Lightroom – A tool for the photographer masses

For years now, the standard for editing digital images has been Adobe’s Photoshop.  A couple of years ago Adobe introduced Lightroom and its suite of features and usability has started to garner a significant following.  For the digital photographer, Lightroom offers a tremendous feature set for those looking to organize and process images, create slideshows or web galleries and print their images all from a single piece of software.   In my opinion, Lightroom should be used as the cornerstone of a photographer’s suite of photo organizing and editing software.  Let’s take a look at some Lightroom features that really help optimize your workflow.

Lightroom is organized into five different modules. The Library module allows you to import your images into Lightroom’s catalogue, rename them, assign ratings and metadata (a fancy word for information about information that includes copyright information keywords, etc.), organize images into collections and perform file functions like copying and deleting.

The Develop Module is where things get exciting and is the module that you’ll probably spend the majority of your time using Lightroom. The develop module features an elegant version of Adobe’s RAW processing engine that allows you to optimally process your images. In addition to the regular tools for adjusting the image there are advanced features that allow you to apply graduated filters or even apply areas of colour over an image. The real magic is this happens in a non-destructive manner leaving the original image completely intact.


Before - Click to see a larger version

Take a look at the “before” version of a Canada Lynx kitten in the screen shot. This kitten was photographed in tough lighting conditions that included mottled mid-day light. I made the best exposure I could at the time but was faced with a situation where the highlights were overexposed.

I experimented with the Adjustment Brush, a recently added feature in Lightroom. The adjustment brush is used to selectively adjust exposure settings for limited areas of an image and/or painting those areas with a specific colour. I selected some colour from the properly exposed area of the lynx and used it to paint the overexposed area. I think when you check the finished version of the image (adjusted only in Lightroom) you’ll agree that the results are amazing. Instead of an overwhelming area of overexposed fur, the image is now acceptable and darn cute if I do say so myself. And remember, all editing and manipulating is completely non destructive which allows further edits to occur at any point in the future. Previously, changes like this meant required a visit to Photoshop to repair the image. It is exciting that this non-destructive and very powerful image editing ability is built into Lightroom.

Canada Lynx kitten peering out from behind a log - CA

After processing - Canada Lynx kitten peering out from behind a log - CA

Lightroom’s Slideshow Module allows you to group subsets of images together for slideshows. It provides great flexibility for arranging and captioning your slides and then exporting them as JPEG or PDF slideshows.

The Print Module allows you to print your developed images in a myriad of formats. Want to create a contact sheet, a single page with a 5 x 7 and 4 2.5 x 3.5 images or even a fine-art layout? No problem. Image data (metadata, exposure info, caption, etc.) can be printed along with the image if you desire and if you use a colour managed workflow (all your devices colour calibrated for consistency and accuracy), Lightroom can do that too.

The final module, the Web Module, allows you to quickly and efficiently build web galleries from your processed images. In addition to standard HTML galleries, Lightroom leverages Adobe’s Flash technology to create advanced, animated web galleries. This web functionality is available with just a few clicks of the mouse.

One feature present across all Lightroom modules is templates. Lightroom comes with a selection of templates for operations like applying an antique look in the Develop Module, creating a Caption and Rating Slideshow, printing a Fine Art Mat print or even producing a Flash-based web gallery. And because the modules also support User Defined templates, you can create your own and download others from the Internet.

I’ve just scratched the surface of what Lightroom can do. But, if you’re looking for a program that efficiently organizes and manages a growing digital collection, processes images for optimal (non-destructive) results, creates dynamic slideshows, efficiently prints in a variety of formats and even creates web galleries, you would be hard pressed to find a better tool that incorporates all of those functions at an affordable price.

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