It looks like TechCrunch & USA Today blew an embargo on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 beta due to be released, and now lots of places are getting in on the action. I thought it’d be a good time to update my Lightroom wish list from version 4. The leaked posts mention a few new features that make it easier to retouch images, some automation around leveling photos (which would be a godsend for me, I cannot seem to take a level handheld vertical shot), and some catalog improvements. By & large, though, the announcements were pretty content-free, so I’ll definitely need to spin up a virtual machine to see what else they might have added.
Here’s my list of what I’d really like in a new Lightroom. The tl;dr summary is: feature parity with Apple photo management products from 3 years ago, better sharing among photographers, and more granularity for metadata when publishing online.
1. Face recognition.
Google Picasa is a horrible product, designed by blind people who hate GUIs & user interface standards, for people who don’t value productivity. However, it has kick-ass face recognition. I’m saddened when I have to export my photos from one of the premier photo management tools and use a total hack of a tool to tag people. It’s still faster than doing it manually, but what would be nicer is Lightroom finally having a feature that every other photo management tool has. Seriously.
I continue to wish for that, plus the ability to then print a contact sheet with all unknown faces, so I can send it to someone and have them tell me who these people are.
2. Online collections linked to Lightroom’s internal collections.
Right now I maintain a collection in Lightroom for an event, then take that collection and create a second one for publishing online. This is inconvenient because I have to make sure that when I edit one collection I do the same to the second. Why can’t I just mark the Lightroom collection for publishing, via one of the online plugins? “I’d like this collection to publish to Flickr, please, and this other collection to publish to Smugmug.”
3. Per-collection settings for online collections.
Some of my published photo collections need different settings, like full resolution vs. 1000px, different watermarks, no keywords, some keywords, different copyrights, etc. The all-or-nothing nature of Lightroom’s online service support makes this very difficult.
4. Granular ways of stripping metadata.
Lightroom 4 can remove certain types of metadata in the course of publishing photos online, but they’re fixed options. I’d like that expanded so that I can remove keywords but leave EXIF data, like removing all tagged names from a particular published collection but leaving geotags and EXIF.
5. Atomic catalogs.
Atomic, as in “completely self-contained,” not “fission powered.” :) There are certain things that exist outside of catalogs, like online connector settings and watermarks, that can only be synced manually. When I go on the road I have to make sure to sync my laptop’s Lightroom watermark and online publishing plugin settings. Beyond that, things I publish on the road get different URLs because the online connectors don’t mesh up between my laptop and desktops.
It also means my catalog backups are inherently incomplete because they won’t have all that data in them. All this data needs to be written into the catalog itself, and stored with the photos so I can back it all up and move it around as an atomic unit.
6. Shared catalogs.
Hey, if catalogs were atomic maybe we could share them on a local network, so a couple of photographers could work together more easily. Heck, I’d just like to have my wife share a common family catalog with me, and be able to publish with the same settings to an online service. It’d be great if two people could use a catalog simultaneously.
I’m hoping that the catalog improvements mentioned so far for Lightroom 5 will include these things, and the journalists reporting on them just didn’t know to ask or weren’t told.
7. HDR processing.
Yes, I know third-party developers have tools to do this but I don’t want to spend $500 on additional tools to make Lightroom capable of my iPhone’s basic functionality. Really.
8. Panorama processing.
Again, my iPhone can do it. It’s 2013, come on Adobe. Book publishing was an obvious attempt to catch up to Apple in a particular way, maybe you could actually catch up in a few ways that are more meaningful to your existing customer base?
9. PNG support.
The lack of support for all modern web file formats is almost criminal. Why do I need to run a PNG through a workflow in Photoshop just so I can keep some graphics together in Lightroom? If I can save it in Photoshop I should be able to natively catalog it in Lightroom.
So come on, Adobe, get it together and make a lot of us really happy.
 While I’m not subject to Adobe’s embargoes or anything I also don’t want to poke the sleepy Adobe bear with my blog stick. The intention of this post is hoping Adobe will fix some stuff, not announcing a release. If you’re looking for more details on Lightroom 5 just wait a day or two for the release and try it yourself. Journalists are rarely users of the products they report on, so the best way to see what’s new is firsthand experience. :)