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A Computer Darkroom Feature Preview

So, here we are in late March 2010 and Adobe has opened the second public beta for Photoshop Lightroom 3. Has it addressed all of the feature requests submitted following the release of beta 1? Probably not, but the first beta was downloaded by over 350,00 photographers, so Adobe can still expect a fair amount interest in this latest beta. Anyway, the intention this time round is broadly similar to that of beta 1, and while the number of new headline features in this version is relatively few there remains a need to obtain feedback on how well the features that have been included actually perform.

 

What's been added or improved?

For beta 1 Adobe went back to the drawing board with the aim of improving performance and image quality. The objective is to make Lightroom the "best in class" application for digital photographers whether they were a professional photographer or an amateur with a relatively small photo catalog. Obviously, being so early in the development cycle it was never going to achieve that objective, but it did provide an opportunity for users to comment on the new and enhanced features. For example, raw conversion and colour noise reduction were substantially overhauled in beta 1, and judging from the feedback both were well received. However, the absence of luminance noise reduction, albeit temporary, made it difficult for many users to give beta 1 a wholehearted thumbs up.

Further information on Photoshop Lightroom 3 beta2 can be found at http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom3/

With beta 2 we get luminance noise reduction, a point curve editor, DSLR video file support and a bunch of other enhancements. Will they be enough? Well, that's for you to decide, but it's worth pointing out the following paragraph from the release notes:

"What's Next?

We're much closer to the final release of Lightroom 3.0 and this beta release represents the majority of improvements planned for this version. However, we still want your feedback on the latest improvements and we might still have a few things up our sleeves for the Lightroom 3.0 release."

The following table lists the headline features that you'll find in Lightroom 3 beta 2:.

denotes new to beta 2

Workflow & Library:

Faster thumbnail scrolling and module switching

Completely redesigned import dialog

Publish Collections

Backup on exit

Enhanced sorting (i.e. sort by aspect ratio)

Enhanced collection and smart collection functionality

Import CMYK files

New thumbnail badge to show when photo is in a Collection

DSLR video file support

Tethered Capture

Animation in Library Histogram

Optimise catalog command included in File menu

Improved preview quality

New Library module keyboard shortcuts for more efficient module switching

Develop:

Improved raw conversion

Improved sharpening

Improved colour noise reduction

Improved luminance noise reduction

Point Curve in Tone Curve panel

Process versions renamed to 2003 and 2010 (Current)

Process version indicator located in bottom right corner of photo

Process version switch via pop-up menu in Camera Calibration panel

New Grain filter

Improved Post-crop vignette with original Paint Overlay vignette returning

Collections panel

Simplified local adjustment brush and graduated filter panel

Output:

Enhanced Slideshow export, which includes HD video

Export video files as originals

Ability to limit file size on export

Music selection on Mac simplified and decoupled from iTunes

Sync slideshow length to duration of selected music track

Custom Print Package allowing free-form layout of multiple photos on a page

Enhanced Watermarking (additional enhancements since beta 1)

Pre-flight Information

As was the case with beta 1 Lightroom 3 beta 2 will not overwrite or interfere with your existing version 1.x  or 2.x catalogs, nor will it allow you to upgrade a catalog from a version prior to beta 1. It should also be safe to work alongside your existing Lightroom 1 or 2 catalogs. Nevertheless, it 's important to mention a few caveats to using the Lightroom 3 beta 2. I have already mentioned the first, namely that it is not yet possible to upgrade an existing Lightroom 1 or 2 catalog. So, you will be forced into creating a new catalog or upgrading an existing beta 1 catalog. The second, as with all beta software, bugs will be present. So, it's important that you work on copy photos, especially if you decide to save develop settings back into the file. Lastly, develop settings applied to photos in the beta 1 or 2 are not guaranteed to transfer correctly to the final shipping version. That being said, I expect that any differences that may occur will be relatively minor.

