Adobe’s Lightroom 2 is a photo organiser and editor designed both for the professional photographer who needs cataloging, tagging, and serious workflow tools, and the amateur who has outgrown iPhoto's cataloging capabilities.
Lightroom 2 is a major upgrade from the previous version and represents the direction Adobe is taking in providing serious workflow tools for photographers. There are many new features and enhancements over the previous version. Let's see how well Lightroom 2 performs.
Adobe’s Lightroom 2 is available for £234 (inc vat), with an upgrade price of £105.75 (inc vat).
Lightroom 2 - Installation
Lightroom 2 is available in a retail boxed version with an installation CD and as an online download. The installation process for both versions is the same. Load the installation CD into your CD drive or double-click the file you downloaded from the Adobe web site. A window will open, displaying the Adobe Lightroom 2 installer.
Start the installation by double-clicking the Lightroom2.pkg file, and then follow the guided installation process. The installer will place a copy of Adobe Lightroom 2 in your Applications folder.
32-bit or 64-bit?
By default, Lightroom 2 runs as a 32-bit application, which allows it to work on a wide range of Macs, including older PowerPC-based G4s and G5s. It can also run as a full 64-bit application, to take advantage of the processing power and memory space of Intel-based Macs running OS X 10.5.x or later.
As a 64-bit application, Lightroom 2 can access memory far beyond the 4 GB limit imposed by older 32-bit systems. If you have a large image library, or work with very large images, you should see a noticeable performance increase in 64-bit mode.
To select the operating mode, go to the Applications folder and right-click the Adobe Lightroom 2 icon. In the pop-up menu, select 'Get Info.' Uncheck the 'Open in 32-bit Mode' entry in the 'Get Info' window to allow Lightroom 2 to operate in 64-bit mode. (If you want to work in 32-bit mode, and you haven't previously set Lightroom 2 to operate in 64-bit mode, you can skip this step.)
Lightroom 2 - First Impressions
Like most Adobe applications, Lightroom 2 tends to take over the available screen space, although unlike some Adobe applications, you can resize and reposition Lightroom 2's window, to make it more Mac-like.
Lightroom’s interface is built around five main display areas.
- Module Picker. Located along the top right of the display, the Module Picker lets you quickly select the tools you want to have available in the panels, so you can easily step through the photographer's workflow. The available modules are Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web.
- Panels. Located on the left- and right-hand side of the interface. The left-hand panel contains content and presets for the selected module; the right-hand panel contains the individual tools.
- Work Pane. Located in the center, this is the largest pane. It displays the image(s) you're currently working on.
- Filmstrip. Located along the bottom, the Filmstrip shows thumbnails of each image from your library or images from selected collections you can work with for the task you're currently performing.
- Menu Bar. This is the standard menu bar used in all Mac applications.
Overall, Lightroom 2's improved user interface is much easier to work with and navigate. The Module Picker keeps specific tools and tasks at your fingertips, eliminating a problem with Lightroom 1, which had many tools that were hidden and difficult to find.
Lightroom 2 - Multiple Monitors and Area-Specific Adjustments
New to Lightroom 2 is support for two monitors, even when you only have one. That sounds a bit strange, but Lightroom 2 lets you take advantage of the organisational opportunities that having two monitors provides, even if you don't have two monitors. If you only have one monitor, Lightroom 2 will open a second window that corresponds to what a second monitor would display. Of course, if you actually have two monitors, Lightroom will use the second monitor rather than open a second window.
If you're lucky enough to have two monitors, you can use the second monitor to view the same image in multiple ways. One monitor might display the image at normal size, while the other displays a magnified view of a selected area. This can help you from getting lost in a magnified view. Another use for a second monitor is to present images to clients while you work in the main display, editing the images or monitoring a slideshow.
Also new to Lightroom 2 is the ability to fine-tune specific areas of a photo rather than apply corrections to the entire image. You can adjust the colour, exposure, and tonal range of a specific area using the Adjustment Brush tool, which can change its size, flow rate, and density as needed. Once you set the brush's behaviour, you can choose the effect you want the brush to have, such as reduce or increase exposure, adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, or sharpness, or add a filter effect. The Adjustment Brush works like a paintbrush; simply brush over the target area to apply a specific effect.
Lightroom 2 - Library
The Library is the heart of the Lightroom application, the place where you'll most likely spend most of your time. It allows you to efficiently view, catalogue, and organise your photos.
Lightroom uses three basic organisational structures. The Catalogue keeps track of photos and their information, such as titles, keywords, metadata, and camera EXIF information. The catalogue doesn't actually contain the photos; that's the job of Folders, which correspond to the locations on your hard drive where the photos are stored. A catalogue can access multiple folders, so you can organise photos as you see fit.
The last organisational element, the Collection, is by far the most versatile. Collections can contain any photos you wish. You can drag and drop photos from the Library into any Collection. More useful still is a Smart Collection. Just like the Mac's Smart Folders, or the Smart Playlists in iTunes, Smart Collections allow you to set rules that, when met, will automatically add a photo. For example, you could create a Smart Collection for any photos that you've rated higher than three stars, or any photos that include the keyword 'landscape.'
