Upgrade to Lightroom 4

I’ve officially made the switch from Lightroom 3 to Lightroom 4.

I’ve loved Lightroom 3 for years. It’s an integral part of my workflow, and I do 85% of my editing in it so it was pretty scary to switch.

In fact, it took me a while. The upgrade is really reasonably priced so one day back in December I thought, why not, and downloaded it.

But then I couldn’t make my RAW files work with my old CS5 version of Photoshop and I really didn’t want to upgrade to CS6. So. I just left LR4 sitting on my hard drive and kept plugging away in LR3.

Then I kept thinking about buying some new presets, but I hated to buy them for LR3 when I knew LR4 was out there waiting. So, again, what to do?

Well, I had to figure out how to make LR4 and CS5 work together with my RAW files. Enter lots and lots of Google searches, and I finally figured out I needed to convert my files to DNG’s when I import them into LR4.

It turns out there are lots of benefits to converting to DNG anyway, and you can read about them in this super helpful article from Rock the Shot. There’s a lot of info there, but the main reason I decided to switch my file type was to get my LR4 edited RAW files to work in CS5.

So now that I can successfully use it with my version of Photoshop what am I liking about it?

Well, there’s quite a few new features.

The biggest one within the develop module is that we now have Highlights, Shadows, and Whites versus Recovery, Fill Light and Brightness.

Let’s look at this image opened in LR3:

You can see that LR3 opened with its preset +50 brightness and +25 Contrast. There’s also a lot of blown highlights on Andrew’s back, but his face and the rest of the image aren’t that bright.

So I wanted to brighten the whole thing up a bit while recovering some of the blown highlights on the back of his shirt. So I upped the recovery to get back those blown spots, and then upped fill light to brighten the rest of the image. I also upped blacks a bit to give it some more depth in the little bit of shadows around his edges.

It’s an okay edit and I’d be happy with it, but it’s a little too bright overall.

So how does it look in LR4?

Right off the bat you can see that all the sliders start out at zero. Also the blown highlights that we saw in LR3 aren’t there. Better start already!

In LR4 the exposure slider focuses on the midtones of the image rather than the whole photo. I admit this has thrown me for a loop a bit, but it’s nice to have a more targeted adjustment. So here I upped my exposure just a tiny bit to brighten up the midtones (which is the part of the image that’s neither a highlight nor a shadow –  it’s the middle of the histogram) in the photo. Then since I’m still learning LR4 I just played with the sliders until I saw what I liked. :)

Here are the two edits side-by-side.

I’m definitely happier with the LR4 image. It’s a subtle difference, but I felt like I had a lot more control with the sliders in LR4.

I like that the red of the tennis court kept more of its color and isn’t so washed out in the LR4 version because I didn’t have to up its brightness to increase the brightness elsewhere. And the same happened with the stones in the background. Andrew’s face looks brighter, but not as gray as it does is the LR3 version.

I’ve also been using my favorite presets from One Willow in LR4. I bought the Palette Collection which was created just for LR4 and I’ve been happy with it. It has a lot more hazy/film type options than I was able to find in LR3.

Here’s an example of a LR4 image with a Palette Collection preset.

It’s a little hazier that I’d typically go for, but it’s pretty. And I could tweak it and make it a little more subtle.

And one of the best benefits I’ve found so far is that Ligtroom 4 is faster! It takes longer to upload my RAW images as DNG files, but then working within LR4 is much quicker. It takes less time to generate a preview and I’m not waiting around for the image to come into focus when I pull it up out of the library.

So I think I’m going to like Lightroom 4. It took me a long time (and now I hear they’re testing a Lightroom 5 in beta. Hahahaha. I’ll wait!) but I think the switch was worth it.

Do you have any Lightroom 4 presets you love and want to recommend?

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