First look at Adobe Lightroom 3.4 RC

It’s not often that a developer gives away a $300 piece of software absolutely free but that’s exactly what Adobe has done with the release candidate of Adobe Lightroom 3.4. The only catch is, this free version expires by the end of May which is more than long enough to get you hooked on this professional photo management software.

Although there’s nothing revolutionary in 3.4 compared to 3.3, this free release candidate gives you a much better opportunity to evaluate it. Adobe have however added support for RAW images and several brands of camera and lens profiles in version 3.4. Note however that because this is a release candidate, it may be buggy and Adobe encourage users to report problems to the Bug Report Forum.

Adobe Lightroom allows both professional and advanced photographers to import, store, organize, edit and export thousands of pictures from one uncluttered interface. You can create sets and collections to store your pictures and add tags to every individual photo.

The timeline view at the bottom is a great way to quickly browse through pictures.

Editing tools are located on the right of the interface. The Library section works wonders to adjust things like white balance, exposure or vibrancy quickly.

For advanced editing you’ll have to go to the Develop section though. This is where you’ll be able to correct details, camera calibration, split toning and more. Adobe Lightroom lets you create virtual copies so you can edit elements without affecting the original.

Adobe’s photo management tool also includes a section to create your own Slideshow, including transitions, overlays and music. Although it creates nice slideshows it feels a bit counter-intuitive and previewing takes a while.

I also liked how in-depth the Print settings were, letting you adjust things like margins or print resolution very precisely.

The last section allows you to optimize your photos for the Web and create a flash gallery and a postcard viewer among others. It includes integration with sites such as Faceback and Flickr although not Picasa and iPhoto.

Thanks to an excellent structure, slick interface, advanced editing tools and features to print, publish to web and slideshow tools, Adobe Lightroom is one of the best photo management programs out there. It’s a bit complicated for all those simply used to using Picasa and iPhoto but for true photographic professionals, it’s a real treat.

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