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OK, now that Lightroom 2, the real final version is now shipping, I can really take a look at how the new version stacks up against my dream “wish list” of features from a blog post I did well before the public beta was released.

Did I get everything on my wish list? No, but of course, I never expected to (that’s why it’s called a “wish list” rather than “a list of demands”). ;-)

Now, I was pretty psyched to see a lot of the things on my list did make it into the final shipping version, and of course I was disappointed at the ones I thought for sure would be there but didn’t make the cut.

So, here I’m going to look at what’s hot about about the new Lightroom 2 (and there’s plenty of stuff to be excited about), and what’s not (You knew there was going to be a “what’s not,” right?) Here we go:

HOT

  • Hands down, the hottest thing in Lightroom 2 is the Adjustment Brush, and all the cool new things Adobe snuck into the brush since the Public Beta version was released. We wanted Dodging and Burning, but we got SO much more, and it has totally changed my workflow because now I can do so much more in Lightroom, including portrait retouching, color tinting, sharpening tricks, and things I didn’t think would make their way to Lightroom until Lightroom 5.
  • The User Interface has been greatly streamlined throughout, and although the Library Filter at the top of the Library panel gets a lot of the attention, it’s the addition of the Collections panel in the Slideshow, Print, and Web modules that will actually have the biggest impact on your work.
  • The Gradient Filter is one of my personal favorite new features, and again; what we wanted was something that would let us replicate a traditional Neutral Density Gradient filter; what we got was something much more powerful, and goes far beyond a simple filter replacement. Very smartly done.
  • Combining the two Keyword panels into one is one of my wish list winners, but they took it a step further by incorporating key word suggestions, which is something I had never thought of (but already love).
  • Another wish list winner was that we can start a slideshow with a blank screen (so you don’t see the first image before the slideshow starts). They also knocked another one off my slideshow list when they gave us opening and closing title slides. They also fixed another huge pet peeve when they added a checkbox so you can turn the slideshow looping off (so when the slideshow is over, it ends, instead of looping back to the beginning, like in Lighroom 1).
  • Here’s one for all the people that came to my Lightroom Live! Tour, and saw the cool Print template layouts, and then wanted a way to save those layouts out as JPEG files (so you could send them to a lab). You got it! :)
  • We got the Dual Monitor support everybody wanted (another from the list. By the way, so was the JPEG thing above), and we got “Post Vignette Cropping” which is big for all you vignette freaks (like me), plus the shipping version has more controls than the public beta version, which enable you to have more realistic looking vignettes.
  • We got a mondo-big huge thing off my wish list; the ability to open Lightroom files in Photoshop as a Smart Object. Big-big-biggity big! Well done, too! Also, the combine to Panorama is really well done. The merge to HDR thing works well too, but the built-in HDR control in Photoshop CS3 is still pretty…well…you know.
  • We got my Non-Uniform Cells thing off my wish list—not quite in the way I was thinking (which was more along the lines of the ability to have like three photos across, and have the center photo rectangular and the photos on either side square), but instead we got a version of Photoshop’s Picture Package, but it’s much smarter and better designed than Photoshop’s (except for the fact that in Photoshop you can put different photos into your Picture Package cells, but in Lightroom you have to use just one photo).
  • A lot of folks at my seminars were asking if there was a way to make their Raw photos in Lightroom look like the JPEG preview did on the back of their digital camera (another one from the list). In Lightroom 2, Adobe added Camera Profiles (available from the Adobe Labs site [link], that you do just that. This will make a lot of people very happy.

Plus, here are some other things that have been changed or improved since the Public Beta version of Lightroom 2:

  • The performance of the brush is much better, and the auto masking has been much improved (I want this feature in Photoshop).
  • You can export slides as JPEGs now.
  • The Gradient Filter I mentioned earlier wasn’t in the public beta.
  • You now have hierarchical dates and locations in the Library Filter (Including days of the week for the date).
  • You can choose any collection you’d like to use to replace the Quick Collection as the current Target Collection (so if you hit the letter “B,” instead of adding a photo to the Quick Collection, it adds it to that Target Collection you selected).
  • Now the Adjustment Brush has more effects you can apply, including Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, Clarity and color toning (and these are all available for both the Adjustment brush or the Gradient Filter tool).
  • The output sharpening in the shipping version has been enhanced, too!
    STUFF NOT ON MY LIST THAT MADE IT
  • They greatly improved the Auto Tone function, and now it’s actually usable as a starting point.
  • Lightroom 2 is 64-bit on both Mac and Windows, so now you can access crazy amounts of RAM, providing of course, that you have crazy amounts of RAM.
  • 16-bit Printing (it’s only available for Mac OSX Leopard users, but that’s a limitation of the Windows OS; it’s not an Adobe thing or a Lightroom thing).
  • The addition of a Detail panel, that shows you a 100% view of your image so you can make better decisions on sharpening and adding clarity, not to mention you can see retouches and dust removal up close while still working on the Fit in Window view.
  • Print Collections rock, and they’re going to save a lot of time and headaches for Wedding and Portrait photographers (they save your layouts and the photos in them, so you can do reprints of things you printed in just one click. That’s simplifying the explanation a bit too much, but trust me—you’ll totally love it.
  • Sharpening in the Web module on output. Whodathunkit.

