Lightroom beta 4: some brief thoughts

A few weeks ago I invested a certain amount of time and effort into becoming more comfortable with the beta 3 release of Adobe Lightroom, since my previous favourite Rawshooter Premium is going away. Yesterday, Adobe dropped beta 4. I thought I’d create a follow-on to my previous review based on early usage of this latest release. Before you download it, you might want to check out the release notes.

It isn’t clear from the website, but order to install beta 4, you need to uninstall any previous version and then go ahead and install the new release. Don’t worry, your settings and library are retained. The first time you run beta 4, a task runs to update the format of your library (it says it can take a while; in my case it only took a few seconds, but my library is not all that large at the moment).

(click through the screenshots to see the images on Flickr, where you can also see larger versions)

The product appears to have been renamed to “Photoshop Lightroom”, presumably in order to extend the Photoshop brand, although I can’t really see the point… and it only appears to be the website that has changed, the software itself still installs into a directory called Lightroom and the splash screen doesn’t carry the Photoshop moniker (yet).

So I fired it up, and my first thought was – woah! The interface has changed. The Library module looked a lot busier. In fact, I don’t think it really is, but the difference in the layout was enough to fool my eyes into thinking that there was a big change. By default the panels are all now much darker.

Library module

There is also a new toolbar at the bottom of the main view for the module that you are currently using. For example, the toolbar for the Library module enables you to change the view (as before) and change the sorting and zoom level.


Another small cosmetic change is that the photo preview is now on the left in the Library module, leaving more room for the tools on the right.

Grid view

A nice feature that has been added is that you can now see some of the changes that have been made to photos in the grid view, with some small overlays on the images themselves. It still doesn’t seem to be clear when a photo has been exported, which for me would indicate that I’d “finished” with it.

Functionally, one thing I’ve noticed about this version is that the interface dimming really does work – hit L to “dim the lights”, L again to “switch off the lights” (leaving a black screen with just the photo lit), and L again to return to normal. Neat. Never worked for me in beta 3. The same goes from add/remove to Quick Collection via B, which now works.

Quick develop

One other thing I’ve noticed is the very welcome Rawshooter influence beginning to make an appearance. Note the appearance of sliders with names like “Fill Light” and “Vibrance”.

They appear in the Develop module too, of course…

Develop module

Develop has seen quite a few changes. Previously, in order to show clipping you had to click on the text at either end of the histogram – now you click on the tiny white squares at the top. The Histogram can be dragged, and the Tone Curve is now a proper editable curve. This is pretty annoying, as I was just getting my head around the beta 3 way of doing things with Highlight, Midtone and Shadow sliders. Again there are Vibrance and Fill Light sliders, as well as a mysterious new one called Recovery… I think I’m going to have to wait for a new batch of video tutorials to appear before I understand just how all of this works again!

Update: there’s a very nice post on the PhotoshopNews blog that talks a lot more about the Develop module and how the new features work. Invaluable reading.

The white balance eyedropper can now be “picked up” and moved around the window, you get a zoomed RGB values grid over where you are picking from – very nice. Noise reduction still doesn’t appear to do anything, but of course there also doesn’t appear to be a way of zooming in to more than 1:1 in Develop, so it is hard to see what might be happening at a pixel level.

When you export an image, the Adobe Lightroom logo in the top left now changes to show a progress bar (with a cross which implies it can be cancelled, although I didn’t try clicking it to check).

I’m not going to spend much time here on the remaining modules, since I haven’t yet had much cause to use them. Here are some screenshots and brief comments:

Slideshow module

Slideshow seems to have more controls allowing you to modify the settings on the image, fill colour, etc. and the text is resizable on the slide, which I don’t think it was in beta 3. Also there is now music control available.

Print module

Print looks similar to what I remember. I didn’t use it in beta 3 so I can’t really comment on the differences.

Web module

Web is brand new (for the Windows beta… Mac users will have seen it already). It appears to allow you to create a web gallery directly from Lightroom. You specify the title, the number of images to display, and an FTP server. There are options on the left for either Flash or HTML galleries. I need to give this a try sometime. It looks cool.

Overall, I’m impressed. It seems snappier, but maybe I’m imagining it. This is still on a pretty low-end laptop. I’m definitely liking the apparent Rawshooter influence, although the change in the interface and Develop module is a bit annoying where I’d started to learn the “old way” of doing things.

Do please let me know what you think about Lightroom, too – just add a comment below.

The first image I developed using Lightroom beta 4 is over on Flickr, along with the full set of images I used to illustrate this post.

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8 thoughts on “Lightroom beta 4: some brief thoughts”

  1. After getting to the 1:1 view in develop I seem to be able to go in one more step by using “CTRL +”. Clicking in the image then toggles between this and the fit to window view. I found I had to do a “CTRL -” to get it to toggle back to the 1:1 view again.

  2. Andy, thanks for the comment on my blog… nice, thorough post. I’ve since played with the Recovery feature and it’s pretty interesting… I’m probably abusing its purpose (already!), but I used it to restore a bit of contrast and detail to highlights which I had deliberately blown way out with the exposure control… so without affecting the tone curve and overall brightness and feel, the brightest highlights had a little more depth to them. I think that’s pretty useful. I think it’s primary intent is to help recover detail in overexposed images.


  3. Interesting! thanks for the comments.
    I thought I was able to zoom in more by clicking and holding, but I never seemed to be able to reproduce the behaviour. I’ll try with CTRL+/-, thanks.
    I like the sound of Recovery. I didn’t play with it simply because I didn’t understand it… will give it another try.

  4. Have you tried “Auto Adjust Tonality” on a JPEG from your camera? I’ve found with my Finepix S5600 it works fine with RAW but it makes JPEGs far to over exposed. If that option should not be used with JPEGs it should be disabled.

  5. I haven’t tried the auto adjust option yet. I’ve also read that Noise Reduction is noticeable on JPEGs but not on RAW, but I have not validated that.

    Doesn’t the fit/fill/1:1/4:1 only show up in Library? I want it when developing… maybe I’m missing something.

  6. That will be why I missed it, I was running Develop with no left panel visible. Thanks for the tip. A zoom slider a la Rawshooter would still be nicer… 🙂

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