If you're like me, it's taken you the last five years just to wrap your brain around Adobe Photoshop. At least you can do all those weird things your clients want then figure out a way to bill for it.
Now, seemingly out of nowhere, Adobe introduces Lightroom, a new program that's an apparent rival to Photoshop. What gives?
The world of digital imaging has changed radically in the last four or five years. How we manage and manipulate digital files in post-production is an evolving issue for any photographer working in the digital world.
In Photoshop CS, Adobe added a file management plug-in, which later became Bridge in CS2. While being rather full-featured, Bridge was a memory hog and unforgivably slow.
For many of us, the desire to simply edit, process, and deliver images to our clients was a need that few software programs dealt with in a comprehensive way. Apple, the innovator in all things tech, introduced Aperture to fill the software gap between the camera and delivery point for digital images. Adobe, the master of image manipulation, was not to be outdone. For the past nine months, it has had a beta version of its digital image software on the Web and has continually revised the product, based on feedback from thousands of users.
Enter Photoshop Lightroom
On store shelves since the end of February, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom can take your RAW files from CF card to Web Gallery to client delivery in five simply connected modules: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web. Adobe has taken some of the most useful Photoshop functions and placed them in each of the Lightroom modules.
In addition, Adobe has created a much leaner, faster, less memory-intensive application that will greatly speed up your workflow. Metadata can be written and attached to files on import. Groups of files can be modified in synch. The most frequently used Photoshop functions have been incorporated into the Develop module so that everything but extremely complex image manipulation can be accomplished with a handful of sliders.
All file changes live as action commands in a "sidecar" file, without creating any changes in the original. As a result, file modifications are quick and easily changed. Only when you choose to export and save your files to a more permanent home, such as a CD or FTP site, will Photoshop Lightroom make permanent changes in the files, and then only in the exported ones.
Bridge and Then Some
Think of Lightroom as Bridge on steroids: It will do everything Bridge and then some—and a lot quicker.
I don't do a lot of printing in the studio, preferring to deliver LightJet prints to my clients. But I am assured by the folks at Adobe that the print engine in Lightroom is remarkably faster than Photoshop. This could be a major time-saver if you do a lot of printing in-house.
The Print module simplifies the formatting issue and quickly outputs to your installed printer. The Web Gallery function takes your contact sheet and makes an HTML page, which you can post on your site or send to a client, who can then open it with a browser.
There are obvious advantages to having a client look at a Web contact a day after a shoot and select the images he wants in whichever formats he wants. The Web browser can create an HTML or Flash page and handsomely display your images in a format that will allow your client to clearly view, but not reproduce, your images.
Designed for Creatives
Photoshop Lightroom was designed for the digital pro who has neither the time nor the inclination to learn all the idiosyncrasies of Photoshop, but who wants to edit, process, and deliver a credible product quickly to his client.
As any pro knows, spending a day in front of a computer for each day of shooting is not a good way to make money.