A Computer Darkroom Feature Review

When Adobe released the public beta of Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 back in early April 2008 it was with the express intention of providing the user community with an opportunity to try out many of the new features. Obviously, there was an expectation that the users would provide feedback on the new features and other aspects of the Lightroom workflow. So, here we are some 4 months later and the final release version is available, the question on everyone lips is - has the public beta delivered on it's objectives?


So what's new and improved?

In comparison the public beta, and as forewarned, the release version of Lightroom 2.0 doesn't contain many new features. Nonetheless, there are a good number of enhancements to those first seen in the public beta. Most of the new features were probably already in development but weren't ready for the public beta. As for the enhancements, well, some were planned, but in some cases Adobe obviously took on board user feedback. This latter point may come as surprise to some readers, but it shouldn't, especially when some of the Lightroom and Camera Raw engineers were active participants in the beta forum.

During the public beta period Adobe were particularly keen to receive feedback on: the Local brush adjustments, the Library filter tools, and the refinements to output sharpening. So, it should come as no surprise to find that the new and improved features since the public beta are:

  • Improved local adjustment brushes (including a sharpening brush)

  • Gradient tool with custom toning

  • Enhanced Folder and Collection view

  • Enhanced keyword filtering

  • Lightroom Web, Export and Metadata SDK

  • Significant Camera Profile enhancements including a dedicated profile editing application

Since much of the material in my earlier public beta preview is still current  it would be worthwhile reading it along with this feature review. You can access it by pressing the link button below. The preview will open in a separate window, so it shouldn't interfere with reading this page.


The following table lists the new and enhanced features found in Lightroom 2.0:


Simplified organisational tools in Library


Volume Management View


Smart Collections


Keyword Suggestions


Enhanced Keyword List


Enhanced Search and Filter Panel


Dual Monitor Support


64-bit native on Mac and Windows.


Output-specific Collections


Metadata SDK for custom metadata




Post Crop Vignette


Local Adjustment Brush and Gradient Filter for: Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Clarity, Sharpening and custom toning


Support for new camera profiling technology via DNG Profile Editor


Additional detail view window for Noise Reduction and Sharpening




Slideshow Export to JPEG


Enhanced colour selection dialog box for backgrounds and borders


Output sharpening for print and output to screen


Print Package with automatic cell layout


16-bit printing on Mac


Web SDK for third party gallery support


Export SDK


Lightroom Exchange for community plug-in interaction



So, of the features most requested both before and during the public beta, which didn't make the cut?

  • Support for CMYK

  • Support for content such as videos produced by digital cameras

  • Softproofing

  • Books

Library Module

At first glance little appears to have changed within the Library module. The Library still remains the heart of Lightroom in so far as it's the module that provides most of the tools for managing your photographic assets. Imported photos can be viewed in the Library in various modes or views, which include: Grid view (G), Loupe view (E), Compare view (C) and Survey view (N). Each of these views is intended for a specific purpose in your workflow, but you may find one view more useful than others. Grid view allows you see large numbers of photos as thumbnails whilst at the same time providing a workspace for applying labels, ratings, keywords, flags and even quick development adjustments to photos in bulk. On the other hand, Loupe view restricts these actions to a single photo. Compare and Survey views are designed to make the tasks of rating and flagging easier, although some users will find the absence of a 1:1 view in Survey view still limits its usefulness when a trying to decide between more than two near enough identical photos.


Figure 1 - Library module Grid view (Click image for larger view)

If you have been using Lightroom 1.x for any length of time you'll no doubt be aware that the handling offline photos was particularly painful. In fact, pretty much any task associated with moving your photos into, within or out of Lightroom could be painfully slow when large numbers of photos were involved. The process of moving photos around was also made more complex by the fact that there was no obvious visual link to how they were stored on your computer hard disks. Enter the new Volume Browser (figure 2 below).


Photo Count

Disk Space

Connection Status

Figure 2 - Click image for larger view

The new Volume Browser displays your folders by volume (disk drive) in alphabetical order. Sadly, there is no user sort order for volumes or folders, maybe next time. From the screen shots shown in Figures 2 and 3 it should obvious that this new approach to displaying and managing folders is a significant improvement on Lightroom 1.x. Not only is the Volume Browser more intuitive to use, but it's also much faster in operation.



