Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Mac/PC Review

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Mac/PC ReviewI converted to Lightroom from Photoshop Elements last year. The learning curve has not been too bad because Lightroom is pretty intuitive for all the basic functions, and in any case I have used Scott Kelby’s book The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers (Voices That Matter) to help me with the more advanced features. For this new version, Lightroom 5, Adobe have already put quite a few “how to” videos about the new features on their website and it’s worth looking at these.

Lightroom is a great improvement on Elements when it comes to cataloguing a collection. The key-wording approach in Lightroom is much more flexible than in Elements and the search functions are much better. I love the ability to compare several similar photographs on one screen (survey view) and gradually eliminate the less good ones until you’re left with the best image. You can tell that Lightroom really is designed for digital photographers through and through, with features like automatic lens correction based on your camera profile (a large number of camera profiles are included but you can add others or create your own). You can even set it up so that your RAW files are automatically adjusted to give them the punch of JPG files – I don’t use this but can see why it might be an appealing feature.

With Lightroom you don’t have the layers features of Elements or Photoshop but most digital photographers will find that the way all the adjustment sliders work offers just as much control as the layers approach and is certainly easier to use.

The non-destructive editing concept means that you can revert your photo to its original state at any time, OR you can take “snapshots” at any stage of your edit which are in effect different versions of the photo which you can revert to. You can also create a virtual copy to experiment with if you want the original kept just as it is, and then you can export the virtual copy as an additional image when you’ve completed work on it.

In version 5 the catalog functions stay pretty much the same as before, but you have to convert your Lightroom 4 caalog to Lightroom 5 (very easy). If you are converting to Lightroom 5 from Photoshop Elements you can import your Elements catalog and it will preserver all your keywords.

It is in the Develop module where the real changes can be seen. The first change I noticed is the radial gradient tool. In Lightroom 4 you have a really good gradient filter tool which you just select then drag across the screen to make whatever changes you wish. I’ve used it to improve skies in landscape photographs, and also dragging from the side when the exposure seems brighter on one side of the photograph than the other. You can change anything you want with this tool – exposure, saturation, clarity etc, etc. Now with Lightroom 5 we have an additional radial gradient filter tool which works just the same as the linear tool but let’s you draw a circle (with the full range of soft or hard edges) so you can drop your adjustments into any shape and size of oval or circle. It’s really useful for introducing a soft glow around the faces in a portrait for example, or for highlighting the central part of the image (although to a degree you can do this with the vignette effect).

I am fanatical about having straight horizons in my landscape photographs and the new “upright” tool is excellent. It’s found in the lens correction panel and when you click Auto it analyses the photograph and straightens it automatically. You can manually correct it of course if you feel the automatic correction hasn’t got it right – but it’s been right every time I’ve used it so far.

The new Advanced Healing Brush is pretty amazing and I now no longer need to go across to Photoshop Elements to achieve the improvements to my images like removing intrusive lamp-posts or telegraph poles. To be able to get rid of a drainpipe down the side of a house in one drag and click is amazing (I’ve just done it). It’s capabilities when improving complexions in portraits go without saying.

I like that I can create video slideshows of still photographs and can upload them to my website or YouTube etc. You can insert customised start and ending screens, varying borders and themes, and also a soundtrack.

Once nice feature in version 5 is a new keyboard shortcut – just type F and the photo is displayed full screen. Another improvement is the addition of fully configurable grids and guides – this was definitely something I missed in Lightroom 4 – I also like that you can change the opacity of these so they are not too intrusive. There are many other smaller changes and improvements which you will soon find once you start using Lightroom 5.

All in all, I’d say this upgrade is well worth having. If you’re new to Lightroom then the program is probably the best you can get as a digital photographer wanting to manage and manipulate images. If you have an earlier version then you’ll probably find this a worthwhile upgrade – the new features are consistent with earlier versions in how they work and you will be using them within a few minutes of firing up the program for the first time.


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