Photoshop Lightroom has expanded its functionality in version 4 – adding video editing, book creation, geotagging and soft proofing. But at the core of this latest release is a refinement of what many already admire about Photoshop Lightroom: its ability to help you produce beautiful images.
The Adobe mantra for Photoshop Lightroom is Manage, Edit, Share. Editing is through the tools in the Develop module, and it's now easier than ever to work there. Starting with the first 11 sliders in the new Basic panel, you can improve all but the peskiest of images without delving deeper into the toolbox. See also: Adobe Photoshop CS6 review.
On top you'll see the Temperature and Tint controls for white balance, followed by Exposure and Contrast for luminance, then Highlights and Shadows for tonal recovery. Once you have tones and colour to your liking, add some refinement with Clarity and Vibrance. More often than not, you're then finished.
Adobe revisited the interface – all Basic sliders, except for White Balance, are “zeroed-out” in the centre of the scale. Starting with Exposure, you move the marker to the left to darken bright tones, and right to lighten them. It's intuitive, and it reflects the way many photographers think about their photos.
Even though the sliders appear simple, there's plenty of science behind their performance. Highlights and Shadows, for example, provide beautiful, graduated results. And if you need to work on a specific area, many colour and luminance controls are available via the Adjustment Brushes, plus Sharpness, Noise, and Moire.
New in Lightroom 4 is Chromatic Aberration, corrected via the application evaluating the image, rather than a standard camera/lens profile as before. It's easy and effective. See also: Group test: what's the best photo-editing software?
Photoshop Lightroom 4 review: Soft Proofing
Soft Proofing allows photographers to tune images for output to print or web. The S key switches the histogram to Soft Proofing mode. Choose the colour profile you want to work with, such as Adobe RGB or sRGB, and then create a virtual soft proof that is placed in a stack alongside the original image.
You can show gamut warnings that indicate where colour shifting will appear for your chosen output. The warnings appear on your preview as a coloured overlays. Then use slider tools to adjust those areas, resulting in more accurate output compared to your computer screen.
We put Soft Proofing to the test with a series of Las Vegas twilight shots to output for an Epson R2000 printer. Lightroom showed us areas of colour that the printer would have difficulty reproducing. When we adjusted the image to eliminate those warnings, output was faithful to what we'd viewed on our Mac.
Sometimes we felt soft proofing to be too conservative. Comparing with prints of the uncorrected image, we often preferred the vibrancy of the original print to the conservative accuracy of Lightroom's soft proofs.
And keep in mind there's more than one way to bring colours into printing range. For example, instead of desaturating, a slight shift in hue can do the trick. See also: Buying advice: How to choose photo-editing software
Photoshop Lightroom 4 review: Video organization and adjustment
Video clips from digital cameras can be imported and reside in the Grid view with photos, where you can scrub through the clip by mousing over it.
Lightroom chooses the image for the thumbnail, but that can be changed; when there are dozens of videos in your library, the ability to select the best poster frame is important.
Using the Quick Develop panel, budding movie makers can apply standard Lightroom presets (like sepia toning), non-destructively adjust white balance, change exposure, and tweak whites and blacks. Lightroom 4 even lets you make virtual copies of video clips so you can experiment with effects without filling out your hard drive.
If you need more tools than available in Quick Develop mode, use the Capture Frame command. Here you can edit a single frame from the clip in the Develop Module, save those settings as a preset, then apply the preset to the entire clip. It works great.
Edited video snippets, however, cannot be joined and exported as a single multi-scene movie. For such work, you'll need to turn to a video editor such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro to finish the project.
There are useful organizational tools. Snippets can be added to collections and labelled with stars, and marked up like photos. You can upload to Facebook and Flickr, or export snippets to your drive. Visit: Photo Advisor.
Photoshop Lightroom 4 review: Built-in email
It's now easy to share photos with friends and clients via email. A built-in email client allows photographers to send single or multiple images using existing accounts.
An Address Book feature stores frequently used recipients. Unfortunately there's no import from existing contacts database.
The photo attachment can be sent in a variety of sizes using a pop-up preset list, or create your own presets to suit.
Photoshop Lightroom 4 review: Map Module
A new Map module can geotag, from the top bar. You can drag and drop thumbnails from a Collection on to a map to add geotags, see where previously geotagged photos reside geographically, or sync a tracking log from image you've already tagged.
Tthe first step is the Library module. You put pictures in a Collection, then switch to Map for geocoding.
Use the Search Map box to find and display locations on a map. Lightroom also adds latitude and longitude coordinates to photos' metadata.
Photoshop Lightroom 4 review: DNG output
Lightroom offers new options for converting RAW files to DNG. You can enable Embed Fast Load Data for improved rendering speed. A Lossy Compression choice reduces file size with minimal impact on quality. A 24MB RAW image halves its original size, while 12MB RAW might only see 30 percent reduction.
Photoshop Lightroom 4 review: Photo books
You can now design and output photo books within Lightroom. Adobe added the new module to the top menu bar, labelled as Book. The easiest way to begin is to use the auto layout mechanism. Once you have a basic layout, you can fine-tune using various tools, including full type control.
Adobe offers 180 predesigned layouts. Once you're satisfied with the flow, you send your project directly to Blurb for output, or render it as PDF. iPad users might be interested in the latter, for presentations.