a21 April 2012

Lightroom 4 - short review

I was testing Lightroom 4 beta and in the past Lightroom 3 trial as well. After my beta expired I decided to buy it. Although I'm still rather disappointed with its performance sometimes, I found it a very valuable addition to my workflow so I decided to share my ideas after using full-version for some time.

Lightroom 4 allows pretty extensive photo editing and sometimes it is sufficient to move a few sliders or choose a predefined preset and I'm done (i.e. I don't need to post-process a photo in Photoshop). I especially like the Whites, Highlights, Blacks and Shadows sliders as they make working with RAWs so much easier. They allow you to restore details in Highlights/Shadows without affecting other tones. You don't need very complex layer masks to bring details any more. Brilliant! Also I love the improved Clarity slider. There are virtually no halo artifacts even when using maximum value for it. For this reason I even use some small values when fine tuning my tonemapped photos. Other useful develop options for me are Lens correction (with improved Chromatic aberrations reduction) and ability to add vignette effect to a photo. Of course Lightroom allows you to crop and straighten your images.

I also like local adjustments you can do to your photos. There are two types of them in Lightroom 4:
  • Brush,
  • Graduation filter
Both allows you to locally adjust a number of settings like Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Sharpness, Noise, Clarity and even... White Balance. Yes, you can adjust White Balance locally. It isn't what I use on a daily basis but turned out to be useful a few times already.

Lightroom 4 also allows you to do basic video editing but unfortunately it's still very limited and you cannot edit videos in Develop module. You can only quick develop it. But still it's a handy feature and I hope it will be further improved in later releases.

Besides photo/video editing capabilities which are really great, Lightroom 4 is a photo organizer. You can group your photos, rate them, compare images to pick the best, reject photos you don't like and much much more. It makes organizing photos and picking the best of them much easier what is very useful when after a photo shoot you end up with several hundreds (or thousands) of photos.

One more useful feature is an ability to upload selected photos to a portal like Facebook, Flickr or 500px (separate plugin downloadable from 500px.com is needed).

There are tons of other features I personally don't use like an ability to create Books, Slideshows and prepare Prints (as I print from Photoshop).

As I mentioned at the beginning I find Lightroom 4 rather slow, especially in the develop module. I now use quad-core machine with 16 GB RAM so it isn't that bad but sometimes I think it's still too slow. As far as I know this should be addressed to some extent in Lightroom 4.1.

So summing up there are two big main things I like about Lightroom 4:
  • it improves the image quality due to improved settings (especially Whites and similar and Clarity),
  • makes work on the images much faster - you can develop RAWs, organize photos and even publish them to the web. So generally it greatly improves one's workflow.
And what I don't like about it?
  • performance could be better, especially in the Develop module,
  • it has no ability to change working colour space... I really cannot understand why it's this way. And it's definitely not sRGB which I use in Photoshop so sometimes after exporting from Lightroom to Photoshop CS 5 I notice small differences in tones.
  • I find GUI a bit too complex. When I started using it I was completely lost. Now I got used to it but still don't like it very much.

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