I have already mentioned that the raw conversion, colour noise reduction and sharpening algorithms had been significantly reworked for beta 1. Furthermore, the extent to which they were changed was such that for the first time since the Camera Raw Plug-in was released in 2003, it was necessary to introduce the concept of Process Versions. With beta 1 the process versions were identified as Process Version 1 and Process Version 2 (sometimes abbreviated to PV1 and PV2). Unfortunately, many users found the naming convention and operation confusing. I'll discuss the operational improvements later, but for now it's worth mentioning that the process versions have been renamed Process Version 2003 and Process Version 2010 (Current). The names represent the year in which the processing technology was introduced, which should give you an idea of how often Adobe plan on updating the process version. By default, photos that contain develop adjustments from previous versions of Lightroom (i.e. 1 and 2) or versions of Camera Raw right up to version 5.6 will use process version 2003. However, freshly imported photos will use PV 2010. It's when a catalog contains both process versions that users will notice the difference between the two, both in terms of image quality and increased preview rendering times. In my opinion, the improvements in image quality, particularly high ISO colour and luminance noise, are so great that the increased time required to render the previews is worth it.

Tip -  the new noise reduction and sharpening algorithms only apply to PV 2010 photos, PV 2003 photos will be rendered using the same noise reduction and sharpening algorithms as previous versions of Lightroom (i.e. Lr 1 and Lr 2) and all versions of Camera Raw up to 5.6.

Performance in general has improved since beta 1, and users should find that thumbnail scrolling and module switching are much smoother than in earlier versions. However, the very substantial improvements in image quality mentioned above have come at the cost of reduced non-interactive performance. In particular, preview rendering will likely be slower than it was in Lightroom 2, especially when working with PV 2010 photos. To ensure the best balance between quality and performance Adobe have put a fair amount of engineering time and effort into developing an adaptive system when applying noise reduction and sharpening to previews for PV 2010 photos. For it to work well the engineers had to profile the noise characteristics of each supported camera over a wide range of ISO values. The operation of this adaptive system are quite complex and therefore beyond the scope of this review. Nevertheless, when it comes to noise reduction and sharpening of previews, you can be fairly confident that Lightroom 3 will do the right thing in most circumstances.

Tip - Working with Lightroom 3 beta and Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw (extract from release notes)

Lightroom and Photoshop Camera Raw share the same image processing technology to ensure consistent and compatible results across applications that support raw processing. During Lightroom 3.0 beta, weíre using advanced image processing technology that is not currently available in the Camera Raw 5 plug-in. You will find that Lightroom 3.0 beta will process images differently from the Camera Raw 5 plug-in. This should serve as a reminder that the model for storing and representing those corrections is not complete and may change for the final version of Lightroom 3.0, changing the visual representation of your image.

Library Module and Workflow Enhancements

There haven't been many UI changes in the Library module for beta 2, which means that the overall appearance should be familiar to anyone who already uses Lightroom 2 or has tried beta 1. The Library continues to be at the heart of Lightroom in so far as it's the module that provides most of the tools for managing your photographic assets. Imported photos can be viewed in the Library in various modes or views. These include: Grid view (G), Loupe view (E), Compare view (C) and Survey view (N). Each of these views is intended for a specific purpose in the your workflow, but you may find one view more useful than others. For example,  Grid view allows you see large numbers of photos as thumbnails whilst at the same time providing a workspace for applying metadata, labels, ratings, keywords, flags, and even quick development adjustments to photos in bulk. On the other hand, Loupe view allows you to view a single photo as well as zooming up to 11x of the original. This view is particularly use for checking sharpness and focus. The "gotcha" with Loupe view is that restricts rating, labelling, keywording, etc  to a single photo. Compare and Survey are specialist views designed to make the tasks of comparing, rating and flagging multiple photos easier.

