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Localized image editing removed the color from the flowers on the right, while adding color saturation to the blue flowers.
For the past couple of years, Adobe has given professional photographers some choices when it comes to image-editing software—if you find Photoshop a bit daunting, Lightroom has much (though not all) of the same potential, but wrapped in a very different interface specifically geared toward photographers. This version of Lightroom adds some features sorely missed the first time, along with some truly useful new capabilities. But there are still some quirks and room for improvement. Lightroom 2 is a decent upgrade to this specialized image editor, and existing Lightroom owners will find several reasons to consider an upgrade, but if you’re already happy with what Photoshop does for you, there is less of a compelling reason to shell out the bucks for Lightroom 2.
The overall Lightroom look and feel has remained largely intact. There are five main “modules” that present a typical workflow: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web—each with specific tools and options that address contextual functionality. Lightroom 2’s Library mode is analogous to Photoshop’s Bridge application, and if you’re upgrading from Lightroom 1.0, you’ll be thrilled to find that you can now organize and address folders of images with full control over where your images actually live. This might seem like a subtle improvement, but it was a pet peeve of many 1.0 users. Lightroom now sports an indicator “light” that alerts you when a specific disk is close to capacity, a handy nicety for managing large photo libraries.
An interesting new addition is a localized image adjustment mode, which enables you to “paint” brightness, sharpness, color tonality, and other changes onto an image nondestructively. It’s not quite Photoshop’s Adjustment Layers, and you can’t reposition changes created with the tool as you can with the new Graduated Filter—a very slick gradient tool that creates graduated color-tinting effects. When you use the Graduated Filter, you can move the gradient around after the fact. Unfortunately, Lightroom slowed down considerably once we added more than a few of these localized adjustment brushes to an image, and the speed of the Mac we used or amount of RAM didn’t make much difference. The rest of Lightroom 2’s color-correction abilities are just about the same as version 1.0, which also means no color correction by the numbers, an advanced technique used with the Curves control in Photoshop for doing professional color-correction work.
There are other enhancements to the new Lightroom. Multiple monitor support—shockingly missing from the first version—a full 64-bit implementation, which will make a huge difference to pro users with gobs of RAM; the ability use custom Export modules for saving images directly to Flickr, Picasa, and other image-hosting sites; and support for 16-bit printing on supported printers, which can give increased tonal range and detail in shadow areas. Sadly, there is still no support for third-party plug-ins, although Adobe offers Lightroom users a robust system for supporting external editors for specific tasks. And we found performance on non-Intel Macs to be lackluster—Lightroom 2 seems a little bit pokier than the first version on our Mac G5 tower.There’s little that Lightroom 2 can do that you can’t accomplish in Photoshop, if you’re willing to spend the time learning Photoshop’s intricacies. But if you’re a photographer who wants to focus on pictures, and you’re looking to save some bucks, you should take a close look at the new Lightroom.