Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
The fact that Adobe makes a DAM software overshadows all other contenders. Of all the software publishers here, Adobe has the most resources and the most legacy to build on. It is no surprise that this makes Photoshop Lightroom the most polished and capable software among its peers. This does not mean the competition cannot hold its own, just that it is more difficult for them to compete and they will not success through imitation either.
Photoshop Lightroom 3 is designed to be the photography workflow. As such it does everything from importing to processing to printing and web gallery generating. The user interface is extremely polished with a modern and efficient feel. This software is available for a suggested retail price of $299 USD in Windows or Mac versions. It is available for less from Amazon.
Lightroom was one of first to adopt the neutral panel-based interface and non-destructive editing used in movie studios. The grey interface provides a neutral surrounding that does not affect our perception of colors. Having panels rather than floating panels makes the interface more efficient to use as elements do not need to be moved around. Non-destructive refers to the fact that Photoshop Lightroom does not modify original image files. Instead, every edit is done virtually and new images are produced by the export module. This means that everything can be undone.
The user interface is organized in panels around the image display area which shows one or more images, either as a grid of thumbnails or as one or more images, depending on the viewing mode. Everything else belongs to a collapsible panel. The top panel serves little purpose other than to show the current module and identify its sequence in the workflow. It saves precious vertical space to collapse this panel, using the menu bar or keyboard shortcuts to change modules.
The DAM part of Lightroom is the Library module. Note that the side panel assignments are different across modules. For the purpose of this article, the Library module is the one that counts, unless otherwise noted.
The left panel is used for navigation. It consists of a navigator that is used to navigate within an image (aka pan and zoom), a catalog view, a hierarchical folder view, a collection view and a publish services view. The tree-view for file folders and one for collections are the main navigation tools. Selecting a folder or collection shows all the images in that folder and in subfolders, making it easy to apply changes to a branch.
The right panel mostly holds modifiable information such as metadata and keywords. The views there show the current state of the selected image or images and allow adding and removing of keywords and some metadata. These is also a quick develop view which lets the user perform preset image processing directly from the library module.
The bottom panel is a virtual bin to keep track of the current selection across modules. It supports basic filtering of its contents.
Importing is performed using a powerful dialog which can be used to apply metadata and image processing on import. It also previews imported files with the option to select which images make it into the catalog. This is perfect for skipping over images to be deleted or ones that will not be part of the catalog. Since Photoshop Lightroom can perform other parts of the workflow, the import function can copy, move, convert to DNG or reference image files in their original location.
Import and batch capabilities are crucial to the efficiency of DAM applications because the time spent repeating tasks is better spent otherwise. Every software can easily add data to a single file. Most of the time, a good deal of initial metadata is repeated. For example, the author and copyright notice is normally identical for a batch import. Location data may also be the same.
Photoshop Lightroom allows to define presets which are groups of metadata or processing tasks. These tasks can be applied in batch on import or after. A set of keywords can also be added to all images during the import process.
Keywording is done using a simple interface where one can add new keywords instantly, choose from recently used ones and see which keyword is already applied or partially applied to images in the current selection.
Frequently adding related keywords is a breeze because the application creates buttons for the most recently used ones in order to efficiently apply them and avoid the horror of typos in keywords. Accessing keyword-lists is done by selecting a set of keywords to display in an array of buttons. Lightroom provides some predefined sets but one is free to define his own.
Searching is done by selecting filters to apply to the currently selected folder branch. This makes it easy to narrow down to a set of matching images. There are up to 4 metadata filters which can be applied, each one chosen from a list of 22. The search by date is cleverly done so that years, months or days can be filtered. EXIF filtering options are rather limited though which is a shame. In theory, Lightroom lets you search data within any field but since it does not support filtering on the field's name, this is of limited use. The aspect ratio filter lets you select portrait, landscape or square images. It is useful, but not what was expected. Selecting by actual aspect ratio such as 3:2 or 4:3 is not supported and there is no support for searching by image resolution either.
Lightroom took just under 12 hours to import 18000 images, setting the bar in our performance benchmarks. Search time is very variable, for sets with small results it can be 1s but for larger results 5 seconds or more are common. Switching between images usually takes 1 to 3 seconds, which is slow enough to feel sluggish. This displays a preview image, then it takes another few seconds to get the real image displayed.