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Figure 1 - Library module Grid view

Other minor, but nonetheless important enhancements within the Library module include:

  • Match Total Exposures commands added to Develop Settings menu

  • Collections can be created directly within a collection set by right-clicking on the collection set photos can be sorted by aspect ratio

  • The name of a collection is displayed when an photo is added to a target collection

  • Stack badges can now be toggled on or off independently in the filmstrip via an interface preference

  • Stack behaviour on double-clicking on stack count badge now expands the stack with all photos selected

  • Erasing with the spray paint tool now requires the use of the Alt key

  • When the ëspray caní is used to add an photo to a collection, the collection name is now displayed upon application

  • Select a folder in the Library module and choose a new option Import to here to launch the import dialog with that folder preselected as the destination

  • Loupe view in import dialog supports large preview for photos on flash memory card

  • Import dialog defaults to New Photos when accessed via the Synchronize Folder command

  • The option to include items from subfolders has been included in the primary Folder panel drop down menu

  • Choose Library -> Show Missing Photos to locate offline or missing photos

  • Choose Library -> Find Previous Process Photos to locate photos first processed in earlier versions of Lightroom

  • Attributes filter bar includes icon for filtering video files

  • Enhanced options in Flickr title field of Publish Services

  • Ability to define the limit file size in Export dialog

  • An icon has been added to grid thumbnails to indicate that an photo is part of a collection. Click on that icon to view and/or visit the collection

  • Favourite sources can be added to the filmstrip source pop-up menu for quick access to specific collections or folders

  • Flash State is now included as part of the smart collection filter criteria

Tethered Capture

As mentioned above, there are relatively few new headline features in beta 2. Nevertheless, those that have been included should please a lot of  users. For example, Lightroom now includes support for Tethered Capture, albeit limited to a selection of cameras from Canon and Nikon. The number of vendors and camera models supported by Lightroom 3 is directly related to the availability of the necessary vendor supplied Software Development Kit (SDK). So, screaming at Adobe because your particular camera isn't supported on the day it's released won't change anything. That's the bad news. The good news is that support for new models should be possible within a few months of the vendor SDK being released. Further information on which cameras are currently supported can be found in the Lightroom 3 beta 2 release notes.

Using Tethered Capture is relatively easy. First, you choose Library -> Tethered Capture. This opens the Tethered Capture Settings panel (shown in figure 2 below), which is used to configure the location for storing the captured photos, any metadata that wish to apply, etc.

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Figure 2 - Tethered Capture Settings

When the settings panel is configured to your requirements, click the OK button. At this point the Tethered Capture control panel will open (shown in figure 3 below). Pressing the large silver button will trigger the camera shutter, as will pressing the Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+T keyboard combination. The Develop Settings pop-up menu  is used to choose from any of the Camera Raw profiles already installed on your computer.

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Figure 3 - Tethered Capture control panel

The control panel can be hidden by clicking on the circle button located below the Close (X) button on the right side of the panel. Alternatively, the panel can be hidden by pressing on the Cmd/Ctrl+T keys.  Unfortunately, the control panel doesn't support remote adjustment of camera controls such as shutter speed, aperture or ISO nor does it support the "Live View" feature found in many recent DSLRs.

Video File Support

Another commonly requested feature  that has made its way into beta 2 is support for Video Files. However, as with Tethered Capture the support for video files is rather limited. In short, you can import the video files, view the index frame as a thumbnail in Grid view or full-size in Loupe view (shown in figure 4 below), and export the files in their original format.

To view the video file, you press the camera badge either on the thumbnail or loupe window. This will launch an external viewer such as QuickTime (Mac) or Windows Media Player (Windows). In addition to playing video files through the external viewer you can apply metadata, keywords, ratings and labels.

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Figure 4 - Video file support

Import

The first beta of Lightroom 3 introduced a completely redesigned import dialog and this second beta makes a number of usability refinements, which I'll get to in a moment. The concept underlying the new import dialog was to make it look and feel like it was part of Lightroom. In many ways the development team achieved their objective, but some users would have liked them to go further. For example, a common beta 1 request was that the dialog could be resized and have adjustable side panels, etc. Alas, most of this type of request goes well beyond the scope of changes that the development team have scope to undertake. On a more positive note, import performance and usability were two areas that came in for a good deal of criticism, and I'm pleased to report that both have been significantly improved in beta 2. The following is a summary of improvements made since beta 1:

