What’s new in Adobe Lightroom 3

A guide for Lighroom 2 veterans

Adobe has updated its popular and successful Lightroom to version 3, adding many new features based on extensive feedback from users. This is an application I couldn’t live without and I am excited to see it evolve.

All view: Shooting Tethered Using Lightroom, from Adorama TV.


In a previous tutorial, I wrote about Lightroom 2. Since many people were new to Lightroom at that point (including me), it was as much a tutorial as a review. With the advent of Adobe Lightroom 3, I’ve talked to a number of people who are just now looking at Lightroom and have some uncertainty about what it is and how to use it. Part Two of this article will provide the basics of Lightroom and some valuable information on using it. Much of what is in it will apply to Lightroom 2 as well. For those already familiar with Lightroom, this part will discuss the new features in version 3.

Lightroom has been completely rebuilt to be faster and more robust. It is now a 64-bit application the Mac platform (OS 10.5 or 10.6 only). The various Windows operating systems will automatically install the correct version, 32- or 64-bit.

A 64-bit application allows a significant performance boost by accessing available RAM above the 2-gigabyte limit for a 32-bit application. For users with extra RAM beyond the overhead needed by the operating system and other running programs, this means more operations can be carried out in RAM, rather than writing scratch files to the hard drive, which is very slow in comparison. But the key here is having enough RAM; 4 gigabytes is a general recommendation, and the more the better.

Installing and setting up

Installation was straightforward on my Mac Pro running Snow Leopard. (Be sure to read the Read Me file before proceeding.) It apparently picked up my Preferences and Catalog Settings from version 2; when I checked them they were what I would have set. It also picked up my custom print templates.

Upon starting the program, I was prompted to enter my serial number or to choose to do a 30 day trial. Then it asked if I wanted to up upgrade my existing Lightroom 2 catalog or start a new one. I chose to upgrade; for me, that’s a no-brainer. (The old catalog is left intact for any future use by Lightroom 2. Of course, changes made in Lightroom 3 won’t be available in Lightroom 2.) My catalog contained almost 44,000 images and took 14 minutes to process. If you have been using the beta version, or Lightroom 1, you can upgrade its catalog in the same way.

Before you start using the program, have a look at the Preferences and Catalog Settings. The defaults are a good starting place. Most of the options are obvious and are your choices, but you should be aware of them. They are covered in more detail in the Lightroom 2 tutorial cited above.


Importing will now manage video clips in addition to images. They will be marked with a video icon in the lower left corner and you can click to play them in your default video player.

The Import dialog has changed considerably and is now the same whether you are importing from a card/camera or from a folder on your hard drive. It is easy to step through the options and make the choices you need, and you can save presets.


Tethered capture is also supported. It is access by File > Tethered Capture > Start Tethered Capture.


There are some exciting new features in the Develop module. Under the hood, the processing engine has been rewritten and improved. In the Detail panel, stronger sharpening can be applied before halos appear and stronger luminance noise reduction can be done before softening appears.

In the Effects panel realistic film grain can be added and post-crop vignetting now has added sophistication. Previously vignetting just darkened the edges of the image. Now new algorithms have been added to allow exposure or brightness effects. In the upper right of the Effects panel, just underneath the cursor in this figure, there are three choices. Paint Overlay is the legacy adjustment. Color Priority and Highlight Priority are new, and for each of them a new Highlights tab gives added control over the brightest areas. You can get very different results than with the legacy adjustment.



Non-Destructive Lens Correction

A feature I have been hoping for has arrived: non-destructive lens correction. The corrections available in Filter > Lens Correction in Photoshop are now available in the Lens Corrections panel in the Develop module. Click Profile, check Enable Profile Corrections, and the lens make and model will be read from the metadata. It also takes into account sensor size and focal length and corrects for zoom lenses that show pincushion distortion at one end of the zoom range and barrel distortion at the other end. You can also say goodbye to complex geometric oddities, chromatic aberration and corner vignetting. A large number of lenses are in the database and more will undoubtedly be added. If yours is not included you can make manual corrections with the three sliders below the Lens Profile boxes.

If you click Manual you can correct for perspective distortion such as the keystone effect looking up at a building, and for wide-angle distortion. (Or you can emphasize distortion.) It is wonderful to be able to do this for a raw file. It means fewer images will need to make trips to Photoshop.



There are also many new Presets in the Develop module. Many more can be downloaded from a number of Internet sources, and you can make your own.

Because of the improvements to the processing engine, it is necessary to distinguish images processed with the previous engine, either in Lightroom 2 or earlier versions of Adobe Camera Raw. In Loupe view these images will have an exclamation point in the lower right corner, circled in red in the figure below. Click it to get the Update Process Version dialog, which will let you preview how the image would process with the same settings in the new engine. You can then Update or Cancel. After updating, for some images you might then want to dial in stronger noise reduction or sharpening, etc.


The differences will be subtle and probably only obvious in a 100% view. They will be most significant for images on which you did strong noise reduction or significant sharpening.


Another eagerly-awaited feature is watermarking. You can now add a custom watermark to prints, slideshows and exported images. In the Print module, open the Page panel and check Watermarking. Then click the list to its right and select Edit Watermarks to create or modify a watermark.


You will get the watermark editor, which also lets you specify the location of the watermark on the image.


To watermark a slide show look under Overlays and in the Web module look under Output Settings. You will get the same editor dialog.


In the Layout Style panel on the right side of the screen there is a new Custom Package choice that lets you drag images from the filmstrip into the layout grid, where you can drag the corners to size. That makes it possible to have several different images in a custom layout.

Uploading to image sharing sites

There are now plug-ins that allow you to drag and drop images to sharing sites. One for Flickr is included (others will be sure to follow) and you can build your own. Look for the new Publish Services panel in the Library module.

Video Slideshows

Slideshows are now exportable as video files to several formats, from 320 x 240 low resolution for the web and mobile devices to full 1080p HD. You can add opening and closing title frames and sync a soundtrack so the slides display at the proper rate to fit the music. The editor allows you to customize the appearance, and it can be quite elegant.

From a folder or collection of images, go to the Slideshow module. Above the filmstrip (circled in red in the figure below) there is a choice of using all the photos in the folder, selected ones or flagged ones. The interface is intuitive. The Preview button on the lower right will run the slideshow in the main Lightroom window. The Export button on the lower left will create a video file.


Lightroom 3 is, for me, a must-have upgrade; it has so many improvements that extend its usefulness. What I love about it is that everything you need and want is at your fingertips in a beautifully designed and functioning package. It’s the closest I may come to a sports car.

The full price is $299 and upgrade from either version 1 or 2 is $99. As usual, there is a 30-day trial. If you try it and decide to purchase, you just buy a license number online. 


Diane Miller is a widely exhibited freelance photographer who lives north of San Francisco in the Wine Country and specializes in fine-art nature photography. Her work, which can be found on her web site, http://www.DianeDMiller.com, has been published and exhibited throughout the Pacific Northwest. Many of her images are represented for stock by Monsoon Images and Photolibrary.


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