Figure 3 - Volume Browser with context menus for Volume information and management

In capturing the screen shots for figures 2 and 3 I have attempted to show as many of the mini features as possible. For example, Figure 2 shows the various volume statistics (photo count, disk capacity, connection status) along with the status LED. When a disk is connected (online) and has plenty of spare capacity the LED will show green. But, when a disk is disconnected (offline) the status LED and menu bar will be dimmed. The volume status bar can be configured via a context menu

Other changes and improvements from the old Folder panel include:

  • It's no longer possible to rename a folder by double clicking its name, however, a Rename option is provided in the folder context menu.

  • Subfolders can be promoted by clicking on the Promote Subfolders command. For example, in figure 3 above the subfolders located within DNG Photo Library can be arranged so that they are directly below the volume name MacPro RAID. They still reside with the DNG Photo Library folder, so no actual folders have been deleted or photos relocated. This command is only available in the context menu when the selected folder is displayed as the top level or parent. The Add Parent Folder command can be used to reverse Promote Subfolders command.

  • Save Metadata allows you to save metadata to all files within a selected folder without having to first preselect the actual photos. This can help reduce the lag we many users experienced in Lightroom 1.x because it avoids having to first accumulate the metadata for the individual photos.

  • The Update Folder Location command is used to point to a new or alternative location for the selected folder. It uses the a dialog broadly similar to the Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows) to locate the new/alternative location. I show an example of how this command can be used in a tutorial mentioned later.


I closed off  "What's new and improved" above on a negative note. So, let's look at a few positives.

First up. Adobe have managed to further increase the size of files that can be imported directly into the Lightroom catalog. Remember, with version 1.x the limit was 10,000 pixels on the longest side, this was increased to 30,000 pixels in the public beta. However, with the final release the maximum dimension for the longest side has been increased to a staggering 65,000 pixels (i.e. a 512 Megapixel image). No doubt the Gigapixel brigade will be disappointed, maybe next time.

The item next may come as something of a surprise. As noted above Lightroom 2.0 does not support CMYK files, which is no doubt a disappointment to many photographers. However, to coincide with the release of Lightroom 2.0 I have published a tutorial that explains how CMYK files can indeed be imported into your Lightroom catalog, albeit indirectly. I should warn that the method discussed in the tutorial is unofficial. So, please remember that you use it at your own risk. The following screen shot shows a selection of CMYK files within my master catalog.



Figure 4 - Grid view displaying CMYK files


As was the case with the public beta Lightroom 2.0 includes the ability to automatically export your photos back to their original folder. You can also export photos back into your catalog and stack them along with the original. You can even apply adaptive Output Sharpening for print or screen. For example, in the Print module you can define the paper type (Glossy or Matte) and Lightroom will automatically adapt the amount of sharpening that is applied to the photo being spooled to the printer or saved to the JPEG print-file.



Figure 5 - Export dialog with new ICC profile options

The main changes from the public beta  relate to the controls for sharpening and a much improved SDK for creating export plug-ins. In the case of output sharpening we still have three settings but Medium has now been replaced with Standard  (i.e. the default). Also by popular request, Lightroom 2.0 via Export dialog now has the ability to select from any RGB ICC profile installed in your ColorSync or ICC Color folder. Simply select "Other" in the File Settings pop-up and check all those ICC profiles you want access to from within Lightroom. I have shown ColorMatch RGB as an example in figure 5 above.

Photoshop Integration


As with the public beta, Lightroom 2.0 can open photos directly into Photoshop without first creating the fully rendered TIFF or PSD. If this was the only improvement to Photoshop integration I think many users would be disappointed. Fortunately, it isn't.


Using the context menu command for Edit in Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 you can open individual photos as Smart Objects, thus utilising non-destructive filters such as Shadow/Highlight and Lens Correction. Multiple photos can also be opened into Photoshop and subsequently merged as a single Panorama or HDR image.






Figure 5 - Enhanced Photoshop Integration


Tip: When either the Photoshop Lens Correction or Extract filters are used it will convert the Background layer to Layer 0. This is as designed, and reflects the fact the document is now deemed to be mutli-layered. To save the file back to Lightroom as a PSD you will need either flatten it or use Maximise Compatibility.

