The day is upon us, my friends; Lightroom CC is here. The latest update to Adobe’s excellent photo management tool has arrived, and as cliche as it sounds, it really does offer something for everyone.
While the updates won’t necessarily satisfy hardcore Aperture users (who are still licking their proverbial wounds), Lightroom 4/5 users can easily justify this upgrade as a satisfying mix of under the hood, and hands-on improvements.
First and foremost, you’ll be ecstatic to learn that Adobe has released an independent version of the software in the form of Lightroom 6, available as a physical DVD or as a digital download. Subscribers of Adobe’s Creative Cloud service (that have Lightroom as part of their subscription plan) will automatically receive Lightroom CC, which is identical to Lightroom 6. We all let out a collective sigh when it was verified Adobe would not leave non-Creative Cloud users out in the cold.
The new and improved Lightroom sports several new features, and has included some improvements as well. Let’s go through a few of the highlights and see how they can make your photography workflow a more powerful and efficient process.
While this is a behind-the-scenes improvement, it’s one of the biggest in this update. Instead of relying on the CPU (central processing unit) for all processing, as with Lightroom 5, Lightroom 6 has added the ability for some computations to be offloaded on the GPU (graphics processor) of your machine, specifically adjustments in the Develop module of the software.
This takes some of the load off of the central processor of your computer, and makes the entire program noticeably quicker. Efficiency through speed!
Photo Merge to Panorama
The new ability to create panoramic photos (multiple photos blended together to create a single super-wide image) directly within Lightroom will probably be one of the most talked about features of the update, along with HDR creation. In Lightroom 5, no “creation” of new pixels was allowed, meaning if you needed to create a panoramic image, you’d have to do it in Photoshop or a third-party piece of software.
Now, Lightroom allows you to select a set of images, and it will stitch them together with a single click. The detailed controls for this process are sparse, but this is a good thing. You can even have the software automatically crop after the stitch is complete by ticking a checkbox in the creation dialog.
What do you get back after the build is complete? A 16-bit DNG (digital negative) file, a raw format that can be adjusted in the Develop module just like a RAW file. No compressed JPEG’s here.
The beauty of this process is that unlike the full rendering done in Photoshop, you are giving a very quick low-resolution preview of the image, and it can then be sent to the background, while you work on a different image. The progress of the panorama’s build is viewable in the new Activity Center, which allows you to monitor and control ongoing background processes.
Photo Merge to HDR
The other high profile addition in Lightroom CC is undoubtedly the ability to create HDR (high dynamic range) files. HDR images are created by blending together several shots taken at various exposures, with the intention of pulling the optimal dynamic ranges from each of those images to create a photo that contains a larger dynamic range.
As with creating panoramas, HDR creation was not available in Lightroom 5, and was most often done via a third-party program such as Photomatix, or within Photoshop.
Just as with panoramic creation, Lightroom allows you to select several files within the software, and merges them together into a DNG file, with no compression. They may be modified with any of the sliders in the Develop module, just as you would do with any RAW file.
The obvious primary benefit for both the HDR and Panorama creation tools in Lightroom CC is the ability to perform these functions right there in Lightroom, without having to merge the files together in a separate program and then import them back into your Lightroom workflow.
More Precise Adjustment Filters
The graduated and radial filters available in Lightroom are some of its most-used features. They give you the ability to paint on a varying layer of adjustments including color, exposure, and many other options. A common example would be adding a graduated filter in a landscape shot to decrease exposure in a blown-out sky, while maintaining the proper exposure for the foreground.
One caveat to using these filters before Lightroom CC was that they were all “what you see is what you get” implementations; if there was an object such as a tall building in your landscape image that extended to the top, a graduated filter to darken the sky would also darken the building.
With Lightroom CC, this is no longer an issue. You can apply a graduated filter as usual, and then use a brush to mask the building so that the effect is only applied to the sky. This adds almost unlimited potential to the filters available in Lightroom.
A feature becoming more and more popular in our social-sharing world, facial recognition is well-known in apps such as Facebook, where identifying and tagging friends and family in shared photos is ideal. Lightroom throws its hat in the ring with a new Facial Recognition feature that will allow you to tag people in your photos in a similar manner.
The software will automatically attempt to identify human faces, and allow you to name them for future use. Over time, you’ll build up a database of faces, and Lightroom will begin identifying faces from that database in your newly imported photos.
The tags that are created from this process can then be converted into searchable keywords in the metadata for the photo, and used as any other keyword could be.
What do you think?
There are several other smaller improvements and enhancements in Lightroom CC, including updates to the Slideshow module, pet eye removal, and tethered shooting, as well as an improved experience in Lightroom Mobile. Just as a reminder, to use Lightroom Mobile you’ll need to have an Adobe Creative Cloud plan that includes Lightroom.
We’ll likely have more in-depth analysis of Lightroom CC’s new features in the coming weeks, but early in the game, what do you think? Are you excited about the upgrade? Did it change your opinion of Adobe’s Creative Cloud direction of thinking? Thanks for reading, sound off in the comments below!