I've reviewed previous versions of Lightroom in this column several times and I constantly refer to it in image processing tutorials and it's the primary piece of software I teach beginning to intermediate students in my workshops.  I've been a fan of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom from the beginning because it was easy to see this product, with the input of photographers (and Adobe actively solicits and listens to photographers), would continue to grow in both usefulness and popularity.  Adobe, famous for it's Photoshop program, supports and matures imaging software like no one else in the business.

 

Introduction

I've reviewed previous versions of Lightroom in this column several times and I constantly refer to it in image processing tutorials and it's the primary piece of software I teach beginning to intermediate students in my workshops.  I've been a fan of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom from the beginning because it was easy to see this product, with the input of photographers (and Adobe actively solicits and listens to photographers), would continue to grow in both usefulness and popularity.  Adobe, famous for it's Photoshop program, supports and matures imaging software like no one else in the business.

Lightroom has several primary functions.  Its perhaps the best image management program available.  Actually it is, but to get the speed of some less capable programs you'll need some computing power and to optimize the management of the indexes and previews.  Recently I've experimented/tested this subject in depth and I'll be bringing you the results below.  Lightroom allows you to file your images in any manner you wish, and then later find and sort your images based on exfil, keywords, and several other ways.  It's the complete image manager.

 

Lightroom has several primary functions.  Its perhaps the best image management program available.  Actually it is, but to get the speed of some less capable programs you'll need some computing power and to optimize the management of the indexes and previews.  Recently I've experimented/tested this subject in depth and I'll be bringing you the results below.  Lightroom allows you to file your images in any manner you wish, and then later find and sort your images based on exfil, keywords, and several other ways.  It's the complete image manager.

 

Lightroom also allows you to 'develop' your RAW and jpeg images in their excellent develop module providing some excellent features such as lens correction, localized editing, and noise reduction not commonly available at the RAW image level.  LR's RAW engine has always been tied to Adobe Photoshops ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) which frankly didn't make the best conversions in the business.  With Version 3.0 this has changed.  LR's RAW engine is now one of the best, if not the best, available.

Also included is an advanced slide show module which I personally find of little use, a full featured print module which is very useful if you make your own prints, and an extremely useful web module that helps you post HTML or Flash galleries on your own domain.  You can even publish an entire website using the web module.  It's open source, so you will find free gallery and website templates all over the net.

 

Also included is an advanced slide show module which I personally find of little use, a full featured print module which is very useful if you make your own prints, and an extremely useful web module that helps you post HTML or Flash galleries on your own domain.  You can even publish an entire website using the web module.  It's open source, so you will find free gallery and website templates all over the net.

 

 

Version 3.0

Instead of a completely new review I'm just going to talk about the features new or greatly improved in Version 3.0.  I think once you see what V3 can do you'll want to upgrade as soon as possible.  Also, keep in mind that if you've recently upgraded to an x64 Operating System such as Windows 7, that the x64 version of Lightroom 3 can use all your available RAM and all the cores and threads of your CPU which will make dramatic improvements in speed.

Version 3 is available from Adobe on a 30 day trial, or you can buy it for USD $299 or upgrade from a previous version for USD $99.  You can choose here.

 

2010 RAW Processing Engine

The most important improvement to Version 3 is the inclusion of the new 2010 RAW engine.  Previous versions used the 2003 version.  2010 is a dramatic improvement and even worth going back over some of your more prized or difficult images and starting from scratch to get the benefits of this new raw processing engine.

 

The most important improvement to Version 3 is the inclusion of the new 2010 RAW engine.  Previous versions used the 2003 version.  2010 is a dramatic improvement and even worth going back over some of your more prized or difficult images and starting from scratch to get the benefits of this new raw processing engine.

 

As you navigate to an older image previously processed with version 2003 you'll notice a small 'i' in the lower right corner.  Click on it and you'll get the following dialog box.

 

Now you'll get a dialog box informing you the image was processed with a earlier technology raw converter and that a new technology raw converter is available.  You're given the choice of applying this choice to all images in the current folder.

 

Now you'll get a dialog box informing you the image was processed with a earlier technology raw converter and that a new technology raw converter is available.  You're given the choice of applying this choice to all images in the current folder. 

 

You can also select to review a before and after difference using both technologies.  I did this the first few times around and was delighted with the improvements.  After I saw a few of them I set my entire catalog to use the new 2010 RAW engine.

 

You can also select to review a before and after difference using both technologies.  I did this the first few times around and was delighted with the improvements.  After I saw a few of them I set my entire catalog to use the new 2010 RAW engine.

 

Watermark Generator

 

As you can see there is now a dedicated watermark generator that allows you to create custom watermark profiles.  This is especially useful and will allow you to possibly eliminate any utility watermark plug-ins you've been using previously.  Once you create these watermark profiles you can select them as desired from the export dialog box to apply as desired.

 

As you can see there is now a dedicated watermark generator that allows you to create custom watermark profiles.  This is especially useful and will allow you to possibly eliminate any utility watermark plug-ins you've been using previously.  Once you create these watermark profiles you can select them as desired from the export dialog box to apply as desired.