Whilst Lightroom 2.0 still limits you to two external editors it's now possible to add External Editor Presets. The presets need a file specification (e.g. TIFF, ProPhoto RGB, 16-bit, etc), but can point to any compatible external editor. Figure 6 below shows an example where I have created presets for Photoshop CS3, Noise Ninja and PTLens. The actual presets are defined in the Lightroom Preferences panel.



Figure 6 - External Editing (Click image for larger view)


Tip: For Photoshop integration to work correctly you must be using Photoshop 10.01 (i.e. CS3 with latest updates, and Adobe Camera Raw 4.5).

Library Filter Bar

There are four sections to the new Filter Bar: Text, Attributes, Metadata and None. The first three are used for a filtered search of the contents of your catalog and the last (i.e. None) is used to switch the Filter Bar off.

The Filter Bar is activated from the Library>View menu or by pressing on the '\' key. By default, it contains four columns, but is easily configured to display between 1 and 8 columns (i.e. via menu on the top right corner of each column). The columns can be used to filter all of the categories that Lr1.x supported plus a some new categories (e.g. Keywords, GPS, Aspect Ratio, Treatment, and Develop Preset). The actual column layout can be saved as a custom preset by clicking on the Custom Filter pop-up located on the top right corner of the Filter Bar. Figure 7 below shows an example of the Filter Bar in use. This particular example also highlights another welcome addition to the final release version, namely, the option for the hierarchical arrangement of Location and Keywords.


Figure 7 - Library Filter Bar (Click image for larger view)

As expected, there was a lot of feedback regarding the positioning of the Filter Bar within the photo content area. Some users have asked for the old Metadata Browser to be reinstated in the left panel track. However, as explained in my Lr2beta preview the engineers have reserved the left panel track to define the source location of photos, specifically Folders and Collections. The net effect of  this change is that everything shown in the left panel track now defines a context. Therefore, the Filter Bar will only list those categories that match with the selected folder and/or collection. In theory, this should make it much easier to filter photos without having to resort to cross-panel selections and multiple selections with the aid of keyboard modifiers. Unfortunately, many find the context based behaviour of the filters to be extremely frustrating. The best way to minimise this behaviour is to create filter presets then pick them from the filter popup when required.

One of the most useful aspects of  the Filter Bar is filtering by keyword. Again, there has been a lot of feedback on keyword filtering with some users disliking the way the panel needs to be configured for Boolean filtering. Some yearn for the tick-box simplicity of  Photoshop Elements and others complex Boolean text searches. However, the engineers have stuck to their guns and left things pretty much as they were in the public beta. In short, the Filter Bar uses 'AND' between the columns and filtering within a column is an 'OR' function (i.e. hold down Ctrl/Cmd key then make appropriate selections within column). Using multiple keyword columns it is therefore possible for both 'AND' and 'OR' keyword filtering.

As mentioned above, the Filter Bar is also the location in which text based searches and attribute based filtering is carried out. The rule set for text based searches has changed little since Lightroom 1.x and they remain relatively self explanatory. However, it's worth mentioning a few of the less obvious filtering rules that come in handy for fine-tuned searches within the text entry field. For example, placing a '+' at the beginning of a word is the same as Starts With, placing a '+' at the the end of a word is the same as Ends With, and placing a '!' at the beginning of a word is the same as Doesn't Contain. Also, worth noting that the Attribute bar now contains White and Gray label chips for Custom Label and No Label respectively. Finally, multiple filters are activated by shift clicking the respective filter name (e.g. click Text then Shift+click Attribute followed by Shift+click Metadata).


If you have been using the public beta you'll already be familiar with most of the changes that have taken place for Keywording. For example, the Keyword List panel being relocated to the right panel track along with other enhancements such a new Keyword Set called Suggested Keywords. The suggested keyword is particularly useful and is based on existing keywords already applied to the photo and any  photo that is considered to be close a neighbour in terms of capture time.

