Step Two: Image Processing Made Easier
Lightroom is one of those programs that confuses a lot of people because it is capable of performing the same tasks that several other applications might do in your digital darkroom. Once you get beyond basic image importing, management, and the “quick develop” tools, Lightroom 3 offers an extremely robust “Develop” module that uses the same processing engine as Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CS5. In fact, you could argue that Lightroom 3 makes editing RAW image files easier than Photoshop.
The new processing engine behind the Develop module produces sharper images with lower noise and better color fidelity – depending on how you use it – compared to Lightroom 2. I went back through some of my old images and found a number of RAW files that looked noticeably better after developing them a second time in Lightroom 3.
The new Noise Reduction tools provide greater control over luminance, edge detail and color noise. The luminance noise reduction control in Lightroom 2 caused a visible loss in sharpness while Lightroom 3 maintains much of the essential detail while blending away noise in your high ISO images.
The improved Sharpening sliders also help you give images that extra “pop” without creating the halo effect common to other sharpening tools that distort edges in your photos. The side-by-side “Before and After” view makes it much easier to refine your choices regardless of how drastic or subtle changes might be.
On the other hand, if you’re a fan of the grainy look you used to get from film then you’ll be happy to hear about the new Film Grain feature. While most digital photographers want the butter-smooth look of noise-free images, there are plenty of people who want to add more grain to these modern photos. You can now vary the size, shape, and amount of film grain in your images and even add a dark or light vignette to your photo to simulate old lenses that lost light toward the edges of the frame. While you can do this with color images, I have to admit that the effect really looks cool with black and white photos.
One of the most anticipated new features in Lightroom 3 (as well as Photoshop CS5) is the Lens Correction tools. The Lens Correction sliders allow you to correct barrel or pincushion distortion in your images, eliminate chromatic aberration or color fringing, and remove (or create) vignetting.
By default, lens corrections are turned off even if you have one of the various lenses that Lightroom3 can automatically identify (based on image EXIF data) and correct based on lens profiles built into the software. Adobe is also working on a “Lens Profile Creator” that will allow photographers to create their own lens profiles for automatic adjustments even if Adobe doesn’t automatically include lens profiles for the lenses you own.