Back on April 29 I did a post on The Bare Essentials to Get Started in Real Estate Photography and I included Lightroom as one of the essentials on my list. One of the comments on this post asked, "what essential photo editing does it do easier than Adobe Photoshop Elements?"
The answer is that Lightroom is an application that is about more than just photo editing. Lightroom has features that integrate and speed the whole photographic workflow. It has features that aid in choosing which of all the photos in a shoot are the best, features that do non-destructive photo-editing, slideshow creation and printing. It smoothly integrates the whole process.
For me the single most important aspect of Lightroom is it's speed and ease of use. The control sliders in lightroom allow you to quickly and intuitively make adjustments in white balance, exposure, color and a huge number of other adjustments.
I didn't connect with how fast the Lightroom workflow was until January of this year while at a home buyers inspection with one of our long time clients the wife asked me to shoot some photos of her new home while the inspector was doing his thing so she could show her friends and family. I naturally jumped at the chance and shot 87 shots of the home, loaded them on my laptop used Lightroom to sort out, adjust and created an online slideshow of the best 31 shots. I showed her the online fullscreen slideshow on my laptop and gave her the URL for the online slideshow so she could e-mail the it to her friends. The whole process from the time she asked me to when I showed her the slideshow was two hours and 20 minutes. An hour and 45 minutes of that was shooting the photos and waiting for the inspector to get out of the way. The house is over 5000 SF and yes, because of the time pressure, some of the photos are not up to my normal standard (some of the verticals are not straight, there is some uncorrected barrel distortion, and I struggled with lighting in the large rooms) but Mrs Buyer was delighted to walk away from the inspection with a slideshow of her new home.
My main point is that I could not have sorted through 87 photos, adjusted 31 of them and made an online slideshow with either Photoshop CS3 or Photoshop Elements in 35 minutes.
Besides Lightroom's speed of workflow, the speed and ease of making great looking online slideshows is an essential feature for real estate photographers. You can quickly create good looking online slideshows for next to nothing. This is a huge benefit whether you give the slideshows to clients or sell them.
Another obvious question is: why not Aperture? I find many features of Aperture the same or similar to Lightroom features. However, the ability to make slideshows with Aperture is weak. It doesn't come close to Lightroom. The other downside of Aperture has been it's historical slowness to accommodate camera RAW support for new camera models. It used to take a Mac OS upgrade to change camera RAW code. It remains to be seen if that problem has gotten any better with Aperture 2.0.