I’ve been using the LR beta for quite a while. This is my first impressions of the final release, version 1.0. I’ll walk through the most interesting (to me) features and try to include any insights that I may have. Enjoy.
Available for both Mac OS and Windows (XP/Vista).
30 day trial is available from Adobe, so you can download from Adobe and run at once, while you wait for the CD and printed manual to arrive.
LightRoom is Adobes attempt at a Photo Work flow application. It tries to take over where Adobe Camera Raw (ARC), Bridge and PhotoShop meets. There three tools can be a bit, to say the least, clumsy to work with and LightRoom tries to address this. It’s a total rethink of how you can work with Photos from your digital camera. Probably the most surprising this about LightRoom is that it works with, not just Raw files, but also with jpeg photos in a non-destructive way! This is quite normal for Raw tools, but these tools usually didn’t work with jpeg files. While you are in LightRoom, your original file is never touched. What you do is register a series of changes. What you have is your original file and a series of operations to do with the photo (like “expose +1, crop x1,y1 to x2,y2”). This gives you an enormous power over your photos and you can always go back and forth in your changes, without being afraid that you’ll lose the original.
LightRoom is mainly aimed a people who have a lot of Photos and some fairly complicated needs when it comes to archiving them and doing manipulation. If you never worried about the white balance or hue of your photos, LightRoom is probably to much for you and a free tool like Googles Picasa will probably suit you better.
The included documentation recommends that you uninstall any beta’s before you install 1.0, so I did that (you also have to upgrade to the latest 4.1beta if you want to have your database upgraded). Installing the program is a breeze, it’s nice to see a piece of software that only weights in at 22MB, and installs in a couple of minutes. Starting the program you get an option of running a 30 day trial or entering a serial number. As I haven’t gotten a Serial number yet, I selected the 30 days trial.
Uninstalling the beta only uninstalls the program and not the database, so the first time you run LR it tries to convert your old image database to the format of 1.0. As vaguely described in the readme, this can take quite a bit of time. My AMD 2000+, with 1GB of memory, took a couple of hours with the CPU running full throttle to import a database with 26.000 pictures. The program is totally unresponsive during this time, doesn’t update the screen or display a progress bar. I can live with that, as it’s a one time thing. The nice thing about this is that it never uses more that 136MB of memory.
But in the end, it didn’t really work. Lots of my picture wouldn’t display. No preview, not load. So I went into the preferences and set up that LR should ask which database it would use on start up. Restarted and created a new database. Import everything again. That takes a long, long time. 28000 pictures. Six minutes for the first 180 images, which gives 2 seconds for each images. Unfortunately it crashed after a couple of hours, and I had to import in chunks. As of this time I’m not done yet. Well, still it’s a one-time show, and a normal series of images will import just fine (I’ve been importing in chunks of around 3000 photos).
The program it self looks pretty much the same as the Betas. Nice. Clicking around, the interface seems responsive and fast. The LR team seems to have taken the “instant response – delayed action” approach all the way. When ever you click on something, there’s a response. It may not be done yet, but there’s a clear indication that it know what you want to do and that it’s working on it. Filter on a keyword and the image count is nearly instant, the crude first thumbs takes a bit longer and the final thumb loading can take quite a while depending on how many thumbs it needs to load. But the important thing is that, during all this, you can select some new action, like a new filter, open one of the thumbed images, or edit keywords of an image, while it loads. The user interface in always responsive in the foreground, while the program is trying to fetch the most relevant information in the background.
Very, very nice. I wish that more software worked like this…
The library is where you manages you images. Rate and evaluate and select the photos you want to work more with. There’s a thousand ways to manage this part of your work flow. LightRoom is fairly flexible, when it comes to how you can work with you photos/shoots, but in my opinion you’ll do your self a favour, if you try to work with LightRoom, as the developers at Adobe imagined that it should be used. Working with the software will, in the long run, probably make things a lot easier and faster. For an example, of how it can be used see the workflow demonstration videos, at Adobes web-page.
Search has been split into two areas, a text and a date search. The text search allows you to select what you search in (Any text, metadata, caption, filename, etc) and what kind of search; Containing, Containing all (which I guess is a “and” search), not containing, starting with, ending with. Date search is always in capture date, but has some nice start/end date options. The option to control whether the find function should filter the folders view is gone, since the betas, and is always on. The find it self seems fast, but the update of the “folder counts” is delayed, which can take bit of time to get used to, but if it means that the actual search (the images displayed in the strip/grid) is faster, then that’s find by me.
Folders seem to be the same as in the betas, but if you try to move them around, you’ll see a difference, as they are tied closer to the “psychical” structure on the hard drive. If you move a folder (drag and drop) it will also move the images around within your hard drive directory structure. A bit more dangerous, but also a lot more logical.
I never really used these, so I can’t compare with the beta’s. The basic idea is that you can create a number of collections and group a lot of images into them. A different way of doing keywords, I guess. Probably pretty strong if you combine them.
