Customer Review

473 of 485 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best software products for digital image development, March 6, 2012
This review is from: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 [Old Version] (DVD-ROM)
Adobe Lightroom is Adobe's flag ship digital image development program. When I say "image development" I mean just that. Think of Lightroom as a digital darkroom and now you know what is possible in the software.

The first lesson you must learn when using Lightroom is... stop shooting in JPEG. Lightroom can do some amazing things, even with JPEGs, but if you want to enjoy the benefits Lightroom has to offer, you really need to shoot in RAW. You can pull some shadow and some highlight detail from JPEGs, but there is an order of magnitude difference in the amount of detail present in a RAW file.

The other thing to realize is that yes, if you have Photoshop, you can do everything Lightroom does. The difference, for now, is Lightroom 4 uses new controls not in Adobe Camera RAW (at the time of this writing - Adobe now offers a new Camera RAW version), which is where a lot of the new highlight/shadow recovery comes from, so for now Lightroom is quite a bit nicer than Photoshop in that regard. The other, most important piece, to remember is that Lightroom is designed from the ground up to only include the functionality you need for digital photography - you can't do advanced photo editing where you replace a goat's head with a person's or remove trees and so on. If you need that kind of software, buy Photoshop. If all you want is to develop your digital images as they were shot, with some spot removal tools, cropping and so on, Lightroom 4 is the place to be and the interface is designed with just these things in mind.

Next, if you are new to the product, check around the web for tutorials (Adobe has a few) and buy a book. You'll need it. The interface isn't horrible, but not all of the tools are intuitive enough that you can just pick it up and run. There is a lot of hidden power to be tapped and if all you want is to just skim the surface and not dig into the details, you might be better served with something like say, Photoshop Elements instead.

For users new to Lightroom, there are 7 modules now that you work with primarily. The first is the Library module. This is where you allow Lightroom to troll your hard drive looking for images (you can determine where it looks). This is where you would go to quickly find an image you've tagged (you can keyword tag your photos). The next module is Map. If you have a camera with GPS functionality or want to manually input the location data, you can use this module to locate your images on a map of the world. Next up is the Develop module. This is where all the magic is done. In this module you can choose white balance, change color temperature, change exposures, add sharpness, enhance shadows and highlights, perform lens correction and so on. It is amazingly powerful stuff. You then have the Book module, where you can create photo books in a streamlined manner and send it to Blurb for printing or create a PDF for printing wherever you might print books. Next up is Slideshow. Here you create Slideshows of images and can run it like a presentation with some added text and so on. Then there is the Print module. I still use Photoshop for printing since I know how to get the results I want from there, but I will be trying Lightroom again now that we have a new version. And finally you have the Web module that can be used to upload your photos automatically to many services you already likely use or have seen, such as Facebook.

So what's new/different between Lightroom 3 and 4? First up is the geo tagging. For those of you lucky enough to have GPS built into your camera (including camera phones!), you can now have Lightroom import this information and tag your photos according to your locations. This means you can search via say, Indiana and find all the photos there. The inclusion of a map function allows you to see where the photos were actually taken, so if you were in a pub taking photos in New York City, then found your way to another pub 10 miles away, your photos are separated by 10 miles (scale miles!) on the map so you know exactly where the photos were taken.

Next up is the book module. I've used this extensively in the beta, just to try it out, and it is fairly intuitive and easy to use. I haven't yet submitted a book for printing, but that is just a button click away as well. You can easily create books and send them off to Blurb (Adobe partnered with them) or print to PDF for printing elsewhere. The results are nice, but if you have to be in control of every aspect of the layout, InDesign is the way to go here.

You can now, if you are lucky enough to have a camera that does video, import and perform color/white balance corrections on DSLR video. I have seen it used and borrowed files from friends (my DSLR doesn't do video) and it works. It's not as easy to use as a dedicated video program, nor as robust, but it works. I watched a video on the Lightroom YouTube channel where they took a snap shot from a video, color corrected the photo then applied that correction to the video as well. I tried that out, and it works, but results aren't always what you want. You may be able to do it, but I haven't found it, but it seemed to me you had to apply the correction to the entire video, not just a scene. So those of you looking for video editing, you are better served with real editing software, not using Lightroom for this.

Another major improvement is highlight and shadow recovery. When used properly, you can actually pull detail out of a photo, even some JPEGs, you never would have thought was there. You can also do faux HDR with a single image instead of a series of images and, believe it or not, the results are actually quite nice (if you like HDR that is). The highlight/shadow recovery is similar to the sliders you knew and loved in Lightroom 3, only they are so much more powerful here.

