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Adobe improves performance in new Lightroom CC, adds features to all versions

Adobe unveiled a new version of Lightroom CC that includes new tools, enhanced performance, and synchronization across all supported platforms. The free update is available for Adobe Creative Cloud and Creative Cloud Photography members; the Photography plan, which includes access to Photoshop CC, remains at $10 a month. (A standalone version will be available, however, to utilize the cloud functions, a subscription to Creative Cloud is required.)

Lightroom CC has been reengineered to deliver faster performance in machines with OpenGL 3.3-supported (or higher) graphics cards. By using the graphics-processing unit (GPU) more efficiently, Adobe says Lightroom can process a photo 10-times faster; it also allows you to perform other tasks while it’s rendering, since it’s done in the background.

The new highlight features include HDR Merge, Panorama Merge, Facial Recognition, and Video Slideshows. Most of us are familiar with HDR, or high-dynamic range, where multiple photos are shot at different exposures and combined to create a single, high-contrast image. While many new cameras handle the process internally and automatically, here, it requires you to shoot multiple photos manually, at different exposures. Adobe says this is a good use of a camera’s bracketing function, and when images are shot in RAW, there’s more information for Lightroom to play with, which helps to produce even better-looking photos. Lightroom will automatically adjust tones and alignment, and output a 16-bit RAW image with 30 stops of dynamic range.

HDR Merge added to Lightroom CC.

HDR Merge added to Lightroom CC.

Panorama Merge automatically stitches multiple photos to create a super-wide shot, without having to worry about keeping your camera leveled (although that helps). Facial Recognition is a new management feature that lets you sort your photos based on similar faces (it’s not a new function in photo editing apps, but facial-recognition technology has improved). With Video Slideshows, you can combine stills, videos, and music (up to 10 different songs) with special effects (like pan and zoom) to create a slideshow. These features add casual, consumer elements to what’s typically considered professional software, but it also brings in elements that address new trends in how people are taking photos.

Panorama Merge added to Lightroom CC.

Panorama Merge added to Lightroom CC.

Related: Adobe previews new 3D printing mesh, color, and bump map features coming to Photoshop

There are additional features in the desktop app. There’s support for touch-capable PCs like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, where Lightroom presents itself in a touch-friendly UI when the Surface Pro is used in tablet mode; import and export speeds are improved; new Filter Brush for graduated and radial filters, allowing you to easily mask areas that you don’t want affected (a Photoshop tool); pet eye-correction; metadata filtering; import directly into collections you’ve set up; CMYK Soft Proofing; and HTML5 Web Module galleries.

Facial recognition added to Lightroom CC.

Facial recognition added to Lightroom CC.

With photographers increasingly adding mobile devices to their workflow, Lightroom is now available on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. Through Creative Cloud, users can access their assets on any device (although the desktop version will offer more tools and features). This means you can start or pick up a project wherever you may be, as long as they are uploaded to the cloud.

Adobe has added support for DNG RAW files in Android Lollipop devices that handle the uncompressed format (this feature was already announced earlier this year); as mentioned, with RAW images, there’s more information for Lightroom to work with during the post-editing process. Lightroom for Android will process the RAW images in-device, so there’s no need to send it to the desktop version. Since RAW images are large files, it’s recommended that you save them to a removable memory card, if available.

Lightroom for mobile now has support for star ratings, custom sorting, GPS sync with desktop, Copy & Paste Adjustments for fast editing, improved cropping (iOS), presentation mode (iOS), and a Segmented Grid view. On the Web version, besides Segmented Grid, you can create and update collections, import new photos through the browser, share a shortened URL, and see comments and likes from people you’ve shared photos with.

With sharing, besides Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram, Lightroom lets you share images directly with Adobe’s storytelling apps for iOS, Slate and Voice.

Related: Adobe’s new visual storytelling app helps you easily create impactful websites