Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 review
Today’s launch of Photoshop Lightroom 3 brings six major new features that make it a compelling upgrade for photographers.
Photoshop Lightroom is increasingly the package photographers turn to when they want an efficient way to organise and adjust their images.
While free programes such as iPhoto are fine for managing pictures from compact cameras, they don’t offer the features that are needed to take full advantage of digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras.
Most importantly, Lightroom allows full editing of Raw files produced by DSLRs. These files contain the unedited, raw information about a scene that a camera sensor collects, whereas the Jpegs preferred by compact cameras throw a lot of that information away. The extra information allows Lightroom to apply more significant adjustments to the pictures, such as making cold-looking images appear warm, without any loss of quality. It also allows pictures to store the details of more shades of colour, resulting in better prints on inkjet photo printers.
And it’s not just picture quality that attracts photographers to Lightroom: the program’s powerful features for adding keywords and captions to pictures are key to its appeal. These make finding every picture you’ve taken of a, say, dog extremely easy, even years after they were taken .
So what has Adobe done to make Lightroom 3 a worthwhile update? Firstly, pictures will look better if processed in version three. The raw-processing engine behind the software has been overhauled, delivering better quality from a much faster application, and it also now delivers a really effective noise-reduction feature. If you take a lot of indoor pictures, it’s only a matter of time before you have to contend with noise in pictures – speckles caused by the camera failing to cope with the conditions. Sharpening is also more natural than it was.
Second, Lightroom will now remove distortion from photos, for example straightening lines that are converging. These occur when the camera is pointed upwards in order, for example, to fit in the full height of a building.
If Lightroom has a profile for your lens, it can also automatically make corrections for the inevitable limitations in the design of the lens – for example, removing vignetting. If Lightroom doesn’t have a profile, it’s likely that one will appear soon, because Adobe has released a free, downloadable application to help users create profiles and share them over the internet.
Third, Adobe has improved the slideshow module, which now allows users to export slideshows as video files. This is great for uploading your images to Facebook in an interesting format, or for preparing to show your pictures on another machine. Usefully, videos can be exported in a range of resolutions, and background music can be added from whatever is stored on your hard drive. With a program such as iDVD, you can burn them on to DVDs and hand them out to friends and family.
Fourth, a built-in upload-to-Flickr facility has been introduced, which works like a treat. Exporting pictures onto an iPhone is similarly easy.
Fifth, the printing module, which was always a joy to use, has been improved, with the ability to print layouts with different pictures at different sizes on the same page. As I frame a lot of pictures, I rely on the module to speedily print at the exact sizes I need – it’s much simpler to get the results I’m after than using Photoshop CS5 or a desktop publishing package.
Sixth, Lightroom offers tethered capture – which allows 26 Canon and Nikon cameras to be plugged into the computer and for the pictures to go straight into Lightroom, rather than on to the memory card. This is ideal for fashion and commercial photographers taking pictures indoors, giving them the ability to instantly review the images they are taking on a big screen.
These six new features together have made Lightroom 3 a significant improvement over Lightroom 2. At a recommended retail price of £232.68 (for both Mac and PC), amateur photographers may wince, but it does put the best professional tools within their reach and is an application I wouldn't want to be without. For existing users, upgrades are around £75, which makes it a must.