Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Review

  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 4 stars
  • 80%

  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: December 19, 2018
  • Installation & Setup
    Editor: 90%
  • Design & Interface
    Editor: 80%
  • Features
    Editor: 90%
  • Function
    Editor: 70%
  • Value For The Price
    Editor: 80%

Adobe Lightroom 5 is a popular software designed for amateur & professional photographers.

When I first got involved in photography, I had experimented with Adobe's Lightroom 3 software. At that time, I determined it wasn't right for my needs as it seemed too complicated and cumbersome than many of its competitors. I then transitioned to Aperture and it quickly became my “go-to” software for my photo editing & organizational needs. Aperture was noticeably more limited in terms of features, but my workflow moved quicker and the interface was simple to master so I stuck with it for the past few years.

I recently had been given the opportunity to test out Lightroom 5, the newest version of the popular photo editing software made by Adobe. I set out to put it through the paces to decide whether I'd make the switch back from Aperture. I have used Lightroom 5 daily for the past month or so this review will be based solely on my hands on experience using the software on my 27″ iMac and 15″ Retina Macbook Pro.

Adobe created Lightroom 5 with the intention of catering to all types of photographers from the recreational amateur shooting family photos to the professional wildlife photographer. Since this is such a wide market, the software contains an array of both basic and advanced features which can get fairly overwhelming for new users. However, the Lightroom 5 interface is organized and efficiently manages different facets of the software within their own sections.

Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 1.01.12 PM

Each section is broken down into their own tab which is displayed in the top right of the interface. By clicking on each tab, you'll initiate that specific component of the Lightroom 5 and the rest of the interface will change to reflect that tab. This was a bit confusing at first since certain tools were only available for use on certain tabs, but it is simple to maneuver once you understand the concept. This type of interface is far more complicated than the simple layout used within Aperture, but given Lightroom 5 has far more features and settings this should be expected. It will likely take you some time before you get used to where all your most used settings are located, but it's smooth sailing once you get the hang of it.

The choice of dark colors used in the interface is well thought out as it doesn't take attention away from the photos at hand and is easy on your eyes when your putting in a long editing session. This is a significant difference from Aperture whom uses a much brighter interface which often results in eye strain after extended long periods of time.


Personally, I think the biggest issue with the Lightroom 5 interface is the bulky design. Since I'm fortunate enough to edit on a 30″ Dell Display, I have lots of screen real estate to deal with this issue. On the other hand, when I switch to my 15″ Macbook it is a whole different story due to the significantly smaller screen. The dual sidebars take up a lot of screen space thus giving me much less room to dedicate to my images. I do have the option to hide them, but since many of the major settings are located within these sidebars it isn't an ideal layout as hiding them is a pain and hinders productivity.

As I stated earlier, Lightroom 5 is geared for the budding amateur photographer all the way up to the avid professional. This means it covers all the basic photo editing features you'd expect in a $30-60 product plus the advanced components normally found within software priced well over $100. Lightroom 5 is ultra-competitive and the newest release features many significant advantages over the earlier Lightroom 4 version.

Here's a quick run through of these new features:

  • Radial Filter  – easily create vignette effects to emphasize important areas in your image.
  • Enhanced Spot Removal Tool – remove your imperfections or unwanted elements that you may find obstructive to the overall photo.
  • Visualize Spots – this provides an inverted image which can be used for closer inspection of photo's flaws or imperfections such as dust or debris that can be easily missed, but will be evident on printed materials.
  • Upright – an automatic perspective correction tool which will utilize complex algorithms to repair perspective distortion and straighten out photos.
  • Smart Previews – an ultra useful way to work on photos while on the go since you are now able to work with your image library without the need to carry the original files with you at all times. As soon as you connect back to your source with the original library, Lightroom 5 will automatically sync your changes with the original files.
  • Improved Book Creation – there is now greater flexibility in your book template customization including page numbers and captions.
  • Photo Sharing – you can now share your photos through Behance and Revel publishing services.
  • Video Slideshows – unlike previous versions you can now introduce video into your slideshows and combine them with photos and music to create a feature-rich experience.
  • Lab Color Value Readout – you can now get precise readings of Lab values for any color in your image.
  • Loupe Overlay: Grid – this tool is useful for checking if objects in your image are aligned or askew by overlaying a resizable grid with an adjustable opacity.
  • Loup Overlay: Guide – position a movable crosshair on your images then drag the intersection to move the guide.
  • PNG File Support – there is now full support for PNG files and transparencies will be displayed as a white color. If you edit your photos in Photoshop or export the file, these transparency settings will be maintained however there is no option to export photos as a PNG through Lightroom.
  • True Full-Screen Mode – you can now toggle between application and full-screen views by pressing the F key.

Since I primarily utilize Lightroom 5 for product shots, the features and tools I use most on a day-to-day basis are:

  1. Enhanced Spot Removal Tool
  2. Visualize Spots
  3. Upright
  4. Crop Tool
  5. Basic Color Treatment Sliders
  6. Watermarking
  7. Secondary Display

Since I'm doing a great deal of photo editing, I purchased a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet for greater accuracy with my tools and added convenience in comparison to the traditional mouse and keyboard. The software does work hand in hand with Wacom tablets however a few of the aspects such as multi-touch gestures don't work as smoothly as they do with Photoshop.

