The Photoshop Lightroom 3 Software from Adobe is a complete photo management and editing suite for Mac OS X and Windows. Perfect for enthusiasts and professionals alike, Lightroom takes a nondestructive approach to photo editing. When editing your photos, the original files are left unmolested. All of your adjustments and edits are stored in a database and applied to an image on the fly, so that you'll always be able to go back to the original image. This lets you perform as many post-processing adjustments on a photo as you'd like, without making permanent changes to the original image.
Lightroom also serves as a powerful organizational tool for your photographs. You'll be able to organize photos to suit your needs using a powerful folder-based data structure. Lightroom lets you store images on multiple storage devices, and it stores low-resolution previews of each and every image in its central database, allowing you to browse your photos even when the original files are offline. You'll be able to search through your images based on any number of criteria, helping to speed the process of locating a specific image.
Lightroom's interface is broken up into five major components: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web. Each screen serves its own purpose, and you can go back and forth between them with ease. Of course, there is some overlap in functionality, but for the most part they are compartmentalized.
The Library screen is where you'll be able to organize and browse your photos. You'll have full access to all of the folders in your library from this screen, allowing you to reorganize them as needed. This is also where you'll apply keywords, ratings, color labels, and metadata additions to images. You can create custom searches to create "Collections" based on any of these criteria. There is even a "Smart Collections" function that updates on the fly as additional images meet your criteria. For example, this will allow you to have an up-to-date collection of all images that you have rated with 5 stars. There is also a "Quick Develop" panel which allows you to make minor adjustments to an image, without having to venture into the Develop screen.
The Library also serves as the gateway to import and export images. Clicking "Import" brings up a redesigned screen that will be unfamiliar to users of previous versions of Lightroom. The Import window now expands to fill your entire display. You'll be able to browse through your hard drive or a memory card to locate images for import. You have the option of leaving the images in their original location, copying or moving to a different folder, or copying them and converting to Adobe's DNG format. You can apply Develop settings, add metadata, and add keywords during import -- perfect for users who like to add a keyword for the camera used to capture the photos. You can also rename files and make a second copy to a backup drive during import.
Getting your photos out of Lightroom is just as important as bringing them into the program. When you've finished editing, you can use the Library screen to export them with ease. You have the option of using the "Export" function, which brings up a window with numerous settings -- including image size, sharpening, file format, and the like -- which you can customize. There is also a new "Publish Services" section, which allows you to send images to your hard drive or Flickr with ease. You'll be able to create as many presets for Publish Services as you'd like, giving you one-click access to frequently used export operations. This section can be further expanded by use of third-party plug-ins, available from Adobe's Lightroom Exchange website.
The second major component of Lightroom is the Develop screen. This is where you'll do the vast majority of your photo editing and toning. You can perform any sort of adjustment imaginable here -- color temperature, exposure, black levels, contrast, sharpness, and brightness are just a few examples. You'll be able to make adjustments via sliders or tone curves, discretely modify color channels, and convert images to black and white. Numerous presets are available, allowing you to quickly apply a certain "look" to a photo, and you can create your own presets based on your favorite settings.
The Develop screen also features powerful History and Snapshot functions. History allows you to browse through all of the adjustments you've made to an image, in the order that they were made, so that you can revert back to any stage in the image process. You can create a Snapshot of an image at any time, which saves all of the settings that you've applied -- this allows you to continue to experiment with a photo after you've found a look that you like for it.
You'll also be able to remove dust spots and red eye from photos thanks to Lightroom's spot editing tools. Create image masks to apply graduated filter adjustments to a photo, or use the brush tool to dodge, burn, and make other spot adjustments. You'll also be able to add vignettes and simulated film grain to images, perfect for breathing analog life into your digital photos.
Distortion correction is one of Lightroom 3's most impressive new features. Owners of fisheye lenses previously had to export photos to Photoshop in order to "defish" their images. Now, it can be done from within the program. You can correct for both fisheye and rectilinear distortion, perfect for users of extreme wide angle lenses. Numerous lens profiles are included with the software, and you can save your own presets for your own oft-used lenses.
Lens corrections can also be used to eliminate the keystone effect that can be caused when your camera is not straight-on with a subject when shooting. Of course, basic crop and rotation tools are also available for quick and simple adjustments. If there is anything that can't be handled by Lightroom, it's easy to export a photo to Photoshop CS4 or CS5 for editing -- any changes you make to an image in Photoshop will be automatically reflected in Lightroom.
Lightroom's other three screens are all about sharing your images with others. The Slideshow screen gives you all the tools necessary to create digital slideshows of your images, complete with transitions and music. You can view these from within Lightroom, or export them to a PDF or video file to share with others.
The Print screen allows you to print your images in any way imaginable. It can be adjusted for many standard paper sizes, and it lets you visually lay out photos on them. This allows you to maximize the number of photos on a single page, helping to reduce your printing costs. Lightroom can automatically position photos so that space on a page will be utilized in the most efficient manner. You can adjust prints for different paper types, color profiles, and add a signature plate if desired.
Finally, the Web screen gives you numerous means to output your photos to the web. Adobe includes a number of HTML and Flash galleries, allowing you to create a web gallery without having any knowledge of programming. These can be customized to suit your needs, and third-party galleries are available via the Adobe Lightroom Exchange website.
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