If you're a professional or amateur photographer (or even an enthusiast), you've probably taken many photos over the years. Professional photographers can literally take thousands of shots in single shoot, but even photo collections in the hundreds can easily become cumbersome. To solve this problem, some enterprising software companies have developed software solutions that allow you to catalog your photos. And of course, Adobe has entered this market with their Adobe Photoshop Lightroom application, which is now at version 3.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3
When Lightroom first hit the market, it was received fairly well, but with some skepticism. This was mainly due to the small number of editing features. You could do some basic photo development, but nothing advanced… Lightroom 2 and 3 have changed all that. Lightroom 2 brought a large number of editing enhancements, including: improved Photoshop integration, the Graduated Filter Tool, the Retouch Brush, vignettes, etc. The improvements in Lightroom 3 are a bit less dramatic, but still very useful, and they help to bring the application to a higher level of professionalism.
First and foremost, importing photos has been made much easier in Lightroom 3. Images can be added automatically when you import from a memory card or camera. You can preview images as thumbnails or in Loupe View. Lightroom 3 also lets you see what subfolders will be created and how many folders will go into each.
Brand new is support for video. You can import video files from DSLR cameras and manage them just as you would photos, although you can't edit them, of course. Personally, I don't see myself using this too much since my video software already has a cataloging feature and I like to be able to access the videos for editing. Also new is tethered capture, which lets you import videos via a tethered Nikon or Canon digital camera. You can control the camera from your laptop, which is nice. A couple caveats, however, are currently only Nikon and Canon cameras are supported and there is no live preview provided when controlling the camera from a PC.
A number of photo editing features have been added in Lightroom 3, including: lens corrections, sharpening and noise reduction, the Grain feature (a film grain effect), postcrop vignettes, and custom watermarks. In addition, Lightroom 3 now includes the same high-quality RAW file processing engine from Photoshop CS5, which means if you go back and process some of your older RAW files with the new engine, you'll probably see a noticeable difference… I did. The Lens Correction feature lets you correct distortion and chromatic aberration added by different camera lenses. The only downside is that not every lens on the market is supported yet. However, Adobe does provide a Lens Profile Creator so you can create your own profiles, if you'd like.
You have more control over color noise, edge detail, and luminance with the new noise reduction features. Sharpening is also much more refined and of a higher quality in Lightroom 3. The new Grain (film grain) effect gives you control over amount, size, and roughness. Combine that with the new Post-Crop Vignetting on B&W photos and you can get some very nice old-time photo effects. Finally, you can add some protection to your photos when outputting in any format by using custom watermarks. This is actually added in the Slideshow, Print, and Web modules, but it seemed fitting to talk about it here. Both text and image watermarks are supported and you have control over text fonts, styles and shadows.
One of my favorite new features is the ability to export a slideshow as a video. There are some limitations, such as only standard video sizes are supported and currently only MP4 files can be created, but this is a great way to show off a photo collection on any PC, anywhere. And of course, if you have video editing software, you could even bring that video in, do some editing and burn it to DVD or Blu-ray.
Another favorite feature is the new Custom Package layout style, which allows you to create your own multi-page prints with custom layouts. You simply add cells to a blank page and then drag-and-drop photos into the cells. You can then move, resize, and even repopulate the cells at any time. This feature gives you the freedom to create any kind of prints that you'd like and it's a wonderful addition to Lightroom 3.
Although, accessed via the Library module in the Publish Services section, I thought it fitting to talk about it here since it has to do with the Internet… and this is the new ability to upload JPEG photos directly to various photo sites via Lightroom. Support is included for Facebook, Flickr, and SmugMug. Uploading is automatic and you can even view online photo comments from within Lightroom.
Sophisticated Photo Organization and Processing
As I mentioned earlier, the first version of Lightroom was good, but not great. There were limitations because of the basic feature set, but over the years the application has matured into a full-featured photo organizer that allows you to catalog, process, and publish in a variety of ways. Lightroom 3 has brought an even higher level of quality and sophistication to the features that were added in Lightroom 2. While I'm sure users will find new ways in which they'd like to see the software improved, as it stands, Lightroom 3 gives you all the tools you need to work with your photo collection with ease.
* Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 for Windows & Mac