A Wider Angle: July 2012, by Geoff Dickinson
I’ve been using Lightroom since version 1 appeared and what in my opinion is Adobe’s most consumer-friendly and useful software is now at version 4 following its release a couple of months back.
I don’t do many photo projects these days but when I do, I take lots of images. And I mean lots. Not only do I need to edit my photos, but I also need some way of organising them too so that I can find them when asked. I could use a folder browsing program like Adobe Bridge or even the native file structure in the computer. Lightroom is so much more convenient.
Lightroom is an attempt to bring these two functions together, so that you can both organise your photos and edit them within a single application. I like the search facilities and the fact that Lightroom’s image adjustments are non-destructive. The commands are stored within the photo library and associated with the relevant pictures and are applied to the photo only when I choose to export to print or email. Images are simple to adjust with no need to worry about stuff like Layers. Lightroom has been evolving through its releases and this new version has a couple of significant changes plus a couple of nice-to-have but by no means vital additions.
The most important change is in the Develop module where the techies at Adobe have improved the software’s processing ability. In other words when I open images I processed in earlier versions of Lightroom, the program asks if I want to upgrade them to the new process. It isn’t compulsory of course. I have left most of them as they are but the ones I have done seem to be brighter and more contrasty.
There are new sliders to play with when working with pictures in LR4. Previous versions gave you Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light and Blacks; now I have Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. Even clicking Auto on the Tone button seems to produce better results first time than before.
The Adjustment Brush has been made more powerful. With it you can tweak small areas of your image to change the exposure, contrast or — perhaps most usefully – the white balance, which will save you having blue faces against a yellow background if you’re shooting with a slow shutter sync.
Not so useful yet as I don’t use take many Videos but I can now do some basic, The other big deal is the improvement to the video tools. They’re still pretty rudimentary, but you can now top and tail a video in Lightroom; and you can apply adjustments to your clips in the same way as still images.
Anything more and you’ll need a proper video editing program, but this does at least mean you can do the basics. Also useful, especially to a professional, is the new ability to soft-proof an image – this means that if you’ve calibrated your monitor to a printer, you can see what the image will look like on screen before you start splurging on ink. Of the byno-means-vital additions, I quite like the new ability to add location data to images. The new Maps module is powered by Google Maps (so you’ll need to be online) and it’s straightforward to use.
Type in the location, highlight the images you want to tag with location data and drag them on to the location on the map. If you want to strip that data out before you upload or export your pictures, there is thoughtfully an option to do so. Less compelling, for me at any rate, is the inclusion of a Book module, particularly as there’s only one commercial provider baked into the software – Blurb – although you can add plug-ins that export to other providers, or export your creation as a PDF for sending to another provider.
Those niggles aside, if you’re even remotely serious about your pictures, take a look at Lightroom.
See you around. Geoff