Adding Power to Lightroom with LightZone
by Ken Milburn
The other really powerful and photographer-friendly DAM non-destructive RAW processing software, after Lightroom and Aperture, is LightZone. Just recently, a new version of LightZone was announced that seems to be much faster than the original. They've also added quite a few new features, including Sharpening and Gaussian Blur. For a full list, check over the free download's Help screens.
By way of perspective, I haven't had LightZone for very long. This version has only been in my hands for an hour, and I'm already strongly devoted to Lightroom. So don't expect a full and accurate review here. What I can tell you is that LightZone, especially in this new addition, is a great addition to Lightroom. One reason alone, combined with the program's use of the Zone system for setting regional adjustments, makes this so: You can very quickly make very highly-controlled regional adjustments.
In the example below, you can see an area that's been selected by one of the program's selection tools. You make the selection by clicking dots around the area you want to control. You then "blend" whatever adjustment you're going to make by dragging the selections inside border until it covers as wide a blending area as you like. Then you make your adjustment to that selected area and it blends automatically. There are also 29 effects pre-sets that do their job at the click of a button.
If you note the region that's been selected in the screen above and compare it to the ZoneMapper 3 window at right, you can see that you can easily re-map the tonal range of any area of the image at any level of brightness. So you end up having amazing control over specific areas in the image that you could otherwise get only in Photoshop--and then only after investing much more time, effort, and expertise.
You can go between Lightroom and LightZone in just exactly the same way that you can go between Lightroom and Photoshop. Just designate LightZone as the secondary editor in the Lightroom Preferences dialog. Then, when you want to take the Lightroom adjusted image you've been working on into Lightzone, just press Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + Z.
The thing is, while Lightzone is interesting, I wonder if it's going to end up being purchased by (and then incorporated into) either Lightroom or Aperture? How long should we wait and see? - alternatively could the rumoured update to Lightroom include some of the highly focused adjustment approaches found in LTZ?
Same dilemma as when to buy a new laptop I suppose.