* Prices may differ from that shown
Lightroom is possibly the most useful piece of software you can buy as a photographer. Lightroom can do many things, but it's main 2 functions are a RAW developer, and a library (you can also print, export to web, make slideshows, and more). When you shoot a lot of images you have no easy way to store and manage them, and unlike film you can't stash them in shoeboxes under your bed, so they just get lost on your computer and you can never find the file you're looking for. Lightroom's catalogue function lets you import your photos and rate them between 1 and 5 stars, give your photos keywords, build collections (holidays, macro, family snaps etc), and put them into folders to make finding the image you need quick and easy. You can then easily export to flickr, or just export small email sized images to send out the friends and family- it is the perfect tool for photo cataloguing, and not just for amateurs, it's incredibly useful for professionals who need to archive 1000's of images and quickly find the image they need when there's a tight deadline.
As well as a library tool it is also a RAW developer- which means that when you import photos you can adjust the exposure, white balance, and play with an image to make it look how you want to- basically it's a stripped down, streamlined version of photoshop with all the 'dark room' techniques you would use. With the right processing Lightroom can make your images look amazing, but be careful not to go overboard.
I highly recommend lightroom, it is affordable and is essential for photographers to get the most out of their images
I have now been using Lightroom 3 for around 4-6 months and I have to say I am SERIOUSLY impressed! I decided to test this after using Aperture 3 because I wanted to see if Lightroom really was more powerful. The first awesome point is that you can add huge amounts of custom EXIF data to images so they have copyright protection information built into the file as soon as you import it! The interface is brilliant allowing for easy browsing of images and each image can be enlarged at any stage of the workflow so you can see whether a file is a keeper or not. Import and export speeds are really fast and Lightroom is insanely thorough at every stage of image processing. When you put it into develop mode that's when you really see how powerful an application Lightroom is! First thing on the interface panel to the right is the very first thing you need to change which is white balance and it makes it very simple to do so! It sensibly orders all the commands and changes because below that is the exposure settings, below that is basic colour settings then following that is a brilliant tone curve. All the finer adjustments like advanced colour corrections, lens corrections, sharpening and noise reduction come last which I think is dead on. After using Aperture's noise reduction I thought no software could have decent noise reduction but that assumption was entirely incorrect! Having working noise reduction is a godsend when you are shooting with low end DSLRs and creative compacts. Lightroom can save an average RAW file and make it better or make a great image perfect with minimum effort and maximum speed. This is truly the best way to edit batches of images!
Before I owned Lightroom 3 I was previously editing my photos with the free on-line editing software, Picnik. I then started using Picassa after seeing a friend using it and while it served the purpose of editing, it just didn't really ever do what I would have liked; in other words, for basic editing; turning photos to B&W or adjusting exposure, brightness or contrast in a basic way was fine, but I really needed more from my software.
I downloaded a free trial of Photoshop Creative Suite 5 to test drive it - with every intention of purchasing after the 30 day trial. As I'm impatient I didn't like the controls of CS5; they were too complicated and I didn't enjoy using this software at all. I watched several tutorials but I found it too complicated and I was really looking for something straightforward to use - I didn't and don't have a desire to add layers to my photos and I am not interested in making GIF. files so I tested out Lightroom, again, after seeing another friend use it.
I tested a free trial and at first I didn't like Lightroom. The import/export feature annoyed me, but over time, I have come to feel that this is the best way of 'saving' files (the original is never overwritten so can always be reverted back too.) The beauty of Lightroom is the simplicity of use; anyone with basic photo editing software experience can master it - and fall in love with it.
However there are limits to what you can and can't do in Lightroom - even with the addition of layering plug-ins. For example you cannot add layers to photos so if you're overly concerned by this then I would say don't give up Photoshop just yet ;).
Some editing tools available: amazing contrast, colour, brightness, clarity and light altering tools, access to ready made Lightroom presets (B&W Creative; Antique Greyscale, Light, Creamtone, Cyanotype and High Contrast among the many), the ability to create your own presets and with access to hundreds of presets (or, photo effects) free to download from the Adobe website.
On top of this you can see your photos in a print layout, create a slide show with music, create a web gallery and upload photos from Lightroom onto many on-line sites like Facebook, Flickr and SmugMug.
With these tools I would find it hard to find any reason to purchase Photoshop now - after all I am not looking for an image manipulation software, just an advanced editing software that allows me to 'dress up' my photos rather than perform open heart surgery on them. It is a faster way of editing photos; with a 'Develop' mode that streamlines the editing process. In 'Library' mode you can categorise photos, organise photos and view the photos you already have. There is also a smart 'before' and 'after' effect you can apply to photos.
There is also the option to add a light or heavy film grain effect to photos - perfect for landscape shots!
Watermarking is easy, too, and is part of the export option in this version of Lightroom. I have been able to change the font, size, colour and opacity of my watermarks within this option and it has been a handy tool to have - although, at this point for me, a totally unessential but fun addition to photos.
I am still working out how to create a collage in Lightroom and this is yet another hurdle to over come. I have found that the more I use this product the more I have grown to understand it's features; it's a case of practice makes perfect and I would probably recommend this product be trialled and then purchased - if you can't figure it out past the trial version and you're too frustrated with it, then I wouldn't bother spending upwards of £145 on it.
I paid £145 for a non-disc digital delivery of this version of Lightroom which sounds very expensive. However, compare this price to PS CS5 and it's cheap. I would pay double the price for this product if I had too as it saves my time when it comes to editing with the range of extensive presets and quick work flow. With plug-ins for layering and other exciting plug-ins from other companies that offer various bokeh and exposure effects then I really don't see the need for something more sophisticated - or expensive - than this product if you're looking for it. I've seen it being sold for £175-200+ for a disc delivery version of this software.
Not recommended for those who've never used photo editing software before or those not willing to learn as it's an expensive mistake to make buying this, all to learn that you get too frustrated using it. For those who're used to Photoshop or something equivalent who are looking to buy this I would 100% recommend it. It is quicker than Photoshop and the cataloguing is more organised.
Also it's worth noting that Adobe's customer care is appalling - they do not answer questions, have you on hold for HOURS, expect you to spend more money to fix their glitches and almost never answer emails. Terrible service, fantastic products.