Essential Software for Today's Photographers: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Review

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From photo organization to photo publishing, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom provides all of the essentials to perfect the art of taking digital photos.  The product’s overall goal is to simplify photography from start to finish, a goal they have definitely achieved.

Presented as a series of easy to use modules, Lightroom provides the user with the ability to easily navigate through each of the steps in the common photography workflow.  Through the five modules, Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web, both the serious and amateur photographer alike can easily accomplish the tasks of photo importing, organizing, developing, editing, printing and publishing.   The user interface provides a simple, uncluttered design that features panels on either side of the workspace.  Panels are easily navigated using minimize and maximize features to show and hide tool options.    

Photo importing is where the process begins. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom offers tools that automate such tasks as file handling, assigning metadata, applying keywords, establishing exposure levels and backing up digital images.  Photo organization is handled through the Library Module, which also serves as the photographer’s workspace.  Quick collections and long-lasting collections offer the ability to further categorize photos by shoot.  One of the great things about collections is that they do not supersede the library.  Any images removed from a collection will remain in the library for future use. 
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The Develop Module of the product includes very robust tools that allow the user to manage color and exposure using tools as simple as a slidebar.  The preview feature illustrates the before and after view of the photo enabling the user to see what the selected changes will do to the photo.  One of the most exciting benefits of using Photoshop Lightroom is that all of the selected changes applied to the raw format of a photo are non-destructive.  Therefore, the user can experiment with different settings to see what they like best while preserving the original quality of photo.
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The Print Module provides the ability to quickly create contact sheets, proofs and gallery sheets.  Templates of common layouts are available but the user an also modify the layout to fit their needs.  Identity plates are available for the photographer to put their stamp on their work and also include any of the available metadata as well.  Due to direct integration with Hewlett Packard, Espon and Canon printers, users can print directly from the Photoshop Lightroom application.
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The Web Module is available for creating online presentations in the format of slideshows.  Available as either Flash or HTML galleries, users can preview their files in Photoshop Lightroom and then upload to their own webserver for client viewing.  The slideshow view has a lot of customization options including setting to music, timing for transitions, and slide viewing. Identity plates and backdrops are also options.
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Price to Value (4 out of 5)

What’s Hot:
Given the large number of options for organizing, editing, printing and publishing photos available in this software, the $299 price tag seems to be a bit low. A few photo shoots for a professional photographer will certainly cover the cost of the investment.

The next step up from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is Photoshop CS3 and CS3 Extended. If you have the money and are seriously into photography, the price tag of $649 on CS3 may be worth it. 

What’s Not:
If you want to do any additional editing to the photo outside of what is available in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, you will need to have something like Photoshop Element or Photoshop CS3. Given that these products are both made by Adobe, they are the best choices for minimizing integration issues. Element will run you about $99 while CS3 is considerably more at $649.

Installation & Setup (5 out of 5)

What’s Hot:
Installing Adobe Photoshop Lightroom took little time to complete and there was not much initial setup. After reviewing the Getting Started Guide, the user can be pretty much ready to start working in the software. As with any software, hands-on experience is the best way to become familiar. 

What’s Not:
If advanced editing features are desired, the user will need to install other photography editing software such as Photoshop Elements or the full-form Photoshop CS3. Installation of either of these products is fairly straightforward but will incur the additional cost of purchasing the software.

User Interface (5 out of 5)

What’s Hot:
The user interface is clean and uncluttered. The tools are available in “Panels” (similar to the palettes in Adobe Elements) on either side of the workspace. Panels of the left side typically include presets browsers. Those on the right include the tools to accomplish the task at hand. 

To minimize the clutter on the workspace, the user can minimize section headers in the panels, hiding available tools until they are needed. This makes it much easier for the user to focus on the task at hand before moving on to something else.

Photos can also be viewed in either Grid or Loupe view. Grid view shows multiple photos at once, which can also be seen in the filmstrip anchored at the bottom of the screen. Loupe view provides a view of a single image.

What’s Not:
There really isn’t much to say negative about the user interface. While it may initially take some time to get used to the layout of the panels, the overall design is well thought out. 

Product Features (4 out of 5)

What’s Hot:
The Develop Module includes a number of nice features that enable easy refinement of digital images. Options include correction of white balance, color casts, exposure, tone curves, and lens distortion. Other editing options include cropping, aspect ration, and straightening.

What’s Not:
While the editing options available in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom are fairly encompassing, complete editing options are only available by levering other Adobe software applications as well.

Help & Support (4 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

Within the Help menu, there are several selections that make becoming familiar with Lightroom a much faster experience.
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  • The Five Rules provides an explanation of the major components of Lightroom including Module Picker, Panesl, Filmstrip and Key Commands.
  • The Getting Started Guide is key in gaining a full understanding of the capabilities and functionality available in Lightroom. This document provides a step- by-step guide that walks the user through the main components of Lightroom.
  • Lightroom Help is designed much like Windows Help with Contents/Categories, and Index and Search capabilities.
  • Help Resources Online provides links to additional help options available via the Internet. 

What’s Not:
The Lightroom Online option directs the user to the Adobe Labs page.  Adobe Labs previously hosted additional information about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom but it has been removed. The user is now further directed to the website to the product information section for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.


Develop Module

Print Module

Lightroom Help

Library Module

Web Module

Suggested Features

  • Ability to edit photos inside of the application without the need for Adobe Elements or Photoshop CS3.
  • Less cumbersome process for photo manipulation that is more intuitive for first time users.


All in all, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is an end-to-end single solution for organizing, editing, viewing, printing and publishing digital photo images. At a mere $299, the price point is affordable to both the serious amateur or professional photographer. The user won’t think twice about spending the money once they realize all of the available features and editing controls available in the tool. Lightroom stands way above its competition and offers integration points with other Adobe Photoshop products such as Elements and CS3.  

With this product, Adobe has made it possible for serious photographers who work with digital photos to spend less time stuck behind the computer and more time letting their creative juices flow behing the camera.  Subjects will appreciate the affects available in Lightroom as well.  With the ability to remove spots and touch up skin imperfections, photographers will make their subjects excited about having their photos taken.  Make digital photography fun and give it your best shot.

Photoshop CS3, Photoshop Elements, ACDSee Pro Photo Manager, Noromis Photo Lab