Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4

Lightroom. Aperture. Lightroom. Aperture. Adobe and Apple’s competing professional photo organization and editing tools are locked in a two-year cycle, one-upping each other with tweaks designed to keep existing customers from flocking to the other side. Today’s release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 ($149) continues the ping pong match: in addition to adding a bunch of features Aperture users have been enjoying since Apple released version 3—or earlier—Adobe has cut the app’s price in half, and added a handy soft-proofing option to let you tweak output for your printer of choice without altering the color balance of your photos. For the time being, Adobe’s only offering it through its own web site, albeit with a free 30-day trial that lets you sample all of the features without restrictions.

The marquee additions to Lightroom 4 are going to sound awfully familiar to Aperture fans: a new photo processing engine with highlight and shadow recovery sliders, location-based/GPS-assisted sorting of photos with a Google Maps searching interface, and creation of photo books from templates—interestingly, a promised 180 layouts, with book printing by Blurb. Most interesting is the new option to sell your self-made photo books through Blurb’s online store at a chosen profit level, an option that prosumer and professional photographers might enjoy at least experimenting with. Additional compelling additions include more narrowly-tailored white balance and color adjustments, improved noise reduction algorithms, and enhanced support for video files, though Lightroom remains primarily focused on still photos. While all of the improvements are certainly welcome, the ball’s obviously in Apple’s court at this point to really innovate with the next edition of Aperture, and hopefully more than just releasing an iPad-friendly version of the Mac app.

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