Adobe Photoshop Lightroom v1.3 review

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, January 2008
Published by: Adobe
Requires: Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/Microsoft, Windows XP SP2; Pentium 4 or PowerPC G4 CPU or faster, 768MB RAM, 1GB available hard drive space
MSRP: US$299.oo, UK£179.00

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is designed to be an essential part of the professional photographer's toolbox, Lightroom contains comprehensive features and functions specifically for managing, cataloging, editing and presenting large volumes of digital photographs. Adobe Lightroom is meant to be a program which helps you spend less time in front of the computer and more time with your camera.

Having spent a short time under contract at Adobe prior to the release of Lightroom and Apple's Aperture, I was exposed to a lot of the development projects in which Adobe was engaged. As anyone who knows a little about the origins of Adobe Lightroom will tell you, it began life as a project which was designed to provide a solution aimed squarely at the workflow and imaging requirements of photographers without necessarily obviating the need for Photoshop. The 'wow' of Aperture with its innovative user interface (UI) and cool grey look was lost on me because I had already seen what amounted to about four years work in workflow, intense case studies and focus groups as well as several other user interface concepts at Adobe which echoed many of the same concepts. The UI and workflow concepts which made a lot of people stop and listen when Apple released Aperture, were also present in products such as Express Photo Darkroom and several niche products that had been on the market for photographers and professional labs for quite some time.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has been in my possession for some time now and has become as much a part of my workflow as Photoshop, Corel Painter and my other primary creative tools. What Lightroom does is enable photographers to simplify the process of working with their digital images. Acquiring photos, managing them and correcting or editing them non-destructively as well as then providing an elegant interface for creating prints, slideshows and web-based photo galleries.


Adobe Lightroom consists of five rooms: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, Web, each of which simply does what it infers. The program interface, layout and color scheme is easy on the eyes and doesn't detract from the viewing of your images. When you launch Lightroom for the first time, it asks you to point it to your current image folders so that it can build a database. Once built, which happens fairly quickly, you can start to browse them in Library. Lightroom also remembers the last time you added files to the library and incrementally updates the archive.

Library offers you several options and quite a bit of feedback on any photos selected. Photos can be displayed either on their own or as part of a library grid. You can even compare photos side by side (a rare and useful feature in this type of software) or view photos as part of a collection. Photos can also be displayed alongside their metadata (all of the information contained in the JPEG, EXIF, IPTC and Catalog headers). The options for sorting and grouping your photos are many and varied, so much so in fact that you'll be spoilt for choice. Using any of these features and functions in Lightroom is very easy making it a joy to work with.

The film strip approach is really effective and makes it easy to view your images either as a sequence or as part of a set. You can also begin working with images fairly intuitively using an interface which has been designed with ease of use in mind. It's important to note here that the Lightroom interface was also designed with extensive feedback from and consultation with professional photographers and imageers.

Out of the box Adobe Photoshop Lightroom comes with pretty much everything you will need to carry out basic image processing and enhancement. In Develop you can apply non-destructive changes to your images so that your images are not irrevocably affected. For working with RAW files, this is an absolute necessity, however this process can also be applied to JPEGs and other file types. Changes that can be applied in Develop include toning, color, white balance, exposure, recovery, fill light, blacks, brightness, contrast, clarity and vibrancy. Each adjustment can be made in a range of increments which provide customizable and extremely fine control. Develop is very easy to work, and the Quick Develop mode simplifies the process for even faster edits. All told Develop is quite powerful and allows you a great deal of control over your images.

Slideshow allows you to define collections of images for presentation to clients and for review. It is not designed to produce flashy slideshows or travelogues for home users, although that would no doubt be a useful feature for some photographers, especially those working in event and wedding photography.

The Web capabilities in Lightroom were initially quite simple in earlier versions. Web allows you to create web galleries using either HTML or Flash. Web have been significantly upgraded to allow more enhanced control and to provide files that can be edited and customized with greater ease. The output features are very similar to those found in Photoshop, but could do with some improvement to make it more user friendly.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has had a lot of time to mature and I can't wait for the next full iteration. There have been three updates since its introduction and all these have helped make Lightroom a joy to use. What I'd like to see in the next iteration is a more robust output engine, better slideshow and enhanced web capabilities.

Cons: Output options need improvement.

Pros: Cool UI. Create galleries from folders or on the fly. Excellent sorting features. Compare and select image, quick editing and control in Develop module. All things considered, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a beautifully designed program, which has been put together with the photographer in mind. Bear in mind that this program was produced with input from some of the leading photographers and imageers in the industry. The attention lavished on this tool is evident in everything you touch in the software. Anyone working with professional and prosumer digital cameras needs this tool. Highly recommended.

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