Lightroom has become a very mature product offering easy and powerful workflow for photographers. I now do much of image processing in Lightroom pushing the image to Photoshop for features that are not available in Lightroom. One of the tools that I often miss in Lightroom is the ability to use layers, blending modes, and masking. Although Lightroom offers some local adjustment tools, like gradient fill and local brush tool, they are no substitutes for layers-based adjustments.
Apparently others missed the same capability that onOne software collaborated with Scott Kelby to develop a tool called Perfect Layers. It is not available yet, but you can download a public preview from onOne software Web site and give that a try, it works with Lightroom or Aperture. I downloaded and experimented with the software. It works as intended, and for many users it may mean less need for Photoshop and money saved from that. As a Photoshop user, I did not see much benefit in Perfect Layers as I can easily open the file or files in need of layers-based adjustments in Photoshop. For many other users who do not have Photoshop and try to do everything in Lightroom, Perfect Layers can be a very useful tool indeed. The process is an automated export to and import from Perfect Layers, so the functionality is not directly added to Lightroom. The round trip workflow is easy and straight forward. Some sophisticated blending mode tools, like “blend if” sliders, channel selectors are not there but this is a preview version and some of these features may actually end up being included in the final release version.
When released in mid 2011 Perfect Layers will be priced around $160. If you are seriously interested in the software, you may take a look at a special offer for the Perfect Photo Suite 5.5 at $299 after a rebate. The owners of Perfect Photo Suite 5.5 will apparently receive Perfect Layers free when it becomes available. Perfect Photo Suite 5.5 includes several potentially useful tools in one bundle. Considering the $499 MSRP, $299 after rebate looks downright seductive. The rebate is available only until April 30, 2011, so if you are interested you may need to act fast.