 

Import Module

 

This is big.  The last import module left a lot to be desired and now we have all we desired.  At the left of the module you can select where the images will be imported from, previous catalogs, different hard disks, thumb drives, card readers, its all available.

 

This is big.  The last import module left a lot to be desired and now we have all we desired.  At the left of the module you can select where the images will be imported from, previous catalogs, different hard disks, thumb drives, card readers, its all available. 

Once you select your source then along the top middle you've given a choice of MOVING from the present location into the Lightroom catalog, COPYING from the current location into the Lightroom catalog as a location of your choice, and ADDING the images to the Lightroom catalog from their current location.

Along the bottom you'll see two boxes labeled "Check All" and "Unselect All."  The default is Check All, so if you only want to import select images from the source be sure to unselect the images you don't wish to import.

Along the right side is where you choose where to import the images to.  This pane is very much like the source pane on the left, but adds the ability to copy the images to two locations for backup purposes, add keywords which I highly recommend, or apply presets such as black and white toning which I never use.  By adding keywords at this point you'll save yourself much time as your image collection grows.  Simple words to help identify your images such as Thailand, Bangkok, zoo, Daeng, lunch, tiger, temple, etc, will help you find what you're looking for with ease years later when you've already forgotten what you've captured.

The import module is both fast and well organized and a joy to use.  A great upgrade.

 

Noise Reduction

 

Noise reduction previously was something we needed to do in a stand alone noise reduction program such as Neat Image, Noise Ninja, Topaz DeNoise, or using a noise reduction plug-in in Photoshop.  In any case we needed to export a TIFF or JPEG file and remove noise as a separate and very time consuming function.  Now we can do it from inside Lightroom on the RAW image which is technically a much better way of applying noise reduction and of course it will save you loads of time.

 

Noise reduction previously was something we needed to do in a stand alone noise reduction program such as Neat Image, Noise Ninja, Topaz DeNoise, or using a noise reduction plug-in in Photoshop.  In any case we needed to export a TIFF or JPEG file and remove noise as a separate and very time consuming function.  Now we can do it from inside Lightroom on the RAW image which is technically a much better way of applying noise reduction and of course it will save you loads of time.

 

Tethered Shooting

Shooting tethered is a popular if not mandatory capability for studio shooters.  By tethering your DSLR to the computer via a FW or USB cable you can see the images you just captured in real time.  I used to feed these image in my studio to a large monitor to provide instant feedback for the model.  They loved it.  This feedback allowed families sitting for portraits to adjust their pose or approve a specific setting.  Working models loved it because it allowed them to see in real time their expressions, errors, or any tiny adjustment needed.  Shooting tethered also allows the photographer to adjust camera or lighting settings and to actually soft proof images during the actual shoot.  This can save loads of time not to mention a possible re-shoot.

I've long wanted to incorporate tethered shooting in the field for advanced time lapse, focus bracketing, and exposure bracketing purposes.  I've recently reviewed a new small field capable laptop I plan on using for this purpose and I hope to incorporate these techniques into advanced workshops very soon.  Perhaps by the end of this month.

Lightroom now supports easy and simple tethering for most newer Nikon and Canon DSLR's.  This is a very welcome feature and it works very well.

 

DSLR Video Files

With virtually every new DSLR hitting the market with advanced HD video capabilities its about time a major imaging program supported these video files.  Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 now includes support for video files.  You can now store, file, organize and easily manage  your video files right alongside your still images.  Editing capabilities are still limited, but just being able to see and view these files from within Lightroom is very welcome.  I hope to thoroughly test this feature in the future while test driving Sony's new NEX-5 system camera.

 

Flickr

Flickr and other photo social networking sites are becoming quite popular.  Version 3 allows direct uploading to Flickr including movies made from slide shows.  You can also find plug-ins for Lightroom to support other sites such as Smugmug.  The best place to look for these plug-in's is on the site itself.  Lightroom is very popular and often the site will provide the plug-in at no charge to facilitate you uploads.

 

Film Grain Effects

 

We spent the last decade improving cameras and software to get rid of "noise" which looks a lot like the film grain from older film images, and once we get nice clean images even at unheard of ISO's, now we want to add back the film grain.  Shoot me now.. :)

 

We spent the last decade improving cameras and software to get rid of "noise" which looks a lot like the film grain from older film images, and once we get nice clean images even at unheard of ISO's, now we want to add back the film grain.  Shoot me now.. :)

Actually, the problem with "noise" is that while it resembled film grain the character of the grain was quite different and not nearly as attractive.  Many who shot film years ago fondly remember the look of film grain and have long wished for a method to add this effect to their digital images.   Lightroom 3 now provides that capability!

