Adobe Flips Switch on Lightroom 2

The promise of digital photography is that it can help any amateur develop into a backyard Ansel Adams, given the right camera, software and dedication. Imaging software company Adobe Systems has known this since 1990, when it rolled out version 1.0 of its trailblazing Photoshop software; it has followed that with a host of related products aimed at different segments — and expertise levels — of the digital imaging market.

Tuesday’s release of Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 is designed to narrow the gap between the serious amateur photographer and the professional with features aimed at better editing, enhancement and management of digital photos. New support for Mac OS X Leopard is also focused on competing with Apple’s popular iPhoto and Aperture applications.

Beyond the Basic Features

Anything that can make casual photographers feel like they’re approaching art with their shots of kids and vacations is helpful, John Barrett, director of research at Parks Associates, told TechNewsWorld.

“Photography is one of the digital activities that is really pervasive, along with music and video,” he said. “It’s something that you see old and young, males and females taking part in. … A very broad demographic base engages in digital photography, and to that end any tool that can give casual users some interim steps so that you don’t have to choose professional photography, I think that’s smart.”

Lightroom 2 (US$299; $99 as an upgrade) assumes that its users have progressed beyond the basic features in entry-level software; there is support for multiple monitors, exposure-adjustment, and editing and collating batches of photos on the same screen. This last feature is clearly provided for what Ron Glaz, director digital imaging services at IDC, calls the “consumer enthusiast”: The serious amateur who’s slowly becoming comfortable with more advanced digital editing techniques.

“You’re more likely to view images in batches as an enthusiast,” Glaz told TechNewsWorld. “An enthusiast might take four or five images of the same event and pick the best one, whereas a consumer will just take multiple images of events and may try to find the storyline with those images.”

Of course, for those who want to tell that story in a progression of shots, Lightroom 2 cuts down on edit time by allowing users to apply the same enhancements made to one photo to similar shots; all exposure and crop settings can be transported to the same sequence.

Taking on iPhoto and Aperture

Lightroom’s 64-bit support for Mac OS could force Apple fans into some difficult choices, Glaz noted.

“I think the Mac user tends to be very much Mac-oriented, but it’s also a group of people who have historically used Photoshop,” he said. “I think when compared to iPhoto, Lightroom is a step up. Aperture from Apple is more the equivalent to Lightroom, but the question is, where is Apple going with Aperture at this point?”

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