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A Computer Darkroom Review

Lightroom 1.0 made its public debut in mid February 2007. At the time, I along with around 40 other photographers and fellow Lightroom alpha testers (Michael Reichmann, Jeff Schewe and Seth Resnick) were on a photo shoot to Antarctica, so we missed all the fun and games of the official launch day. Anyway, time marches and Lightroom 1.1 is now with us, maybe we'll have another party.


So what's with the reference to a photo shoot to Antarctica? The photo shoot was memorable for many reasons, not least of which was the opportunity it provided to put Lightroom through its paces away from the comfort of home and our very speedy desktop computers. It allowed us to see how the application performed in the hands of those less familiar with its operation. It also provided an opportunity for those who had influenced much of what had gone into Lightroom 1.0 to hear what others really thought. Much was learned (good points and bad) and I think itís fair to say that many of the frustrations experienced by a much larger group of users since the official launch was also experienced by those on board the good ship Professor Multanovskiy.

Did much of what we learned find it's way back into Lightroom 1.1? Some of it did and some didn't, but then again Rome wasn't built in a day. Remember, Lightroom still hasn't celebrated its first birthday, so expectations of major enhancements are unrealistic, or are they?
30 June 07 - info on GPS tagging and Voice Annotations has been added as separate page.

Summary of  What's New in Lightroom 1.1

Lightroom 1.1 includes many new features and enhancements, in fact way too many for me to cover here, although I'm sure there will be plenty of coverage on other web sites. The following is an edited version of the new feature set as highlighted in the Help documents:

  • Create and open catalogs - Libraries have been replaced with Catalogs in Lightroom 1.1. A catalog is how Lightroom tracks the location of files and remembers information about them.

 

  • Import and export catalogs - Export a group of selected photos as a new catalog or import photos from another catalog into an existing catalog. This feature is the means by which the catalogs on two or more computers can be synchronised.

 

  • Synchronise folders - Synchronising folders provides the option of adding files that have been subsequently added to the folder but not imported into the catalog, removing files that have been deleted, and scanning for metadata updates.

 

  • Enhanced DNG export settings - Those already familiar with Camera Raw or DNG Converter will be pleased to learn that Lightroom now supports the full set of conversion options. You can specify the embedded preview size, select an image conversion method, etc.

 

  • Additional metadata fields and presets - The Metadata panel includes two new presets (i.e. Large Captions and Location). The panel also includes new options for e-mail, URLs, Copyright Status, Metadata tracking, etc. The redesigned panel UI also sports buttons to the right of the metadata fields that allow you to perform actions, such as resolving metadata conflicts and opening a folder.

 

  • Hierarchical template folders - Template panels now let you create additional folders with parent-child relationships. For photographers with a growing number of develop,  print or web presets, this folder structure provides additional options for organising photos.

 

  • Paint tool - In Lightroom 1.0, it was possible to apply keywords to multiple images in Grid view by using the Keyword Stamper tool. In Lightroom 1.1, the more general purpose Painter tool replaces the Keyword Stamper tool.

 

  • Remove Red Eye and Remove Spot tool enhancements - The Remove Red Eye tool has been improved to make it easier to detect and remove red eye. The Remove Spot tool has also been improved to make it easier to repair blemishes in photos.

 

  • New develop settings - In the Develop module, noise reduction and sharpening tools have been improved, and the Basic and Quick Develop panels includes a new Clarity control for adding extra ěpunchî to your images.

 

If you've read this far and decided that you would prefer to start playing around with Lightroom on your own system, then get to it. However, before  doing so, you may wish to download a copy of my Keyboard Shortcuts and Modifiers for Lightroom 1.1, I hope you find them useful.

Mac Shortcuts 

Windows Shortcuts

Library module

The Library module has undergone a very significant update with refinements to the UI and feature set (e.g. Quick Develop panel and Catalogs respectively). The Import module has also seen changes, which should please those who shoot raw+jpeg. Anyway, I don't intend to cover every new feature or change but hopefully I haven't omitted anything major.

Import

The import commands in the File menu have been split. To import from a device (camera or card), there is now a separate Import from Device command. The Import button in the Library module still offers a choice of source if there is a card inserted.

