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?

Lightroom Tutorial – Intro to Presets

Life with two kids doesn’t really leave me with too much time for photo editing so I’m always looking for ways to get faster.

I used to bring every photo in to Photoshop to apply a curves and levels layer and would usually run some kind of action. I got pretty fast, but it could still be time consuming.

I’ve been shooting in RAW for over a year and all that time I’ve been first importing every photo into Lightroom.

But, I was only using Lightroom to adjust my White Balance, make an exposure adjustment if I needed to and maybe apply a little noise reduction.

In the last few months though I’ve started exploring what Lightroom has to offer. One of my favorite bloggers, Keli at Kidnapped by Suburbia is a Lightroom expert and she’s definitely inspired me to spend more time learning this great tool.

I still have tons to learn, but here’s where I get started these days.

A few general adjustments are automatically made when you import a RAW photo into LR. RAW photos start out looking very undeveloped and unfinished because your camera doesn’t do anything to process them. So these initial adjustments kind of “finish it off” like your camera would if you were shooting JPEG.

Let’s look at this adorable shot of my friend’s sweet little girl.


This is what I’d call SOOC even though the initial LR adjustments have been applied.

Next, I’m going to apply my own preset. I almost always use this preset – it will:

switch my profile to Camera Neutral, which basically applies my camera’s profile to my RAW photo. The default profile is Adobe Standard, which if fine for some shots, but really isn’t the best for a clean portrait. It’s usally a little too red for my taste.

bump up the vibrance to about 20. When you switch the profile to neutral it’ll take away some of the color or pop you saw before. Up your vibrance and you’ll see some of that come back without the red.

bump up blacks to about 7. This is kind of like running a levels adjustment in PS.

make a small tweak to the Tone Curve. I up the lights and bring down the darks just a bit. This small adjustment makes a big difference.

drop the orange saturation. Often skin tones look too orange and this fixes that.

run noise reduction at 20. RAW images have none of the noise reduction that your camera would apply to a JPEG so they almost all need some noise reduction and LR is really good at this.

So I created my own preset to do all these things with one click:


Next, I adjust my White Balance.

I think this is one of the hardest things about post processing. If you have a great white balance tip, please let me know it! I do use a gray card for newborn shoots and times when the light won’t change, but I never use one outside or at home. So that means white balance is pretty much a guessing game for me.

I also thought this shot was just a smidge overexposed so I dropped the exposure and cropped it in a bit.



And often that would be it. I’d export the photo into PS, add my watermark, run a quick sharpening and sizing for web action and I’d be done. This is a nice, clean edit in LR. And it was fast!

(Also, if I decide I want to print this photo in the future all I’ll need to do is find it in LR and export it. I don’t have to have another big PS or JPEG file saved on my hard drive.)

But wait, what if I want to do something a little more artsy or processed?

This is where I still have a lot to learn. But in the meantime I can use presets. Some of my absolute favorite presets are One Willow Presets. Y’all, these are so versatile and so powerful and so pretty!

I have bought three of her five collections and really wish I’d just bought the bundle to start with because I really want them all now!

In order to decide which preset I want to use I’d just take my cursor and watch the preview in the navigator screen on the top left. When I see one that looks good I can click and try it out. And the beauty of LR? – if you don’t like it, hit Ctrl + Z and it’s gone. So easy!

Here I decided on the Orchid Hush from the Beautiful Things set.


I did have to adjust my WB but that’s it. I didn’t make any further adjustments. I was happy with it. Now often you’ll have to adjust your tone curve or the fill light a bit to make a preset work, and the WB is key (again with the WB!) to making them work for your specific photo.

Y’all, Lightroom and presets can do really pretty things to your photos and they’re amazingly fast.

And I’m all about fast these days since I’m usually processing while holding the baby and begging Andrew to stop dancing on the coffee table already!

{You can download a free 30 day trial of Lightroom at Adobe.}