Adobe Releases Lightroom 4 Today

Adobe announced the release of the final version of  Lightroom 4 at 12:01 this morning.  (The public Beta expires March 31st.)

I’ve already blogged about some of the new features, but I’m going to go over a few of them in depth and then give my two cents on the release.

First lets concentrate on the good:


I don’t know if this a temporary reduction in price because it’s new, but I recall that Lr3 sold for almost $300 at full price, so Adobe coming out with LR4 at $150 is good news for those for whom price was a barrier to entry.


This is perhaps the biggest step up that you will notice if you are upgrading from LR3 in which you couldn’t even PLAY your videos, let alone WB, trim, capture stills or adjust for exposure etc.


This is a whole  new module, so it’s clear that Adobe has focused on this in a big way. Personally as a portrait photographer, I don’t see myself using this module at all, but I can see that other types of photographers would find this very useful.


This is one of my personal favorite improvements, so I’m going to talk about it a little bit more in depth.

If you are a LR user, you probably already know that LR works in a larger color space than sRGB which is the colorspace that most of us work in in Photoshop (for several reasons, not the least of which that this is what most labs print, and also this is all that’s visible on the web and many standard monitors.)  In practical terms what that means is that you could look at the histogram of an image in LR and adjust it to make sure it is not clipping in the highlights, yet when you open up that same image in photoshop you find that it’s at or dangerously close to 255, most often in the red channel.

It used to be that you had no way of knowing if you were clipping the red chanel without switching over to photoshop, but with the new softproofing, it’s as easy as clicking the softproofing checkbox and choosing your softproof colorspace!

In addition to the VISUAL differences, you will also be given a readout of what the channel values are before (in LR) and in the softproof colorspace.

Here is an example (click on the image for a larger version!)

You can’t tell because my screen-capture doesn’t show where my mouse is, but I am hovering over the forehead area which along with cheeks is a common place to blow the red channel.   As I move my cursor, I can see the R value represented as R:231/241, which is telling me that in LR’s colorspace, I am a full 10 points lower in the red channel than I will be once I save to an sRGB jpg.  In this example, both values will print just fine, but if those values were 10 points higher at 241/251, I would have to do some adjustments and reign in my highlights to bring that second value down closer to 245- max 250 range where I know my lab can safely print without blow outs.


New in LR4 is the ability to “brush on” noise reduction and WB.  This can be really useful if you have say noisy shadows in an image but don’t want to overly smooth highlights like skintones.  The local WB adjustments can come in handy in tricky lighting situations where you have more than one light source.

Moving from what I consider the best changes in LR4 I want to now talk about two features that I am as of yet conflicted about..


Adobe calls this the ‘book module’, but I call it the “Blurb module” because in it’s current form, it is only useful if you use Blurb to print your books. Yes, Adobe provides a “Print to PDF” but I don’t know of any professional labs that print albums from PDFs. Ad even if they DID, there is no path to customize these books to match your lab’s print parameters.

Don’t get me wrong, Blurb is a perfectly fine retailer – in fact the samples I received were quite nice, but this is still a strictly consumer solution. I hope that this move is not signaling a more general move by Adobe away from supporting the needs of professionals in favor of consumers, as this would indeed be disappointing.  It will be telling to see how this module is further developed by Adobe in the future, if print to jpg and customization of templates becomes available in the future. For now, my verdict on this module is that it is underdeveloped and I would like to see major improvements and expansions in future LR4 updates.


In the early demos I saw by Adobe, the new 2012 process seemed to make their images look better and have more “oomph” than the current process.  I was a little surprised to find that the OPPOSITE seemed to apply to my own images! The new process seemed to suck a tiny bit of brightness and some of the contrast from the images I converted.

Here is an example:

However, it’s nothing that’s so noticeable to be a problem, I just found it interesting.

Let me backup for a second though – once you update your catalog to be compatible with LR4, for each image in your catalog that was imported with LR3 there will be an exclamation point below it that you can click to update to the current 2012 process. If you DON’T update, you can still edit the image just like you have always done in LR3.  If you DO update, you will see the new develop sliders:

Notice that recovery and fill light are gone, replaced by shadows & highlights. This is where I am lukewarm on this new process version: I LOVED my fill light! In my experimentation so far, I have not been as able to easily achieve the same look with the new sliders.

However, highlights is a big improvement over recovery for taming your highlights as it doesn’t seem to “dull” your entire image the way that recovery would, it is more isolated to highlights only, so that is a great thing.

You will also notice that the controls start at 0 in the middle, instead of on the left. I think this is Adobe’s attempt to standardize some of it’s image editing software as the Adobe Revel controls are similar. Either way, it takes some getting used to for us LR old-timers!

Now, here are the things that I was very disappointed to see were NOT addressed in LR4:

The ability to use video in the slideshow module.  Clearly Adobe has focused a LOT on video in this release, so the omission of video in the Slideshow module is baffling.

In fact, there have been no improvements whatsoever to the Slideshow module OR (my personal pet project!) the Print module.

The print module is one of the most powerful yet underutilized modules, probably in it’s current state in can be frustrating to align cells, the lack of basic effects like drop shadows,  text, and ability to save projects.   On my wish list for the print module is also the ability to support PNGs or transparencies (so that it can be used to create design templates with something OTHER than a plain rectangle) but I knew that was a long shot.

However, I didn’t expect that there would be zero improvements :(  My personal opinion is that a major release should aim to at least make minor improvements to every existing module.


If you are a LR 3 user, it’s definitely worth upgrading for the video support and soft-proofing alone.

If you are a new user, take advantage of the low entry point and try it! You can even download a 30 day free trial, or just purchase now.  I highly recommend that new users watch Julieanne’s wonderful tutorials as the best way to jump start into LR!

If you’ve already tried the public Beta or purchased the new version I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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shannon says:

Wondering if you are going to do a tutorial on your post-processing of those pics..I love the soft look of those photos. Did you use an action?

ariana says:

Monika, my understanding was yes, but I haven’t tried it myself!

Thanks Ariana for sharing. It’s very helpful. I just watched one of the Julienn’s video tutorial and was wondering if there is any chance to put those short video clips together to make a movie? Have you tried anything like that?

ariana says:

October, I know a few photographers who use Blurb for personal books, so I expect there are other who share your excitement! It just seems odd to me to have an entire module devoted to ONE solution with no customizations available. Which is a shame because the features in the book module are really cool – I’d love to be able to take advantage of them :)

October says:

I am also in love with the softproofing! Disappointed as well in losing the fill light. I agree with what you said about the “Blurb” book. I do hope this will expand in future releases. I use Blurb on a personal level and would not use it to print albums for clients. (I am in the process of replacing all of my family PHOTO albums with blurb books and this makes it SOOOOO much easier! SO I was SUPER excited to see this on a personal note!!!)