Over the years, Lightroom has matured into a sophisticated and powerful photo cataloging and editing application. Lightroom 2 added improved Photoshop integration, the Graduated Filter Tool, the Retouch Brush, vignettes, and more. Lightroom 3 upped the ante with improved importing, video support, lens corrections, sharpening and noise reduction, the Grain feature (a film grain effect), postcrop vignettes, custom watermarks, and the Slide Show module. In addition, version 3 brought the same high-quality RAW file processing engine as found in Photoshop. Now at version 4, Lightroom has grown even more powerful with a new processing engine, a Book module, a Map module, Soft Proofing, and additional video features.
Developing and Editing Enhancements
While Lightroom 4 does add some new bells and whistles, Adobe took the smart route and remained focused on improving the core functionality as well. First and foremost is the new PV2012 processing engine used by the Develop module. PV2012 provides significant improvements over the PV2010 engine used in Lightroom 3, and to answer the question I know you have on your mind… yes, your previous photos will definitely look different if processed with the new engine. Notice, however, that I said if they are processed, because Lightroom 4 gives you a choice. When you open your older photos in Lightroom 4, you can choose to continue using the old PV2010 engine. If you choose to convert the photo to the new PV2012 engine, your previous parameter settings will be automatically translated, although they may still require some tweaking because some of the Develop module parameters have changed.
With the new PV2012 engine, gone are the Recovery, Fill Light, and Brightness parameters. Replacing them is a new section with parameters called Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. Many of the parameter ranges have changed as well. Instead of starting out with a value of 0 when the slider is full left, many of the sliders are centered with a value of 0 and can be adjusted with both negative (slider left) and positive (slider right) values. In addition, applying specific adjustments to photos via the Adjustment Brush has been upgraded with new options… Temp, Tint, Noise, and Moiré. You'll also make fewer trips to Photoshop now that the Tone Curve panel allows individual RGB channel adjust ment. Suffice it to say, working with the new PV2012 engine will definitely change your Lightroom workflow. But it's worth it because your images will definitely look better with the higher quality processing that the new engine provides.
Geo-Tagging with the Map Module
Many new cameras today have built-in GPS. With this feature activated, the camera automatically saves location data for each photo taken. This is called Geo-Tagging, and it can be used to chronicle events, document trips, etc. And now with the new Map module in Lightroom 4, you can automatically display that location data for your photos. Utilizing Google Maps (which means you need an Internet connection), the Map module automatically reads the geo-tagging data from a photo and displays an icon marking the location where the photo was taken on a world map. Just like with the web version of Google Maps, you can display various map views and you can zoom in to see extreme location detail. Clicking on an icon displays the photo(s) for that location in a small preview window over the map, which you can use to cycle through each photo for that location. For the photo currently being previewed, Lightroom also displays metadata.
What if your camera doesn't have GPS and your photos are not geo-tagged? Not to worry. Lightroom 4 allows you to manually geo-tag your photos in a variety of ways. The easiest way is to simply drag and drop photos from the Filmstrip onto the map. You can also right-click the map and tag any selected photos with that location. From here you can either use reverse geo-tagging where Google Maps is used to "guess" the address information derived from the GPS coordinates or you can type in the additional information. Lightroom 4 also imports GPX data, which can then be used to automatically map photos based on date and time. Lastly, you can create Saved Locations for quick and easy photo searching by location.
Self-Publish with the Book Module
The new Book module in Lightroom 4 lets you create your own photo book. You start by creating a collection of photos and with that collection chosen, navigate to the Book module. By default, Lightroom will automatically create a basic book layout populated with the photos in the order they are listed in the collection. You can turn this feature off if you'd like and start a book from scratch, manually. The entire process is template-driven and while you can't create your own templates, Lightroom ships with a huge collection, so you'll be hard-pressed to find a situation where the existing templates don't meet your needs.
With manual creation and editing, you simply choose a template and then drag and drop photos from the Filmstrip into the layout. You can move photos to different cells and you can position them within the cell as well as zoom in to fill in the cell with only part of a photo. Text can be added by choosing a template that contains a text cell or by adding photo and page captions. Text can be fully formatted with font, size, alignment, etc. When you've finished your book design, you can save it using the Create Saved Book feature for future use.
Once designed and saved, you can then output your book in two ways… one is to have the book printed using Blurb, the online POD (print-on-demand) service. Blurb allows you to print and purchase your own books or even sell your books through their website. Blurb is fully integrated into Lightroom and you can choose the size, cover, paper type, and see an estimated price. Unfortunately, Blurb is the only supported service at the moment, but hopefully Adobe will add more in the future. For example, I'd like to see CreateSpace added so that users can easily get their books up on Amazon. However, in the meantime, Lightroom does allow you to output your book to PDF while specifying a variety of options, including JPEG quality. You can then use that PDF with other print services that support the format.
Soft Proofing for Printed Output
Because printers can't print the same range of colors that can be displayed on screen, printed output doesn't match exactly what you see. To help compensate for this, Lightroom 4 includes a new Soft Proofing feature. After activating the feature, you're given a preview of what the printed output will look like. It can even go so far as to simulate the look of paper and ink.
Of course, Soft Proofing wouldn't do you much good if you couldn't use it to actually make adjustments. So, by pressing the Create Proof Copy button, Lightroom automatically creates a virtual copy of your photo and then displays it alongside the original so you can see the difference between screen and print. From there, you can then make changes via the Basic panel parameters to try and obtain the best match possible, without affecting the original photo.
Valuable Video Editing Features
While Lightroom 3 allowed you to catalog videos along with your photos, Lightroom 4 expands video support much further with some basic but much-appreciated editing features. You can now play and scrub videos in the Library module. If you open a video, you can trim the beginning and end to use only a subset of the footage. In addition, you can apply Quick Develop presets to the video to adjust things like saturation and brightness. You can also manually adjust white balance and even apply a treatment to convert the footage to black and white. Of course, these features are nowhere near what you'll find in a dedicated video editing application (such as Adobe Premiere), but they do give you the tools you need when only basic processing is required.
Powerful Photo Processing without the Price
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 provides significantly improved photo processing with the new PV2012 engine; geo-tagging with the new Map module; book publishing capabilities via the new Book module; Soft Proofing for more accurate print output; and enhancements to video support. In addition, a number of smaller improvements throughout all areas of the software round out this version nicely. So, are these new features enough to warrant an upgrade? Without hesitation, I can answer that question with a resounding… yes! This is especially true since Adobe has cut the price of the full version of Lightroom by 50% (a bit less if you're upgrading, but still a significant reduction). So, whether you're new to Lightroom or a seasoned user, Lightroom 4 will provide you with the tools you need to professionally manage and process your photo collection. For more information, visit adobe.com.
Additional information: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4