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Adobe Lightroom 2

Catalog, Manage, and Edit Your Digital Photos

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Adobe Lightroom 2 - Review of Lightroom 2

Adobe’s Lightroom 2

Adobe product box shot reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe’s Lightroom 2 is a photo organizer and editor designed both for the professional photographer who needs cataloging, tagging, and serious workflow tools, and the amateur who has outgrown iPhoto's cataloging capabilities.

Lightroom 2 is a major upgrade from the previous version and represents the direction Adobe is taking in providing serious workflow tools for photographers. There are many new features and enhancements over the previous version. Let's see how well Lightroom 2 performs.

Adobe’s Lightroom 2 is available for $299, with an upgrade price of $99.

Lightroom 2 - Installation

Lightroom 2 is available in a retail boxed version with an installation CD and as an online download. The installation process for both versions is the same. Load the installation CD into your CD drive or double-click the file you downloaded from the Adobe web site. A window will open, displaying the Adobe Lightroom 2 installer.

Start the installation by double-clicking the Lightroom2.pkg file, and then follow the guided installation process. The installer will place a copy of Adobe Lightroom 2 in your Applications folder.

32-bit or 64-bit?

By default, Lightroom 2 runs as a 32-bit application, which allows it to work on a wide range of Macs, including older PowerPC-based G4s and G5s. It can also run as a full 64-bit application, to take advantage of the processing power and memory space of Intel-based Macs running OS X 10.5.x or later.

As a 64-bit application, Lightroom 2 can access memory far beyond the 4 GB limit imposed by older 32-bit systems. If you have a large image library, or work with very large images, you should see a noticeable performance increase in 64-bit mode.

To select the operating mode, go to the Applications folder and right-click the Adobe Lightroom 2 icon. In the pop-up menu, select 'Get Info.' Uncheck the 'Open in 32-bit Mode' entry in the 'Get Info' window to allow Lightroom 2 to operate in 64-bit mode. (If you want to work in 32-bit mode, and you haven't previously set Lightroom 2 to operate in 64-bit mode, you can skip this step.)

Lightroom 2 - First Impressions

Adobe Lightroom 2 - Review of Lightroom 2

Use 'Get Info' to select 32- or 64-bit mode.

Like most Adobe applications, Lightroom 2 tends to take over the available screen space, although unlike some Adobe applications, you can resize and reposition Lightroom 2's window, to make it more Mac-like.

Lightroom’s interface is built around five main display areas.

  • Module Picker. Located along the top right of the display, the Module Picker lets you quickly select the tools you want to have available in the panels, so you can easily step through the photographer's workflow. The available modules are Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web.

  • Panels. Located on the left- and right-hand side of the interface. The left-hand panel contains content and presets for the selected module; the right-hand panel contains the individual tools.

  • Work Pane. Located in the center, this is the largest pane. It displays the image(s) you're currently working on.

  • Filmstrip. Located along the bottom, the Filmstrip shows thumbnails of each image from your library or images from selected collections you can work with for the task you're currently performing.

  • Menu Bar. This is the standard menu bar used in all Mac applications.

Overall, Lightroom 2's improved user interface is much easier to work with and navigate. The Module Picker keeps specific tools and tasks at your fingertips, eliminating a problem with Lightroom 1, which had many tools that were hidden and difficult to find.

Lightroom 2 - Multiple Monitors and Area-Specific Adjustments

New to Lightroom 2 is support for two monitors, even when you only have one. That sounds a bit strange, but Lightroom 2 lets you take advantage of the organizational opportunities that having two monitors provides, even if you don't have two monitors. If you only have one monitor, Lightroom 2 will open a second window that corresponds to what a second monitor would display. Of course, if you actually have two monitors, Lightroom will use the second monitor rather than open a second window.

If you're lucky enough to have two monitors, you can use the second monitor to view the same image in multiple ways. One monitor might display the image at normal size, while the other displays a magnified view of a selected area. This can help you from getting lost in a magnified view. Another use for a second monitor is to present images to clients while you work in the main display, editing the images or monitoring a slideshow.

Also new to Lightroom 2 is the ability to fine-tune specific areas of a photo rather than apply corrections to the entire image. You can adjust the color, exposure, and tonal range of a specific area using the Adjustment Brush tool, which can change its size, flow rate, and density as needed. Once you set the brush's behavior, you can choose the effect you want the brush to have, such as reduce or increase exposure, adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, or sharpness, or add a filter effect. The Adjustment Brush works like a paintbrush; simply brush over the target area to apply a specific effect.

Lightroom 2 - Library

Adobe Lightroom 2 - Review of Lightroom 2

Library with grid display.

Adobe product screen shot reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated

The Library is the heart of the Lightroom application, the place where you'll most likely spend most of your time. It allows you to efficiently view, catalog, and organize your photos.

Lightroom uses three basic organizational structures. The Catalog keeps track of photos and their information, such as titles, keywords, metadata, and camera EXIF information. The catalog doesn't actually contain the photos; that's the job of Folders, which correspond to the locations on your hard drive where the photos are stored. A catalog can access multiple folders, so you can organize photos as you see fit.

The last organizational element, the Collection, is by far the most versatile. Collections can contain any photos you wish. You can drag and drop photos from the Library into any Collection. More useful still is a Smart Collection. Just like the Mac's Smart Folders, or the Smart Playlists in iTunes, Smart Collections allow you to set rules that, when met, will automatically add a photo. For example, you could create a Smart Collection for any photos that you've rated higher than three stars, or any photos that include the keyword 'landscape.'

Because Smart Collections use sets of rules to define which photos will be included, you can create very powerful (and picky) Smart Collections. You might create one that includes only photos whose shutter speed was a 60th or less, were shot without a flash, and have a keyword of 'flowers.'

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