Some ideas are so simple, you wonder why they haven't been thought of before.
Well, the fairly recent release of Adobe Lightroom version 2.5, a $299 program for
Mac and Windows users who need to sort and catalog tons of photographs and then work
with them, has been thought of - there was the original 1.0 release, after all -
but this new version is spiffy, smooth and a must-have for those who work with
images on a professional, or even an advanced amateur basis.
I'm not a professional photographer, by my friend Dick Duerksen is, shooting
images for a nonprofit organization, others that appear in magazines and on wall
calendars around the world. Dick and I were sitting in the café of the Protea Hotel
in Livingstone, Zambia, and he was kindly sharing some pictures I might want to use
in my day job. He's flipping through a Lightroom display of images, suggesting
that I tag the ones I want with a "green" label (I could have selected any other
primary color, I guess). Once complete, he grabbed all the "green" photos,
slipped them onto a USB drive and handed them to me for downloading onto my
Yes, you can do similar things with other programs, but Lightroom made that step
super easy. And, as mentioned, it works on Windows-based PCs as well, something you
can't say for Apple's very nice iPhoto. Moreover, the exporting feature of
Lightroom is a bit smoother, with less to click through and a nice way of specifying
(and creating) a new folder on your computer's desktop or another drive as the
Selecting and exporting pictures is but a very small part of what Lightroom can do.
Adobe bills the program as "the photographer's essential toolbox for managing,
adjusting and presenting large volumes of digital photographs," and I'm hard
pressed to disagree. This morning, I brought 5,726 photos over into Lightroom, for a
grand total of 7,390 images. That's a lot of photos. But, now, I can flip through
them almost as quickly as a Las Vegas casino dealer zips through a deck of cards.
Once found, a photo can be previewed, zoomed in on, enhanced, adjusted, and exported
in any number of formats and sizes, including Web-sized. Again, you can do most or
all of these functions with other programs: the full version of Adobe's Photoshop,
the consumer-friendly Photoshop Elements, Apple's iPhoto, and Corel's Paint Shop
Pro Photo X2 are among those that immediately come to mind.
But the full Photoshop program is a lot to learn, so much so that there are numerous
books, online courses and even college classes available on the subject. Of iPhoto I
can only say good things, but you will bump up against limitations when working with
vast quantities of images, and iPhoto, along with Apple's higher-end Aperature,
are Mac-only programs. If you have a Windows PC, the Mac apps obviously aren't much
I also like the quick adjustments Lightroom can apply to an image. Looking at one of
my best shots (if I do say so m'self), of the U.S. Capitol dome, I asked Lightroom
to automatically fix the "white balance," to make the colors look better, and to
adjust the photo's tone. What was a good image now looked great, in just two
There are other controls you can use to "play" with those settings more
incrementally; those trained in the photographic arts will have fun with these. Best
of all, in my view, there's a "reset" button to restore your work to its
original form in two shakes of a (computer) mouse's tail.
I'll confess to being smitten by Lightroom, so much so that I'm trying to find
ways to really justify its $299 price tag. But Apple isn't asleep at the digital
switch: it's professional-grade Aperture program offers many of the same features,
and for $100 less. I plan to give that application a try and will let you know the
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.