Without a doubt, Lightroom is an extremely powerful editor. So much in fact, that I can edit an entire wedding without ever leaving the program. The main things I find myself doing that cause me to leave Lightroom and enter Photoshop are multiple exposures, liquefying, more advanced cloning and healing, and adding certain overlays. What Advanced Lightroom Effects from Lens Distortions does is make it so I no longer need Photoshop to add these overlays. It saves me time from switching back and forth between programs and having to create multiple copies of the same image.
Advanced Lightroom Effects is essentially a set of overlays that you can add to your images. These overlays are split into three separate packs. The first pack is Forecast, which allows you to add fog, snow, rain, and stars. The second pack is Skylight, which allows you to add sun flares and glows. The last pack is Accent, which allows you to add stylized glass effects and bokeh. While adding overlays like these are nothing new, the ability to add them in Lightroom is.
The way these packs work is actually through the use of presets and the brush tool. By simply scrolling through the pack in the preset panel, you get a quick preview of the effect in the navigator window. Once you apply the preset, you can edit and move the effect from within the brush tool by selecting the edit pin. The cool thing about each of these packs is that all the overlays are produced from actual images of each effect. What Lens Distortions has figured out how to do is to convert real images into whatever file type is used by the brush tool. So if you add stars to your image, the overlay was produced from a real image of stars. Some of the effects are also split into multiple pieces. So if you add a set of bokeh balls, you can move around the individual elements instead of having to move them all around as a group. These effects also have quite a bit of range and seem to work with any sized image from a cell phone image to a medium-format file. The only issue with this amount of detail and resolution though is that it can cause a slight slow down when adding the overlay or when moving things around. For me, it was easier to use the navigation window to get a preview of where an effect was being moved to instead of waiting for the main display to catch up my movement. Once the overlay is added into place, Lightroom runs as normal and it’s still drastically faster than opening the file in and doing the same process in Photoshop.
If an effect is not strong enough, or you want more elements of the effect, you can also duplicate them by right clicking on the brush pin in order to duplicate the element. The downside of this tool though is that you can only add one effect to an image. So if you want to add stars and bokeh to an image, you would have to do a weird process of adding one effect, rendering it as a TIFF file, then adding the second effect. So while adding one effect is faster than going into Photoshop and doing it, if you want two effects, you are better off using Photoshop.
When an effect is added you have a handful of ways that you can edit and manipulate the elements. The main way to change the appearance is by adjusting the normal sliders found within the brush tool in order to change things like the white balance, tint, color, exposure, etc. Another option is to use the set of prebuilt brush presets that have been made for each effect. These make it possible to quickly change the color, darkness, and lightness without having to mess with each slider to figure out what change it may or may not cause.
Once you have the effect placed where you want it, you can then click the little black arrow next to the effect name to reveal the amount slider. Similar to adjusting the opacity of a layer in Photoshop, this allows you to easily adjust the appearance in order to make the effect blend more naturally with the image. You also have the ability to erase the effect from within the brush tool so that the effect won't show where you don't want it. This also makes it possible to make an effect appear as if it is coming from behind the subject instead of always being on top. The problem is that you are stuck using the Lightroom brush tool, which can be a bit laggy and does not do as well on fine brush detailing. Getting things to appear natural around hair and detailed edges will also be difficult or impossible. Another drawback is that you cannot resize any of the effects. What you see is what you get. In order to combat this, they supply different sizes for most elements, but it would be nice to have the ability to fine tune the sizes.
What I Like
- Easy to use
- Easy to modify, change, and move around
- No longer need Photoshop, which saves time
- Plenty of options for size and style
What I Don't Like
- Can be a bit slow to add and move effects
- At $99 per pack or $249 for the three pack bundle, it's on the expensive side
- Can’t add multiple effects
- Cannot resize
In conclusion, this Advanced Lightroom Effects pack may be a bit expensive, but the results it provides are worth the purchase. If you find yourself spending a lot of time in Photoshop, then you may be better off purchasing some of Lens Distortions' cheaper Photoshop effects. But if you are like me and try to spend as little time in Photoshop as possible, then these packs are for you. While the Forecast pack doesn't see much use from me, I can see its application when dealing with landscapes. For me though, the Accent and Skylight packs are must-haves.