A major problem facing most professional and keen amateur photographers is how to manage and organise the vast collection of image files that can build up over the course of a few years. Professional photography isn’t even my main job, and yet I’ve got over 40,000 photographs on my hard drive, many of them large Raw files from professional quality DSLRs; professional working photographers could easily have two or three times as many. Other image management programs such as Google Picasa, or the browser sections of Adobe Photoshop Elements or Corel Paint Shop Pro can have real problems with such large collections, taking many hours to sift through and catalogue images, or simply failing altogether and crashing. Adobe Lightroom 3 took about 30 minutes to import and catalogue my entire collection, presenting the results as a database searchable under a wide range of criteria including camera EXIF data. As you can imagine, being able to search for pictures taken on a particular make and model camera or with a particular type of lens comes in very handy in my line of work.
Also useful is the built-in support for dual monitors, with the second monitor display being configurable to show the currently selected image, the library grid, a survey comparison or a slideshow of images in a folder. It is this adaptability that is one of Lightroom’s great strengths and one of the reasons that it is so popular with professionals; you can set it up to suit the way you want to work, adapting it to your preferred workflow rather than having to adapt your methods to suit the program. The interface is surprisingly simple for such a complex and powerful program, with everything organised into logical sections called Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web. The grey-on-black colour scheme looks a bit Spartan but it is efficient and functional, although it definitely benefits from using a big monitor, and preferably two of them.
The algorithms, modules and engines that power the program have been completely rewritten for Lightroom 3, leading to improved performance for a wide range of operations. Corrections for lens distortion and chromatic aberration are faster and more effective, and can be saved as profiles for particular lens and camera combinations to be applied with a single click to one or a selected batch of images. Camera lenses can be detected and recognised automatically thanks to inbuilt metadata, and corrections for recurring distortions can be applied automatically. A variety of distortion-correcting transformations can be applied, including horizontal and vertical perspective, keystone and rotation.
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