The long-awaited update to Lightroom is finally here. Software updates create anticipation and excitement fueled by the new features added to the new release, and Lightroom has had its share of anticipation. There has been a lot of hype and fanfare and a day-long webcast tirelessly done by Kelby Media Group. I have (don’t ask why) Adobe Creative Cloud and was able to download and install Lightroom CC to look at the new features. The post is about my experience and review based on my photographic workflow. You may, and many of you will, disagree with my assessment. Here are the new features and what I think of them.
- GPU Assist: Up to this point Lightroom did not care how capable your video card might be, everything was done by the CPU. Lightroom 6 uses the processing capabilities of your video card if it has OpenGL 3.3 or later capability. Although I was excited about this feature and although my video card supports OpenGL 4.1 for some reason Lightroom disagrees. So, I do not see any speed benefits coming from GPU support. Bummer! Please do not recommend that I upgrade my video card. I built this computer about a year ago and it is running fine, I am not about to modify it again. Adobe site offers a page dedicated to this and say “Graphics cards produced in the last 2-3 years that meet the minimum system requirements.” Check before getting excited. My evaluation: Somewhat negative.
- Face Recognition: Lightroom now can catalog faces and let you search for the photographs of any person in the catalog. Essentially, it is a visual cue, an analog of written keywords. It may offer benefits to people who want Lightroom to recognize the faces, but I don’t photograph too many people and do not mind using keywords to identify them. Your mileage may vary, you may want to look at the Adobe documentation of this feature. My evaluation: Neutral.
- Merge to HDR: Oh, no! There will be a deluge of HDR images on the Internet now! Thankfully, Lightroom does not have the “grungify” option and the results are very clean and realistic. I am VERY pleased to see this. Another feature that appears to be a benefit is that the merged image is saved in Adobe DNG format as a RAW image. I am assuming, which may or may not be accurate, that the DNG file brings all the advantages of the RAW format instead of shoehorning the image into that format. The Exposure slider on such HDR files show a range of -10 to +10 where the range for normal RAW format images is -5 to +5. Perhaps it is kept as variant of a 32-bit file. The Adobe page on this feature does not offer any insight on the file format. My evaluation: Somewhat Positive.
- Merge to Panorama: There are many ways of doing this and the addition of it to Lightroom is not a very important one for me. The company page dedicated to this feature says “Lightroom lets you easily merge photos of a landscape into a breathtaking panorama.” By now we should all be accustomed to adjective inflation, to ignore that “breathtaking” part. All said, the feature works easily for horizontal, vertical, and multiple-row panoramas and creates a DNG file as it does for HDR merge. That may be a plus, but this is not a major feature for me. My evaluation: Neutral.
- Cure Pet Eye: Oh, finally a feature I have been waiting for is in a software, whoopee! Enough said! My evaluation: Yawn!
- Brush away Gradient and Radial Filter: The effect created by the gradient filter can be quite useful but until now it did not discriminate, say between the sky and the tree tops, until now. With Lightroom 6, you can apply both filters and then erase the parts that seem to apply on unwanted parts like the objects in front of the sky. This brings the gradient and radial filters closer to Photoshop layer masks but not quite. This feature piggybacks the adjustment brush on the graduated filters with the final result being similar to a brushed adjustment with the finesse of the gradients. My evaluation: Positive.
- Slideshow Improvements: Lightroom never had a decent slideshow feature and the new “enhancements” do not add much to it. It now has pan and zoom, slide duration, multiple music tracks. Nothing even close to dedicated slideshow creation software. While trying the new slideshow features my computer locked up like it has not done in the last several years. Beware! You don’t believe me, read what Adobe says and decide. My evaluation: Yawn!
- Web Module Improvements: They are doing away with Flash, which must be a huge concession by Adobe. But HTML 5 compliant Web presentation is welcome. That said, I don’t use that feature and don’t know many people on the Web using it. Nice, but … My evaluation: Yawn!
- Touch-Enabled Computer Support: I am sure people using that sort of computers will appreciate this. It is probably a natural extension of having a tablet version of Lightroom. Currently I have no such device, but I can see how useful it can be. Mind you, this is not like using a Wacom tablet. You can control only the UI, move elements that can be dragged, click on icons, etc. My evaluation: Somewhat Positive.
- Import Into a Collection: A convenience feature if you are importing all the images that go to the same collection. This is not a very common occurrence for me and I don’t mind importing them and selecting the images to move to different collections. Even for those that would all go to the same collection it is not a major improvement, saving probably seconds of time at most. If you often do this, you may like it. My evaluation: Neutral.
- Collection Filtering: Now you can use a filter to quickly find a collection, just as you can do on keywords. Nice, but … My evaluation: Neutral.
- Lens Correction Respecting Crop: For minor lens corrections this may be fine, but as someone demonstrated online major vertical correction respecting the previous crop yet the whole image needing major cropping is not reasonable. At times I got frustrated that my crop was reset, so it is good to have. My evaluation: Somewhat Positive.
- Movable Adjustment Brush Pin: This may come in handy at times. My evaluation: Neutral.
- Auto Crop: It is a blend of Auto lens correction and the crop tool. It works similar to constrain to crop in Auto lens correction but leaves the full image and the crop rectangle visible. My evaluation: Neutral.
- CMYK Soft Proofing: Valuable for those who output to such devices or convert their images to be offset printed. I am sure they will welcome it. My evaluation: Neutral.
There are also some minor improvements in user interface or metadata handling. But all in all, Lightroom 6 is a minor upgrade for my needs. I wish they implemented including at least two lines of text in the Print module. Making the text accurately positionable would have been great. Another welcome feature for me would have been a “bookmark” feature to mark where you are in a collection so that you can quickly return there. I was hoping to have an option to use the old clarity slider behavior while retaining 2012 processing engine. Alternately, they could have limited the range the current clarity option has, -100 to +100, since everyone keeps saying “you should not use more than 40-50”. Why then is the full useless range? There does not seem to be any processing improvements, the same engine still rules and there is no mention of any slider working differently.
The bottom line: I will use the current Lightroom 6 CC until my subscription expires and then I may upgrade to Lightroom 6 Perpetual just to get the RAW conversion upgrades. Nothing in the feature set makes it worth the upgrade for me.