  • Folder browsing view has been significantly improved to allow a clear view of folder hierarchy and the ability to quickly minimise the hierarchy view by double clicking or "docking" a folder. The performance of this view has also been improved

  • Default selections have been improved so that the import experience waits for a folder selection before scanning for photos and remembers the last folder you visited

  • The performance of importing your photos into Lightroom has been improved significantly when copying from an external card or just adding a folder from its current location

  • Importís compact view is more powerful, allowing access to important, commonly used fields that can be customised on a per import basis while still relying on the fundamental choices provided by an import preset

By default, the import dialog will open into the expanded mode (shown in figure 5 below). This view makes it much easier to visualise the whole process of importing your images. The Source devices and volumes are listed on the left side and Destination on the right side panel tracks. It's also important to note that, unlike Lightroom 1 and 2, which only gave access to folders that contained photos, Lightroom 3 displays all disk drives and folders, irrespective of whether they contain photos or not. This applies to both the source and destinations panels. Some users have found this behaviour quite irritating, whereas others have recognised the benefits of being able to look across the entire disk drive and folder structure on their computer or network. In effect, the import dialog has become a File Browser, albeit limited in what it can do with the files and folders.

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Figure 5 - Expanded view of Lightroom 3 Import dialog

The thumbnail (Grid) view of the photos is located in between the two panel tracks. From here, individual photos can be included or excluded by clicking on the checkmark. However, it's also possible to use keyboard shortcuts whilst scrolling through the thumbnails (e.g. P = Pick, U = Unpick, X = Unpick). Holding down the Shift key whilst applying a shortcut will auto advance to next photo. Applying develop presets, keywords, metadata, etc is all done on dedicated panels within the Destination panel track. Likewise renaming photos on import and defining the initial preview size. It's even possible to switch between Grid view (G) and Loupe view (E), and there is even a zoom tool (Spacebar) that allows scaling from 1:4 through 11:1. With beta 2 loupe view is also possible when browsing a Compact Flash or SD memory card.

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Figure 6 - Import dialog in File Browser Loupe mode

In addition to the expanded mode Adobe have also included a compact mode (shown in figure 7 below). This mode removes most of the complexity associated with the Source and Destination panels. The idea with this arrangement is that the source and destination can be quickly identified via Import Presets that will already have been configured by the user.

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Figure 7 - Import dialog Compact mode

Readers already familiar with the new import dialog will probably be thinking that beta 2 is more of the same. Well, as mentioned above a lot has changed since beta 1, but much of it is subtle and a lot of it not immediately obvious to the user. For example, the performance enhancements only become apparent when you browse folders with large numbers of photos (i.e. thumbnails and photo enumeration has been speeded up significantly). A more obvious enhancement can be seen in Grid view. Actually,  there are now three alternative Grid views i.e., All Photos, New Photos and Destination Folders. The first (All Photos) lets you see all of the photos within a given folder or subfolder. By default, if a photo is already in the catalog it will be greyed out and unchecked. The second view (New Photos) only shows photos that are not already in the catalog. This is the default view when the import dialog is accessed from the Synchronize Folder command. The last thumbnail view (Destination Folders) separates the photos into the folder structure that you've chosen in the Destination panel.

 

 

 

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All Photos - click for larger view

New Photos - click for larger view

Destination - click for larger view

Figures 8a - 8c - Import dialog Grid views

Also, for beta 2 a few additional options have been added to Compact mode (e.g. keywords, metadata preset, folder organisation, etc). So, not only does the import dialog in beta 2 now look as if it belongs in Lightroom, but the functionality and usability enhancements should address many of the criticisms levelled at beta 1.

Lightroom 3 beta 2 will import the following file formats:

  • JPEG

  • TIFF (8 bit and 16 bit)

  • PSD (8 bit and 16 bit)

  • DSLR video files

  • DNG

  • Raw files from supported cameras (visit http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html for a full list of raw file support. File support for Lightroom 3 beta, aligns with Lightroom 2.5 and Camera Raw 5.5)

In addition to RGB, Lightroom 3 beta 2 will also allow the import of CMYK*, LAB and Greyscale files.

