Thinking of Adobe Lightroom only as RAW file conversion software, doesn’t do it justice. It was always an aim of RawShooter to get away from converting your files in one application only to open them again in another to do the same corrections all over again, and Lightroom carries that idea much further forward. I’m pleased to say that the influence of RawShooter’s designers in Lightroom is everywhere, and very welcome. However, having every possible adjustment in one application does bring it’s own problems. Does Lightroom manage to simplify, or is it all just too much?
The Lightroom basic interface - In Library mode. The Quick Develop controls on the right are just a starting point, to allow you to tweak each image enough to select the best frames, before moving on to the Develop section. Library is all about finding, importing, making a selection and adding keywords
Lightroom is a ground breaking professional workflow environment, designed to cover the whole process from capturing and cataloguing your files, to editing then converting from RAW, right up to inkjet printing or making slide shows or even designing and publishing web pages. It will even upload the web pages. The software also places a great deal of importance on preserving your original RAW image, saving variations as sets of instructions rather than TIFs or JPEGS. Apart from saving disk space this also means that all steps, even cropping, can be undone - next week, next year, anytime !! It’s hard to over stress just how useful that is. How many times have you looked at an image the next day and wanted to make it just a little bit more or less ......whatever. With Lightroom you can go back and just adjust whatever you like - the original settings are all still there. Even cropping. It’s amazing.
Incidentally Lightroom doesn’t just deal with RAW files - you can import and work on any type of image file you like. The nearest real competitors to Adobe Lightroom are Apple Aperture which has the same aims and many of the same features, and ACDSee which has become far more like Lightroom, using a similar tabbed design. Although Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture will appeal to a large audience, they are both aimed at the professional market, where dealing with large numbers of images quickly and efficiently is vital. Many professionals, including me, now spend far more time in front of a computer, than behind a camera, so anything that speeds up the processing of our images is very welcome.
Unfortunately Lightroom 1 didn’t entirely deliver on the promise, being in my experience slow to learn and even slower in use. It also had a surprising number of bugs and quirks. Lightroom 2 gradually improved, but Lightroom 3 has cured many of the previous versions’ flaws and in my opinion at least, it is now a very serious contender, rather than an interesting, but flawed aside. Adobe have taken some, if not all of Lightroom 2’s major weaknesses and fixed them. In particular I’ve been very critical in the past of Lightroom 2’s “Import” dialogue in the Library section and its RAW conversion quality.