Nevertheless, even suggested keywords have their limitations. For example, you have a photo to which you want to apply a keyword that is probably already within the keyword set, but the capture time isn't sufficiently close to other similar photos for Suggested Keywords to be of any help. Even worse, the keyword is buried so deep within the keyword hierarchy that finding it will be more time consuming than retyping it and hoping that you don't end up with an out of place duplicate. This is where the new Keyword Filter comes into play. The following series of screen shots demonstrates the Keyword Filter in use. The actual photo (not shown) is of a winter scene taken taken at Kelly Warm Springs in the Grand Teton National Park. I've visited the area twice, once in January 2006 and then again in January 2008. So, Suggested Keywords is going to be of little help.


Figures 8 and 8a - Keyword Filter in use

Figure 8 (above left) shows that I have already applied a number of keywords that describe the photo, but not its location. In figure 8a (above right) I began by typing the location (i.e. Kelly Warm Springs), but after only three letters the filter has removed eight of the top level keywords, and is already homing in on the location. By Alt/Option clicking on the word Places all locations beginning "kel" will be exposed in the keyword hierarchy (figure 9).


Figure 9 - Applying the filtered keyword

Applying a keyword - In above example I clicked on the checkbox, but I could also have used the drag-and-drop method to drop the keyword onto the photo, or vice versa. Also, notice the arrow on the right side of the panel. When the arrow is clicked Lightroom will filter the content window to show only those photos taken at Kelly Warm Springs.

Removing a keyword - There are a couple of options within the Keyword List panel for removing keywords from selected photos. The first method involves a context menu in the Keyword List panel from which you choose "Remove this keyword from selected photo". Alternatively, you can select the photo and simply uncheck the keyword in the Keyword List panel. I'm not a heavy user of keywords, so it's possible that my description makes the process more complicated than it actually is. Nevertheless, I think the changes outlined above make the workflow for keywording much more logical and frustration free than it was in Lightroom 1.x.

Multiple Display Support

Support for multiple displays was included in the public beta, albeit quite buggy. Even so, many users expressed the view that by not providing tare off panels it didn't go far enough. If these users expected this to change then they are going to be sorely disappointed because tare off panels are not included.

As with the version first shown in the public beta, the new second display window is based on the same module picker concept that's used in the main display window, except that the options include: Grid (Shift+G), Loupe (Shift+E), Compare (Shift+C) and Survey (Shift+N) views. I have listed the keyboard shortcut for each in brackets, but clicking on the name will also switch views. Each of these views has enhanced functionality over the same view in the main window. To activate the second window display press on 'Shift+\' keys.


Figure 10 - Second Display Live View

Loupe view on the second display window includes options for: Normal mode, Live mode and Locked mode.

  • With Normal mode the photo previewed on the second window is the same photo as is previewed on the main display. However, the second display window can be set to a different zoom ratio, if required. This come is very be useful when adjusting the sharpness or noise controls.

  • With Live mode the second display preview is continually updated to reflect the area of the photo that the mouse is being hovered over on the main display.

  • With Locked mode the photo previewed on the second display window is fixed. To preview another photo you  press the 'Alt/Option+Enter' keys.

Given the extent of the feature set associated the second display support you will be pleased to note that a comprehensive set of menu options is available under the Window menu in each module. Keyboard shortcuts are also available for most of the second display window commands.

Develop Module

Local Adjustments now called Adjustment Brushes were a big hit with users during the public beta period and Adobe received quite a lot of very useful feedback. For the final release version the new Adjustment Brushes have been slightly reworked and a new Sharpen brush added. However, the most important new feature for the release version is the Gradient Tool. This particular tool has been on most Lightroom users wish list for a very long time, although surprisingly little was made of its absence from the public beta. Before discussing the tool in detail I will provide a brief overview of the adjustment tools now available in Lightroom.



Figure 11 - New Toolbar Location in Develop Module (Click image for larger view)

In order, the tools  are: Crop (R), Clone/Heal (N), Red Eye, the new Gradient Tool (M) and  Adjustment Brush (K) brushes. Again, I have listed the keyboard shortcut for each in brackets, clicking on a tool icon opens a panel comprising the options for that tool, clicking it again closes the panel and returns you to the standard Develop module panels.

As the name implies, Adjustment Brushes in Lightroom are based on the brush paradigm rather than region (selection based). This means they fit better with the method used for the Photoshop Dodge & Burn tools.



