a program that was designed to compliment and work alongside the industry standard in image editing software, Adobe's Photoshop CS3.
The updates have all improved the programme further, and it has come a long way since the early beta versions, and I am certain you will be impressed
It's already a regular part of my workflow and I have no doubt that I'll be spending a lot more time with Lightroom.


System Requirements:
Windows


* Intel® Pentium® 4 processor
* Microsoft® Windows® XP with Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista™ Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise Edition (certified for 32-bit editions)
* 768MB of RAM (1GB recommended)
* 1GB of available hard-disk space
* 1,024x768 screen resolution
* CD-ROM drive

Macintosh

* PowerPC® G4, G5, or Intel-based Mac
* Mac OS X v.10.4
* 768MB of RAM (1GB recommended)
* 1GB of available hard-disk space
* 1,024x768 screen resolution
* CD-ROM drive
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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.