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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a specialized software application for professional and serious amateur digital photographers. In this article I’ll provide an overview of how Lightroom works and introduce you to the recently released new version 4.0.

The Database Advantage

Using Lightroom you can organize, manage, process and output your entire digital photo and video library. Adobe Lightroom uses a database, called the catalog, to manage all your files. This offers several distinct advantages. First and foremost, all the work you do to your photos is entirely non-destructive. Lightroom maintains a complete history of all the changes you’ve made to an image, and you can go back to any point at any time. Second, using the database allows you to easily sort large numbers of images and find anything fast. This can be done using textual metadata such as keywords and EXIF camera metadata.

Task-oriented workflow

Lightroom 4, in particular, was designed to allow photographers to do all their work entirely from within a single application. The Lightroom program is divided into separate modules in which you perform different types of tasks.

Library: this is where you organize and manage all your files. You can also do quick adjustments to photos and edit videos in Library. Using catalog features such as Collections and Virtual Copies, you can organize your photos any way you like without needing to move files on disk or make duplicate copies for different purposes.

Develop: this module is the core of Lightroom’s processing powerhouse, where you can optimize and enhance every photo to perfection. The underlying image processing in Lightroom’s develop module is identical to that found in Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw plug-in, however, the interface and workflow is more sophisticated and integrated than that of ACR. Develop offers both global and local adjustment controls.

Map: new in Lightroom 4, you can plot the locations where your photos were taken on a map. If your photos already have GPS data (as most smartphone photos do) they will automatically show on the map. You can also use the Map module to add location data to photos by dragging and dropping to the map.

Book: also new in Lightroom 4, you can create beautiful, sophisticated book layouts entirely from within Lightroom and upload them directly to Blurb for printing. You can also export PDFs of your book layouts if you want to send them to a different print service provider or use them for other purposes such as presenting eBooks on an iPad or other tablet.

Slideshow: you can create slideshows complete with audio soundtracks in Lightroom. When you’re finished designing the slideshow you can play it from within Lightroom or export it as a set of JPEG files, a PDF file or a video file.

Print: in the Print module you can lay out any kind of print job, from a single fine art print to custom picture packages using many images of different sizes. Printing is one of Lightroom’s greatest strengths, and once you get used to the print workflow you may no longer want to print photos using any other software.

Web: you can build and deploy great looking Web galleries in Lightroom using either straight HTML/CSS or Flash. In addition, there are many add-on plug-in Web galleries you can install to add greatly enhanced Web site creation capabilities.

Coalson Lightroom Screen

New in Lightroom 4

If you’ve used earlier versions of Lightroom you’ll be interested to know the key new features introduced in version 4.0:

-Major changes to minimum system requirements
-Process Version 2012 and related controls
-Play, edit and develop videos
-Books module
-Map module
-Improvements to local adjustments
-Soft Proofing and related updates in the Print module
-New methods for saving your work in output modules
-Email photos from Lightroom
-Updates to Publish Services
-Raw format support for new cameras
-Improved Lens Corrections and new lens profiles
-Feature support for the new DNG 1.4 specification
-More consistency throughout the user interface

… and much more!

Lower Pricing

Even with all the amazing advances in capabilities and performance, Adobe has lowered the retail pricing for the new version. You can now purchase a brand new license for Lightroom 4 for just $149 — that’s $50 less than earlier versions! You can upgrade from any earlier version to Lightroom 4 for just $79, and if you’re a student, teacher or government user the prices may be even lower. For more on purchasing Lightroom visit


I’ve used Lightroom since the early beta versions before version 1.0. It has become an integral part of my photography workflow and my business. Although no software program is ideally suited for absolutely everyone, I think that if you try Lightroom — and take the time to really learn how to use it — you’ll like it as much as I do!

I have a new book available on Lightroom 4 at