First, Look: Lightroom 6 Announced
Adobe has announced a major update to its Creative Cloud Photography package with the headline news being a new version of Lightroom – version 6. “Photographers at any level are driven by their passion to capture the perfect shot and make it incredible,” said Winston Hendrickson, vice president of Digital Imaging Products at Adobe. “Whether you shoot with a DSLR or smartphone, the Creative Cloud Photography plan gives everything you need to organise, edit and share amazing photos on mobile, Web and desktop –- thanks to the imaging power of Lightroom and the magic of Photoshop.” Corporate gushing aside, there are several interesting new features in Lightroom 6, so let's look at them one by one...
1) HDR Merge.
This enables you to combine multiple shots taken with different exposure settings into a single raw high dynamic range (HDR) image. Via a very straightforward interface, you can combine the darkest and lightest areas from a series of shots, in other words. From what we have seen of this new feature in action, it works well but much will depend on the quality of the source imagery.
2) Panorama Merge
This works in a similar way to HDR Merge but enables you to combine single images into panoramas via Photomerge technology. You can also stitch together raw files to ensure you get maximum resolution and detail, which will give you much more latitude at the editing stage. Again, the demonstration was impressive, but you will need carefully shot source imagery to be able to create seamless panoramas.
3) Facial recognition
This will be useful if you take lots of people shots as it enables you to find and organize dozens of images of family and friends, even without metadata tags. Simply identify a face from one photo, and Lightroom finds that face in all of your other images. While this may seem like the kind of 'fun' feature you get on a compact camera, it's actually a handy workflow tool for more serious photographers as you can group together individuals from a large and diverse number of people shots. Portrait and wedding photographers are likely to find it rather helpful, as will travel photographers.
3) The Filter Brush
The Graduated and Radial Filters are some of the most useful tools in Lightroom 5 but they can be something of a blunt instrument. This new feature gives you more control over which parts of your image are affected by the Graduated or Radial Filters. It enables you to use a brush to reshape gradients created with the Graduated Filter and Radial Filter. You can also erase parts of the gradient, or paint the effect that appears inside the gradient into any part of the photo. I think this will be particularly helpful with the Graduated Filter, giving much more control over areas in a foreground that you wish to work on a landscape, or example, or specific parts of the sky. The Graduated Filter is not the easiest tool to use in Lightroom, so every little helps.
4) More advanced slideshows
Lightroom's slideshow function is very handy and this new version in Lightroom 6 enables you add a professional pan and zoom effect and sync slides to a multi-song soundtrack. So you can add as more than one song to the soundtrack, again useful for wedding photographers who want to offer a slideshow as an extra to clients.
5) Performance boosts
Adobe claims Lightroom CC is up to 10 times faster than its predecessor by making use of hardware GPU (graphics processing units). Don't expect it to work miracles if you are dealing with very large high resolution files on a slow computer though. Increasing the RAM at the first opportunity is also important if you find yourself in this position.
So should you upgrade?
While you can get Lightroom 6 as a standalone program, you will sacrifice some attractive Creative Cloud features, such as the ability to synchronise images with mobile devices and create and share online galleries. It's this mobile functionality that makes CC attractive, and it's also easy to get updates. Lightroom 6 will sell separately for around £100/US$150 while if you get it with Photoshop on Creative Cloud, it will costs £8.57 per month inc. VAT. This includes Lightroom CC across desktop, Web and mobile, Photoshop CC and Photoshop Mix (for iPhone and iPad). Considering you are also getting Photoshop as part of this monthly package, it seems a pretty good deal to me.
Information on Adobe Creative Cloud pricing and plans can be found at: https://creative.adobe.com/plans. For more detailed information about Lightroom CC product features, upgrade policies, pricing and language versions, visit: www.adobe.com/go/lightroom.