There has been a huge buzz lately over the release of Adobe Lightroom 4 and Adobe Lightroom is also referenced quite often by our past and future Featured Photographers. What is it? Why do I need it? What are the differences between Lightroom 3 and Lightroom 4? Well… keep reading beacuse Stephen Lerch has the answers!!
Adobe Lightroom 4 – Stephen Lerch – Product Review
Adobe Lightroom is Adobe’s flag ship digital image development program. When I say “image development” I mean just that. Think of Lightroom as a digital darkroom and now you know what is possible in the software.
The first lesson you must learn when using Lightroom is… stop shooting in JPEG. Lightroom can do some amazing things, even with JPEGs, but if you want to enjoy the benefits Lightroom has to offer, you really need to shoot in RAW. You can pull some shadow and some highlight detail from JPEGs, but there is an order of magnitude difference in the amount of detail present in a RAW file.
The other thing to realize is that yes, if you have Photoshop, you can do everything Lightroom does. The difference, for now, is Lightroom 4 uses the new Adobe Camera RAW version (CS5.1 doesn’t have this), which is where a lot of the new highlight/shadow recovery comes from, so for now Lightroom is quite a bit nicer than Photoshop in that regard. The other, most important piece, to remember is that Lightroom is designed from the ground up to only include the functionality you need for digital photography – you can’t do advanced photo editing where you replace a goat’s head with a person’s or remove trees and so on. If you need that kind of software, buy Photoshop. If all you want is to develop your digital images as they were shot, with some spot removal tools, cropping and so on, Lightroom 4 is the place to be and the interface is designed with just these things in mind.
Next, if you are new to the product, check around the web for tutorials (Adobe has a few) and buy a book. You’ll need it. The interface isn’t horrible, but not all of the tools are intuitive enough that you can just pick it up and run. There is a lot of hidden power to be tapped and if all you want is to just skim the surface and not dig into the details, you might be better served with something like say, Photoshop Elements instead.
For users new to Lightroom, there are 7 modules now that you work with primarily. The first is the Library module. This is where you allow Lightroom to troll your hard drive looking for images (you can determine where it looks). This is where you would go to quickly find an image you’ve tagged (you can keyword tag your photos). The next module is Map. If you have a camera with GPS functionality or want to manually input the location data, you can use this module to locate your images on a map of the world. Next up is the Develop module. This is where all the magic is done. In this module you can choose white balance, change color temperature, change exposures, add sharpness, enhance shadows and highlights, perform lens correction and so on. It is amazingly powerful stuff. You then have the Book module, where you can create photo books in a streamlined manner and send it to Blurb for printing or create a PDF for printing wherever you might print books. Next up is Slideshow. Here you create Slideshows of images and can run it like a presentation with some added text and so on. Then there is the Print module. I still use Photoshop for printing since I know how to get the results I want from there, but I will be trying Lightroom again now that we have a new version. And finally you have the Web module that can be used to upload your photos automatically to many services you already likely use or have seen, such as Facebook.
So what’s new/different between Lightroom 3 and 4? First up is the geo tagging. For those of you lucky enough to have GPS built into your camera (including camera phones!), you can now have Lightroom import this information and tag your photos according to your locations. This means you can search via say, Indiana and find all the photos there. The inclusion of a map function allows you to see where the photos were actually taken, so if you were in a pub taking photos in New York City, then found your way to another pub 10 miles away, your photos are separated by 10 miles (scale miles!) on the map so you know exactly where the photos were taken.
Next up is the book module. I’ve used this extensively in the beta, just to try it out, and it is fairly intuitive and easy to use. I haven’t yet submitted a book for printing, but that is just a button click away as well. You can easily create books and send them off to Blurb (Adobe partnered with them) or print to PDF for printing elsewhere. The results are nice, but if you have to be in control of every aspect of the layout, InDesign is the way to go here.
You can now, if you are lucky enough to have a camera that does video, import and perform color/white balance corrections on DSLR video. I have seen it used and borrowed files from friends (my DSLR doesn’t do video) and it works. It’s not as easy to use as a dedicated video program, nor as robust, but it works. I watched a video on the Lightroom YouTube channel where they took a snap shot from a video, color corrected the photo then applied that correction to the video as well. I tried that out, and it works, but results aren’t always what you want. You may be able to do it, but I haven’t found it, but it seemed to me you had to apply the correction to the entire video, not just a scene. So those of you looking for video editing, you are better served with real editing software, not using Lightroom for this.
Another major improvement is highlight and shadow recovery. When used properly, you can actually pull detail out of a photo, even some JPEGs, you never would have thought was there. You can also do faux HDR with a single image instead of a series of images and, believe it or not, the results are actually quite nice (if you like HDR that is). The highlight/shadow recovery is similar to the sliders you knew and loved in Lightroom 3, only they are so much more powerful here.
When Adobe releases the next version of Photoshop, it will likely be amazing given how awesome Adobe Camera RAW seems to function in Lightroom.
So there are a couple questions you have to answer.
If you already own Lightroom 3, is it worth the upgrade for you? If you live your life in Lightroom 3 and rely on it for your livelihood, yes, buy 4 without question. The new highlight/shadow tools can work magic on your photos. For the rest of us who don’t make our living and it’s just a hobby, the question comes down to new functionality. If you like the idea of geo location of photos, the enhanced shadow/highlight functionality and video support, buy it. If Lightroom 3 gives the results you want and you’re just a hobbyist, you may wish to wait or not spend the money at all.
If you don’t have Lightroom already, should you buy this over Aperture? That depends. If you know Aperture and the functionality it offers, then Lightroom 4 may be a steeper learning curve for you. Personally I feel Lightroom gives ME better results, but I’m not an expert at Aperture and I’ve learned on Lightroom. If the option is DxO vs Lightroom, just buy Lightroom. It is worth the extra money.
If you want digital imaging software that allows complex cutting and editing, you don’t want Lightroom.
One other nice feature of Lightroom 4 is the new pricing structure. The prices are set at a point where it actually makes sense, if you are a hobbyist and especially a professional, to move to Lightroom.
I give Adobe Lightroom 4 five stars. It does an amazing job, works really well and the details it can pull, even from JPEGs, is astonishing.
Adobe has hit a home run here.
Share and Enjoy