When Adobe releases the next version of Photoshop, it will likely be amazing given how awesome Adobe Camera RAW seems to function in Lightroom.

So there are a couple questions you have to answer.

If you already own Lightroom 3, is it worth the upgrade for you? If you live your life in Lightroom 3 and rely on it for your livelihood, yes, buy 4 without question. The new highlight/shadow tools can work magic on your photos. For the rest of us who don't make our living and it's just a hobby, the question comes down to new functionality. If you like the idea of geo location of photos, the enhanced shadow/highlight functionality and video support, buy it. If Lightroom 3 gives the results you want and you're just a hobbyist, you may wish to wait or not spend the money at all.

If you don't have Lightroom already, should you buy this over Aperture? That depends. If you know Aperture and the functionality it offers, then Lightroom 4 may be a steeper learning curve for you. Personally I feel Lightroom gives ME better results, but I'm not an expert at Aperture and I've learned on Lightroom. If the option is DxO vs Lightroom, just buy Lightroom. It is worth the extra money.

If you want digital imaging software that allows complex cutting and editing, you don't want Lightroom.

One other nice feature of Lightroom 4 is the new pricing structure. The prices are set at a point where it actually makes sense, if you are a hobbyist and especially a professional, to move to Lightroom.

I give Adobe Lightroom 4 five stars. It does an amazing job, works really well and the details it can pull, even from JPEGs, is astonishing.

Adobe has hit a home run here.

ALSO- if you are on the fence, why not head over to Adobe's site and download the 30 day free trial? It's free and it doesn't hurt to try before buying for sure.

EDIT- you will need Adobe Camera RAW 6.7 Release Candidate to export to Photoshop with your adjustments. That's a bit annoying as LR4 should have been released with the latest Camera RAW download to avoid this mess.
EDIT2- Camera RAW is no longer beta. When you open Photoshop and try to import a Lr4 file, it should prompt to download the latest version of Camera RAW.
EDIT3- Adobe has finalized Lightroom 4.1 - make sure you download and install this as it fixes some performance issues. LR 4.2 is currently in release candidate mode (you can use LR 4.2 RC1 until Oct 31, 2012 if you want an extended "trial.")

EDIT - LR 4.2 is now available as a full release. It is no longer a release candidate. This update adds a lot of camera support along with some performance updates.
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 47 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 6, 2012 11:42:32 AM PST
Baldanders says:
Thank you for the thoughtful review. I LOVE that you assume Mac use in how you introduce the LR vs Aperture issue. Recent Aperture reviews have been poor, so I'm leaning towards LR and almost bought LR 3 two weeks ago.

My main question is about library scalability. I'm still using iPhoto and just consolidated my library and I'm at 20K images now, and I expect that to increase more rapidly in the future. Does Lightroom handle large libraries efficiently? And, does it have an efficient engine for the identification and removal of duplicates?

Also, I have PS Elements 9, which does allow some of the functionality of PS without the third price digit nor the complexity, which you might mention as an alternative image editor in your review for those who want to try their hand at genetic engineering or science fiction.

Thanks again.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2012 11:56:35 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 6, 2012 11:58:56 AM PST
Hello Baldanders.

I don't really assume Mac use, but in my mind there are really only 2 properly viable options for this type of work. Aperture and Lightroom. DxO is out there, but really it can't compete to this level in my mind. And the work I've done personally with Aperture doesn't give me what I want... but that could just be that I'm trained in Lightroom. And since Aperture isn't available for Windows... Lightroom is about the only choice if you have a Windows based PC.

Lightroom handles duplicates in a couple of ways. By default, which is the way I use it, is that it "stacks" duplicates. So if you shoot RAW+JPEG, it'll stack the RAW on top of the JPEG in your Library. I only have a hand full of images like this, but usually you can choose to delete one manually, just watch to make sure it is the one you want to delete, obviously. I'm not sure if there is an easy way to automatically prune duplicates though...

The way I use Lightroom to manage my Library is keywords. Every time I import something, I always keyword everything. It took a TON of time initially to keyword 9500 +/- photos, but now that I have general terms setup (and it's easy to apply a keyword to a large selection of photos), it takes 5-10 minutes per 200 photos I tend to import. It's not difficult but the time does add up.

If the question is how quickly can you scroll through your library, that's pretty lightning quick. Opening an image sometimes takes a little longer if you want to zoom in (it builds small previews for everything when you first import your library) full detail, but initial open of the image at on screen size is pretty quick. Not sure that's the question though.

