Adobe Lightroom Review
Company: Adobe

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Version two of Adobe Lightroom was released in the summer of 2008. Two years later version 3 was released. Most of the new features don’t make impressive headlines, as this was not the objective of this new version. The aim of Lightroom 3 was to become the “best application” for digital photographers.

Photoshop users who first open Lightroom will notice that it consists of one big window. The panels of Photoshop have been replaced by panels that slide in and out of the sides of the screen. There are menus but they are not used so much.

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RAW image processing

One of the main changes, if not the most important feature of the upgrade, is the significant improvement of the RAW rendering engine. What this means is, that the algorithms for raw conversion, noise reduction and sharpening have been reworked and drastically improved. This way, the information from the lens of the camera is transformed to pixels, much more efficiently.

One other main point of this update, was the improvement of the program’s interactive performance. Any user who upgrades from version 2 will notice that switching modules and scrolling thumbnails are smoother. However when it comes to preview rendering, Lightroom 3 will probably, most of the times, be slower than version 2 because of the improvements in image quality mentioned above.

There are 5 main Modules in the interface: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web. There are also the Panels, which are similar to Photoshop panels; these are intended for the editing tasks. At the bottom of the screen is the Filmstrip where you can access your images at all times.

Library Module

The appearance of the user interface should be familiar with anyone who upgrades from version 2, since there have been no changes to the Library module. This is where you organize your image collections, metadata and you set up “publishing” to hard drives, your Flickr account, SmugMug, or Facebook.

Images in the Library can be viewed in the Grid view, Loupe view, Compare view and Survey view.

In Grid view (accessed by the letter G), you can see your photos as thumbnails (likes slides on a light table). At the same time you can apply metadata, keywords, labels, ratings and make development adjustments to groups of images. There is an icon on the thumbnails to indicate if an image is part of a collection. You can view and visit the collection by clicking on this icon.

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If you double click on an image from Grid view, you will find yourself in Loupe view (you can also get to Loupe view by pressing the L key). Loupe view allows you to view single photos and zoom up to 11 times. This is really useful when you wish to check the focus and sharpness of an image.

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Compare and Survey view allow you to compare, rate and flag, groups of images. Compare is really helpful when you have two images of the same subject, and you try to decide which shot is the best.

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Tethered Capture

Version 3 of Lightroom includes Tethered capture support. It is easy to use this new feature. From the File menu, you choose Tethered Capture. From the Tethered Capture Settings panel you set the location where you wish to store the captured photos as well as any metadata, etc. When you click on OK the Tethered Capture control panel opens. The gray button triggers the camera shutter. From the Develop Settings you can choose one of the Camera Raw profiles.

The main disadvantage of this new feature is that only some DSLR cameras from Canon and Nikon are supported. Other camera models may be supported in a future update but this depends on the manufacturers making their SDK available.

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Import photos

Import opens up in the extended mode. The left side of the panel shows the Source devices and volumes. The right side shows the Destination. Previous versions of Lightroom only displayed folders that contained photos, while Lightroom 3 displays all folders available on disk drives. This change has transformed the Import dialog of the program to a File Browser with certain limitations. Between the destination and Source panels there is the Thumbnail view of the photos. Clicking on their checkbox includes and excludes individual photos. Other tasks that can be completed from the Import dialogue box: application of keywords and metadata, develop presets, renaming of photos, and zooming.

Formats imported to Lightroom 3: JPEG, TIFF, PSD, DSLR, DNG, RAW files from supported cameras. Color modes supported: RGB, CMYK, LAB and Grayscale.

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Support for Video Files

A new feature that was requested from users of past versions was the support for DSLR Video Files. Although Lightroom 3 can import video files, the support is rather limited. One can only preview the index frame in Grid view. There is no editing or even review of files in Lightroom.

Publish photos to Flickr, Facebook and SmugMug

If you have a Flickr, Facebook or SmugMug account you can activate it from Lightroom. Then you simply drag your photos on to the Photostream collection and by pressing the Publish button the program will upload your photos.

