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Oh goody: Neutral density filter for Lightroom

One feature I'd really like, the equivalent of a neutral density filter to better handle scenes with bright and dim patches, appears headed for Lightroom.

In general, I like Adobe Lightroom and the whole-image editing philosophy that it employs--it puts a bit more emphasis on photography and less on diddling endlessly with images on the computer. I don't feel a powerful desire for Photoshop's ability to apply lots of different changes to lots of different sections of an image.

But one feature I'd like to see is the equivalent of a split neutral density filter that could ratchet down exposure for one patch of an image while leaving the rest unaltered. It's particularly useful for sunset shots, where photographers typically have to choose between a washed-out sky or a blocked-out foreground. In the old film days, photographers would attach a filter that dimmed the bright part.

Happily, such a feature appears on the way, according to a Michael Clark interview earlier this month with Lightroom product manager Tom Hogarty.

"Another favorite feature I'd like to see as an amateur nature photographer is a neutral density filter," he said. "We are listening to the market. We're figuring out what they need and what we can achieve from a technical perspective in keeping with the nondestructive philosophy."

Hogarty also said there's room for improvement in sharpening, both with the "capture" sharpening that should take place as image data moves from a camera sensor to editing software and the "output" sharpening that should take place after editing is complete and images are printed or converted into JPEGs for Web publication.

"I think it is a natural evolution that we build up both capture sharpening and output sharpening as we develop the application. No guarantees though," Hogarty said.

And he personally would like to see the current image size limit of 10,000 pixels per side lifted--especially because the new Photoshop CS3 released earlier this year has new tools to stitch multiple photos into panoramas, leading to ever-larger files.