We expose Photoshop Lightroom 3

Product: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

Price: $299 new, $99 upgrade

Adobe announced the release of Photoshop Lightroom 3 today and we got our hands on it for review.

Lightroom is Photoshop aimed purely at photographers. While the normal version of Photoshop can do a lot in terms of image manipulation, it does not cater specifically to a photographer’s needs, such as adjusting filters and exposure. Photoshop Lightroom 3 does.

What we noticed when first loading the program is the option to Import. This can immediately grab a ton of photos and display them on the bottom panel, while you work on a single one in the centre. This can be very handy for comparison, especially when working on a series of photos. I was able to load nearly 500 photos within seconds. This is vastly superior to the import feature of previous versions.

Once you’ve loaded up an image, which happens very quickly, much moreso than the normal version of Photoshop and previous versions of Lightroom, there are a number of buttons available to make selecting the best from a photoshoot really simple. You can arrange the photos in a grid, single view, a comparison of two shots, or a survey of many more. There are then two buttons that allow you to flag the photo as a “pick” or flag it as rejected. This can make sorting through long series of photos extremely easy, especially when you’ve taken multiple shots of the same thing and want to get rid of ones that were out of focus or where the lighting is beyond correction. You can also rotate and rate pictures from this central panel.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

The navigator on the upper left hand corner may seem similar to the one in normal Photoshop, but in addition to normal zooming in and out Lightroom allows you to pick default aspect ratios, which makes it very handy to get the size and zoom level you want.

Beneath that there are options for creating catalogues, folders, collections, and publishing your work to your hardrive,  or even Flickr for those who like to share there. The Flickr integration is a new feature of this version not present in Lightroom 2.

The upper right-hand panel contains what is probably the most vital display for a photographer: the histogram. A histogram is like a graph that displays the proportion of light and shade that is distributed around the picture, which is really what photography is all about. The ability to easily see this in a technical form makes adjusting exposure on the photo much easier and gives the photographer a lot more control over how the final product turns out.

The histogram panel also provides other vital information about the photo, including the ISO speed rating, the focal length, aperture, and shutter speed. This can be particularly handy if you’ve mislayed the information or are trying to compare photos that were taken with the same setup on your digital SLR camera.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

Beneath the histogram is a panel with some handy “Quick Develop” tools. A variety of filters and effects are available here. The white balance, exposure, clarity, and vibrance can all be adjusted quickly and easily from here. The histogram instantly updates to reflect the changes in light that are now affecting the picture.

Below the developing tools are a series of panels for adding keywords, tags, and adjusting the metadata of the picture, which is important for ensuring the date taken and copyright information are added for a professional photographer.

A seperate Develop tab at the upper right-hand corner allows more detailed changes to be made. When we clicked this tab there was a bit of lag before it loaded, but no more than a couple of seconds.  This tab gives a lot of options for fine-tuning, including the familiar cropping and red-eye removal tools, but also a ton of more photographer-specific adjustors for colour, tone, and presence. A casual photographer could easily make do with the Quick Develop feature on the standard tab, however.

The menu buttons give a lot of similar options that normal Photoshop does, along with repeats of the quick access buttons found on the many panels around your photos, but there are also a number of interesting features that expand upon the others. There is auto-toning and auto white balance, handy if you’re in a hurry, but not something a serious photographer keen to keep control of his or her work would use often. There’s also colour labels you can use to make things feel more like a set of manila folders all nicely colour-coded for your project. More options for sorting your library and editing the metatags of your photos can also be explored through these menus.

This new version of Lightroom comes with a slew of new features, including much better noise reduction to sharpen images up considerably. It also comes with lens and perspective correction to fix distortions that might otherwise make your photography look extremely odd. Watermarking is also thrown in, which is essential if you’re concerned about your work being stolen. Another neat addition is the ability to add grain to a photo to give it a vintage look for that series of photos you’re doing about the interaction between the past and the present.

An interesting new addition is tethered capturing, which will automatically import photos as you take them, providing you’re hooked up to your computer via USB. The potential here allows for you to instantly adjust the photo on your laptop or retake it if Lightroom cannot achieve what you want. We found this makes it a little awkward to take the shots you’re looking for, however, and preferred to manually import them afterwards. Lugging your laptop around with you to tether capture is not exactly every photographer’s cup of tea.

The update with the most impact in this package is definitely the speed boost, however. Older versions of the software could lag pretty badly at times when trying to deal with a large volume of photos. Apart from small lag when switching between the main screen tabs Photoshop Lightroom 3 is a very speedy application, a fact that many photographers will greatly appreciate.

Photoshop Lightroom 3 could easily replace the traditional darkroom of photographers and offers many incentives to do so. It is much more difficult, if not impossible, to destroy a digital picture being adjusted in Lightroom than it is to ruin a physical copy in a darkroom. Photographers working regularly with a digital SLR camera are missing a lot if they’re not using Photoshop Lightroom 3.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3