Adobe Lightroom 2.0

Review Date : Wed, 1 Oct 2008

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Adobe Lightroom 2.0
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Do the tweaks and new additions to Adobe Lightroom 2.0 add up to a better program overall?........

Pros: New Tools, faster workflow, excellent Raw conversions
Cons: Heal and Clone brushes, identity plate problems, slideshow crashes sometimes

As an avid fan of Lightroom, and someone who uses it every working day without fail, I was excited to get my hands on the latest version. I’d played with the public beta over the past few months, but kept returning to Version 1 because it was more stable and I didn’t want to lose clients’ valuable work. Now with the arrival of Version 2.0 it’s time to get serious.

New Features
At a fundamental level, the appearance of Lightroom hasn’t changed much, but before we begin, there are a couple of basic new additions to go over. First, the latest version has dual monitor support, allowing you to spread the workspace over two screens, assuming you have the space and money to operate such a system. If, like me, you don’t then you can see how the system operates by clicking on the dual screen logo in the bottom left hand corner of the main screen. This brings up a tabbed working window that you can then drag to your second screen, or it sits on top of the main window on a single screen.

The second major change to note is the export and Photoshop editing transfer system. Previously, when you opened an image between Lightroom and Photoshop, the dialogue box would give you a choice of file formats. I always used PSD, and worked in layers. This meant that a new PSD file would be generated and saved in Lightroom and then opened in Photoshop; an effective but slow process, especially if you need to open multiple files as I frequently do.

With Lightroom 2 the file choice is now located in the Preferences panel, so you set up your choice before you begin editing. As I always use PSD, once this is set, that’s it, I don’t have to worry about it ever again. Furthermore, Lightroom opens the file directly into Photoshop and it’s only when you save the file or close it that the new version saves it back into Lightroom, along with the changes and layers (although Lightroom itself doesn’t allow layer editing). This is an altogether speedier system, albeit a confusing one if you’re upgrading and don’t already know about it.

Other file formats you can choose via the Edit dialogue include Smart Objects, so fans of that system in Photoshop CS3 are catered for. Because of this, Lightroom now allows multiple files to be opened directly into Photoshop’s HDR and Panoramic stitching sections.

Similarly, the Export option has also been given a makeover. Exporting your Raw, DNG, PSD or JPEG images in Lightroom to another file format is achieved by ticking a range of options in the Export dialogue box. Better sizing and compression options are now included, as are brand new sharpening settings for print and screen images. As sharpening is a largely misunderstood process this is particularly useful. You can also add a copyright watermark among other options.

Library
The main changes in the library are its extended search and keywording abilities. The search box has been moved to the top of the screen, above the main grid and you can search via keyword, metadata, ratings, filename and more. This system is faster and easier to use than before and a welcome addition. Smart Collections also enhances this function. Like the Smart Playlists in iTunes, collections can be built according to search criteria, for example all images at f/8 or ISO 200, or by embedded keywords like ‘holiday’ or ‘Christmas’. All the images with the criteria determined then automatically go into that collection, which is better than having to manually drag and drop as before.

Develop
It’s in the Develop module where the most exciting new additions are found. Previously, Lightroom worked as a global editor, making adjustments to the entire image, with the exception of the Clone and Heal tools added in version 1.4. A new Adjustment Brush tool has now been added that allows you to make local changes to contrast, exposure, saturation, colour, brightness, clarity and more. This is great, as it means less time spent in Photoshop, although I still prefer Photoshop’s Heal, Clone and Patch tools for many jobs. A particularly impressive tool in the brush palette is the Skin-smoothing tool that lets you easily paint over areas of skin and smooth out wrinkles. There are options to change the brush size, the opacity and flow, and there’s even a limited Masking tool.

Adobe has shifted around some of the older tools. The Vignette option now has its own box, presumably because many people prefer to use it as a creative tool, rather than as a lens correction tool.

The Sharpening and Noise Reduction panel now features an improved preview box, with a location selector that allows you to find selected areas to preview, tied into the main image panel.

Print
The Picture Package section has been improved to allow the best paper usage and cut wastage, either using preset grids or automatically with user-inputted image dimensions. There’s also an option to print to JPEG by defining your print parameters and ICC profiles, before Lightroom saves the image as a JPEG, ready to be sent to your online printing lab of choice.

Finally, the Sharpening tool found in the Export box is expanded in the Print dialogue, letting you define the amount of sharpening depending on the media and output resolution being used. This is based on my old favourite, the Pixel Genius Sharpening plug-in for Photoshop, and seriously improves the quality of final outputs.\n

Verdict

Lightroom was never intended to replace Photoshop, but it seriously enhances it. For photographers who don’t need to do pixel-based editing, it covers most, if not all of their needs. Version 1 was brilliant, and was seriously enhanced by v1.4, but v2.0 is the best yet. It’s not as much of an overhaul as Version 1.4 was, but it does pack in some significant new features and, significantly, doesn’t require any major re-training to use.

Verdict

Lightroom was never intended to replace Photoshop, but it seriously enhances it. For photographers who don’t need to do pixel-based editing, it covers most, if not all of their needs. Version 1 was brilliant, and was seriously enhanced by v1.4, but v2.0 is the best yet. It’s not as much of an overhaul as Version 1.4 was, but it does pack in some significant new features and, significantly, doesn’t require any major re-training to use.

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Overall Score 96%