I have returned to the post-processing world with interest in more efficiently adjusting RAW files. A few days ago, I began with Nik's Capture NX 2, which featured control points to specify region-specific adjustments. Although unique, its unconventionality was outweighed by its lagging performance and rudimentary user interface.
To continue the search for an appropriate workflow application, I tested Lightroom 3 from Adobe. Lightroom is best described as an offshoot from Photoshop CS that offers specific features useful to photographers. I ignored the first two versions of this application simply due to my previously low image workflow. Now I am looking for an interface in which to scroll through images and simultaneously tune RAW adjustment sliders, and Lightroom does just that. The process begins on an import, either directly from the camera or from an existing folder. Pictures can be viewed in the Library mode, in an array of different manners making it easier to compare, flag, and select the best image from a set. Next, in Develop mode, images appearing on the filmstrip can be scrolled through for continuous editing with sliders on the right and adjustment history on the left. The last three export modes, of Slideshow, Print and Web, have thus far stayed unused, but enhance its apparent usability.
Lightroom's benefits are also paired with some downsides and annoyances. Yesterday I had issues importing photos into the application. I am still unsure why the file handling was finicky and decided to throw an error. Once imported into Lightroom, images need only to be edited within the application. Photos deleted outside of Lightroom are still registered and represented by a question mark over the thumbnail, and require deleting once more to keep it current with the actual directory. The only other point to consider is the aesthetics. Alike other Adobe products, Lightroom's interface is built on text icons as opposed to image icons. My obsession with aesthetics may be too superficial, since this reduction in icon size may increase productivity and functionality of Lightroom.
I plan to utilize Lightroom for now until I find something even better, if such an application does exist. There is only a mild learning curve making it easy to adjust to the software after one day. Overall, its intuitive shortcuts and smooth interface allow for an efficient post-processing experience.