Developing in Lightroom 4.

If you follow photography at all on-line, you probably have noticed that Adobe released Lightroom 4 today. Surprisingly, they’ve lowered the price dramatically from when Lightroom 3 was originally introduced (from $279.00 to $149.00!) The upgrade price is down to $79.00 from $99.00. (By the way, if you’re a member of the North American Nature Photography Association,, you can get a 15% discount on all Adobe products.) If you are already a Lightroom user, you’ll notice two new modules in version 4 – Map (which lets you view GPS encoded images on a map), and Book (which lets you design books using some pre-loaded templates, and then export them to a pdf or publish them as Blurb book.) I can see myself using the Book module more than the Map module. The new feature I am most excited about at this point is the ability to now preview, trim, and color correct video clips in the Library module. This should be a big help to me as I’m shooting more and more video. However, in this post, I want to describe a few of the differences in the Develop module between versions 3 and 4, because anyone making the upgrade from Version 3 is going to notice these changes immediately.

Images developed in Lightroom 3 will need to be converted to Lightroom 4's process version before new develop features can be applied.

First, when you try to open a catalog originally created in Lightroom 3, you will be asked if you want to upgrade to version 4. Say yes! Now, anytime you go to work on an image in Develop and it was previously edited in Lightroom 3, you will see an explanation point in the lower right of the image preview (see above.) You’ll also notice in the above screen shot, that the Basic sliders are the same as in Lightroom 3. By clicking on the explanation point, you will be asked if you want to upgrade this image to Process Version 4. Click Yes and it will convert the image. There is also an option in the upgrade dialog to upgrade all of the images in the filmstrip in one fell swoop. There may be changes in the image’s appearance after the conversion, but if you can’t get it back to looking the way it was in version 3 (and you like that version,) you can always go back to the previous version in the History palette.

The Recovery and Fill Light sliders have been replaced by Whites and Shadows, and Highlights has been added.

Once you upgrade an image, you’ll notice the Basic panel sliders change. Exposure and Contrast are now at the top of the panel, followed by Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. Gone are Brightness, Fill Light, and Recovery. The Highlights slider is brand new, while at a basic level, Shadows replaces Fill Light, and Whites replaces Recovery. You’ll also notice that all of the sliders now start at 0 and let you move them left or right, giving you more control over Whites and Blacks, especially. If you ever forget what tonality the individual sliders change, just mouse over the histogram and you will see the various slider names appear as you move the mouse from right to left. These improved sliders give you excellent, nuanced control of the tonality and contrast of your images.

You'll see these new basic sliders, as well as sliders for white balance and noise reduction, can now be used with the adjustment brush and grad filter.

Some of these new basic sliders also make an appearance when using the adjustment brush or grad filter. Even more exciting is the addition of white balance sliders and noise and moire sliders. You can now easily make separate white balance adjustments for different parts of an image, and/or apply noise reduction on a selective basis. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to do this.

You can now soft proof your images in the develop module.

One of the complaints about previous versions of Lightroom was the lack of soft proofing. Thankfully, Lightroom 4 has added this feature. Just click on the Soft Proofing box below the image preview and soft proofing options will appear under the histogram. Just select your printer profile for the paper you are using and the proof is applied, allowing you to make color and tone adjustments right in Lightroom before printing. Prior to this feature, when making fine art prints, I would have to open my image in Photoshop to soft proof. Lightroom also lets you save a separate version of the image with any adjustments made while soft proofing. This will save me a lot of time.

Most of the other sliders in the develop module look the same, though some of the programming behind them has been fine-tuned. Adobe has some great on-line resources for learning all about Lightroom 4, which can be found here:

Have you tried Lightroom 4? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.



2 Responses to “Developing in Lightroom 4.”

  1. Hi, Jerry–thanks for the info about changes in LR4! Sounds worth the upgrade just for the ability to do selective white balance adjustments. Excellent!


    • Hi Elsif – good to see you last week a the Newton Camera Club. The selective white balance adjustment is a great feature. By continuing to add functionality to Lightroom, I think Adobe is increasingly making Photoshop less necessary for a lot of photographers.

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