Before I discovered Lightroom I opened every image in Photoshop, closed the ones I didn’t like, and adjusted the ones I did. I got pretty good at it and I had macros to do things like create jpegs for use on the web. Lightroom changed all that and introduced me to a much faster and more efficient process.
Lightroom takes a workflow approach that is quite different from traditional image editing software. Once you have imported your images into Lightroom, you can use it to select and/or rate your images, perform adjustments like cropping, levels, and minor retouching, and output the images to various file formats, a printer, or web galleries. While Lightroom has many great features, I love it because it is easy to use, very flexible and completely non-destructive. It also cut my postprocessing time by more than half.
Adobe added a number of great new features to Lightroom 2 and recently released 2.1 (a free update for owners of version 2.0), so for this article I’m not going to draw a distinction between 2.0 and 2.1, making the assumption that 2.0 owners have already upgraded.
Personally, Adobe had me at “dual monitor support” and “64-bit”. Those two features are enough to justify the $99 upgrade. While Lightroom 1 did work across dual monitors by stretching the main window, Lightroom 2 adds buttons to bring up images on the second monitor. Once activated, the user can select different views on the second monitor ranging from thumbnails to a full-screen version of the currently selected image. The fact that Lightroom now includes a 64-bit version means that it can now take advantage of much more memory on computers with 64-bit operating systems.
Other changes for version 2 include better local adjustments like dodging and burning, enhanced batch processing, enhanced output sharpening, and the addition of “volume management” to help manage, organize, and work with high-resolution previews even when originals are offline.
I tested Lightroom 2.1 on both my 64-bit Vista desktop and a 32-bit Vista notebook, and the performance was flawless. I tested the new volume management feature on the notebook by importing (but not copying) several folders of images from my desktop computer across the network. I clicked on a few to see the image, and then quickly disconnected from the network while the application was still running. Lightroom handled the situation much more gracefully than I expected and continued to display thumbnails for all the images. While offline images could be viewed, edit controls were grayed out and Lightroom indicated that the image was either offline or missing.
Overall, Lightroom continues to be my favourite photo software and the new version is definitely worth the money. But don’t take my word for it, Adobe offers a free 30 day downloadable trial so you can check it out for yourself.