I’m working on a full review of Lightroom (estimated to be priced at around $ 199 through April 30, and $ 299 after that date), which we won’t publish until we receive the final version of the product. However, we want to give you an in-depth look at some of the key features added by Adobe since the initial public beta. Since the last revision of the product, the basic essence of Lightroom has remained the same: it is an application designed for professionals and advanced amateurs that allows the management and editing of large photographic collections.
According to Adobe, many of the new features are a direct result of the process resulting from the public beta. With more than a million and a half downloads, the software manufacturer has obtained a wealth of information about the features and aspects that users liked, what they didn’t, and what they missed about the program. Most of the new and improved features will be available in the two primary Lightroom modules: Library, where we can discard, sort, categorize, and select the images we want to work with; and Develop, the main image editing module.
New tools for filtering and categorizing images
Previous Lightroom public betas had options to rate and keyword images, but many photographers really wanted multiple ways to sort and categorize a mountain of images to find their best photos. Lightroom 1.0 will have the five-star rating system used in the betas, but will also allow you to apply a color label to the image. Additionally, the program includes a “select / discard” flag that you can apply when you are reviewing images from the same session at full speed. Keyword application has also been enhanced with the Keyword Stamp tool that allows you to select a keyword and apply it to a group of images. A panel is also available to load the most frequently used keyword groups.
Lightroom’s search and sort options were already pretty good in beta versions. In version 1.0 Adobe has added a Metadata Browser, which allows you to quickly search for images based on the metadata information that is stored along with the image. For example, it allows you to filter the images captured with a specific digital camera (including the serial number, which is an advantage for a producer who must catalog the images of a group of photographers), or the lens used when taking the photos. I have found this feature to be extremely useful. I have used dozens of digital cameras over the years, and I often remember the photos from the cameras I used more than from the actual date.
Many users entering the world of digital photography become familiar with curves and histograms, but it can take a respectable amount of time before these functions can truly be mastered. One of the innovations in Adobe Lightroom 1.0 is a feature called “targeted adjustment”. What this function does is allow you to directly manipulate the tones and colors of the image by simply clicking on the tones you want to edit, instead of dragging the points on a tone curve or having to move adjustment bars in a panel. It is a really intuitive tool and one that you will surely find yourself using quite frequently.
The Target tool can be used with five adjustment options: hue, saturation, lightness, grayscale, and the usual tone curve. With the use of these modes you can select any area of the image whose tones or colors you want to adjust, and drag the cursor up to increase the effect or down to reduce it (the changes are applied in real time on the screen). Using the tone curve you can click on the shadow of a photo and drag up to lighten all the values that have a similar tone in the image; all this simply, quickly, and in a way that makes sense.
Captures and virtual copies
Lightroom is a non-destructive image editor. In simple terms, what it means is that the original images are not actually modified when the adjustment operations are applied. Any changes, such as cropping, adjusting color or exposure, converting to black and white, removing dust spots, etc., are copied as an action, almost as if it were an Automator or AppleScript action. These instructions are stored in a file called a “sidecar” that is associated with the photo. When you click on a previously modified image, what you will be seeing will be the state it was in the last time you edited it.
The Lightroom public betas had a History view in the Develop module, although it didn’t do much more than show you the operations applied to the image. You could “rewind” the edits and view the images at a specific point in the editing process. But if you did that and decided to apply new settings, you could lose all the remaining settings that you applied after the point you rewound over.
Adobe has enhanced Lightroom 1.0 with two additional features: Snapshots and Virtual Copies. You can save the state of an image as a Snapshot at any time during the editing process. When you are working on an image in the Develop module, the Snapshop panel will display a list of all the “snapshots” associated with that image. When you select one, it will show the image as it was at that time. This is a very powerful tool: you can create a snapshot of an image and then return to the original state of the edit to perform a series of completely different operations. You can click on a “snapshot” again at any time to continue working on that version of the image.
Although you can have multiple capture states for an image, Lightroom will continue to treat them as states for a single image in your library. The Virtual Copy feature allows you to create duplicates of an image. It doesn’t actually duplicate the original file on your hard drive, but you will see the copy of your image in the library with a “page turning” image overlaid to indicate that it is a copy. This feature comes in handy when you want to show multiple versions to clients, either with the image on screen, in print, or on the web. I especially like the compact nature of these types of captures, but when I have used virtual copies I have come to the conclusion that it is also a powerful improvement.
Most of the adjustments made by photographers on digital images are actually quite simple: tonal and color correction, cropping, converting to black and white; and Lightroom has a complete toolbox that we can turn to. In the public betas, no mechanism was available to remove specks of dust and small imperfections from an image. Ligthroom 1.0 solves this absence with a powerful Remove Spots tool that simulates the