Lightroom 6/CC Has Landed!

Well, it’s taken a while but Lightroom 6 / Lightroom CC (shudder) has finally landed! It’s nearly taken two years, and there have been rumours flying around since at least July 2014 as to when the latest and greatest version will come out. Here’s a download link to a trial if you are interested in trying it out.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the matter of whether it is LR 6 or LR CC and whether or not they are the same product. You only have to look at the forums and LR Facebook page to see that it’s perplexed many people, myself included.

The simple answer is: it is both. They (currently) are the one and the same. They have the same functionality and features. I’ve been told that they will have the same updates applied to them. Whether this will remain true, or whether LR CC will go the same way as its Photoshop bigger brother is an entirely different matter.

When the CC model came out you could buy a perpetual licence version or CC version of PS. The CC version got updated with features, and the perpetual didn’t (bar bug fixes), even though at the time they were effectively the same version of software (keep reading if you want to find out why). If you really wanted these updates and features you had to pay for them via CC subscription. This is my biggest fear: LR will go the same way and you will be forced to pay through the nose for software you don’t need.

Now, don’t get me wrong, for some people the CC model is fantastic and it makes great software easily affordable. But for others, like myself, who use PS so little (in fact I’m still using an old version of PS Elements) it is simply a waste of money. In the UK the cost of CC is nearly £9 per month. If I was running with the CC subscription, that upgrade would have cost me nearly £200 as opposed to a one off cost of £59 to upgrade. It’s a bit of a no-brainer. Add on to that the very few changes that are made through the year to PS, and bug fixes that should come as standard with LR/ ACR you have to question is it worth it? For me, no.

Anyway, enough procrastination. LR6: what’s new? And is the upgrade worth it? Over the next few days I’ll be playing with it and posting comments on the new features, but for now here are some snippets of what you can expect.

Face Recognition

Personally this is not a selling point. At first I thought of it as a bit of a gimmick, but after some careful thought, it might be of some use to professionals, particularly wedding photographers.

How does it work? It searches your photos for things that look like faces, and displays these faces as a grid, ready for you to identify the people.

As stated, personally I don’t have any interest in it, but then I’ve thought that about a few software features in the past and come around to liking them. This might be one of them. Time will tell.

Built in Photo Merge: HDR & Panorama

This was a key selling point for me: it is now possible to merge photos into HDR images and panoramas without needing to use other software such as Photoshop.

A massive advantage is that the merged images is a DNG file that has the editing flexibility of the original files. In other words you don’t need to edit your images before you merge the image.

Personally I don’t do much HDR work but the feature is there, which is nicety. I purchased the Photomatix 32-bit merge to HDR plugin for LR a while ago and have been using it to create numerous semi-HDR images by merging the RAW files into a 32-bit TIFF and manually tone mapping them in LR rather than using the full blown Photomatix Pro software. This allows a more realistic look to be created: the key is subtlety.

The HDR photomerge feature in LR6 merges the RAW files into a single 16-bit floating point DNG file, so there are pros and cons to the method. Allegedly the 16-bit files should hold enough contrast data to do the job although it will be interesting to do a comparison against 32-bit files. Tone mapping is done manually in the Develop module in LR: there are no preset starting points like there is in software such as Photomatix.

Panoramas are where it’s at for me however. Since watching Serge Ramelli’s video on creating panoramas rather than shooting wide angle, I’ve used this method a lot. Of course there are times when this method just won’t work, but there are time when it does, and it allows you to create exceptionally detailed images, so I’m really looking forward to trying this out.

Filter brush

Another wish answered, although the appearance of this tool was known a long time ago….. Developed in a previous version of ACR it never made it across to LR because of legal reasons (in short Adobe can’t make major changes to dot releases of perpetually licenced products).

You can now use the brush to locally modify filter settings. This means if you want to apply a graduated filter on a sky in an image where the horizon is interrupted by other objects, you can now use the brush to prevent the filter from affecting these objects.

GPU Acceleration

Finally, another wish answered: using the GPU capability of your graphics card to speed up editing.  This provides real-time or near-time updates to the image while making adjustments in the Develop module using sliders.

To make the most of this you will need a decent graphics card. I have a mediocre card, and whilst it shows, there is still a significant performance enhancement. I’m almost tempted to upgrade it…..

There are some cons to using GPU acceleration however:

– Slower loading times: it takes a little extra time to pass the data from the CPU to the GPU, so there’s a slight delay in initially the loading the photo.

– Slower detail adjustments: The preview for sharpening, noise reduction and grain is slightly slower to update.

– Second screen lag: If you work with the Lightroom’s secondary windows open, the lag in updating is more noticeable with the GPU enabled.

Slideshow makeover

By far the biggest  single change is to the Slideshow module. I have only ever created one slideshow in LR before and was generally unimpressed with its offerings. It had very limited features, probably far less than some freeware programs. It seems it has had quite a few new features added, so I’ll be interested in trying them out.

Well, it’s getting late, and as much as I’d like to stay up and play with my new toy I really need some sleep, so watch this space for more comments.

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