PhotoshopNews.com
Jan 9, 2006

Announcing Adobe Lightroom

Adobe announces Adobe® Lightroom®, a new digital photography application and provides a free Public Beta download.


Adobe Lightroom Public Beta 1 splash screen.

While not known for being adept at keeping secrets (see the PSN article; Adobe accidently leaks Photoshop CS2), Adobe has succeeded in keeping Lightroom (AKA Shadowland) very low profile up until a leak at AppleInsider on January 6th, 2006; New Adobe app to take on Apple’s Aperture and one brief mention 3 days earlier on Duke Of Digital; Shadowland - 287. Of course, AppleInsider got the name goofed up-there is no innercap on the “R” of Lightroom. If you know Mark Hamburg, you know that would NEVER happen. See this PSN article: It’s Photoshop, not PhotoShop–Fact

So, it might come as a surprise to many people that Adobe is taking the unusual route of announcing a new application and making it available as a Public Beta on the same day. It’s a rather un-Adobe sort of thing to do, but then Lightroom is a rather un-Adobe sort of application. The download and additional resources which include a User Forum and video tutorials will be hosted on the new Adobe Labs web site (see PSN story; Adobe Labs Delivers Early Access to Emerging Technologies)

What is Lightroom?
Well, in Adobe’s own words “Adobe Lightroom Beta is a new, exciting image handler built from the ground up for professional photographers.

Ok, I have no idea what an “image handler” is, but let me tell you what I think Lightroom is; a robust front-end and back-end for Camera Raw with lots of cool stuff in the middle and in need of some additional tools-which will come.

Remember, this is a Public Beta (some might argue it’s really alpha) Lightroom is not yet “feature complete”.

What will be added or changed in Lightroom?
That is for the professional photographers who download it and use it to help decide. Unlike another certain “A” company that recently released an application directed to pro photographers (whose development was was shrouded in KGB like secrecy) Adobe is hoping that those people who download and use it will have a positive and direct impact on it’s development. Thus, Lightroom will truly be an application designed by photographers for photographers.

What will Lighroom cost?
I have no idea-I’m not sure Adobe even knows for sure-although I know they have certain “target price points”.

When will it be released as a full commercial application?
Again, I have no idea but Adobe has stated an intention to ship it “before the end of 2006″.

So, what does Lightroom look like?
Glad you asked, because it’s pretty nice.

Library

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
The main window of Lightroom defaults to the Library module (more about modules later). The window includes the Library info (left panel) and the image info (right panel) and a grid of images in the center. At the bottom is the Film Strip (I’m actually getting kinda tired of analog film analogies). At the top are application menus. The interface is considered a “single document interface” (SDI) meaning everything except for the menus are within the main window-no palettes.

Develop

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
The next module is Develop (shown with the left panel of small preview and Presets Browser hidden). The Develop module allows for a wide array of image controls over tone and color as well as additional controls (ala Camera Raw) for sharpening, noise and lens corrections. All edits are “metadata edits” meaning the original files are preserved and only previewed with the adjustments made. Adjustments are not actually applied until images are rendered upon Export. The controls are a superset of Camera Raw controls with very interesting additional controls added.

Basic
Controls for rough tone and color adjustments.

Tone Curve
Adds some interesting and useful touches to a curves adjustment.

Split Toning
Adds interesting color adjustments for both color and B&W.

Grayscale Mixer
Adds a unique approach to converting color to B&W.

HSL Color Tuning
Allows for very precise and accurate hue, saturation and lightness tweeks.

Detail and Lens Corrections
Ala Camera Raw.

Calibrate
Also from Camera Raw’s functionality.

Slideshow

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
The next module is called “Slideshow” for lack of a better name at the moment. Slideshows are only the tip of the “iceberg” of what this module can actually do. Yes, it’s there to be able to create slideshows but those shows can be exported as HTML, PDF files or Flash movies. So Slideshow has a bit of an under-promise in it’s name.

Print

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
The last module in Beta 1 is Print. This is one that will really attract photographers who wish to go from raw to print with as little fuss in-between as possible. Unlike Photoshop where each image must be handled as a separate document, Lightroom treats images as pages and allows for far more efficient and robust printing-while keeping things such as color management very simple.


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
Most users will be spend most of their time in the Library. The Library module allows for a wide variety of configurations (currently not savable as “workspaces”) and users can easily hide the info panels to better view the image grid.


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
When you select a single image, you have access to the EXIF metadata as well as IPTC Caption, Copyright and Keyword fields.


