Monday, January 16, 2012

Initial Thoughts On Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Beta

Today's image was processed using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Beta.  All I have to say is: what an upgrade.  The jump from version 2 to version 3 was big, but this is huge.  What anyone thought about the way the sliders worked (in just about all panels) in LR3 is about to be blown away by the functionality of LR4.  Instead of Recovery and Fill Light, we have Highlight and Shadow.  It's more than just a name change.  Where Recovery worked if you pushed it far enough, Highlight gives some fine control over what's going on in the highlights without affecting the mid-tones and shadows.  Same thing with the Shadows Slider.  Where Fill Light opened the shadows, but also brightened the overall image, Shadows opens the darkest areas (that have detail) and doesn't mess with anything higher.  Today's image was sort of a test bed for both of these functions.  The "lighting" on today's image is a flashlight.  A friend and I were over at the Danbury Railway Museum experimenting with some "light painting".  Playing with flashlights to act as a light source is imprecise at best.  There's a lot of trial and error involved and having the light fill in all the nooks and crannies is a trick at best.  So, what you end up with works right into LR4 Beta's lighting adjustments.  There's a lot I like about LR4 and, being a Beta, a couple of things that still need work.  To take a look at my thoughts, hit the "Read More".

I've already spoken about a couple components of the Basic Panel.  The rest of the Basic Panel has also been turbo charged.  Clarity rocks, Vibrance takes a lot longer to make colors go neon.  It looks like Adobe went through each function in the Basic Panel and said "put in finer control" on every slider.  I still don't think too highly of Saturation, and if you're a frequent reader you know I like to saturate my images.  Guess they needed to leave something for LR6. 
A couple other of my favorite Panels and functions in the Develop Module are the Details Panel, the Effects Panel (but still have a gripe), and the HSL (specifically the "L").  The Sharpening in the Effects Panel looks to produce better sharpening without creating halos.  The Noise Reduction appears to be unchanged.  Good, but no upgrade.  In the Effects Panel I use the Post Crop Vignette on about 90% of all images produced.  The gripe is that it's fixed in position.  I'd like to be able to grab a center control point and move the position of the target to off center spots.  Whenever I need an off center vignette I have to go out to the Adjustment Brush and hand darken the area around the center of interest.  Being able to control the size shape and hardness of the Post Crop Vignette and being able to move the radius point would be great.
Love the improvements in the Print Module.  The ability to tweak the brightness and contrast to match your printers output to what you see on the screen is dynamite.  No more guessing what the shift needs to be to get the print to look like the screen.  The controls are "sticky", so once you dial in the numbers for a particular paper you can pretty well set it and forget it.  Only thing missing would be the ability to save the setting as a preset.  Haven't seen where you can do that yet.
One thing that still needs work looks like choosing a font for a custom Identity Plate in the Page Panel of the Print Module.  I have a specific font I like to use either on a "gallery" print or as an image marker of the printed area.  Every time I went to change the font (to any other font) and start typing, the font would bounce back to "Tahoma".  I'm sure (pretty sure) this will be fixed before the final version is set in stone.
All in all, I do believe the upgrade to LR4 from any previous version will be worth the ticket price.  That's assuming the upgrade price will be the same as the past couple of upgrades.