As mentioned above, Lightroom 1.1 now includes a preference (Treat JPEG files next to...)  setting that allows the user to decide whether they wish to import camera raw images+jpegs as separate viewable and editable files or treat the JPEG as a sidecar only (non visible, etc). So that there is no misunderstanding, when JPEG images are imported as sidecars they will not be visible nor can they be edited, if the camera raw image is removed from the catalog the JPEG will also be removed. When the JPEG is imported as a distinct image it will be visible and editable. If the camera raw image is removed from the catalog the JPEG will remain. The Import preferences also includes options for configuring DNG file generation.

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Global Preferences - Import

Catalogs

Probably the most often asked question by participants on the Antarctica photo shoot was to how they would eventually be able transfer their digital photographs to their main computer. Obviously, having spent some considerable time applying adjustments, ratings, labels, keywords, history, snapshots, etc they were keen to ensure that nothing was lost. Unfortunately, the answer given was not too well received because it involved writing the data back to the file as an XMP sidecar or as embedded data within their DNG files. It was even less well received when they realised that history and snapshots could not be transferred using either method.

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OK, so that was then and the development team at Adobe aren't so naive as to think that Lightroom would be taken seriously if some means of syncing two computers remained as a to-do item rather than a standard feature. The good news is that Lightroom 1.1 includes pretty much everything needed to make the transfer of files along with all associated adjustments and metadata to other computers. There have also been a number of improvements to the way that Lightroom manages and keeps track of files. In particular, Lightroom 1.1 provides much better support for working with multiple image libraries, and to help convey the workflow changes they bring it was also decided to change to the term Catalog instead of Library.

Whilst the name change may seem somewhat academic it was thought that the term Library was confusing, especially since it usually refers to all or the majority of the user's images. While there is still an expectation that users will keep their entire library of images referenced within a single Lightroom catalog, it was felt that a method which supports the subdividing of images between multiple catalogs might be preferable, particularly when very large numbers of images are involved.

As part of the changeover Catalogs were given a new filename extension, ".lrcat", although Lightroom 1.1 can still open 1.0's ".lrdb" files. However, you should note that in the process of doing so it will convert them to a format that is no longer compatible with version 1.0. Fortunately, Lightroom makes a backup copy of your existing library file before conversion. The actual process of conversion can take a few minutes as Lightroom will scan the old library to check its integrity, etc.

With the addition of catalogs comes the need for a new commands, of which there are many. There is now an Open Catalog command in the File menu which allows the selection of another catalog file. This Catalog will be the one that will be opened next time Lightroom is launched. Open Recent stores details on the 10 most recently opened catalogs.

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Apparently, it was beyond the scope of the changes in 1.1 to allow for multiple catalogs to be open simultaneously, so 1.1 still only allows a single catalog at a time. Nevertheless, there are some new features that help facilitate an easier multi-catalog workflow. For example, export catalog provides options to exclude previews and images (i.e. negative files) from a catalog thus making it very compact, albeit useful only for applying metadata such as ratings, labels etc. The screenshot included above shows the new menu options and Export as Catalog dialog.

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Just as export provides a means by which previews etc is included in the catalog it's possible for the user to decide whether they wish to copy from the imported catalog.

Catalog Information can be viewed from within General panel of the Catalog Settings, which is available from the File menu. This panel will show some basic information about the current catalog file, including its path, its size, etc. There is also a button for optimising your catalog and options for backing it up.

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Catalog Settings panel displaying information on: location, size, backup and optimisation date

Synchronising Folders, Metadata Tracking and Searching

For many Lightroom users the Synchronise Folders command will be a welcome addition. Using this command it's possible compare the contents of the Lightroom catalog against the actual folder contents. This comparison includes checks for: new, changed or missing images, plus any metadata changes. The idea of this command is for Lightroom to establish which files have been changed by external applications such as Bridge, iView MediaPro, etc.  The following screenshot  is an example of of a folder in which no new images or missing images where found.

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Synchronise Folder dialog

I much prefer this manual method of tracking and synching of changes to an automated method that would be continually carrying out background checks on multiple folders.

Lightroom 1.1 also includes many improvements for managing and tracking of metadata changes within the application itslef. The most visible change is that if you modify an image in some way that will cause it to differ from the version of the metadata stored with the file on disk, Lightroom will show an icon in the top-right corner of the Library grid. This icon will disappear if you use the Save Metadata to File command (Cmd+S [Mac] or Ctrl+S [Windows]) to save the metadata back to the image. If the Automatically write changes into XMP preference is turned on, the change is automatically written  back to the file almost instantly.