You can also do a quick adjust of the image tone and color using the Quick Develop controls .


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
From the Grid view, double-clicking (or clicking on the Loupe button or clicking the E key or hitting the space bar) brings you to the Loupe view to see a single image.


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
The view is limited to the screen real-estate of the center panel but you can access a 1:1 zoom view by clicking in the image. Zoom out by single-clicking (the space bar will also toggle between fit in panel and 1:1) The hand tool allows panning or you can use the small preview in the upper right to navigate throughout the image. At this point, there are only two zoom views available, either fit in panel or 1:1. Hopefully additional viewing options will come.


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
From the Loupe view you can easily add additional images for the Compare view of two or more images. Command clicking on additional images in the filmstrip adds images, command clicking on the image previews dismisses images from the Compare view.


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
Back in the Grid view with the left & right panels hidden, a user can expose the panel by hovering in the hot-point area on the far left & right. The respective panels appear as opposed to sliding in/out.


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
Here the right panel is exposed…


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
…here the left panel is exposed. Command keys allow exposing and hiding the panels as well.

Other than the drop down or fly out menus in the Lightroom window, the only other menus are the application menus;

The main Lightroom menu.

The File menu.

The Library menu.

The Photo menu.

The View menu.

The Window menu.

And the Help menu.

Importing into Lightroom

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
One of the most critical aspects of Lightroom is the main “Import Photos” dialog. Lightroom uses a relational database for maintaining its knowledge over all of the images in its photo library, all of the image settings as well as all metadata. This database is critical to keeping Lightroom fast when accessing image thumbnails and previews as well as being able to do fast searches.

In the Import Photos dialog you are given a very important choice-either copy/move images or maintain references to images in their existing locations. If you move or copy, the images will end up in the Lightroom “Library” wherever you’ve chosen to locate it-either in the default location of User/Pictures/Lightroom/Photos or wherever you’ve selected in the Lightroom preferences.

This is a critical decision because at this point there is no easy or elegant method of moving the Library location once you’ve set the preferences. Also, depending on how you have set up your computer’s hard drives, the copy/move options can rapidly fill up the main boot drive where the User folder is located.

Each import can have its own designation–either reference or copy/move. But at this early stage of development, one should use caution. At this point, I’m going to punt and generally only reference files in their current location (often on my server) instead of doing a copy/move. As there is no current ability to do a double-copy, Lightroom’s Import can not really be considered a full featured ingestion procedure.

Exporting from Lightroom

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
As with Import, the only way to get images out of Lightroom is to either Export them or open them in another application. The Export dialog allows for some innovative renaming capabilities as well as 3 standard file formats; JPEG, TIFF or DNG.

The bit depth is relevant only for TIFF, the color space only for JPEG and TIFF. At this point, exporting a DNG does not produce Camera Raw settings reliably as Lightroom contains far more metadata editing than Photoshop’s Camera Raw plug-in can understand.

This is an issue that must be addressed, I’m just not sure how it will be resolved. On one hand, I would hate to have Lightroom’s editing capability limited. On the other hand, it would be useful to be able to export DNG’s that could be used by users inside Bridge and Photoshop. This falls under the heading of TBD (to be determined).

Speaking of preferences, Lightroom’s preferences are very simple.

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
The location of the Managed Photos folder is an important consideration. But other than that, there is no general color management nor other complicated preferences. Simple, huh?

In point of fact, Lightroom is itself very simple. But this is deceiving. Lightroom is much more powerful than its current application size of 10.1 MB might suggest. Even with only the current four modules, there is enormous functionality already in Lightroom. With the prospect of additional modules either by the Lightroom engineers or future 3rd party developers, the sleek and modern architecture of Lightroom leaves a lot of room for expansion-which was one of the fundamental reasons that the engineers wanted to do a modular design for the application.

Simplicity vs. Complexity.

Their approach is reflected in “The Five Rules
(under the Help menu).

Rule One
Module Picker
The Module Picker strip is located at the top right of the Lightroom window. The choices found there — Library, Develop, Slideshow, and Print — describe a loosely sequential “garden path” of tasks common to a photographer’s work. Change the contents of the panels (at right and left onscreen) to provide the tools necessary for that particular task or set of tasks.

Rule Two
Panels
The Panels are found at the right and left of the screen. Each contains the elements needed for tasks associated with the current module. The panel to the left will generally contain content and preset browsers; the panel to the right will generally contain the tools needed to accomplish the tasks at hand. Clicking on the section headers hide and show their content.

