Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Path of History / Lightroom 4

Adobe Lightroom 4 has just been released and I have got my copy! I've said many times that Lightroom is my favourite photo-processing software and that remains the case. I'm always a bit reluctant when they bring a new version out of something that to me is already good, as they potentially change things they didn't need to. I was happy when I bought Nik Color Efex Pro 4 but there are things I don't like about it that I wished they had just left as they were in Nik Color Efex 3. Suffice to say, Lightroom 4 has not presented anything to me that isn't an improvement. All the new controls are great and they have created functions that work just like a charm. I should mention as well that it is half price at the moment, which means that if you are upgrading from Lightroom 3, it is only about £60 which is more than a good deal. In no particular order, here are my 5 favourite new functions of Lightroom 4:

* Shadows control - They have changed the top exposure sliders in the the develop panel, getting rid of brightness, recovery and fill light (and probably something else I'm forgetting) and created a more streamlined Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. The new shadows function is the best shadow adjuster I have seen on any program. Rather than making changes to the whole picture, it uncannily manages to pick just the shadow area (you'll know what I mean when you play with this bar) and makes the changes simple and effective.

* Remove Chromatic Aberration - CA is a particular enemy of HDR photographers as the HDR process tends to amplify any CA in the picture. I spent many frustrating hours trying to correct CA using the old Lightroom 3 options which were to adjust the CA sliders until you felt it was right (this again inevitably affected the rest of the picture). Now however, there is a simple check box 'Remove Chromatic Aberration', it's brilliantly simple and it works. So easy, just like that, done. I love the person that created that switch.

* Single Colour Tone Curve - As well as using the tone curve to make general colour adjustments (RGB) you can individually select Red, Green or Blue and apply a tone curve for just that colour tone. This is great and gives some fantastic artistic effects to enhance mood. I used this function on the picture above by selecting a tone curve for the colour blue and dropping the shadow areas a bit to give it a more yellow and historic look.

* Clarity - The clarity slider has always been a bit of an insider's trick to make a picture look sharper and now it has been hugely improved. You wouldn't probably whack the slider all the way to the right but even if you did the effects are much less extreme but still effective. Many pictures can now have an abundance of clarity, without the addition of Halos. This will work great for single pictures and HDR's.

* Blurb Booksmart plugin - I used Blurb Booksmart to write my recent book 'West Berkshire in HDR' and now there is the option of creating any book directly in Lightroom. Brilliant.

I have watched many of the excellent Lightroom 4 tutorials on Adobe's Lightroom Youtube page and I cannot recommend them enough. This is something I need to do much more for Photoshop but watch the videos of the new Lightroom 4 and learn how it all works. A couple of hours spent watching the tutorials and your knowledge of Lightroom can more than double.

The Path of History

I chose to post this picture today as I have processed it almost entirely in Lightroom 4. It is a 3 shot HDR and apart from the Blurb plugin, I've used all the improvements listed above and many more to create this picture. It is of Donnington Castle (what's left anyway) in my hometown of Newbury, Berkshire. I did send this over to Photoshop for a bit of noise reduction and sharpening but as I said, this was largely worked in Lightroom.

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