I am pleased with the feature list of Lightroom 5 and it is clearly far superior than Aperture's offerings.  I think the added features and changes to 5 are strong enough to warrant a second look from users like myself who weren't initially satisfied with Lightroom 3 or 4.

Over the past month, I've completely made the switch to Lightroom 5 from Aperture and consequently, my workflow increased and my product photos look significantly better. I think I can account this to a few things which I'll try to elaborate in further detail.

First off, Lightroom 5's built-in auto white balance and auto tone features blow Aperture out of the water. While these features don't always capture the right color/lighting, they consistently improve my photos and allow me to utilize the color options in the “develop” panel to further perfect my images.

The secondary display feature is an excellent way to view images mid-edit without any masks or obtrusive elements affecting the photo. It is simple to to enable/disable and it will automatically minimize when Lightroom 5 is not the active program on your Mac which may seem like a small feature to some, but it adds great convenience.


The new Upright feature is impressive and gives you the ability to straighten photos using a variety of different algorithms which calculate what is the optimal upright position. Along with this Upright feature is built-in lens profile corrections that fixes photos depending on the type of lens you're using. I have yet to find a photo that Lightroom 5 wasn't capable of improving within these segments (given the photo required fixing) and it beats manual correction by a long shot.

I have extensive experience using the spot healing brush (with content aware healing) in Photoshop so I had anticipated that the spot removal tool would use the same technology. After further research, I found this was not the case as they do not utilize the “content aware” technology however the tool still works unbelievably well. Since I have an dog who sheds terribly, it is virtually impossible to keep my product shots free of dog hair no matter how hard I try. By utilizing the spot removal tool, I'm able to get rid of any visible hairs or debris in my shots and keep them looking professional in all aspects.

The interface was a bit overwhelming at first, but now that I'm feeling confident now that I've got some experience using the software on a day-to-day basis. I like the separation within the top right tabs as I feel it keeps the interface organized, but I only rely on the Library/Develop tab to suit my particular needs and I'd bet most of you would be in the same boat.

While I have not yet utilized Lightroom 5 to color correct any video content, it is possible and the results can be rather astonishing. To show you what I mean, check out the following YouTube video which was color graded within Lightroom 5:

So far, I've done a lot of talking about how great this software performs, but I haven't touched much on the negative aspects. This is because there is far more good than bad however there is one major issue that I have experienced while testing Lightroom 5. The problem is that the software has a tendency to get bogged down and exhibit sluggish performance even when utilizing a high-end machine.

This is mainly significant when you are trying to run Lightroom 5 in addition to other resource heavy applications (such as Chrome with multiple tabs open, Photoshop, etc.). Additionally, each edit you make to a photo can have an effect on your performance during that session so if you're editing a set of 200 photos and utilizes lots of features like spot reduction on each photo then the performance is likely going to suffer as you progress through the set.

I am a bit disappointed with the performance of Lightroom 5 especially since my 27″ iMac is packed with 20GB of RAM and should have more than enough power to keep up with my editing sessions. Upon further research, I found that I am not the only user who noticed this sluggish performance and Adobe has released an official statement on how to increase the performance of Lightroom 5. Another interesting find was an in-depth performance test between Lightroom 4 and Lightroom 5 which shows that Lightroom 4 runs significantly faster than Lightroom 5 and both of them under utilize system resources:

We had high hopes for Lightroom 5. We hoped that Adobe would give Lightroom 5 the ability to utilize additional system resources for greater speeds. What we found was that Lightroom 5 still under-utilizes system resources. On average, regardless of the system build, CPU, and CPU clock settings, Lightroom was only utilizing around 30-60% of the CPU. It was only during exporting that utilization reached 100%. We were hoping Lightroom 5 would feature some sort of pre-cache functionality that would enable Lightroom 5 to have better image-to-image Develop Module lag. Unfortunately, it is moderately slower in image-to-image lag as well.

SLRLounge Lightroom 4 & 5 Hardware Test

Example Product Shot Workflow:

Original Photo


Slight Color Correction (Color Treatment Levels)


Lens & Upright Perspective Correction (Upright)


Cropped To Get Rid Of Unused Space (Crop Tool)


Removal Of Hairs, Dust, & Intrusive Particles (Spot Removal)


Watermarked & Exported


Total Time to Complete Above Edit: Under 5 Minutes

After my month of testing, I am impressed with Lightroom 5's offerings and its feature set outweighs what Aperture brings to the table. It has all the necessary tools a professional photographer would seek and each of them work as expected. However, the poor system performance in many cases can be frustrating and there isn't much you can do to successfully combat the problem. Furthermore, I have decided to stick with Lightroom 5 for my future photo editing needs as I believe the good far outweighs the bad and I receive more value than I did with Aperture. I would recommend Lightroom 5 to any prospective buyers who are seeking a software platform to help organize their photo library and make editing changes.

UPDATE: Lightroom 6/CC 2015 Has Been Released – Read The Review