Review | Lightroom 4 Beta New Features From an Atlanta Wedding Photographer
Well now that Lightroom 4 Beta has been out in the wild for a few weeks now, I’ve started to get my feet wet in the new features and getting ready for the inevitable switch from Lightroom 3 to the full production version of Lightroom 4 when it is released shortly. I immediately installed the new Beta trial version when it came out but since I was in the middle of editing two weddings I didn’t want to have to convert over in the middle of an edit so I waited until I wrapped those weddings up and started on the next wedding we photographed here in Atlanta, Elizabeth & Greg’s wedding on January 7th, 2012. First, some sample photos processed in Lightroom 4 Beta.
Now, let’s compare a photo before and after with Lightroom 4. Again, this is just my personal processing preference for the look I go for when shooting and editing photos. So by no means does this limit what you can do in Lightroom 4 Beta or any editing software.
On the left you see the finished edited photo, at least according to my tastes. On the right is the image straight out of camera with no adjustments. No editing software is going to work magic and the image on the right is fairly well exposed to begin with which is always a good starting point to make sure you hold details in both the highlights and shadow regions. Now, let’s take a quick look at the settings to achieve the look on the left.
The most immediate new difference are the changed sliders. Whereas before we had Recovery, Fill Light, and Blacks we now have 4 sliders in their place: Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. The biggest change is that now the old recovery slider is a now more fine-tuned Highlight slider which really attacks just the highlight portion of the image instead of affecting your overall brightness. You can see that I didn’t even use it in this photo because it literally only affected the highlight area behind Elizabeth’s head above the limo, I’m ok with this blowing out because their are no details that are important to the image in that region. Also you will notice that now the sliders move in the negative direction instead of solely in positive. The easiest example is the Blacks, whereas before by increasing the number from the default of 5 to say 10 you would increase the richness of the black areas of the photo. Now, you need to move the slider in the negative direction to darken the blacks (such as Elizabeth’s hair). This sounds maybe annoying but the positive direction will now brighten the blacks for an image that was possibly underexposed. So now instead of just increasing the Shadows using the new slider (instead of using Fill Light which brightened more aggressively the entire image), you can also lighten just the blacks by sliding it in the positive direction.
These fine-tuned controls are really the highlight of Lightroom 4 Beta and the reason that this will be a worthy upgrade in a few months. The learning curve is definitely there especially if you are coming from Lightroom 2 or 3, where your once familiar sliders are gone and replaced by these new more granular controls. As I go through this wedding edit I’m definitely pausing more because my old “formulas” are now slightly different. Having more control is always a good thing though, because you can really adjust the photo to your liking. Other major improvements are the Adjustment Brushes, which again have enhanced fine-tune controls such as being able to “paint” in white balance. Most notable this will be helpful for things like skies, where you can now paint in the sky to give it a bit more warmth or blue without affecting the exposure or contrast.
Of course their are a host of other, less useful, new features. Well, maybe not less useful but less useful to a wedding photographer but I’m sure some people will get a kick out of things like the Map module to plot photos on a map with geotagged information. Lightroom finally gets a Book module, which is something that Apple Aperture has had for a while, though I’ve never been a fan of Aperture. I might have to give it a shot, though I’m not sure I will be designing a wedding album using the built-in templates. However the prospect of being able to import templates makes this a strong possibility in the future as the new Book module gets refined.
In conclusion I highly recommend every photographer to at least download the trial version of Lightroom 4 especially while it’s now in the Beta form and free until the final version comes out. I think you will be highly impressed with the results to your photos.
Zachary Long is a wedding photographer based in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. When not shooting fine art weddings in Atlanta and beyond he has an extensive interest in Time-Lapse photography. View the main portfolio at http://www.FengLongPhoto.com/