Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Review
The ubiquity of Adobe's Photoshop software is staggering. Photoshop is 20 years old this year and in 2010 Adobe's flagship product is still arguably the standard against which all other image manipulation software is judged. Originally developed primarily for graphic design professionals, in the past decade Photoshop has expanded enormously to accommodate the needs of a vast and disparate group of customers, including a new generation of enthusiast and professional digital photographers.
Adobe Photoshop is now so firmly entrenched in our collective consciousness that it has become a verb - the expression 'to Photoshop' an image is now commonly accepted to mean digital manipulation of any kind, using any software.
The problem, from the point of view of many enthusiast photographers, is that Photoshop is now so huge, so complex and so all-encompassing a piece of software that the majority of its functionality is obscure, or at least remote from their immediate requirements. It is also extremely expensive, and currently retails for $999 - more than a lot of consumer-level DSLRs.
A cut-down version of Photoshop CS5 does exist, and Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 is an excellent piece of software at a good price. However, like CS5, Elements 8 (and its predecessors) is still primarily a space in which to perform complex, pixel-level adjustments to individual images. Although significantly less bloated than the full version of Photoshop, Elements still offers more functionality than a lot of photographers - and ironically many professionals ever really need. And this is where Photoshop Lightroom comes in.
What is Lightroom?
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom first saw the light of day in January 2006, as a publicly available beta. Its intended audience, then as now, was professional and enthusiast photographers who want to organize and edit images - primarily RAW files - quickly and simply. For this reason, it doesn't offer layers, or any of Photoshop CS5's various graphic design-oriented features, and originally it offered very little in the way of pixel-level adjustments either.
In its original incarnation, Photoshop Lightroom was little more than a sophisticated file organizer attached to an image manipulation and RAW conversion engine. Four years on, and Lightroom 3 remains primarily a workflow tool, but what sets it apart from other, purely organizational software (and increasingly its predecessors) is its impressive image manipulation capabilities. Its increased functionality is reflected in its relatively high cost, $99 to upgrade from an earlier version, or $299 full price.
Lightroom 3 key features
- New RAW conversion engine (same as ACR 6 for Photoshop)*
- Non-destructive editing
- 64-bit compatibility*
- Lens corrections*
- Flickr integration*
- Image watermarking*
- Improved curves tool*
- Tethered shooting (currently limited to selected Canon and Nikon DSLRs)*
- Support for video files (organization and tagging only - not editing)*
- Perspective correction adjustments*
- Film grain simulation filter*
- Comprehensive importing, organization and exporting, with multiple output options (DNG, TIFF, JPEG)
- Easy synchronization of adjustments across multiple images
- Offline library management (i.e. if your images are stored on an offline external drive)
- Photoshop integration
* New/significantly enhanced in Photoshop Lightroom 3 (compared to Lightroom 1 and/or 2)