Rule Three
Filmstrip
The Filmstrip at the bottom of the screen is a persistent view of the current images in the library grid. The contents of a selected shoot or collection will be reflected in the Filmstrip. The other modules will use the images in the Filmstrip as source materials for operations undertaken therein. Change your selection in the Filmstrip to change the images used by the other modules. To change the contents of the Filmstrip, simply return to the Library and select new images.

Rule Four
Important Key Commands
Tab Hide and show panels
Shift-Tab Hide and show all panels
F Cycle screen modes
L Dim the lights
~ Go between Loupe and Grid mode

Rule Five
Enjoy.

I particularly like Rule Five…which I also interpret as have fun…and Lightroom is indeed fun to work in. Yes, it’s very feature incomplete. But unlike other apps that may have been released prematurely with a fixed set of functionality and usability, Lightroom is open to a lot of room to grow in ways that are important to users.

I suppose a lot of people will look at Lightroom and think Adobe is simply doing a last minute panic reaction to Apple’s Aperture. They would be wrong. I know for a fact that both Adobe and Apple have been working on their respective applications for years. Both companies took different development strategies and both companies worked in near secret-although it’s pretty clear both companies knew the other company was working on an application “for photographers”.

It’s both ironic and also encouraging that two talented sets of developers seem to have found some common solutions to photographer’s problems.

The ideal way of evaluating Lightroom is to download the free public beta and see for yourself. It doesn’t take long to get the gist of using Lightroom. Check back in the Lightroom forums-the Lightroom engineers and development folks will be hanging out there to answer questions and give suggestions for using Lightroom to its fullest. The Lightroom forums will also be the primary place for users to put forth their feature requests and bug notifications. A lot of the early alpha and private beta testers will also be visiting-I know I’ll be there a lot to see what users think.

Lightroom Resources:
Project Lightroom at Adobe Labs
(home of the beta downloads and forums)

Introductory Lightroom video tutorial by George Jardine-Lightroom Evangelist (Quicktime required)

Adobe Lightroom A First-Look & Primer by Michael Reichmann
of The Luminous-Landscape.

Michael Reichmann (and myself) will be releasing an in-depth look at Lightroom with tutorials in Issue #14 of his The Luminous Landscape Video Journal due to ship in February.

Check out my story The Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story with an inside look at its development and some of the players involved.

Read Adobe’s Lightroom FAQ’s.

PhotoshopNews will be adding a Lightroom editorial catagory so PSN readers can keep up with news and info pertaining specifically to Adobe Lightroom.

Ian Lyons (our Leprish Iricon) has posted a Lightroom Preview

 
 
About Mark Hamburg:
Mark Hamburg was the second engineer hired to work on Photoshop-after Thomas Knoll. Mark actually interviewed at Adobe the same month that Photoshop was first released-February of 1990 but wasn’t brought on-board until the fall.

Mark has been responsible for both features and core architectural engineering since Photoshop version 2. Mark’s first feature implementation was Bezier curves added in 2.0. Mark was responsible for a major UI and usability overhaul for Photoshop 4.0 along with Andrei Herasimchuk–who returned to Adobe to initially team up with Mark for Shadowland. I worked with Mark extensively while he developed the Photoshop History feature for version 5.0.

Mark was named Photoshop Architect and was responsible for helping guide the direction of Photoshop through Photoshop version 7-after which he moved over to Adobe’s Digital Media Lab. Under the guidance of Greg Gilley, he started working on early experimental developmental versions of what would eventually become Shadowland/Lightroom back in 2002. He recruited the additional engineering help of many of the former Adobe ImageReady engineers (called the Minnesota Phats) from the Adobe Minneapolis office including Troy and Melissa Gaul.

Mark is married with two children and lives in Scotts Valley, CA. He has developed a keen interest in digital photography-one of the reasons he wanted to work toward developing an application for photographers. He is also an avid musician whose musical interests have lead to the code naming of a lot of the early Photoshop beta versions. His musical style might best be described as “Ambience“.

Listen to a short sample of Mark’s music: Dark Water (Coda)
from the CD The Evolution Of Desire (available only from Mark Hamburg).
(1.4 MB .mp3, run time 1:15 minutes)

Photo of Mark Hamburg by Jeff Schewe. Images shown in the Lightroom screen shots ©2005 by Jeff Schewe–all rights reserved.

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