(NOTE: As this review went to editing, a version 1.2 upgrade was released providing support for additional cameras as well as a few fixes to the user interface. There were no changes that would alter the content of this review of version 1.1. Thanks!)
Lightroom was giving me a different way to work.
Photoshop has long been the standard for graphic image editing and as digital photography has grown in popularity among consumers and professionals alike, Photoshop naturally grew to meet the need. But still it was a lot of overkill for simple photo manipulations and apart from the batch and scripting modes, the workflow was one photo at a time. Who better to produce a new tool geared solely at improving the workflow of digital photographers than the developer of the Photoshop? Adobe has done so with the release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. While the original release had some issues (including Vista support), the current version 1.1 is a joy to work with. That is, if your mind can wrap itself around the workflow concept.
That is not necessarily an easy thing to do.
When I first started playing with Lightroom, the oohs and ahs flowed quite freely. But then when it came time to actually do some work, I’d launch it, play around a bit and then bypass Lightroom and launch Photoshop directly. Old habits die hard it seems.
The Library module lets you import, find and categorize your photos.
Unlike the Bridge tool that comes with Photoshop, Lightroom does not function as an explorer replacement; you actually (sort of) import photos into the program. Pick a few photos or directory and load them into an existing or new database. “Blech!” was my first impression. Why in the world do I want to do that? Why can’t I just see what’s in the directory! What am I working on, the imported image or the original?
However, after my panic attack ended, I realized that Lightroom was giving me a different way to work while working differently itself. Lightroom allows you to edit your images without actually touching the images themselves! Exactly. To test this, I’ve set a directory of images to read-only, Lightroom reads them in to its database and allows me to change them to my heart’s content – while leaving the source file intact.
The key to this is that LR stores the changes you made in its database, instead of messing with the original. So in math terms:
Original Version + Stored Changes = New Version
The cool thing is this allows you to work on multiple versions of the same file without actually having multiple versions stored on your hard drive. You simple have multiple lists of stored changes in the database, each starting with the same source file. Even better, you can branch your editing to a new virtual copy and the new version uses the image resulting from your current slate of changes as its source file. Again, using the math analogy:
Original Version + Stored Changes 1 = New Version 1
Original Version + Stored Changes 2 = New Version 2
New Version 1 + Additional Changes = New Version 3