Category: Lightroom

Lightroom 4 – What’s the big deal?

The big deal is this – Soft Proofing, Books and Maps are a great addition to Lightroom, but for me, the great leap forward is in the new Basic palette of the Develop module.

Once you have converted your Lightroom 3 catalogue to Lightroom 4, you will not actually see a difference. The new palette is invoked only when you convert from Process Version 2010 to Process Version 2012. Here’s how it works…

Process Version 2010 - as per Lightroom 3

Open Lightroom 4 and take a look at a photo you have previously processed in LR3. You will see the same LR3 Basic palette – nothing has changed there, yet. Do you notice the small grey exclamation point icon in the lower right? Click on it and you can choose to convert that photo from PV2010 to PV2012. You can also convert all the other filmstrip images at the same time and even compare with a before and after. To start, just convert the one image. After a moment, you will see a slightly different version of the same image plus a new Basic palette.

Process Version 2012 - as per Lightroom 4

At the side are examples of the same photo in PV2010 and PV2012.


LR4 attempts to “convert” the PV2010 version to a somewhat equivalent PV2012, but the conversion is rarely exact and it may not even look like an improvement – not yet anyway. This is where the magic begins. There is no direct conversion from PV2010 to PV2012 since the adjustments in LR4 are much more precise to specific tonal regions within a photograph. For me, this wonderful! In fact, what I am finding is that when I “reprocess” previous images using LR4 and PV2012, I end up with much livelier mid-tones. Images have much more “presence” without reporting to Clarity or Tone Curves.

The trick is to nail down Exposure first. The Exposure adjustment has the most effect in the middle tonal values (in the middle of the histogram). In fact, if you hover your cursor over the Exposure slider or value field, you will see the central region of the histogram turn a shade lighter in grey to show the region most affected. The same is true as you drag your cursor over the other adjustments. The only that does not do this is the Contrast slider – it spreads out the histogram to either side evenly.

What’s most important, however, is how well the extreme highlights and shadows are “protected” from becoming clipped. In PV20102, it seemed that only a slight increase in Exposure would cause the Highlights to become clipped. The Brightness adjustment was better for preventing clipping. But in PV2012, it seems the Exposure slider is non-linear meaning that it’s greatest effect in the central part of the histogram with a progressively smaller effect towards either end – perfect!!

The Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks adjustments are equally “zoned” into specific regions. They work like having point curve in Tone Curves – the level of precision is much greater and the “drift” int other zones is much less. As well, with Highlight and Shadow clipping better protected, I can make more significant changes without losing either end.

Why am I using the word “zone” so much? Well, for those of you old enough to know the zone system, it’s like being able to adjust the tones within different zones of the histogram, only it is much more precise than we were ever able to achieve with N- and N+ exposure, development or printing.

I’m finding that whatever I did using PV2010, I can do better in PV2012, but that creates a dilemma. I simply do not have the time to go back and reprocess every PV2010 image. Instead, I’m reprocessing as the need arises for printing purposes and for posting to the web.

For me, this change in the Basic palette is the single most important improvement in LR4. I must admit to being disappointed in the lack of improvements in other areas such as the now totally pathetic spot removal brush (when compared to what Aperture has had for years now, not to mention Apple’s free photo app, iPhoto). I was also hoping for a better “Transform” feature similar to Photoshop. As well, I thought Adobe could to a better job in providing more options in the Web Gallery such as graphic backgrounds instead of just plain colours.

Be that as it may, LR4 is still an improvement over LR3 i the most important area for digital photographers – in the processing of our photographs. Once you start working in PV2012, you’ll start to wonder how you got on without it!

Adobe offers Lightroom 4 “Public Beta” for download

Lightroom 4 is out and earlier than expected. Mind you, it is just the “public beta” version which means it is not the final version and will benefit from the many bugs that will be discovered by the thousands of users.

If you are a casual user of Lightroom or have never used Lightroom – do not download and use Lightroom 4 Public Beta (LR4PB)! This version expires on or before March 31, 2012 as the final version will become available around then. In the meantime, I’ve been playing with this new version for a few hours today and like what I see. Major improvements include:

  • Book module using Blurb to create photo books
  • Map module using Google maps to geotag images
  • new process version – 2012- that offers a “new and improved” workflow (however, you can still, on an image-by-image basis retain Process Version 2010 if you choose)
  • soft proofing of files in preparation for printing (soft proofing allows you to see a facsimile of what a print will look like with a specific paper profile and colour space loaded)

This is just the beginning of the myriad updates and improvements. Over the next few days I will provide more detailed information, but for now, rest assured, that LR4 is not a revolution, but more of an evolution of features.