 

Lens Correction

 

This is an extremely useful feature, especially if you shoot a lot of wide angle shots, and especially of buildings and interiors with many straight lines.  Lens correction takes into account a specific lenses defects such as geometric distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing (chromatic aberrations).  It does this by access custom lens profiles that other uses have created for specific lenses and share on Adobe's site.  You can also create your own.  I find the standard profiles Adobe provides work very well.  Now, every image I import into Lightroom is corrected for the defects of the lens (most lenses have one to several imperfections that we've just learned to ignore) used without any intervention of effort on my part.  Mind you, we're talking lens distortion and not perspective distortion.  Perspective distortion is still a hand task in Adobe's Photoshop.  Still, being able to correct for the lens while still in RAW format is very useful and will help improve the overall look of your images.

 

This is an extremely useful feature, especially if you shoot a lot of wide angle shots, and especially of buildings and interiors with many straight lines.  Lens correction takes into account a specific lenses defects such as geometric distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing (chromatic aberrations).  It does this by access custom lens profiles that other uses have created for specific lenses and share on Adobe's site.  You can also create your own.  I find the standard profiles Adobe provides work very well.  Now, every image I import into Lightroom is corrected for the defects of the lens (most lenses have one to several imperfections that we've just learned to ignore) used without any intervention of effort on my part.  Mind you, we're talking lens distortion and not perspective distortion.  Perspective distortion is still a hand task in Adobe's Photoshop.  Still, being able to correct for the lens while still in RAW format is very useful and will help improve the overall look of your images.

 

Print Module

This was a simple but very nice upgrade that allows you access more print packages for output printing.

 

Performance Tips

It's no secret that managing a great deal of photographs requires a great deal of processing power.  Those of you with laptops might want to pass over this section because there's not much you can do to improve laptop performance other than buying a powerful laptop and upgrading it with expensive SSD or Hybrid system and storage drives.

When building a workstation for processing images there are several rules to follow for best performance:

1.  Select the fastest i7 processer you can afford.  Please refer to my system build article here. 

2. Add as much memory as you can afford, a minimum of 4g's and up to 12g's will show marked improvement in LR and other imaging programs.

3.  Use fast hard drives and separate your system files and programs from your data via separate drives.  Please read my review of SSD's here.

4.  A nice graphic card will boost performance to a point.  There is also a very real point of marginal returns concerning graphics cards.  Please refer to my article on graphics cards here.

 

Even with all this computer power I noticed 'image to image' rendering on the screen took a half second or so.  A half second adds up when you spend a lot of time on your workstation processing images.  You want to get as much work done in as little time as possible.  So I set out to improve the image to image rendering.

First, I deleted all my previous indexes and preview images.  I manage over 164,000 images in my current archive.  My indexes and previews occupy about 1 terabyte of storage space.  Today a 1tb drive is under $50 USD's.  I had converted my version one indexes and previews into Version 2, and then into Version 3, and while they were working I thought it would be best to rebuilt from scratch in Version 3 for the best (fastest) results.

Second, I added a fast storage 1tb storage drive to my workstation totally dedicated to the indexes and preview images.  A clean format later I started the four day process of rebuilding my indexes and 1:1 preview images.  1:1 preview images means full size preview images.

Once finished I now had near instant movement from image to image.  I say "near instant" because there is still a flicker of hesitation between each.  As I zoom in on each image there is also a flicker of hesitation I estimate to be less than 1/10th of a second.  This means I can now move through over 164,000 images as fast as I want and never experience any waiting time or serious hesitation.  This is really great.  However I dream of faster..

So I moved my indexes and preview images for 10,000 images to a very fast SSD and the hesitation totally disappeared.  Of course I'm not going to foot the bill to buy a 1tb SSD (about $3000 USD's) just to use for indexes and previews but this gave me an idea.  Seagate, at the end of this month, will be releasing its Momentus Hybrid Laptop drives.  In testing these drives out performed ALL 3.5 inch SATA II mechanical hard drives including Western Digital's just released 600gb Raptor.  This is incredible performance!  These are hybrid mechanical and SSD drives 500gb in capacity, 2.5 inch (laptop size), and run $139 USD's on Amazon.com which I think is a bargain.    I ordered several to use as index and preview drives and a few more to upgrade the few laptops I have remaining which already haven't been upgraded with a SSD.  I'll do a full review on these hybrid drives when they arrive.

 

Summary

 

I'm very pleased with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Version 3.  The features it adds are very well implemented and the performance upgrades with the RAW engines monumental.  More performance, better image quality, and more time saving features at the RAW level.  So far this is a winning combination.

 

I'm very pleased with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Version 3.  The features it adds are very well implemented and the performance upgrades with the RAW engines monumental.  More performance, better image quality, and more time saving features at the RAW level.  So far this is a winning combination.

Adobe allowed licensed users of previous versions to upgrade to the latest version for a very reasonable $99.

Is Lightroom perfect?  No.  Not by a long shot.  There is still much room for improvement and the addition of new features and even better performance.  Adobe of course will answer this call with further improvements in its incremental upgrades with the more significant improvements coming in Version 4.  And I'm sure there will be a Version 5 and 6 and more.  This is the nature of imaging software.

This is the main piece of imaging software I not only recommend, but the one I use personally and the one I teach.  I recommend this with no reservations knowing it's the most complete serious imaging program available.