Overall, Lightroom lives up to expectations. This is a highly polished product with a refined user interface and a rather large feature set. The interface is kept simple by being split into modules. The basics are intuitive but a great number of features do require explanations. Thanks the popularity of Lightroom's, there are quite a number of book and courses for that.
The perception of software speed is a matter of expectations. At times Lightroom feels slow because a fast image viewer can display and switch between images much faster. At the same time though, Lightroom does a lot more and so there is a noticeable performance cost for the added functionality. Certain features are positively sluggish while others like the speed of most queries is impressive.
In terms of DAM functionality, Photoshop Lightroom has a more than the basics but lacks features for some common queries, notably ones based on EXIF data.
Neocamera Blog is a medium for expressing ideas related to digital cameras and photography. Read about digital cameras in the context of technology, media, art and the world. Latest posts links:
10 Gifts Photographers Will Love
The 2019 gift guide for photographers showcases photography gear that amateur and enthusiasts will enjoy. It is divided into 3 price categories to suit different budgets from $50 to $200 USD.
Sony Alpha A7R IV In-Depth Review
The newest Sony high-resolution mirrorless packs a 61 MP Full-Frame BSI-CMOS sensor on 5-axis Sensor-Shift system. It shoots at 10 FPS, records 4K Ultra-HD video and focuses with a new 567-Point and 425-Area Hybrid AF system with Realtime tracking. This professional-grade camera features a 5.8 MP 0.5" EVF with 0.78X magnification, 100% coverage and an Eye-Start Sensor plus triple control-dials in a weatherproof body. This review shows exactly how the A7R IV performs and compares to top Full-Frame and Medium-Format digital cameras.
Olympus OM-D E-M1X Review
Professional Micro Four-Thirds mirrorless sporting an ultra-high speed 20 MP sensor with 121-Point Phase-Detect AF on a 5-axis image-stabilization system effective to 7-stops. 60 FPS drive with blackout free view on a huge 0.83X magnification 2.4 MP 0.5" EVF. Even a builtin GPS in a dual-grip double dual-control-dial IPX1-rated weatherproof and freezeproof body.
Nikon D3500 Review
The lightest DSLR packs a 24 MP APS-C sensor with ISO 100-25600 sensitivity-range, 5 FPS drive and Full HD video capture. Basic features with simple ergonomics.
Time-Lapse Photography for Beginners
Learn how to get started with time-lapse photography in 4 easy steps.
Fujifilm X-T30 Review
The newest 26 MP 4th-Generation X-Trans CMOS sensor and X-Process 4 from the flagship X-T3 in more compact body. ISO 80-51200, 1/32000-30s, 20 FPS Continuous drive, Cinema 4K video. Dual control-dials and 2.4 MP EVF with Eye-Start Sensor.
Nikon Z6 Review
Nikon Full-Frame Mirrorless with 24 MP and 5-Axis Built-In Image-Stabilization effective to 5-Stops. ISO 100-202400. 12 FPS Continuous Drive. 3.7 MP 0.5" EVF with 0.8X Magnification and 100% Coverage. 4K Ultra-HD video.
Fujifilm GFX 50R Review
Medium Format Mirrorless Digital Camera based on 50 MP 0.8X-Crop CMOS sensor without Anti-Alias Filter. ISO 50-102400, 1/16000s-60m Shutter-Speeds, 3 FPS and Full 1080p HD video at 30 FPS. Large 0.5" EVF with 3.7 MP, 100% coverage, 0.77X magnification and an Eye-Start Sensor. Dual control-dials in a weatherproof and freezeproof body.
Fujifilm X-T3 Review
State of the art 26 MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor with 2.1M Phase-Detect pixels, 20 FPS Full-Resolution Continuous Drive, Cinema 4K & Ultra-HD 4K video at 60 FPS. Built-in 0.5" EVF 3.7MP, 100% Coverage, 0.75X magnification and Eye-Start Sensor. Dual control-dials plus dedicated dias in weatherproof and freezeproof body.
Think Tank Photo Story Teller 10 Review
Review of the Think Thank Photo Story Teller 10 photography shoulder bag.