If you shoot photos in the raw format, whipping them into shape can be a challenge. Instead of flogging theworkhorse to process your files, you might like to take Adobe's cheaper, streamlined Photoshop Lightroom 3 software by the scruff of the neck instead. You'll be finished batch processing long before lunchtime and have saved enough money to dine out.
Lightroom 3 is available from Adobe for £233 for Windows and Mac, or £75 if you're upgrading. If you look around online you can find the full version for around £180.
Lean, mean editing machine
Lightroom is aimed squarely at photographers, rather than graphic artists, animators and other types of Photoshop fans. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles that Photoshop does, which can be a good thing -- we've never used the slice tool or 3D-walk-view tool in Photoshop, for example. What you do need, and what you get, are pre-loaded lens-correction profiles and superior noise-reduction modules.
The lens-correction profiles in Lightroom are particularly good at saving you precious time. All lenses have defects, even the very expensive ones. But Lightroom can recognise the lens you've used and load up a correction profile to automatically fix barrel distortion, colour aberration and vignetting. For older lenses that don't have a profile, we tried using a profile for a similar lens from the same manufacturer and still got a decent result.
You also have the option of making your own lens profile by playing with the distortion, colour aberration and vignetting values yourself, but we prefer to let an Adobe boffin in a Pantone white coat do it for us.
If you're shooting where flashes are banned, having Lightroom at home will make you feel free to wind up the camera's ISO and shoot into the gloom. Lightroom handles digital noise very well indeed, so those rogue brighter sets of pixels in dark areas and blotchy areas in lighter tonal gradients can be tamed. We also like the fact that Lightroom armed us with the option to control luminance and colour with more precision than Adobe Camera Raw.
Spoilt for choice
Lightroom has a few excessive features. For example, we think the option to add effects like film grain is a slippery slope -- next there'll be a module for people who've forgotten to take off the lens cover. Tweaks like this should be left to Photoshop, or, better still, buy some film.