Thinking of Adobe Lightroom only as RAW file conversion software, doesn’t do it justice. Where Adobe Photoshop used to be a basic requirement for every digital photographer, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is now where I and many others now do most of the work. However, does creating an application to cover everything from converting your RAW files to creating web galleries work? Does Lightroom manage to simplify the process, or is it all just too complicated for its own good?
The Lightroom basic interface - In Library mode. The Quick Develop controls on the right are just a starting point, to allow you to tweak each image enough to select the best frames, before moving on to the Develop section. Library is all about finding, importing, making a selection and adding keywords
Lightroom is a ground breaking professional workflow environment, designed to cover the whole process from capturing and cataloguing your files, to editing then converting from RAW, right up to inkjet printing or making slide shows or even designing and publishing web pages. It will even upload the web pages, geotag your images or help you design photobooks. The software rightly places a great deal of importance on preserving your original RAW image, saving variations as sets of instructions rather than TIFs or JPEGS. Apart from saving disk space this also means that all steps, even cropping, can be undone - next week, next year, anytime !! It’s hard to over stress just how useful that is. How many times have you looked at an image the next day and wanted to make it just a little bit more or less ......whatever. With Lightroom you can go back and easily adjust whatever you like - the original settings are all still there. Even cropping. It’s amazing.
Incidentally Lightroom doesn’t just deal with RAW files - you can import and work on any type of image file you like. The nearest real competitors to Adobe Lightroom are Apple Aperture which has the same aims and many of the same features, and ACDSee which has become far more like Lightroom, using a similar tabbed design. Although Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture will appeal to a large audience, they are both aimed at the professional market, where dealing with large numbers of images quickly and efficiently is vital. Many professionals, including me, now spend far more time in front of a computer, than behind a camera, so anything that speeds up the processing of our images is very welcome.
Although it took until Lightroom 3 to deliver on the promise, in my opinion Lightroom is now a “must have” piece of software for any serious photographer. Although the evolution has continued with Lightroom 4 and 5, the decision to completely re-make the RAW processing engine back with Lightroom 3 was a game changer for Lightroom. Most software updates consist of adding new features or support for new camera, but Adobe decided to start from scratch. The result took Lightroom and Photoshop’s RAW processing from OK to best on the market. The improvements in noise reduction alone were stunning.