REVIEW: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 - Let There be Light!
4/3/2012 by: Bozo Kauric
Ever since Adobe released first version of Photoshop Lightroom in 2007, photographers around the world cheered as they finally got an application especially for their needs. Five years passed, and Lightroom came all the way up to recently released version 4. What does Adobe have in store for photographers in Lightroom 4 and is it worth the upgrade? Let's check it out.
But wait, what is Lightroom?
Since not all of our readers are photographers and not all of them have used previous versions of Lightroom, some clarification is in order. To put it really simple (really, really simple), Lightroom is application for editing and managing photos, especially in RAW format, which it specializes in. Photo editing capabilities that Lightroom offers usually puts a huge smile on every new user, since it is what "darkroom" used to be in days of analog photography.
While Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 is targeting RAW photos, it also supports other formats, such as JPEG. Now, what can you pull out of a bland, overexposed smartphone image?
If you are asking you selves in this moment, why am I still using Photoshop for editing photos from my camera? Answer is simple, you haven't tried Lightroom yet. Is it that good? Yes it is.
Oldies but goodies
Hardcore Photoshop users often say that they can do all that Lightroom does in Photoshop, and in some parts that is true, but only if you keep to the basics. If you want to “dig” deeper into your photos, Photoshop becomes clumsy, slow, and not as powerful as Lightroom. After all, Lightroom is an application made especially for photo editing, and nothing else.
Simple corrections like HSV, contrast and color curves can be done in Photoshop, but Lightroom offers so much more, especially if you are working with RAW images, because results are then simply perfect. But, Lightroom is not limited just to RAW images; it also handles all other types of images.
Library module, starting point of your Lightroom journey
If you have used Lightroom before, when you start the new version, you will be on a familiar territory, because layout is almost identical, with just some extra tabs, and on first look, not many new tools or options.
Develop module - so simple, yet so powerful
Lightroom user interface received praise by majority of users, cause it offered something more than classical windows application layout, it offered usability with good looks, and that trend is kept in this version. All of modules are arranged in a natural way, and modularity is achieved in a really simple and effective way, by using side panels that can be hidden/shown with just one click. This feature increases working area a lot, especially in Develop mode, where you do all the real work on you photos. But, let's not get in front of ourselves, let's go module by module.
What is new?
Modules in Lightroom are arranged in a way that follows workflow, so the module in which you start is called library, and is used for importing and managing your photos. In this module you can arrange you photos, rate them, comment them, and arrange by various attributes. Unfortunately, this module is mostly used just for importing photos, because most of users still prefer other applications for managing their photo collections, and are fond of simple folder type of arrangement.
Improve your images to the professional level
If you choose to use Lightroom for managing your photos, you will not be disappointed with tools you have at your disposal, and rating and grouping your photos is really quick and simple, especially with addition of Painter tool, which allows you to simply select a rating, flag or any other setting and paint onto thumbnails, so there is no need for aiming all the small icons on every thumbnail. Develop module is the one you will spend most of your time in, cause here you are getting your hands dirty, and here is where magic, Lightroom magic appears.
Adjustment Brush is an extremely powerful tool
Color and lighting correction/edit tools that Lightroom offers has always been impressive, and in this version, few tools were added that really make a difference. Most noticeable is the new Adjustment Brush - even though it was introduced before, it is more powerful than ever. With it now you can "paint" on your photos, and adjust various properties just of that portion of image. For instance, you have too bright or too dark background on your image and you wish to correct that. No problems, simply pass it with brush, and then adjust exposure value.
Similar to Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filters is pretty powerful tool
But exposure is just one of the settings you can change, there is also: Temperature, tint, contrast, highlights, shadows, clarity, saturation, sharpness, noise and moiré. Yes, you can change all of that on just one fragment of your picture! Possibilities of this tool are endless, and even the worst photos can be altered to look decent.
Another of new tools is Graduated Filter, which has similar function as Adjustment Brush, but works on a gradient principle, allowing you to alter setting of one portion of your image with nice smooth gradient pass. Screenshots that follow this article will describe these tools in much better way.
Easily create albums ready for print
Book is a brand new module targeting photographers who like their pictures on a paper, allowing them to create print ready PDFs right out from Lightroom. Creating a book is really simple, cause it is based on drag and drop system, but it suffers from lack of advanced options, so not everyone will use it as their personal portfolio creation software. First and biggest disadvantage of Book module is limit of size presets, only five of them. This is even ok for people using imperial system, but ones that use metric will be faced with the problem that they cannot create their own size preset and are forced to use inch based sizes, which are not compatible with paper sizes used in metrical system. But, if does not matter to you, you can create simple layouts that will present your work in a clear and nice way. If you want something more, you'll have to reach out for InDesign or some other, more powerful tool.
Thanks to Slideshow module, creation of PDF, JPEG and video slideshows in few easy steps
Slideshow module is almost the same as it was before, and offers you a simple way to create PDF, JPEG or Video slideshows. Amount of options is not huge, but neither are slideshows quantum physics.
Web module is the one many of photographers used with a smile, cause not all users are HTML experts, and are mostly dependent on other people to create their web sites that are usually just simple photo galleries with small amount of text for description.
Create your own HTML or Flash photo galleries ready for publishing online
Since its first version, Lightroom offers its users an easy way to create web galleries in HTML and Flash formats, and that is now just polished. Most powerful feature of this module is its simplicity, so that really everyone can create their web galleries in a matter of minutes, without ever seeing a piece of HTML code, Lightroom does it all for you.
Is that it? Not really, Adobe implemented few more features, that are simply more, trendy, then really needed in this kind of package. Now you can make basic adjustments to video files, and share them directly on Facebook or Flickr, you can email images from Lightroom and you can assign a location to any of your pictures. All this features are welcome, but not all of users will ever use them.
If you have a camera, you need Lightroom
Even if this subtitle looks like an advertisement for Lightroom, trust us, if you are professional photographer or just enthusiast, you will find that Lightroom offers you such amount of power that you will be asking yourself how could have you worked without it before.
Many times you had captured a perfect moment, but with wrong exposure, temperature and you thought, damn, what a shame, such a great photo, ruined by wrong settings. But not if you are Lightroom user ;)
Lightroom is an extremely powerful application that will bring your photos to another level and with price of US $149 it is not really that expensive for what it offers to photographers.
If you're interested in giving Lightroom a go, you can download 30 days trial from Adobe and experience the magic! For everything presented here, we see no reason but to award Photoshop Lightroom 4 with our prosumer-level awards - Editors' Choice and Value Award.
Prosumer Editor's Choice 2012: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Prosumer Value Award 2012: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
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