- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On my better days, I do like to imagine myself as a creative person, even in terms of my photography, which, in reality, is amateurish at best.

Now I’ve stumbled on to something that threatens to take me to another level: The latest release of Adobe Corp.’s Lightroom photo management and manipulation software. It’s called Lightroom 3 (and version 3.2 is waiting in the wings) and it’s well worth the $299 retail price if you’re at all serious about doing neat stuff with your pictures.

As mentioned here about a year ago (http://bit.ly/17ONkd), Lightroom’s first great strength is its ability to help you organize and catalog your digital pictures. Some explanation: Unlike earlier days, when we’d shoot a roll of 36 exposures and end up with 20 or so that are “keepers,” today’s digital photography lets you keep on shooting with practically no limitations. If you have a large enough memory card, you can capture hundreds of shots and drop them onto your computer, disc space permitting.

Of course, having the ability to keep all these photos on your computer doesn’t mean they’ll be organized. Right now, I’ve got 7,799 photos on my computer — the equivalent of approximately 216 of those old 36-exposure Kodachrome rolls. Lightroom 3, as with its predecessors, will round up your photos and group them quite nicely. You can tweak and refine the groupings, of course, and if you’re one of those blessed with the organizing gene, the cataloging can never stop.

What’s essential to know here, though, is that you can do all this — breaking down categories, creating albums or files — and that it can be done easily. That’s a big plus.

Another plus, as I’d mentioned last year, is that Lightroom 3, likes its predecessors, runs on both Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh platforms. Feature sets are, so far as I can tell, identical. Both are important facets, of course, but the cross-platform feature is most important, particularly for heterogeneous computing environments.

If all Lightroom 3 did was to arrange and catalog your photos, it might not be worth the price tag. “But wait” — as they say in infomercial-land — “there’s more”: In Lightroom, you can perform some basic, and some not-so-basic, operations with a photo that would require a fair amount of technical skill otherwise.

Take the picture illustrated here. It’s a tree I’ve snapped on Skyline Drive in Virginia. But where the original is a rather standard color shot, apply the “B&W Creative-Selenium Tone” effect and you get something that might have been taken when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugurated Skyline Drive nearly 80 years ago. I’m seriously thinking about getting (and then framing) an enlarged print, maybe something on canvas.

What I appreciate about Lightroom 3 is that making this adjustment was not only a one-click process, but that everything is so well-arranged. The effects are easy to find, right in the “Quick Develop” menu on the right side of the program’s workspace, and easy to undo: Click the “reset” button, and you’re good to go.

Also made easy is the process of scrolling through a photo collection, since all of one’s pictures can be accessed in a slider along the bottom of the workspace. It’s quite nice and very useful.

As it did last year, Lightroom 3 outpaces Apple Inc.’s Aperture on a couple of points, as well as in the cross-platform race. With a list price $100 less than Lightroom, Aperture remains a good buy for many Mac users. But for photographic professionals, Lightroom continues to set — and raise — the standard.

Details at www.adobe.com.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.