To be honest, and even though I acknowledge the necessity for such a feature, I have no liking for the manner in which it has been implemented. In particular, I find the constantly changing icon really annoying. Thankfully, it's possible disable the icon by unchecking the Unsaved Metadata checkbox in the View Options dialog. It's a pity, however, that it's not so easy to disable the changed metadata fields in the metadata panel. The following screenshots shows the new icon along with the note displayed in the Metadata panel.

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The metadata panel also has action arrow buttons next to URL and E-mail fields that will send them to the default web browser or mail client.

The Find panel has a new layout and some new search logic associated with Title, Caption and Keywords (e.g. "Is Empty" and "Isn't Empty"). The following is a brief explanation of the other search rules used by Lightroom:

"Contains": images containing any words typed (x OR y).
"Contains All": images containing all words typed (x AND y).
"Doesn't Contain": images that don't contain any words typed (NOT x OR NOT y).
"Starts With": images that contain all of the word beginnings typed (x... AND y... ).
"Ends With": images that contain all of the word endings typed (...x AND ...y ).

Add the prefix "!" to any word to exclude it from the results.
"+" at beginning of any word triggers the "Starts with" rule for just that word.
"+" at end of any word triggers the "Ends with" rule for just that word.

You can Cmd/Ctrl+click or Shift+click to select multiple items in any individual panel list or across multiple panel lists. If you have multiple items in a single panel list selected then they are combined in the search as an OR, and if you have multiple items selected across different panel lists they are combined using an AND search.

The Metadata Browser has its own special rules:  each of the top-level categories it contains act as if they were separate lists when it comes to how the search is built. So, with a few Cmd/Ctrl+clicks you can build complex searches like: ( folderA, folderB, or folderC ) and ( keywordA, keybwordB, or keywordC ) and ( January/2005 ) and ( CityA or CityB ) and CameraA

Author note: I have included above information in the downloadable keyboard shortcut pdf's found at the top of this page.

Other metadata related improvements include:

  • The Keyword Stamper tool from version 1.0 has been replaced with a Painter tool and provides more general-purpose metadata application than the Stamper tool. For example, rather than just keywords, the Painter tool can apply rating, flags, Develop presets, metadata presets, and rotations. It's also possible to apply the specified content to multiple files by click-and-drag.

  • XMP sidecar and embedded metadata support has been improved significantly with the ability to store Develop snapshots, although they not yet viewable or editable in Bridge/Camera Raw.

  • Update previews along with metadata in DNG files using a new option in the Metadata menu.

  • Add copyright status (i.e. Copyrighted, Public Domain and Unknown) to a file via a pop-up option within the metadata panel.

  • You can now view, edit, rename, delete or update metadata presets via the Edit Presets dialog.

The Metadata Browser now includes ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, and Label. To make multiple selections within this panel (and/or others) Cmd/Ctrl+click the fields you want to select. Ctrl+click (Mac) or right-clicking (Windows) the Metadata Browser panel displays a context menu from which you can access the Catalog preferences dialog. This dialog provides checkboxes for each of the metadata panel options so that they can be individually disabled/enabled.

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I mentioned earlier that the Quick Develop panel in Lightroom 1.1 had undergone a facelift. The screenshot shown below should give a good idea how much with the chevrons of 1.0 being replaced with proper profiled buttons. Clarity and Sharpness have been added to the panel, but you'll need to press the Opt/Alt key to make the later visible. Actually, this keyboard modifier makes quite few alternative commands visible. Note that the sharpening button only changes the amount and is based upon the default radius, detail and mask values found in the Develop module.

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The last area I want to touch on in the Library module relates to the Filmstrip and toolbar  You'll probably notice that the filmstrip's filter rating stars now have a different appearance when they are not active, which should help show that they define the star-rating part of the filter. Badge icons can be disabled in the filmstrip separately from the Library grid via Interface preferences. New filters have been added for Master Photos and Virtual Copies. Using these new filters makes finding Virtual Copies or Master Photos a breeze.

As a more observant Lightroom user <g> you may already have found the new Selection tools that have been added to the Filmstrip toolbar, then again maybe you haven't. Anyway, there are 4 new selection buttons that can be used to select images that meet certain criteria, but they only become visible when a modifier key is pressed and you mouse over a filter. For example:  Cmd/Ctrl+clicking the green colour chip will select all images that have a green label,  to Add images that have 2 stars you would Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+click the 2 stars rating, to Subtract picked images you would Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+click the Pick flag, etc... (Intersection uses Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+Shift+click keys in combination). Also, check out the Edit>Select by Flag/Label/Rating menu options. I'm sure that you'll find many uses for this feature whichever method you choose to use.