WHAT THEY MISSED

  • Networking. I thought for sure this time around.
  • PhotoBooks. This one is killing me. For goodness sakes Photoshop Elements makes photo books. You can use Bridge services to make Photobooks, but not Lightroom 2. Sigh.
  • Shooting Tethered. This is another I thought would be there for sure.
  • A dedicated copyright or studio logo watermarking feature. Adding this must be much harder than it looks, because it’s on everyone’s wishlist, yet didn’t make it into LR2.
  • The ability to change the background color of a printed page. Come on, can’t we get at least black as a background color? I think even Microsoft Word can do that.
  • Softproofing. I would have bet money this would have been there (and lost).
  • I thought we’d get some more lens correction/perspective tools, but alas….
  • My Long shot pick: Built-in HDR processing. I knew it was a long shot.

SO, THAT’S WHAT’S HOT. HERE’S WHAT’S NOT:

  • In my opinion, they kinda messed up Collections by taking away the whole “Create this collection as a child of…” thing. So, while there are Collection Sets (which are nice), the ability to create sub collections inside a collection has been really restricted (or made so clunky that you probably won’t want to). I actually plan to do an entire post just on this to explain the problem, in the hopes that Adobe might reconsider it, because (in short), what took two steps in Lightroom 1 for subcollections, now takes 4 or five steps in Lightroom 2, which is a big step backward. More on this later.
  • While I’m very grateful for the three improvements they added to the Slideshow module, it needed about 12. There’s no reason in the world that Apple’s free “iPhoto” application’s slideshow feature should kick the crap out of Lightrooms. Sorry, it’s true.
  • Lightroom still has to restart each time you change catalogs. Sigh.
  • The Print Collections are great, but each collection in the Print module already remembers your last layout (not the photos per se, but the layout), and when you’re trying different layouts on photos in different collections, this can tend to drive you crazy. I think they should have let you decide whether the regular collections remember the last layout or not, because you can wind up going up to the Template Browser an awful lot in some situations.
  • So many people have created so many great Presets for Lightroom, yet Adobe only added two or three new ones (as far as I can tell) to Lightroom 2. Some new presets and templates would have given new life to modules which didn’t have as many features added (like Slideshow and Web).

THE BOTTOM LINE

The bottom line is, despite my whining above; Lightroom 2 kicks $#@!

My criteria for whether an upgrade is worth it really comes down to this:

  1. Are the new features things I can and will really use?
  2. Does it makes me work faster and more efficiently?
  3. Is it a step forward in the evolution of the product?
  4. Is it much better than the previous version?
  5. Is it more fun than the last version (digital imaging is supposed to be fun!)

Luckily, my answer to all five is a resounding YES!

In all honesty, if the only new feature was the Adjustment Brush, it would be absolutely, positively worth the upgrade price alone (which is $99 by the way). So, from that point on, everything else is icing on the cake, but the other features that did make their way into Lightroom 2 are really meat and potatoes type stuff that makes our jobs more fun and our lives easier, so I don’t want to dismiss them at all.

Did I get everything on my list? No, but I got a bunch of things that were, and a bunch of things that, now that I’ve used them, should have been on my list, and now I can’t live without them. There are also tons of little tweaks, enhancements, and improvements throughout (an Adobe trademark move when they update software), and now that I’ve been using Lightroom 2 for a while, the thought of going back to Lightroom 1 sends chills down my spine.

I got a harsh reminder of that, when I had to look something up on a computer that I hadn’t updated to Lightroom 2 yet. As cool as I thought 1.4 was, it feels clunky, outdated, and played compared to Lightroom 2. Yes, it’s that much better. I’m psyched!