Ha, Adobe picked up on the Tags thing. I don’t really care it they are called keywords or tags. New here is that you can have as many levels of keywords as you want. And you can make synonyms of your keywords. According to the manual the synonyms are only used as a bit of information it the “Implied Keywords” panel – it would have been cool if they hard worked with the find function. Version 2? The easiest way to work with keywords is probably to select the relevant images and then drag them to a Keyword in the list. That will assign keyword to the images. Nested keywords can be exported with your images, so if you have a photo with a nested keyword (“Sparrows” under “Birds”), both the keyword and it’s parent keyword will be exported.
The metadata browser is new – it allows you to browse through your images and filter on stuff like the lens or camera used to take the photos. More useful is the option to filter by date and location, so you can easily filter on a specific country or city. If you supplied this meta data during import (or added it later). Unfortunately drag and drop doesn’t work here, so you can’t drop a couple of pictures on Location->Denmark->Unknown State->Copenhagen and have the country set to Denmark and the City to Copenhagen (we don’t have states). You can easily do it with the metadata editor, but drag and drop would have been easier. Version 2?
I think this is pretty much the same as in the beta’s. Except it doesn’t seem to explode in memory usage like the beta’s. Remember to set some keywords already here, as that will make things easier later. Imports keywords already in jpegs and raw files.
Has some nice presets (email, full size jpeg, DNG) and you can make your own. Also has a new post-processing option. The most important thing here is that you can make it run your own program after the pictures have been exported, including PhotoShop scripts. So if you want your exported jpegs sharpened you can do that with a post-processing PS script.
The navigation line above the filmstrip has become a lot stronger, it now contains (can’t exactly remember what it contained in the beta): Grid View button, back and forwards buttons, currently selected info (click on it and you get a history and other options), filter (flags, ratings and color labels), filter on/off button. Nice.
The strip look like it used to, but when you hover the mouse over a photo, it get a small circle that adds the photo to the quick collection, if you click it (and removes it if you click again). I’ve never really used the quick collection, but I can see how it could be useful.
Right clicking on an images (or several selected images), gives you quite a few options, the two most interesting being the “Edit in Adobe PhotoShop CS2” (if you have it) and “Create Virtual Copy” function.
Edit in PS opens the images in Photoshop (well, du’h!), but the interesting thing here is that it (depending on file type and user selection) opens a copy that’s tied to the original image.
They can be “stacked“, this mean that they can all be treated as one images and even displayed as such in the filmstrip. This is very useful and makes it a lot easier to keep track of different versions of the same image. There’s a lot of different ways that you can stack images that you think belong together.
It feels like an extremely useful and strong feature, and I’ve a notion that I’m going to love this, when I try to manage shoots with a lot of burst mode photos or with lots of exposure bracketed photos. Note: I had to restart LR (after import) for the stacking function to work correctly.
Create virtual copy creates a new version of a photo, with it’s own set of change-metadata. This means that the original (raw/jpeg) file is the same, but the changes done in LR are different. So you can have several copies of the same images developed in different ways. All of them from the same original raw (or jpeg) file. The new virtual copy gets a “curled corner” and if you double click on this corner, you select the original file for the virtual copy. Virtual copies are automatically stacked.
Is nearly the same as the film strip, there’s just more information around easy images and you can control the size of the thumbs. This area also contains the view toolbar, where you switch between the Grid, Loupe, compare and Survey view; select sort order (including some cool options like “Edit time” and “Edit Count”); and you can even add more options to this toolbar, like keyword stamp, rating and labels. Add and remove this toolbar by pressing T.
The right hand panel, lets you edit the metadata of one or more selected images. This contains a Histogram, “Quick Develop”, “Keywording and Metadata editors”.
The Histogram is not interactive, and the Quick Develops is a fairly limited thing. I’m not sure why anybody would want to use it, as everything can be done better on in develop mode.
Helps you set the right keywords for one or more images. Has gotten some fairly cool functionality since the betas. You can either type directly into the edit fiend, or you can use the “set” function, which will display different sets of keywords, that you can add and remove by clicking on them. You can make your own sets, or you can use the already build in like “Recent keywords” or “Outdoor Photography” (which has Landscape, Macro, Flowers etc). Each set can have up to nine keywords, which corresponds to the hot-key “alt-number” (so alt-1 will give you “Fall” if the “Outdoor” set is current). Nice.
This is basically an option to edit everything EXIF and IPTC. Also contains some nice new features like “show photos taken with this lens” (click on the arrow besides the lens info).
Also contains two buttons, that allow you to synchronize setting or meta data between a series of selected photos (The first selected photo is the source images for the data). Makes it easy to add an description and then added it to a batch of other images.
Develop is where you work with your images. It’s important to remember that you’re only working with meta-data. Your original image files will never be touched. Develop is mostly the same functions as you’ll find in your basic Raw converter, but with some new and rather clever options.
The left hand panel starts of with a navigator that help you control which part of the images you are watching and how zoomed it is. Not that interesting. Works well.
Predefines settings you can apply. You can also make your own. Works quite well, but again, nothing new.