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The Library Filter Bar

The Filter Bar has four sub-menus: Text, Attribute, Metadata and None. Text, Attribute and Metadata are used to search the contents of your catalogue. None, is used to actually turn the Filter Bar off. The Filter Bar is a powerful tool but many users struggle to understand its logic. One of its most useful aspects is the ability to filter by keyword.

Develop Module

In this module one can make global adjustments, retouching, and enhancements. You can save your Develop Presets and apply them later to other images. There is also a History panel that doesn’t clear when you close your document; so you can work with the History of your image editing.

Lens Corrections

There is a new feature included in Lightroom 3, Lens Corrections. Lens corrections can be automatic and manual. Automatic corrections are based on lens profiles that were created by Adobe, or custom made profiles created by third parties, using the Adobe Lens Profile Creator. Adobe has included a wide range of profiles for cameras from Canon,Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony.
Automatic corrections that are based on lens profiles apply geometric distortion, Lateral Chromatic Aberration and Vignetting.

Automatic corrections based on custom made profiles use Exif metadata for the lens and camera and try to match them to a lens profile.

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When you switch to manual corrections, you get a group of adjustment sliders that let you do exactly what it says; manually correct your photos.

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Noise Reduction – Capture Sharpening

As mentioned at the beginning, the most important feature of this upgrade was the new raw image processing, noise reduction and sharpening algorithms. The end result is photos with a lot more detail, rich textures, crispness and clearness. If one makes some prints, the improved quality will be a lot more obvious.

There are 5 sliders to control Noise reduction: Luminance, Luminance Detail, Luminance Contrast, Color, and Color Detail.

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Luminance controls the volume of luminance noise reduction applied. The default is 0.
When you drag Luminance Detail to the right you will preserve more details. Dragging to the left makes your image smoother. The default value is 50.

Dragging Luminance Contrast to the right will preserve contrast, while dragging in the opposite direction will smooth out contrast and heavy textures. The default value is 0.

The color slider is for achieving color noise reduction. The default is 25 for raw files (which is usually a good amount of color noise reduction), and 0 for other files.

Color detail is for images with a lot of noise. It is recommended to zoom at least to 400% pixel view to understand how this slider works.

Slideshow Module

In the Slideshow Module you can design and create a slideshow. You can add music and watermarks. You can play the finished slideshow directly in Lightroom or you can choose to export it. Lightroom can export slideshows to JPG, PDF and HD video.

Incorporating music to your slideshows no longer requires i-Tunes as in previous versions. You can choose your music track and automatically adjust the slide change time. There are more enhancements to the Slideshow module, such as: color fades, watermark editing, and preparation of previews in advance to avoid slideshow interruptions.

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Print Module

This is the Module where you configure output to your printer. You can print a contact sheet, many copies of the same image on one sheet, adjust the margins of your prints, and even apply last minute sharpening. Lightroom lets you queue up a lot of photos to print, so you can have a break while the program handles your printing.

One important new feature in the Print Module is the Custom Print Package. This makes laying out a page for print extremely easy. You can add cells of different sizes and then place your photos in them, or you can drag your photos on the page and then arrange them as you wish by changing their size and moving them around.

Other smaller enhancements to the Print Module: selection of custom color for background of the print layout, 720 ppi maximum print resolution, match photo aspect ratio in the Cell panel.

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Web Module

From this Module, you can set up and use site templates in order to create online portfolios. You can customize colors, text, and preview your work before uploading.

The only obvious upgrade to this module was the inclusion of the Watermark Editor and a few Flash and HTML web templates.

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Watermark Editor (available from Slideshow, Print and Web Module)

With the new enhanced Watermark Editor you can apply watermarks directly to a photo. You can choose between 9 positions where the watermark can be placed. You can also choose if you want the watermark applied proportionately, to fit or to fill the dimensions of your photos.

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