Nondestructive editing is the buzz phrase in the big world of imaging software. Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom joins a new generation of programs that make it possible, from Apple's Aperture 1.5 to last year's Nikon Capture NX. Edit without fear.
IMAGING SOFTWARE OF THE YEAR: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0
If you've ever wondered why so much in Photoshop has so little to do with actual photography, it may all have been in anticipation of Adobe's powerful new workflow program. Like Apple's Aperture, last year's most impressive software, Lightroom organizes, processes, fixes, prints, and shares your images -- handling RAW-format shots just like any other kind of file. It does all its fixing non-destructively, allowing you to go back and rework your pictures again and again. Its refinement and smooth operation clearly reflect the wisdom gained from Lightroom's year of free public beta testing. So will it make you hang up your Photoshop for good? If you rarely dodge, burn in, or make composites -- in other words, if you don't work locally on different areas of your image -- you may never need Photoshop again. On the other hand, serious retouchers should consider Lightroom for its organizational, printing, and Web prowess alone. About $300.
APPLE APERTURE 1.5
Aperture 1.0 revolutionized the way serious photographers work with digital images, by combining nondestructive RAW processing with key production and creative tools in a single, flexible workspace. The original program was limited, however, by a proprietary image library closed to other applications. This year's dramatically improved version addresses that flaw by allowing you to store your pictures anywhere you choose. And unlike the first iteration, Aperture 1.5 runs on every computer Apple currently sells. It should really be called Aperture 2.0. About $270.