Develop module

Along with many other Photoshop users Iíve been a proponent of three-step sharpening Capture, Creative and Output as provided by Pixel Genius PhotoKit Sharpener. So, it should come as no surprise that I consider the new sharpening code to be the most significant addition to the Develop module is.

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With Lightroom 1.0 sharpening images is carried out in two stages, the first stage is when view and edit on images, and the second when you print them, this two stage approach hasnít changed with 1.1. However, unlike Lightroom 1.0 which only provided a single capture sharpening slider 1.1 provides 4 sliders (Amount, Radius, Detail and Mask). These sliders provide the user a great deal more control over the amount and extent of sharpening that is applied to their images. The effects of sharpening are only visible when you zoom in the preview image to at least 100%. A nice touch is an icon in the top left of the Sharpening panel which when clicked will zoom the image to 100%.

Overview of Sharpening Controls

In the Detail panel of the Develop module, do any of the following:

Amount

 

Adjusts edge definition. Increase the Amount value to increase sharpening. A value of zero (0) turns off sharpening. In general, set Amount to a lower value for cleaner images. The adjustment locates pixels that differ from surrounding pixels based on the threshold you specify and increases the pixelsí contrast by the amount you specify.

 

Radius

Adjusts the size of the details that sharpening is applied to. Photos with very fine details may need a lower radius setting. Photos with larger details may be able to use a larger radius. Using too large a radius generally results in unnatural-looking results.

Detail

 

Adjusts how much high-frequency information is sharpened in the image and how much the sharpening process emphasizes edges. Lower settings primarily sharpen edges to remove blurring. Higher values are useful for making the textures in the image more pronounced.

 

Masking

Controls an edge mask. With a setting of zero (0), everything in the image receives the same amount of sharpening. With a setting of 100, sharpening is mostly restricted to those areas near the strongest edges.

Italic text extracted from Lightroom 1.1 Help document

Above takes care of capture sharpening, but what about creative and output. Alas, Lightroom still has no method by which creative or selective sharpening can be applied but hopefully this will be a feature in a future version. Output sharpening is also fairly limited in so far as it is only available as pop-up options within the Print module. That said, when Lightroom exports an image or sends a image for editing in Photoshop, the sharpen settings for the image will be applied to the rendered file.  So creative or output sharpening can be applied there using tools such as PhotoKit Sharpener. The user is then free to apply whatever additional sharpening they think is necessary. Noise reduction has also received some attention, as has the demosiacing algorithms used to render the raw files.

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New adjustments for Clarity, Sharpening and Defringing

The new Clarity adjustment is another very useful tool, which adds mid-tone contrast. According to Jeff Schewe it's a hybrid of a technique first documented by Michael Reichmann and a contrast enhancement method taught by Mac Holbert of Nash Editions. While I think the actual adjustment is very effective it is hampered to some extent by the screen refresh method used by Lightroom, which means that the effects of slider adjustment may not be as immediately obvious as they are with Camera Raw .

Chromatic Aberration correction now includes a Defringe pop-up menu with options to deal with two different fringe types. The All Edges option is probably the most useful since it removes colour fringing from specular highlights. Again, the effects are only visible when the file is viewed at 100% or higher.

The new controls summarised above are a replication of those in Camera Raw 4.1, for which Jeff Schewe has published a more comprehensive explanation. His article can be found at PhotoshopNews, so please visit the site for more information.

Other changes within the Develop module include:

Itís now possible to load a Snapshot or History state into the Before view by right-clicking it in the panel. Using this feature it should be possible to compare the final version with any history state or snapshot that has been recorded since the last occasion either was reset.

Crop view now supports a more comprehensive set of composition grid styles (e.g. Triangle, Golden Ratio and Golden Spiral). These are chosen via the View menu, or can be cycled through using the "Shift-O" shortcut. Another nice touch is that hitting the Escape key will now undo the changes made during a crop session. No doubt some will be disappointed that we still canít zoom into an image when cropping, hopefully next time. The following screenshot shows the Golden Spiral within the main content area, although the overlay is not be as clear as I would have like.

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Whilst not obvious at first glance the Colour panel now supports multiple-selection of colors or HSL components. Cmd+shift (Mac) or Ctrl+click (Windows) on the colour chips or the HSL component names to view more than one at a time in the panel. The relevant adjustment sliders will appear according to which colour chip or chips you selected.

