Adobe Releases Photoshop Lightroom 3 Beta

New version of photo workflow software becomes public.

Adobe has released an early public beta for its Photoshop Lightroom 3 in order to solicit "concise, constructive criticism" from its users. Lightroom is a workflow program in which you can sort, organize, develop, and publish your photos, or hand them off to Photoshop for finishing. With version 3, Adobe has improved the image quality of RAW processing and streamlined some workflow situations.

Importing into Lightroom offers more transparency so that finding and defining your source and destination is easier. For instance, the import interface reveals all attached drives but grays out all previously imported files to avoid duplication. Once you have defined your import naming convention, the type of import, the file handling, the metadata, and other options, you can save an import preset (or several different presets) to use in the future, with just a couple of clicks. To take advantage of the presets, the program offers you a compact view of import that implements your presets but also gives you control over editing metadata, keywords, and the type of import.

On first glance, the most obvious change in the Develop module is that it gives you access to all collections and recent folders, so you don't have to switch to the Library module. Under the hood, however, the biggest news for Develop lies in the updates to how it processes RAW files. Specifically, Adobe has rewritten the demosaicing, sharpening, noise reduction, and vignetting algorithms, and the program now allows you to add film-like grain to your pictures. Adobe claims that the new algorithms will produce much better image quality. For instance, the company says that the revised sharpening algorithm holds detail better, delivers finer gradations and tonality retention, and improves color saturation retention in highlights. And for image files that you previously processed in Lightroom 2.5, Lightroom 3.0 introduces versioning; you can choose to apply the new algorithms or use your old edits.

For this public beta of Lightroom, Adobe has turned off luminance noise reduction, because the company is more interested in feedback on the new color noise reduction.

The Slideshow module has simplified how it uses music. You can easily select your music file from any attached drive. Lightroom will automatically calculate the appropriate duration of each slide to have the show sync with the length of the loaded audio file; then, if you wish, you can customize your fade times. Lightroom now supports MP4 export of slideshows, as well.

Print options include a new Custom Package, which allows you to create a page with different background colors and place photos on it; you can use cells of specific sizes that are customizable, or just drag a photo from the filmstrip. You can make the cells overlap or abut one another, or arrange them as you wish. You can also fine-tune the placement of your identity plate by moving it pixel by pixel with the arrow keys.

Lightroom 3.0 hasn't made many changes to its Web module, but the software does now allow you to add watermarks. You can save several watermarks (such as a logo, copyright, or name), which you can then add to your Web pages or edit right there, when you need to use them.

For this public beta, Lightroom is offering the ability to publish to Flickr and manage published images, as an example of how it will work with other online services (depending on third-party plug-in development). Using the Lightroom Publishing Manager, you can keep track of what images have been uploaded; it will also tell you which ones have been modified since they were uploaded, so you can republish them.

This beta of Lightroom 3.0 looks appealing, but it will take time (and lots of testing) before we'll know how compelling an upgrade this version will be.

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