If you are interested, LR4PB may be downloaded from AdobeLabs at You will need an Adobe ID (free). LR4PB will not overwrite your LR3 files. It will create a separate folder for both the app and any catalogues you create. To make use of LR4PB, do not simply Add images from your LR3 Library. My suggestion is to:

  1. Select a bunch of images in LR3 that you’d like to work on in LR4PB;
  2. Choose File > Export as Catalog (making sure the check boxes at the bottom of the dialogue box are checked as for any Export to Catalogue). Save this catalogue temporarily to your desktop.
  3. In LR4PB, DO NOT choose File > Import from Another Catalog – it won’t work. Instead choose File > Import Photos and Video… Navigate to the catalogue you just made in LR3 (on your desktop) and select “Move” to move the photos from the catalogue to the location of the LR4PB Library : Pictures > Lightroom > Download Backups;
  4. Before you press “Import”, go to the Destination palette and choose Organize: By original folder. Everything will be moved into folders created by LR4;
  5. Once the import is finished, you can delete the temporary catalogue on your desktop as the photos (should) have been moved into place.

From there, you can play around with your images in LR4PB. Take note – whatever changes you make may not work with the final version of LR4 as Adobe reserves the right to continue to make tweaks which may render your images unreadable in LR4 Final. Remember, this is Beta version that is put out of Adobe for testing purposes. So don’t do anything “mission critical”. Do, however, have fun!

January 2011 – Bleak Midwinter

To me, it’s been a bit of a frustrating winter. When we’ve had good snow, I’ve been committed to other things. Then, when I had time, the warm weather and rain arrived. When the cold weather returned at the beginning of January, I was ready for it. Finally, some snow!

Flurries, Starkey Hil



Original raw capture. Although the image appears underexposed, the red areas shows snow that has been recorded as pure white (but is later recovered).
Original raw capture. Although the image appears underexposed, the red areas shows snow that has been recorded as pure white (but is later recovered).

Ambient Conditions

This was an overcast day with steady flurries. I knew there wasn’t a lot of contrast to work with, nor was there any directional light to create texture – so necessary for many winter photos. However, with the snow clinging to the branches, there was at least some contrast I could make use of.

Visual Design Elements

My original intention was to concentrate on wideangle and set my zoom to 24mm. There was a beautiful cedar rail fence between me and the scene that was lightly frosted in snow. At first, it seemed like an ideal image with the fence as a foreground element, but I soon realized how much of a barrier the fence was to the rest of the scene.

I moved up to the fence and immediately the scene opened up more with the foreground diagonal of the raspberry canes providing an ideal leading line from front left to mid-right. The line continues to the left following the open snow patch; the viewer’s eye is then led back to the right by the background snow patch. To me, this assemblage of layers gives the feeling of depth I strive to create in my images.

2011-BleakMidwinterHistTechnical Controls – 
72mm f/8 @ 1/140; ISO 100; tripod

The final exposure was 1 stop greater than recommended by the light meter and was achieved by dialing in +1 stop of exposure compensation. The added exposure shifted the tones to the right of the histogram, raising the highlights to the threshold of pure white  without blowing out the brightest whites to pure white.I would have preferred a faster shutter speed as there was some wind to contend with. I also would have preferred ƒ11 to maintain depth of field. I couldn’t have either, so I had to compromise by knowing I would need to crop off the foreground which could not be kept sharp.

Post-capture Techniques

After importing into Lightroom, I immediately cropped the image to remove the unsharp foreground raspberry canes and took a slight bit off the top to avoid the distraction of the sky. I don’t usually start with cropping except I had pre-visualized the image this way when composing in field. White balance was fairly accurate with only a slight tint change of 6 towards green.

As you see in the original capture, the tree branches and snow have a “mushy” look to them, so my next move was to raise the contrast – but not  with the Contrast slider. Instead, I increased the exposure by +0.5 which also meant a small amount of Recovery was needed to prevent snow becoming pure white. The Black Point was then increased to 20 to bring the greys back down. In doing so, the image became a bit too over-saturated, so Saturation was reduced by 10.