SOFTWARE: Adobe Lightroom Beta

Tutorials and ReviewsTutorials and Reviews ModeratorRegistered Users, Retired Mod Posts: 138
edited July 3, 2011 in Book and Gear Reviews
[imgr][/imgr]Adobe Lightroom Beta

Review by Andy.


Today, Adobe announced Adobe® Lightroom™ beta. Adobe hopes this product "will be the complete, elegant environment for the art and craft of digital photography, from raw capture to creative output."

I've had the opportunity to work with Lightroom for the past several days. Will it? Let's find out.

This is my review, and you can also take a walkthough of Lightroom here.

Adobe hopes this will be what pros and serious amateurs have been waiting for - an application that will allow them to easily sort, cull, rate, keyword, caption, show, print and edit large volumes of photos. What's that you say? You already have that with CS2 and Bridge? For some folks, this application will replace them - for others, it will augment - used as the first step in the post-processing workflow.

Photoshop will still be required for detailed image editing. However, Lightroom is a great tool for many photographers - who quickly want to review a shoot, rate, keyword and make image edits - singly or as a batch - from simple white balance to complex color and exposure adjustments.
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First and foremost, this is beta software - something which Adobe hasn't really done much of, this public beta thing. This product is not yet "feature complete" which means that Adobe will continue to fine tune it, and improve it based on beta user feedback.

INSTALLATION - couldn't be easier. Drag Lightroom to your Applications folder and click on the Lightroom icon to launch. Currently, Lightroom is Mac only, but Adobe intends to have both Mac and PC versions available. The system requirements are not overwhelming: G4 or G5 processor (PowerBooks are OK!), Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or higher, 512Mb RAM (more is better) and 1Gb of disk space. Adobe states that the final shipping version of Lightroom will run on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs, as well as PCs.

STARTUP - fast. You'll get a splash screen, which Adobe hopes you'll read - and you probably will, even though reading is hard - it's called "Five Rules." Lightroom's interface is very intuitive though, so you can blow this off for later, if you wish. You will want to come back to it, to quickly learn the few keystroke commands that you'll find yourself using all the time.

IMPORT - The very first thing I did was simply to drag and drop a folder into the Lightroom area - hoping it would work! Adobe didn't disappoint, this is, in fact, a very easy way to import files into Lightroom. You can, of course, use the familiar menu bar at the top of your screen, or the nicely-positioned "Import" button in the Lightroom app itself. File formats? Plenty. Over 100 native camera RAW formats, plut TIFF, DNG, and JPG.

Lightroom is setup with four main functional areas, to closely mimic what photographers need to do in their workflow:

Library (review the shots); Develop (fine tune exposure, white balance, color, and more); Slideshow (see your proofs, show off to clients); Print (contact sheets or final output)

LIBRARY There are very easy to use tools now, to work on images singly or as a batch. You can rate the photos, either by hitting a number key 1-5 or by clicking on the ratings dots beneath the thumbnail. Once rated, you can then easily adjust your view of the shoot by ratings: only the 4 and 5 star photos, for example. Keywords? Easy - type them in the box. Once they are there, easily apply them to multiple images or the whole library.

Adding captions is a simple task. Ditto for copyright info, if your camera does not already record it.

OK I confess now, I went and hit the help button, to review the "Five Rules" again. And I was glad I did, the keyboard shortcuts are very cool. Easy to toggle between full screen mode and normal mode, "dim the lights" (which is a very cool way to view your images - dims all the clutter around your photo, so you can see your photo clearly - I really dig this feature. The interface and usability of Lightroom is very good. Unlike Photoshop, there are only a few menus, and most everything is slider-driven. Doing (and, un-Doing) is really quite simple.

Still in "Library" mode, you can apply basic exposure, white balance, color adjustments and more. You can stop with Lightroom right now, if you wish, and further edit (singly or the whole lot) in Photoshop CS2, Photoshop Elements, or the external image editor of your choice. You can move from "Library" to "Develop" now, as well - for further image adjustments right in Lightroom.

DEVELOP The basic edits in "Library" mode are fine, for many uses, but I wanted to see if I could get the same result with Lightroom as I could with Photoshop - and the answer is - yes. "Develop" gives you complete control, slider-drive, of white balance, exposure, color, lens aberrations, sharpening, noise reduction. Now I've grown very accustomed to doing all this in Photoshop - but let me tell you - doing it in Lightroom is a breeze, and I can see that this will appeal to many photographers who think that the curves dialog box in Photoshop is too daunting.

The white balance controls are similar to what is in most RAW converters. But the rest of the adjustments - totally slider-driven - are a fresh change from the multi-step multi-dialog box approach in Photoshop. You can set the exposure range, blackpoint, brightess and contrast; on the tone curve, you have sliders for the highlights, midtones and shadows. The histogram and the image onscreen will show you when you've clipped.

You can split-tone adjust, and then have total control over hue, saturation, and luminosity of all the color channels: reds, yellows, greens, cyans, blues, and magentas. You made a mistake? No problem, "reset" to the rescue and you can start anew. Finally, you also have the ability here to sharpen, de-noise, and adjust color fringing and lens vignetting.

Presets - here is a nice feature, that again required no help... I was working up a Black and White conversion, using the Greyscale Mixer in "Develop" mode. I got the channels just the way I wanted, adjusted the exposure, and saved this as a custom preset. Now, it's available to me in the presets browser, on my left pane, in "Library" or "Develop" modes.

Any or all of these adjustments can be applied singly or to the whole batch. Once you are done with "Develop" you can export these photos, to a new location, with the following choices: destination, file format (JPG, DNG, TIFF), Color Space (sRGB, Adobe 1998, ProPhoto RGB). You can even export/downsize at the same time, making the photos, or you can leave them full-size. Exporting to JPG was very fast.

SLIDESHOW Well, now you've got the best shots out of 500 from that wedding, you've applied some basic adjustments to all of them, fine tuned a few, and are now ready to sit with your client and review some shots. Or, in the case of a fashion or product shoot, perhaps it's your editor. Or maybe your wife! Perhaps you want to put the slideshow up on your website. Lightroom's slideshow to the rescue. Full-screen, with your captions/exif or without, and you can set various parameters as to drop shadows, zooming, speed, background, transitions, and more. You can export the slideshow to PDF, HTML, or Flash.

PRINT What you'd expect, and then some. Easily make contact sheets or single prints. Set the margins, paper size, bleed, color management. If you are making printed proofs, easily apply your proof mark (customizable). Assign info to be printed on the contact sheets, too. Easy to understand, use, and it works.

CONCLUSION Adobe has come out with a product that will appeal to many photographers. It's easy to use, intuitive, and fun to work with. It makes quick work of sorting, culling, keywording, and adjusting your photos. Edits are done to RAW files in a non-destructive manner. It can be used by itself, to create final output for web or print. It can be used in conjunction with Photoshop CS2 or Elements, or your image editor of choice. For my work, it suits my style and workflow. Does it have a place in yours?

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