Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom 2.0; The Beta Version Tells Us What’s To Come

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By the time you are reading this it will be almost a year and a half since Adobe Systems introduced Photoshop Lightroom (LR) 1.0. The introduction of the original version of LR took place after an extensive period of online beta testing by photographers from all over the world. The full release was followed by a series of updates which steadily improved the functionality of the program. The current version is 1.4.1.

Courtesy of Adobe Systems, Inc.

On the one-year anniversary of the introduction of LR 1.0 Adobe announced another beta period, April 1st to August 31st, 2008, for the next major upgrade, Version 2.0. The beta version contains Adobe's suggested changes and upgrades to the current release and lets us in on what we might expect when the final is released. There's no question that LR 2.0 Beta contains some definite improvements and new features. But is it a major renovation or just a face-lift? The major changes in the beta version are to be found in the Library, Develop, and Print modules.

Library Module
When you first open LR 2.0 Beta you will notice the improved layout in the Library module (#1). A more intuitive approach to image organization simplifies the location of the features needed to find and filter photographs. It includes a new feature called Smart Collections, which automatically updates collections with images that match desired criteria such as star rating, keyword, or other metadata (#2). You can use the default Smart Collections determined by Adobe or you can create your own custom
Smart Collections.

1. The improved layout in the Library module features a more intuitive approach to image organization.

2. Smart Collections automatically updates collections with images that match criteria such as star rating, keyword, or other metadata. You can use the default Smart Collections or you can create your own custom Smart Collections as seen here.

As a functional image management tool LR 2.0 Beta is more streamlined. Essential tools have been moved front and center for speedy access. For example, still in Library, a Filter bar has been placed at the top of the Grid View (#3). This allows photographers to rapidly find, sort, and edit images using filters. The Filter bar has three categories: Text, Refine, and Metadata.

3. A Filter bar has been placed at the top of the Grid View. This allows photographers to rapidly find, sort, and edit images using filters. This view shows the Metadata filter in use.

Text allows you to search across your images using text search fields; Refine allows filtering the Grid View by flags, star ratings, color labels, and the type of file, Master or Virtual Copy. This function is not new to LR 2.0 Beta. In 1.0 it is located to the right of the filmstrip. It is still in that position in LR 2.0 Beta, labeled RF so that it can be accessed in any of the other modules.

Metadata is presented in easy to browse filter columns that can be added, removed, and customized. The column arrangement can be stored as a preset.

The final improvement to the Library module is in the Keywording panel, to the right of Grid View (#4). The Keywording panel includes a set called "Suggested Keywords." This new set is able to suggest keywords for the current image based on existing keywords already applied to the image as well as keywords applied to images that are close neighbors in terms of capture time.

For example, I use the same keywords, "Wild Horse," for all of my photos of wild horses. But I use further descriptors such as "standing," "grazing," and "running." If I select, or type in, wild horse, the option to select any or all of the other words is made available. I did not feel this feature was fully developed but I can see its potential.

4. Lightroom 2.0 Beta has an improved keywording system which includes "suggested keywords." The current photo contains the keywords "Wild Horse" so the option to select "workshop," "Wyoming," "Nikon D3," "running," and "2008" are the first keywords shown as they are all contained in the previous photos.
All Photos © 2008, Steve Anchell, All Rights Reserved

Develop Module
LR is an image management program. It is not designed or meant for major image corrections or manipulation. LR 1.0 does have some features of this kind, though they were meant to be used globally, except for redeye correction and the Clone/Heal tool. LR 2.0 Beta has added a Local Correction Brush, which allows you to make localized changes to specific areas of an image (#5).

5. A Local Correction Brush allows localized changes to specific areas of an image. The retouching tools have been moved to the right-hand panel so that the tool options can drop down below them for ease of access.

This is perhaps the most important fundamental improvement to LR 2.0 Beta. Currently I introduce students to LR 1.0 before teaching them Photoshop basics. By the end of the week most of them are asking why they need Photoshop. With the ability to mask off specific areas then dodge, burn, enhance exposure, brightness, clarity, and saturation to those areas, the only reason for using Photoshop may be for advanced manipulation--such as pasting flying fish over Los Angeles.

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