Figure 12a - Crop and Straighten Tool

Figure 12b - Clone/Heal Tool



Figure 12c - Gradient Tool - Preset mode

Figure 12d - Gradient Tool - Slider mode



Figure 12e - Adjustment Brush - Preset mode

Figure 12f - Adjustment Brush - Slider mode

Lightroom 2.0 provides adjustment brushes and gradients for: Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Clarity, Sharpness and Color. In Preset mode,  the Effect (Amount) slider defines the initial value for the brush or gradient (e.g. 2 units exposure, 50 units brightness). You can have two preset brushes (currently labelled A and B), each brush can be adjusted for Size, Feather, Flow and Density, although it's also possible to save brush presets. The Auto Mask when active will help confine the brush strokes within an area with similar colour. It's worth noting that the Auto Mask has been significantly improved since the public beta, as have the other brushes.

I discussed Adjustment Brushes at some length in my public beta preview, so this time round I will concentrate on the Gradient Tool. To define the gradient color value you need to double-click the larger of the six tint tiles (Figure 13) then click the colour picker on the colour palette. Click the larger tint tile to close the color panel.


Figure 13 - Gradient Tool - Color Adjustment

Figure 14 shows a screenshot of the Lightroom Develop module with Gradient Tool panel opened and a photo of  "Castle Geyser" in Yellowstone National Park. Prior to adopting Photoshop for editing my photographs I would have taken the original shot with a Graduated filter attached to the lens to tone down the sky area a little. But that was then an this is now.

So, now that Lightroom also has a gradient tool I can apply the gradient directly to the photo without going near Photoshop. The applied gradient is combination of   - 1.0 exposure units with a blue coloured tint. To apply the gradient I selected the tool clicked close to the top of the photo and dragged down. By holding down the Shift key I was able to ensure that gradient remained vertically constrained.


Figure 14 - Gradient Tool (Click image for larger view)

The photo is now starting to look more the way I want, but still needs some separation in the steam and maybe a little more exposure reduction. In figure 15 below you can see the results after I reduced exposure by a further 0.25 units, in combination with increases to contrast, saturation, clarity, and even a little sharpening. To move all of the sliders in combination first locate the cursor over the "pin", hold down the Alt/Option then drag right or left to increase/decrease the combined adjustment. Note that this keyboard modifier trick also works with Adjustment Brushes.


Figure 15 - Fine-tuning the Gradient Tool (Click image for larger view)

The Gradient Tool and Adjustment Brushes have their own set of keyboard shortcuts, with the following being the most important:

  • Open Adjustment Brush - K

  • Open Gradient Tool - M

  • Show/hide Pin - H

  • Increase/decrease brush size -  ] / [

  • Increase/decrease feather - Shift+] / Shift+[

  • Commit a brush stroke or gradient and/or start new - Enter

  • Delete selected pin - Delete

  • Holding down - Alt/Option key activates erase mode

  • Toggle Auto Mask On/Off - A

  • Pressing 'O' toggles on/off the overlay

  • Shift+O cylces through alternative colours for overlay

  • Constrain gradient to vertical - hold down Shift plus drag

  • Invert gradient - '

  • Scale from center - Alt/Option plus drag

Although I covered most of the other changes to the Develop module in my public beta preview I think it's worth summarising them again.

  • The Detail panel  now includes the Chromatic Aberration and Defringe controls previously found in the Lens Corrections panel. The Detail panel also includes a new 1:1 Preview window which can be used to preview sharpening and noise adjustments without zooming the actual window to 1:1. A new cursor icon can be used to pinpoint the area of the image you want to preview when sharpening or applying lens corrections to.

  • The new Vignettes panel contains two types of vignette, the first is for Lens Correction and the second for Post-Crop edge effects. The standard vignette tool is used to correct dark corners arises from light fall-off  and/or over shading from lens hoods, etc. Post-Crop is intended for more artistic uses such as edge burning and has the advantage of also respecting cropping, whether central or offset.

  • Additional keyboard modifiers have been added to the Basic adjustment panel. So, that it's now possible to cycle through the controls using either the comma '< 'or period '>' keys. The keyboard '+/-' keys now increase/decrease the active control, and larger adjustments can be obtained by holding down the 'Shift' key when holding down the '+/-' keys. Tapping the semi-colon ';' key resets the active control to its default value.

