Lightroom 4 Impressions

It is a little while now since I upgraded to Lightroom 4 from the previous version (I will let you fill in the name here!). There were a few aspects of the new version that made me want to upgrade and I had played with the public beta version when it first came out. Of course, having ongoing support and updates is always helpful so staying with the old version was never going to be likely and when they halved the price, no further thought was required.

Now I have been using it for a while, what do I think? Well, on the whole I am reasonably pleased with the changes. The new sliders in the Develop module seem to be an improvement on the previous develop version. I was pretty happy with the way it worked before so the changes had to sell themselves to me. They have modified the way I think about the development settings since I used to be able to use Exposure alone to bring back a sky and maintain the shadows. Now I have to consider the White and Highlight sliders a lot more. I am not convinced that Highlight does a lot. White seems to be far more effective in my new approach.  Similarly the shadows slider is now more important to me than the blacks which is a change.

Another issue is with converting previous develop settings. Since the change of sliders is significant, going to the new develop version tends to result in all sliders being reset to zero. This can turn a reasonable image into something far worse initially. Lightroom does not have a conversion algorithm to get you somewhere close. It is back to the beginning. Maybe this makes a lot more sense.

The Map capability is a big improvement for me. Canon cameras are not well designed for adding a geotagging capability so I have ignored it on the whole or experimented with Jeffrey Friedl’s plugin. This is a very user friendly method and I shall make use of it a lot more I think. I like the book creation capability but would welcome some other outlets getting in the game. I have used Blurb before and they are fine but I have liked Adoramapix and have contacted them to see if they will be making templates soon. Let’s hope so.

So, is there anything wrong? Oh yes! It is slow!! The Develop module is awful at the moment. I have a pretty capable system but the sliders we very slow to react. The real time view of what you are changing is not there yet. You pick a slider, hope that the mouse click has actually selected it and then move to where you think works and then wait to see what happens. Is this acceptable? Not at all. Am I annoyed? Yes I am. Is it the end of the world? Probably not. I seem to recall that Lightroom 3 had similar issues when it first came out and was slow. Adobe released some updates pretty quickly and it ended up being a great tool. I am not going to revert back and will manage the sluggishness until they come up with a fix. If they don’t, I may have to consider but I am not the only one having an issue so I suspect it will be dealt with in the coming weeks.  Turning off the second screen makes a substantial difference but is not very useful so hopefully that will be tweaked.  A release candidate for version 4.1 is out now so, while I won’t try it out, hopefully that means the formal release is pretty close.

One other thing I will tag on her and that is the arrival of the beta version of Photoshop CS6. When the beta was released, I was not sure I would bother to try it out just yet. Photoshop is still part of my workflow but, as Lightroom has become more capable, Photoshop has been used less often and for more specialized tasks. I could probably wait, or so I thought. However, I watched some of the demonstrations of new features online and liked some of what I saw, especially the video editing. Since I shoot mo video these days, having an alternative video editor rather than upgrading the package I have might be good. It does seem to have some good basic capabilities and that is all I do most of the time. What isn’t there at the moment is good bio integration with Lightroom. Version 4 has some video clip editing for end points. It would be good if you could send the video to Photoshop in the same way you can an image. Since it would then come back to the catalog when you had finished, it would help in managing everything. Now I finish an edit and I have to import it – if I remember. If they could allow you to take multiple clips and open them as layers (again like you can with images), that would be even better since that lines up with the way video editing is set up in Photoshop. I commented on this on the Lightroom blog but we shall see if they are already working on this.

In conclusion, I am pretty happy with the new Lightroom. With the price halved I am even happier not least because the Photoshop upgrade is obviously not far away. Now to see whether they can tweak it enough to fix the minor problems.

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