There has been quite a bit of discussion around the concept of plug-ins for Lightroom. When photographers think of plug-ins it typically brings to mind very unique or specific filters designed to adjust the appearance of an image. Photoshop has a rich history of supporting these image processing plug-ins. The extensibility of Lightroom is different in that we’ve been focused on workflow extensibility that allows developers and photographers to extend the application as a workflow platform that connects to third party services, allows for custom web galleries or custom metadata to adapt to a photographer’s workflow. Photographers would still like to see image processing plug-ins in Lightroom and I agree with them. But for a plug-in to actually behave like a plug-in it can’t break the non-destructive workflow. There has been a little flurry of discussion around the Aperture 2.1 image processing “plug-in” API and the subsequent utilities released behave less like a plug-in and almost exactly like the external editor functionality that has been available since Lightroom 1.0. If a plug-in requires that a derivative TIFF or PSD file be created and block access to prior non-destructive adjustments it’s not really plugged into the application is it?
However, if external editors are what you need, we’ve got them. In Lightroom 2 we’ve added the ability to define as many external editors as you want. And you don’t have to wait for software manufactures to create a custom “plug-in” for Lightroom, just utilize the existing standalone application like the one available for Noise Ninja. The optimal implementation of an external edit interface at this point is the use of a smart object workflow with Photoshop CS3. I’ve used it many times with PTLens and I really appreciate the fact that I can go back and adjust raw settings after I’ve applied the PTLens correction.(Then revisit the PTLens settings) This is an incredibly powerful link between the raw and rendered workflow and half measures with marketing spin labeled as “plug-ins” are not the highest priority for the Lightroom team.