updated 06:00 pm EDT, Mon August 11, 2008
Adobe Lightroom 2
Every Mac includes a copy of iPhoto for storing, organizing, and editing digital images. For casual users, iPhoto works fine, but serious hobbyists and professional photographers require more powerful tools. One option is Apple's Aperture program but a second option is Adobe's Lightroom 2.
Unlike Aperture that only runs on Macs, Adobe's program runs on both Macs and Windows. Adobe has also designed the program for the future since it can run as a 32-bit or 64-bit application. The default mode is 32-bit, which allows a Mac to access up to 4GB of RAM, but if your Mac exceeds 4GB and runs Mac OS X 10.5, you can make the program run as a 64-bit app by right-clicking on its icon in the Finder window and choosing Get Info. Then clear the Open in 32 bit mode check box.
Since most digital cameras name images with generic, and cryptic, titles such as DSC_023, you can use an automatic renaming feature. Now you can import a batch of files from a digital camera and rename them all to something more descriptive of the event, such as "Summer vacation 2008 (23 of 47)."
Storing pictures may be easy, but the real key is finding them again. Beyond using descriptive file names, the program also provides a variety of different ways to tag your pictures with color codes, star ratings, flags, keywords, and even metadata that identifies the type of camera or lens used to capture that particular image. By tagging each picture in so many different ways, you'll have multiple ways to find, sort, and organize your pictures no matter how many images you store.
Besides supporting pictures in TIFF, JPEG, and PSD (Photoshop) format, this app also supports over 190 different camera RAW file formats to insure that whatever digital camera you use, you'll be able to save and edit your pictures.
Since few pictures are perfect, the program offers basic editing tools for modifying colors, contrast, brightness, and exposure. For safety, all editing is non-destructive. Instead of directly manipulating a file, this app always leaves the original picture untouched and saves any changes you make in a separate file. This gives you the option of selectively removing any past changes made to an image while always retaining the original.
The program also allows selective editing and modification. Instead of changing the brightness or contrast of an entire image, you can modify just the parts you want to highlight. Such selective modification allows you to enhance your pictures and turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary one.
Most of these editing tools should be adequate for correcting or touching up most images, but if you need to do major modifications, you also have the option of editing a picture directly in Photoshop CS3.
In previous versions, you would have to export a picture, load it into Photoshop, make modifications, save this modified version, and then import it back into Lightroom. With built-in Photoshop integration, you can load Photoshop and edit a picture without going through a messy file import and export process.
To show off your pictures, you can print them on paper, publish them on a web page, or display them on the screen as a slideshow. For printing images, the program can create pictures in common sizes. For displaying images on web pages, it can optimize the file size and visual quality.
With a $299 price tag, Adobe Lightroom 2 is for serious photography hobbyists and professionals who require a wealth of organizing, editing, and printing features unavailable with the much simpler iPhoto program. Lightroom 2 may be comparable to Apple's Aperture, but with its new features such as Photoshop integration, Lightroom 2 may have staked its claim as the program of choice for digital photographers.