Software Review: Lightroom 3 – Real World Test – part 1

By Diane Berkenfeld

Adobe Lightroom 3 provides not just the requisite speed and processing improvements that you would expect from a software upgrade, but brand new features too. Earlier this month we posted our early evaluation of Lightroom 3, which you can read by clicking here. We’ve been putting Lightroom 3 through its paces and are ready to report on the program’s many new features and improvements.


The import feature has been redesigned with Lightroom 3. When you click on import, you are now brought to an import screen. If you import images the way I do, which is select a group of files and drop them on the Lightroom icon in the Dock (on my Macbook Pro), those will show up with check marks, and any other files in the same folder will show up unchecked. This allows you to add or subtract images before they’re actually imported. In addition to letting you revise the actual files being imported before you hit the import button, you’re given the ability to import the files as .DNG, import and save to a second location, and more. lightroom 3 import example

Importing images now brings you to an import screen. Note the areas at the top and top right that let you choose the image type to import and destination. All photos © Diane Berkenfeld.

Also new with Lightroom 3 is the ability to import video files. The video files will show up in the Library module with a movie camera icon in the bottom left corner of the frame. The files play in whichever default movie player is installed on your computer, but now you can catalog the video files you’ve shot on a job along with the still images. This is great for photographers shooting with the new DSLRs that shoot video.


One of my favorite new features is the realistic grain. For someone like myself, who used to love shooting with high speed B&W film for the “golf ball size” grain, I can now add realistic grain to any image I’ve shot. This is one of the great benefits to digital capture. You can photograph any subject realistically—(i.e. in color, as your eye sees it) and convert to B&W, soften the sharpness, add a post-crop vignette, split-tone or most anything else you can dream up—after the fact. Your digital darkroom is as big as your imagination. What Lightroom 3 does best is simplify the process for photographers, allowing you to correct or alter images in a non-destructive manner, and in a workflow that saves you time and energy. review of lightroom 3 software by diane berkenfeld

Now you can add realistic grain into your images. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld.

Noise Reduction

Whereas grain can be desired—depending upon what you’re shooting and the mood you’re looking for—nobody wants a noisy image. Noise is the number one detraction from a great image. Some early cameras were so noisy at high (and not so high) ISOs that these images were unusable. Noise reduction software however, allows you to correct for noise and can correct enough that you can now use images that you hadn’t been able to in the past. Lightroom 3 uses new noise reduction algorithms to reduce noise while leaving edge detail sharp. review of lightroom 3 by diane berkenfeld

On the left is a zoomed in portion of the original image. Color and luminance noise is visible in the shadows. On the right is the same area, but the color and luminance noise is gone. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld. review of lightroom 3 by diane berkenfeld

The final image, after noise reduction and recovery of the highlights. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld.

This is another great benefit to digital. When software technology gets to the point that it can “save” once unusable images, it allows you to correct imperfections in older photographic files.

Post Crop Vignette

Vignetting has also been improved. This iteration of the software brings users two new vignetting styles for even more natural looking vignettes. These styles are the color priority and highlight priority modes in post-crop vignetting. With the post-crop vignette, you can realistically add a vignette to images post-crop. (Hence the name.) But while some lenses will give images a vignette due to the way they are made, you can add a very realistic vignette to images, to focus the viewer’s eye onto your subject with Lightroom 3. review of lightroom 3 by diane berkenfeld

Post-crop vignetting allows you to add a subtle, natural vignette to images. This side by side comparison shows no vignette on the left, and an added vignette on the right. You can see the difference in the white wicker basket at the bottom of the image. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld. review of lightroom 3 by diane berkenfeld example image

Here is the full image, on the left without the vignette, on the right with the post-crop vignette. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld.

I found this feature very easy to use, with great results every time.


Adobe added a more flexible watermarking system to Lightroom 3, making it very easy to add a watermark and adjust its placement. You can add text or a graphic, such as a logo, to your images as a watermark. Watermarking is available in the Print, Web and Slideshow modules as well as the Export dialog. Placing a watermark on your images in the previous version of Lightroom was not an easy task, and so this is a big improvement. review image of lightroom 3 by diane berkenfeld

Adding a watermark is now a simple task in Lightroom 3. A dialog box allows you to make various choices as to placement, opacity and type of watermark. This example was done while also testing out the custom print layout feature which is also new to Lightroom 3. Photos © Diane Berkenfeld

Print Layouts

The new custom layout function under the Print module makes putting together multiple image print layouts quick and easy. You simply pick a page size, click on the sizes you want to add, and drag images from the filmstrip to the layout. From that point, you can resize images or drag them around the page. You can also save the presets you use often. I found this feature extremely easy to use. Sometimes when you try a software feature and find it complicated to use you shy away from any other program’s similar functionality, However, with Lightroom 3, I think I will often find myself utilizing the custom layout feature for printing multiple images. It’s a definite improvement over the previous version.

Exportable Video Slideshows

In addition to being able to create slideshows of your work via the Slideshow module, Lightroom 3 now lets you export those slideshows as video files, in a range of preset sizes and resolutions from small YouTube suitable files up to full-quality 1080p HD resolution. You can add a music soundtrack and set the slideshow to fit the length of the music. The addition of this feature means that you can now create such slideshows from within Lightroom itself instead of needing to use another program just for slideshow creation.

If you’re looking to create a simple slideshow then you can use this feature of Lightroom 3. If you want fancy transitions between images, or the ability to quickly create text slides to intersperse between images then you’ll want to use a more robust program.

Photodex Proshow Producer is my slideshow program of choice so I missed the features I know exist in that powerful program. But for a simple and basic slideshow, Lightroom 3 will do the job fine .

With regards to rendering of the slideshow, like most other programs, it will take a few minutes, but that’s to be expected. Depending upon the resolution you choose—smaller res shows will render out quicker than larger HD resolution slideshows.

• Part 2 of the Lightroom 3 Real World Review will tackle tethered shooting, lens and perspective correction, and new web features. Look for it to be posted soon!

For more information about Lightroom 3, go to


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  1. Thanks for the review. I used the beta version and didn’t find it much of an improvement to be honest. Is LR3 really faster than LR2? And if so is it a significant increase? I am more bothered about the speed of the programme than (IMHO) the slight improvements, although the watermark is a much needed feature.

    Andrew Miller

  2. PictureSoup says:

    There is a definite speed increase. I know there was an extensive beta testing program, and there were three beta versions. From what I understand from Adobe, there were changes made between the last beta version and the final shipping program.


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  2. It Box @ All Around the World News says:

    Add Text To Image and Text Watermarking for images…

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