I actually did initially have a comment about "if you won't learn to use Lightroom properly, you're better served with PS Elements" but decided I didn't want to insult anyone. The truth is, if PS Elements does all you need it to, save yourself the $150 (or $80 if you have a student ID) and just use that. When I used PS Elements it did similar functions (not as granular or in depth), but Lightroom really is designed to be more of a digital dark room for lack of a better way to put it and the greater depth and breadth of functionality kicks the tar out of PS Elements... IF a person takes the time to learn it properly that is.

Thanks for the comments, thanks forthe suggestion. I'll mull it over to see if I can figure out a non-insulting way to include PS Elements as an alternative. It's the best of both worlds really. It's easy to use, it allows for some minor digital photo correction AND can be used for digital image manipulation as well. It just doesn't do everything the big brothers can.


In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2012 9:37:18 AM PST
Tom S. says:
Hi, thank you for the nice review. I recently bought lightroom 3 (kind of wish I would have waited now...) and it works well - lots of stuff I need to learn but... I have also tried the 4 beta, which was a bit unstable on my system. I will probably upgrade down the line but keep 3 for now. 4 lacks a feature I miss in 3 as well, and that is face-detection. I know this is more of a professional solution, but I don't understand why they didn't add it in as an option, when elements has it.... secondly, the other problem I have with lightroom is that it has far less lens correction profiles than dxo. That said, I agree with your review that overall, Lightroom is superior. I hope Adobe fixes these things for 5 at least.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2012 12:20:21 PM PST
Harry Samuel says:
Lightroom 4 works great on my laptop, but I want to use it on my desktop. My desktop runs XP, and guess what Lightroom 4 is Vista or above. So unless you are ready to spend $299.99 for 64 bit windows 7 pass on Lightroom 4. I do like the new features, but now have to budget in the new desktop to run it on.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2012 12:58:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 7, 2012 3:31:07 PM PST
Hmm. That is a VERY good point Harry. I should probably add that bit to the review, as it is definitely something that will help determine if a person will or won't buy.

I use a 64bit OS on my machines, so I'm good to go, but 64 bit is the direction Adobe is taking for ALL of its products as I understand it. I believe this is the last iteration of Lightroom to offer Win 7/Vista 32 bit capability as well.

XP was dropped because Adobe felt the time spent testing on XP was time better spent developing the program (according to one of their Lightroom blog entries - whether this is true or not, that's up to us to decide I suppose).

Posted on Mar 7, 2012 6:09:49 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2012 6:24:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 7, 2012 6:29:02 PM PST
Baldanders says:
I thought PS Elements would make a good adjunct to the functionality of LR for the image manipulation capability--albeit on a basic scale vis-a-vis PS. As I already own the former, LR will fill my need for a functional library with darkroom/photo optimization tools.

You have clearly spent a lot of time with the product and time researching Adobe's strategy with this software line, and I have benefited from your work. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2012 6:41:00 PM PST
Hello Molotov.

The review is real and is based on my experiences with Lightroom. You have to remember that Adobe had an open Beta for LR4 since January. I've been using the Beta, and as of 7 AM March 6, the full version, of LR4. On top of this experience, I've been using LR3 for about 18-24 months and honestly, other than the geo tagging, the books and enhanced development, the software is used exactly the same between versions, so my prior experience with Library, Develop, Slideshow and Print are nearly identical across versions.

I don't work for Adobe and I don't work for Amazon. I am a Vine reviewer but did not receive this under that program. I honestly love this program and what it does for my digital photography.

I understand the skepticism, so I understand you taking my review with a grain of salt. Download the 30 day trial and check it out. If you take the time to learn it, you'll probably find you like it as well. It does have a learning curve, and as I found when I reviewed, the core usage is the same from version to version, so if you learn LR4, you'll probably have no problem moving to LR5 whenever they release that.

Hope that helps.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2012 4:16:28 AM PST
You are welcome Baldanders. Helping people is the whole purpose of writing a review.

I actually started with Elements. Wasn't until I started in on Digital Imaging in college that I decided it time to upgrade (that, and the amazing deals you can get as a student). It worked really well, was stable, had a good interface and could be used in almost full automatic mode (that's what I call using the presets and auto adjustments) and get good results. LR w/ Elements is probably not a bad way to go and if Elements ever seems lacking, then you might want to look to the full version of Photoshop.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2012 9:50:29 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 8, 2012 9:52:26 AM PST
Harry Samuel says:
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