Snapshots and History
This is so cool. Everytime you change some meta data for your image a history item is added to the history list. If you crop the image a “Crop Rectangle” item is added. So you have a list of changes that you’ve made to the images and if you walk through the list (just by moving your mouse over the list), you can see the image exactly as it was. Snapshots is a way of naming a position in the history. So before you do something hard, you can create a snapshot called “before I messed everything up” and always have an easy way un-doing your changes. Another winner feature if you ask me. Yes, most programs have an undo function, but this is so much more.
The center part of the screen is where you see your images, as on the Library page you have a toolbar that allows you easy access to basic edition functions. The first part of the toolbar allows you to switch between one images and a “before/after” view. Next part is Crop, RedEye Remove and Remove Spots. Crop is your fairly normal crop tool , both the draw a rectangle and the move the border kind, including a really nice rotation tool (just hold ctrl and draw a line along something you want to be either totally vertical or horizontal). I haven’t used a Remove Red Eye function for a while, so I don’t know how this compares to other, but I tried it with two old P&S pictures, and it worked like a charm. Simply select the eyes with a rectangle tool, and LR does the rest. You can tweak the behaviour, but for me it worked beautifully with the default settings. Remove Spots can work in either a simple Clone mode on in a more intelligent Heal mode (uses the shade/texture of the target areas, to sure the clone blends better). I did find the size selector to be a bit hard to use and the functionality rather limited as you can’t paint with the brush, like you can in PS, you can only “clone” one circle of photo to another place. That makes the function rather useless for anything but… well, removing spots.
Just like on the Library page the right panel stars of with a histogram. The huge difference here is that you can work with this histogram. It’s directly tied to the Basic editing functions right below it. You can move the histogram around and change the light in your images. There’s some really strong things here. The Recovery and the Fill Lights are especially strong and will help you salvage those light or dark areas, easier than you can do it with levels or curves in PhotoShop (well, if you are a really wizard with those tools, maybe they are easier). I do miss the level function from PhotoShop, but maybe I’ll learn to get the same effect with this tool.
Includes all your basic edition functions. White Balance (White Balance Selector pipette), Exposure, Recovery, Fill Lights, Blacks, Brightness, Contrast, Vibrance and Saturation.
If you want more functionality then the basic part of the Panel gives, you can use the more advances functions which will give you even more control. You can control the tone curve (you can even do it by dragging a tone in the photo it self), you can control Hue, Saturation and Luminance separately for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Aqua, Blue, Purple and Magenta. You can do Split Toning (control Hue and Saturation for both Highlights and Shadows). You can do Sharpening, Noise Reduction and Lens Corrections and Camera Corrections (either “ACR 3.7″ or “Pentax 1.0” for me, when looking at a Pentax K10D DNG file). I’ll not go into details on these options only say that most people will find them good enough for most occasions.
Noise Reduction and Sharpening are probably the two areas where LightRoom are the weakest. Noise Reduction is pretty much the same as the one build into PhotoShop and Sharpening is a simple single slider from 0-100. If you want Unsharp Mask you have go into PhotoShop.
I haven’t found any reason to use these function yet, as I don’t do slide shows, don’t have a photo printer and have my own Gallery2 based gallery homepage. So I haven’t looked seriously at these functions, but they look capable and other people seem to find them useful.
For somebody like me this is winner application. I’ll be forking over those money before the 30 day trial is over. There are so many cool feature, but the ability of doing photo work flow within a single application, is what makes it for me. I see my self going into PhotoShop a lot less with this and more importantly I see myself doing the classification part (keywords) of the work flow not just faster, but a lot more accurate. This is more important than most people think. What usage is your winner photo, if you can find it again?
LightRoom is in some ways a very polished application. Things work well and are well though out. Having most of the hot keys directly on the keys (you press 1 to rate your photo “one star” – in Bridge you have to press “Ctrl-1″) will help a lot. Nearly everything has a one-key hot key, which will always be faster, than using the mouse, once you learn them. Some parts, like the import and the stacking, is a bit more shaky, but it’s nothing major.
I did miss some of my favourite functions of PhotoShop and there’s definitely room for improvement, but for a version 1.0 this really is impressive. I did most of testing on my Lap-top (while the desktop was importing) which only have 512MB of memory and it actually worked quite fine. Maximum memory usage never want above 280MB.
- Dual monitor support. I’ve two monitors. Please let me use them.
- Liquify function.
- Better Noise Reduction
- Better Sharpen.
- Ability to place the image/thumb/cache database on a network drive.
- Tried to install it under fedora Linux, using Wine. It installed (as soon as I told wine to act like XP), but it wouldn’t run. I’m guessing that it fails on some needed path, or drive type (as it will only run on a local harddrive). Will probably look at it later.
- The stacking system seems kind of flaky. Sometimes the stacks just dissolve – but not really, because it becomes impossible to stack those photos again. Some times I just can’t stack anything – then contextual stacking menu (right click) is just gone, and the one on the program menu (Photo->Stacking) is totally grayed out.
- Doesn’t seem to support the “Shake Reduction ON/OFF” flag in the K10D Exif information.