Adobe Lightroom Initial Reaction Review

For quite some time I’ve been been struggling with the point of Adobe’s Lightroom.  Other than competing with Apple’s Aperture, it appears not to have a purpose.  Of course, right around the time Lightroom (LR) was hitting its stride, I stopped reading photography magazines.  The zine I loved the most was a British one published by the same company that puts out Linux Format Magazine.  Unfortunately, even with an exchange rate of $1:1 Britsh Pound (which isn’t the case), it’s still $90 per year.  So I may have missed lots of tutorial and explainer articles talking about why LR is such a great program.  My impression of it was of a Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw.  So I didn’t really see the point of paying $200 for that when those programs work just fine for me.  It also seemed to straddle some Photoshop territory and I just couldn’t figure it out.

Fast forward to today when something makes me think about LR.  I don’t know if it’s an article I saw this morning or something, but all of a sudden, I had an insatiable hunger to find out what LR was all about and why it had to much buzz.  As I mentioned here,  I’ve been refining the way I use Adobe’s products in my photography workflow.  In fact, ever since I really got used to Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), I almost never open Photoshop anymore.  Before my workflow with RAW with a HUGE hassle!  I would open up ACR, make adjustments and then open it up in Photoshop.  Then I would save a TIFF and a JPEG.  Now I just use the ACR built into Bridge and I output directly to JPEGs.  The only time I actually open up Photoshop is when I want to create a black and white photo, a diptych/triptych, or want to do some radical modifications to the photo.  (Such as collages, etc)

But what I’m missing is some functionality that exists in that little, free program from Google – Picassa.  And the main part of that functionality is the organization of photos.  Right now I tag all my photos in Bridge, but it’s just not as intuitive in Bridge to find all photos with a specific tag.  LR appears to solve that problem.

Also, according to reviews I’ve read online, LR should ALSO save me from having to go to Photoshop for a black and white photo.  Apparently with LR’s implementation of ACR, I should be able to achieve similar effects AND be able to do it with the RAW photo for a minimum level of quality-loss.  So, it seems that right now is the PERFECT time for me to be interested in LR.  I just got back from Hawaii where I took over 800 photos.  I’ve already tagged and rated them in Bridge before discovery of LR.  I’ve also worked on about the first 50-70 photos.  So now I’ll compare my normal workflow in Bridge to my workflow in LR and see whether or not it proves to be worth the extra $200.  Who knows, it might become the program in which I do 99.9% of my photography work.

Adobe Lightroom 2

I decided to import all of my photos.  It takes a few minutes per thousand photos that I import.  And I have 29027 photos.  It took 2.5 hours to import my entire library.  There are a lot of things I really liked.  The layout and work flow are impressive.  The EXIF reader is more accurate than the version of Bridge that I have.  Specifically, it does a much better job of reading the lens from the  big time.  Bridge b0rks this up big time.  Now for my gripes.

Adobe Lightroom 2 with some photos imported

First of all, the UI is a LOT slower than Bridge.  I really can’t realistically work with my photos at this speed.  This alone is enough to convince me not to spend $200.  But there’s more!  For example, when I’m in a quick collection I am unable to delete a photo from my hard drive.  This doesn’t make any sense.  You’d think that I would want to make, say, a collection of new photos, and then delete the ones I don’t like.  Usually, I move the DNGs into subfolders as I work on them.  However, if I select a folder, LR displays the subfolder.  Right now, the slowness is the biggest problem.  Its RAW-to-JPEG process is so CPU intensive that I have to type this sentence and then wait 2 minutes for it to appear.  This is not a problem with Bridge.

Adobe Lightroom 2 showing my latest photos

Well, I was able to make the sub-folders not show view a toggle option under the “library” menu.  Right now it looks like the biggest reason for me to not use LR is that the changes I make to the DNGs are not reflected in Bridge.  So if I end up not buying LR I will lose all my edits.  I’m updating Bridge in case that is helpful.  No, it turns out I would need to update to the latest Camera Raw and that would require me to update to Photoshop CS4.  I can’t really afford that.

So right now I’m not 100% sure what to do.  If I use Lightroom for now, then I will lose those settings if I don’t stick with the program.  And it only makes sense to stick with the program if I can update to Camera Raw 5.x which I can only do with Photoshop CS4.