Edit and organize your photos with the app that’s optimized for desktop. Lightroom Classic CC gives you powerful one-click tools and advanced controls to make your photos look amazing. Easily organize all your photos on your desktop, and share in a variety of ways. Your best shots. Made even better. Your photos don’t always reflect the scene the way you remember it. But with Lightroom Classic CC, you have all the desktop editing tools you need to bring out the best in your photographs. Punch up colors, make dull-looking shots vibrant, remove distracting objects, and straighten skewed shots. Plus, the latest release offers improved performance so you can work faster than ever.
Adobe Lightroom is unquestionably the dominant professional photo-workflow application. The question is, which Lightroom should you use? The photo software is now available as two separate applications: the consumer-targeted Lightroom and Lightroom Classic, reviewed here. Lightroom Classic offers professional photographers a powerful way to import, organize, and correct everything they shoot. The February 2020 update adds new options for raw import profiles, support for huge PSB files from Photoshop, and more GPU acceleration. Other recent major updates include the Texture slider, Flat-Field correction, and the Enhance Details tool.
Though there are excellent competing products such as ACDSee Pro, CyberLink’s PhotoDirector, DxO’s PhotoLab, and Phase One’s Capture One, none equal Lightroom Classic’s combination of smooth workflow interface, organizers, and adjustment tools. HDR tools, faster performance, face recognition, a mobile app, and cloud integrations are also at your disposal, along with top-notch lighting, color, geometry, and lens-profile based corrections. For all this, the program earns a rare five-star rating, along with a PCMag Editors’ Choice award.
Unlike Corel AfterShot Pro and Lightroom, Lightroom uses separate modes for organizing (Library), adjusting (Develop), and other program functions. You can turn the mode entries on and off at top left (and even change their font). By default, modes now include Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web. A nameplate appears at top left when you sign in for syncing your photos with Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom.com.
Lightroom has a big, ever-present Import button and media auto-detect that launches the nondestructive importer. This lets you see thumbnails and full-size images on memory cards even before you import them. A new tweak for the import panel is that external media is now by default selected in the Files section, rather than in the Devices section, which Adobe claims is faster. Lightroom lets you start work on any photo in the set before all the import processing is done. Usually, you’ll want to import photos as camera raw files, which offer more control over the final images. Lightroom supports camera raw file conversion for every major DSLR and high-end digital camera.
Lightroom imports pictures using a database, which Adobe calls a catalog. The database approach makes sense for photographers with huge collections of large images, and you can store the database file separately from the actual image files. This is helpful if you want to store them on external media or a NAS. At import, you can either Copy, Copy as DNG (Adobe’s universal raw camera file format), Move, or Add. During import, you can have the program build Smart Previews for faster editing, ignore duplicates, add to a Collection, or apply a preset such as Auto Tone.
New for the February 2020 update is Lightroom Classic’s ability to import Photoshop Elements catalogs and .PSB files. It’s nice to see Elements getting some love from the Creative Cloud club, as it has long seemed a very separate entity. PSB files are like PSDs (Photoshop Document), but the B stands for big, since these files can be up to 512 megapixels and 65,000 pixels wide. Note that you need to check the Maximum Compatibility box when saving in Photoshop for the Lightroom import to work. Also new is the ability to choose which monitor is used for preview and which for controls, if you have a multiple-monitor setup.
Another way to get photos onto your computer is to tether it. Mostly of use to pro photographers, tethering lets you connect your camera with a USB or FireWire cable and actually control the shutter release from the computer. ACDSee and CyberLink PhotoDirector, by comparison, offer no tethering capability, though Capture One does. In its February 2019 update, Lightroom Classic gets faster tether transfers for Nikon SLRs to catch them up with the improvements made for Canon updates last October. Also added were control over ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and white balance in the software.
In Library mode, double-clicking takes you between thumbnail and screen-fit view, and another click zooms in to 100 percent. Zooming, unfortunately, is limited to Fit, Fill, and ratios like 1:3, and 1:2, and it doesn’t make good use of the mouse wheel, as many other photo editors do. You can use a touch screen to pinch-zoom to any level you like—something I was thrilled to see in testing on my Acer T232HL touch-screen display. There’s even a touch interface with large controls, which you can enable by tapping a finger icon.
Lightroom’s Library mode offers unmatched organizational abilities, including the ability to group pictures into Quick Collections of thumbnails you select, and Smart Collections of photos that meet rating or other criteria. Star rating, flagging, and rotating can also be done from within the thumbnails. You can use Quick Develop tools in the Library mode for lighting fixes or preset effects (B&W, Cross Process, and the usual Instagram-like suspects). One basic fix you can’t do unless you move to Develop, however, is cropping, but you can hit the R keyboard shortcut to get right to the cropper, which offers aspect ratio presets and leveling, as well.
New for Lightroom Classic’s Library mode is Flat-Field correction. This used to require a plug-in, but now it’s built in. The tool can detect a calibration image you shoot and correct the vignetting and color cast that can occur with some third-party lenses. The tool creates a new .DNG raw file with the corrections, and you can choose only to correct color cast or both that and vignetting.
Another useful tool in Library mode lets you click on thumbnails to apply either metadata or adjustment presets. The program also does a good job of making it easy to compare images side by side. A Survey mode lets you select several images for larger comparison views, and the loupe tool magnifies spots for close work.
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