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Colour Panel with reduced colour components selected

Note that above example shows only red and green slider sets, which reflects the fact that it was only red and green chips that I had selected.

The default Camera Raw settings from Bridge/Photoshop are now shared with Lightroom. So, depending on how preferences are set, these can vary by camera model or additionally the unique camera serial number and/or ISO speed.

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Synchronising Lightroom and Camera Raw Settings

A new Edit Externally File Naming option is available from within the Preferences dialog. This feature will be welcome to those who donít like the ěń editî extension that occurred when files were opened into Photoshop etc.
 

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I probably should have mentioned earlier when covering the Library module, but since the Toolbar and Filmstrip features in all modules, then this is as good a place as any. Some of the toolbar icons have been given a bit of a facelift. The text at the top of the filmstrip now changes the highlighted item based on context, which comes in very handy. For example, if a command in Develop will affect all selected images, the text "X selected" is highlighted instead of the filename. In output modules (Slideshow, Print and Web), the highlighted section indicates which images will be included in the output.

Slideshow module

The Slideshow module now makes better use of OS and hardware based graphics technology (DirectX on Windows and Quartz Composer on the Mac). Obviously, the performance and quality will be dependent upon factors such as the computer/video and card/monitor configuration being used, but the results should be an improvement on version 1.0.

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With Lightroom 1.1 the default behaviour has been changed so that slideshows will now only include selected images when more than one is selected. However, this behaviour can be overridden via a new menu item (Play>Which Photos>). In my view this is a very welcome change in Slideshow modules behaviour.

Print module

Like Slideshow, the Print module has received little in the way of feature additions. That said the new hierarchical template folder should make managing lots of user designed templates much easier. Some other less obvious improvements in this module include:

  • Pressing the Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) button will expose an Add Folder button and allow you to bypass the Print dialog.

  • There's a new checkbox that activates an Image Print Size overlay

  • There is a new checkbox next to Print Resolution. Turning off this checkbox will cause the native resolution of the photo to be used. From what I can gather this feature only applies as long as the native resolution isn't lower than 72ppi or higher than 480 ppi.

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I suppose this is one of those modules were it's what didn't get added that will make for the most "noise". By this I mean the lack of Soft Proofing and Print-to-File. Both have been widely requested but time and resources placed limits on what was possible within the relatively short timeframe that was available to the development team, hopefully next time.

Web module

In common with the Slideshow and Print modules Web has seen only minor changes, for example:

  • Hierarchical template folders are available in this module, which should make organising user templates into type specific child-folders relatively simple. Again, pressing the Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) button will expose an Add Folder button.

  • An option has been added to the Output Settings that will facilitate the inclusion of all embedded metadata with images generated from Web, alternatively the user can opt to reduce the metadata to just the content of the Copyright field.

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There is also now a way to have Flash web galleries that modify the XML generated by Lightroom, which supports creating wrappers from some popular third-party web gallery templates. Since Iím not that familiar with Flash web gallery development I canít really provide an indication of whether this addition will make life easier for those who are. My guess is that it will, although probably not as much as hoped.

The Web module also includes menu options that allow selection of photos that match specific criteria (rating, label colour or flag status) within the filmstrip. This module also supports the filter toolbar and keyboard modifier selection method discussed earlier.

Final thoughts

Adobe could easily have taken a more cautious approach to Lightroom 1.1 by only providing bug fixes along with the bare minimum of feature enhancements (e.g. Synchronise Folders and Catalogs). The fact that they didnít should not go unnoticed nor should it be thought of us a reaction to criticisms levelled at Lightroom 1.0.  That said, Lightroom 1.1 has many more new features than most expected and certainly more than many commentators thought possible within the relatively short period of time that has elapsed since 1.0 first went public. Will Lightroom 1.1 satisfy version 1.0 critics? I doubt it, however, I believe those with more realistic expectations will see 1.1 for what it is - a significant and very welcome update.

More details on Lightroom 1.1 can be found on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom web page.

Further reading:

Martin Evening has posted a new feature article to LightroomNews entitled Lightroom 1.1 Update: General Menus further articles will posted shortly.

Michael Reichmann is putting the finishing touches to a video tutorial in which he and Jeff Schewe discuss many of the new features found in Lightroom 1.1, visit Luminous Landscape for more details. Michael, has also made this segment of the tutorial to everyone who register for a Luminous Landscape store account - more info at  Lightroom 1.1 Update Tutorial.

Remember Rule 5 - Enjoy!

Adobe Community Professional

 
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