Because Smart Collections use sets of rules to define which photos will be included, you can create very powerful (and picky) Smart Collections. You might create one that includes only photos whose shutter speed was a 60th or less, were shot without a flash, and have a keyword of 'flowers.'
Lightroom 2 - Develop
You're not likely to take many photos that won't require some degree of processing to make them look their best. Lightroom's Develop Module provides extremely precise control over image adjustments. It doesn't have the elaborate filters and effects you may be used to in Photoshop. Instead, Lightroom concentrates on the basic manipulations required to adjust colour temperature, tonal curves, exposure, white balance, and much more. These are the types of image edits that can salvage a poorly exposed image or make a properly exposed image pop.
Lightroom uses non-destructive editing; it never alters a single pixel of the original image. Instead, it creates files that contain sets of instructions on how to process the original image. You can track all of the changes you've ever made to an image, step back through the changes, or return to the original or any snapshot point along the way.
I noticed immediately that the Develop Module's editing tools are very well organised and presented in a logical workflow. The tools include the usual histograms and tonal curves to help in adjusting an image, as well as a Detail tool for sharpening an image. Other tools include cropping, spot remove, red eye, graduation filters, and the adjustment brush I mentioned earlier.
Adobe has done such an outstanding job with Lightroom's Develop Module that you may find yourself saving other image editing applications for specialised tasks, and using Lightroom for all of your basic image adjustments.
Lightroom 2 - Slideshow
Lightroom is intended to be a complete workflow tool for photographers. That means that in addition to functioning as an image editing and cataloguing application, it must also provide tools for photographers to use to output photos for clients and potential clients. To that end, Lightroom has three modules for outputting photos: Slideshow, Print, and Web. Each lets you create great presentations to showcase your work.
Slideshow lets you assemble collections of photos for a running display on your monitor, an easy way to showcase your work. Using Slideshow, you can add borders, shadows, or text overlays; set background colours or images; and control the sequence and presentation of the show. You can also create special start and end images, and add a soundtrack to the presentation.
The Slideshow Module doesn't offer some of the fancy fades between slides that dedicated slideshow tools can create, but it's a well-organised and easy-to-use module that can help you create and display a portfolio of work.
I don't have a second monitor hooked up to test this, but I would expect that you can route the slideshow to a second monitor, while using the first monitor to control slide sequence and presentation, which would be particularly useful for a live presentation.
Lightroom 2 - Print and Web
The remaining modules for outputting images are Print and Web.
The Print module uses templates to create printed output. Templates include the most popular ones commonly used by professional photographers: contact sheets, various mattes, x-up printing, and picture packages, such as a single 7x5 and four 2.5x3.5 prints on a sheet. You can also create your own templates as needed and save them for future use.
Templates are only the beginning. To assist you in producing professional quality prints, Lightroom can sharpen photos on the fly, based on the individual size of each image on a sheet. To test the sharpening algorithms, I printed an 8x10 sheet that contained one large image and four smaller ones. To my eyes, the final output looked quite good. I can't say I really noticed a difference between the images, and maybe that's the test, that both the larger image and the smaller images are equally sharp.
In addition to on-the-fly image sharpening you can also specify paper types (matte, glossy), printing resolution, and the type of color management to be used for printing.
You can use the Web Module to create image galleries for a web site using either HTML or Flash. As with printing, you can select templates that define the web page's look or create your own. While there is a slideshow template, Lightroom doesn't let you create a web slideshow based on a slideshow you created with the Slideshow module, a mistake in my mind, and one I hope Adobe corrects in the future.
Lightroom 2 - Wrap Up
Adobe Lightroom 2 is a major upgrade. If you are currently using Adobe Bridge and Photoshop, you might want to consider consigning Photoshop to special image manipulation tasks, and replacing Bridge with Lightroom. Having photo library and editing tools in a single application makes for a much easier workflow.
That doesn't mean you can do without Photoshop or other image editing applications; you'll still need them for anything beyond basic image editing. But Lightroom's Develop Module is more than powerful enough for taking photos from a digital camera and creating baseline images for further manipulation.
Of course, Lightroom does have a few quirks, but none of them are deal breakers. Lightroom uses panels to display the available tools for a module. But even if you hide tools that aren't in use, you must still scroll through the panels to get to all of the options. I'd like to be able to widen a panel so the tools display in double rows, or at least be able to reorder the tools in the panel so the ones I use most are near the top.
I was looking forward to uploading the slideshow I created to my web site, but unfortunately, while Lightroom does allow you to create a slideshow for the web, it doesn't seem to be able to repurpose one you created with the Slideshow Module.
If you're a professional, a serious amateur, or you just have an overwhelming library of images to manage, you should add Adobe Lightroom 2 to your toolbox.