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Living with Lightroom cc - the good, the not so good & the bad
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One Week Living with Lightroom CC

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For more than a month, I was anticipating the release of Lightroom 6. I had some wishes that I covered in this post. As you can see my list was:

  • More performance
  • Improved tagging
  • Integration to more cloud services
  • Android support

Based on all the rumors, I was particularly excited about the promise of additional performance by leveraging the graphics processor. The release made good on the promise the performance features and even added a few surprises. The initial rumors predicted a late March release, but it was late April before the big day actually arrived and we were able to install and start using the next Lightroom.

With a little over a week with the new version of Lightroom and processing a Bat Mitzpah using it, I have a good feel for how well it works and how it delivers on my number one and number two wish list features. You can find piles of people talking about all the new features, what they do and how to use them, so rather than rehash those topics, I am going to focus on how well the features work and deliver value in my workflow.

Performance

To me, Lightroom performance is composed of two elements: speed of using the editing features in the develop module and speed of using catalog functions.

  • Develop module – This is the area that should see the most improvement because of the impact of off loading the heavy lifting tot he graphics card. My main editing system has a Radeon R9 285 graphics card and I expected pretty dramatic improvements with no discernible lag when using the gradient or radial filters and brushes. Unfortunately, the initial release did not deliver on this point at all.  I can see Lightroom is making use of the graphics card, but I don’t see any real performance gain in the development module. What’s worse is, in my experience the new Lightroom seems to be less stable than the old version and crashed a couple times. On Thursday, Adobe released an update to Lightroom. The update seems to have solved the stability issue, as I have had no crashes since its release. I also believe the performance improved things some, but the difference is small enough to fall within confirmation bias error. So, while the graphics card support is promising for performance improvements, we have yet to really see much if any results.
  • Catalog – Because I usually shoot a lot on images, I really want Lightroom to import them, allow me to select/rate them, develop and export as quickly as possible. This was even more important to me than the develop module performance and while there was no promise of improvements here, I was hopeful. Unfortunately, it seems as no attention was given to this area. For those that are in the market for a product that provides super fast import, browsing and selection of shots, take a look at Photo Mechanic. I really delivers in this area, but it lacks a lot of the features of Lightroom.

Improved Tagging

This was an item on my wish list and because it was not mentioned in most of the rumors, I was not expecting much. Then I heard Lightroom’s new features would include facial recognition, I was intrigued, but I was not expecting it to be be useful to me. I was wrong. After using Lightroom CC to process a Bat Mitzpah, I realized two things. First, Lightroom CC has excellent facial recognition with a fast workflow to identify all the people in your images. Secondly, facial recognition is a fantastic tagging mechanism for any photographer with a lot of shots of people. As an example, imagine you have 1,500 to 2,000 images from an event shoot and your client asks if you have any shots of John with aunt Sally and uncle George. Facial recognition is a real time saver and big credit to Adobe for the vision to include it in Lightroom.

Cloud Integration

I was really looking for better integration with other cloud services. I realize this was a little too much to ask. The promise of the cloud was a world with one place to store all your data. Unfortunately, because every vendor seems to want to make you use their cloud service, the would has turned out to be more of world with 30 different places to store all your data. All that said, Lightroom does make better use of Adobe’s cloud service and provides a nice way to sync data across devices.

Android Support

I was hoping for a Lightroom application for Android devices, and it was fantastic to see Adobe launched one. It does not have feature parity with the iOS version, but overall it is a good start and I am hoping for more capabilities in the future. If you have yet to install Lightroom on you favorite Android device, you can get it in the Play Store.

Surprise Additions

Lightroom CC/6 contains several nice additions that were not widely rumored and most make Lightroom easier to use and more functional. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Adjustment brushes in filters – This makes the standard filters in Lightroom far more useful. Using this feature, I find that I need to go to Photoshop a little less frequently and this speeds my workflow. Anyone who is familiar with adjustment brushes in Lightroom will be immediately able to use this feature.
  • Panorama Merge – While I only played with this feature to see how it worked, I think it is a nice addition and implemented with enough control to make it usefull. Once again, Adobe allows me to do more in Lightroom and this will same me time.
  • HDR Merge –  Again, I need to preface this comment with the disclaimer that I only played with this feature, so my experience is limited. That said, I see this as just the opposite as the panorama merge feature. When I do HDR, it is to dig out details in the shadows in landscapes while preserving the natural appearance of the scene. This means I need quite a bit of control of the process and I do not see that control in the Lightroom implementation. This is an area, that I believe Adobe should leave to Photoshop or a dedicated application. In my opinion, Adobe would be better to focus on improving the core Lightroom function (catalog performance) rather than adding a lot of specialized capabilities. I could say this about the panorama feature above, but since since panorama stitching requires few adjustments from the user, I see it as a useful addition to Lightroom.
  • Slideshow improvements – This is a small one, but it is very useful for event photographers. Lightroom now has a slideshow option to add pan and zoom (sometimes know as Ken Burns effect) to slide shows. For any one that wants to run a slideshow of shots as part of an event, this feature makes the images far more interesting. It is currently very basic with only one slider, but with over time, I am sure the feature will mature and offer a little more control over the effect.

Bottom Line

I like most of what Adobe did to Lightroom. It has promise for better performance and with luck we will see Adobe deliver on this in future updates. I really hope they pay some attention to the catalog performance as well. I spend a lot of time navigating the filmstrip and it would be a real time saver for it to be a snappier experience. With the stability issue resolved, I would recommend any Lightroom user to upgrade and start to leverage the new capabilities.

What do you think?

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