The Clarity control can now be adjusted for negative values, which has the effect of softening images. This particular feature is likely to be more useful when applied via the Adjustment Brush rather than globally.

Camera Profiles and DNG Profile Editor

To coincide with the release of Lightroom 2.0, Adobe have also made available beta versions of new Camera Profiles for use with Camera Raw 4.5 and Lightroom 2.0. The profiles labelled Adobe Standard are intended as alternatives to the default ACR camera profile, and each camera model will have an additional set of profiles that are intended to emulate the camera vendor styles or looks. For example, Canon users will be able to choose profiles that emulate Pictures Styles such as: Standard, Landscape, Neutral, Portrait and Faithful. When installed, the new profiles are will appear in Lightroom's Camera Calibration panel (figure 16).


Figure 16 - Selecting new Camera Profile in Camera Calibration Panel

The background to the new style or look profiles is interesting in so far as Adobe has clearly accepted that many users prefer a rendering that matches with the camera generated JPEG over the Adobe Standard rendering. In some cases this may be due to personal taste. However, in others it's more likely to be because the Adobe Standard rendering is in some way flawed, although I'm not sure that Adobe would be in full agreement with this term, especially since it ignores trade-offs based on the technology available.

When developing the new profiles Adobe recognised that they needed to reconcile the differing requirements of three distinct user groups. These can be summarised as follows

Customer type


Profile Solution

Photographers who prefer a default rendering that is closer to the in-camera JPEG rendering, but also require the flexibility offered by raw processing.



Approximate the in-camera JPEG rendering as well as the various styles and looks provided either in-camera or via the camera vendors own software solution

Photographers who are generally satisfied with Adobe's default rendering but have found flaws in that rendering that cannot be corrected by the camera calibration controls provided in ACR and Lightroom.



Improve the default Adobe rendering to correct for the rendering flaws identified by photographers.

Photographers who shoot under controlled lighting and need to calibrate the default rendering to match their specific needs.


Provide a Profile Editor that photographers can use to create default profiles that meet their specific requirements.

Having given it some thought, I'm probably a member of the second group, which might explain why I'm so pleased with the colour rendering improvements I find with the new Adobe default profiles. That's not to say that I haven't tried the profiles intended to approximate the camera manufacturers rendering. I have, and they do a pretty good job of matching, but then again I was never a fan of Canon's Picture Styles.

From the list of customer types and their requirements it's clear that one-size-fits all approach was never going to fly, which probably explains why the Profile Editor (figure 17) was developed. Anyone who has tried to calibrate their camera using a Gretag MacBeth ColorChecker will know that it can be time consuming, and the results may not always be what they'd hoped for. This is were the Profile Editor really comes into its own. Basically, you a capture a ColorChecker chart under good even lighting conditions, convert to DNG (the editor will only open DNG), then from the Chart tab choose "Create Color Table" and you done - no more coffee breaks whilst a calibration script runs.


Another use for the Profile Editor is to modify the White Balance characteristics of an existing profile. This type of edit will be of particular interest to photographers who specialise in  photographing under lighting conditions that fall outside Camera Raw's default range (e.g. stage lighting and infrared). Other options for creating new or modifying existing profiles or recipes are described in the tutorial supplied along with the Profile Editor and profile download package.

Final Thoughts

So that's it, Lightroom 2.0 is now available and ready for use. In preparing this review I decided to focus on the Library and Develop modules, mainly because my beta preview covered virtually all the new features in the other modules. Nevertheless, I hope the information that I have provided is of help when you begin working with it in earnest. I have also provided links to other material, which I hope you find the time to check out. In particular,  Martin Evening's new book on Lightroom 2.0. Weighing in at some 580 pages it contains lots of detailed information on just about every feature, which is obviously something that I could never hope to do in a few web pages.

Before wrapping up I would also take the opportunity to remind you that backing up your Lightroom 1.x  or Public Beta catalog would be a good idea. I don't expect that you'll have any problems, but it's always wise to take precautions in case the worst happens.

Adobe Community Professional

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