* Any output, with the exception of export original, or develop adjustments to these files will take place in an RGB color space.

Publish Services

Publish Services was new to beta 1 and is intended to allow you to easily publish photos to your favourite file sharing site directly from within the Lightroom Library module. Lightroom 3 beta 2 ships with an enhanced version of the Flikr plug-in. This plug-in gives you direct access to the Flickr photo sharing site. Obviously, you will need a Flickr account before the feature can be used. To set up the connection within Lightroom 3 beta 2 is fairly straightforward in as much as all you need to do is click on the Flickr Set Up button within the Publish Collections panel. Pressing the button will open the Lightroom Publishing Manager window as shown in figure 9 below. The two most obvious changes to be seen in the Publish Manager panel are the addition of the Flickr title fields and an option to limit the size of the export files. This latter option is also available within the Export dialog.

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Figure 9 - Lightroom Publishing Manager (click for larger view)

The name you use within the Publishing Manager must be the same name as you use when connecting to Flickr via a web browser. The account must also be activated from within Lightroom before your Flickr Photostream will become available within the Publish Collection panel. Once the account has been activated publishing your photos to Flickr is a simple matter of dragging your photos on to the Photostream collection then pressing the Publish button. Lightroom 3 beta 2 will automatically begin the process of uploading the photos to Flickr. Figure 10 below shows how Lightroom 3 beta 2 displays the progress of the upload.

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Figure 10 - Display of  Photo Publishing in progress

Viewing the photos after they have been published to Flickr is relatively straightforward - right click on the Photostream to open the context menu then choose Go to Published Collection. Assuming you have an active internet connection Lightroom will launch your default web browser at the Flickr page containing your photos.

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Figure 11 - View Published images at Flickr

Clicking on the Publish button any time after the photos have been published to Flickr will import any comments, ratings, etc that viewer may have posted to your Photostream. These will be displayed in the dedicated Comments panel located on the right side panel track, just below the Metadata panel (see figure 12 below). Flickr Pro Account holders can subsequently modify their photos and republish them to Flickr using the same procedure as described above.

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Figure 12 - Photostream Comments

Prior to Adobe including this feature in Lightroom I had never used my Flickr Pro account, but having the ability to manage photos from within the application was too good an opportunity to miss. You can view some of my photo galleries at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ian_lyons/ All of these galleries were uploaded and managed from within the Lightroom 3 beta.

Library Filter Bar

The Library Filter Bar was first added in Lightroom 2. At the time many were critical of the amount of screen area that it took up, but were even more vociferous in their criticism of the developers decision to make the metadata filter operate at local level. Even worse was the decision to make the filter sticky. Thankfully, the latter two criticisms were addressed in beta 1. By toggling the padlock button on the top right corner open/close you can dictate whether Lightroom will apply the selected filter to an individual folders/collections (local) or to all folders/collections (global).

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Figure 13 - Library Filter Bar (Metadata view)

For beta 2, a new Video File filter has been added to the Attributes section of the Library Filter Bar. It's shown in figure 14 below as the icon with the red boundary. Clicking on this icon when viewing particular folder/collection will display all video files in that folder/collection. Clicking on it when viewing All Photographs will return all video files contained within your catalog.

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Figure 14 - Library Filter Bar (Attribute view)

The Filter Bar is undoubtedly quite powerful, but it is also somewhat obtuse in terms of how it works. For example, many users struggle to get their heads around the filter logic found within the Text section. Anyway, for the benefit of new users, it's worth repeating some of the description I provided in my review of Lightroom 2.

There are four sections to the Filter Bar: Text, Attributes, Metadata and None. The first three are used for a filtered search of the contents of your catalog and the last (i.e. None) is used to switch the Filter Bar off. The Filter Bar is activated from the Library>View menu or by pressing on the '\' key. You can use the Cmd/Ctrl+L keyboard combination to toggle on/off the last filter you used.

By default, the Metadata filter contains four columns, but is easily configured to display between 1 and 8 columns (i.e. via menu on the top right corner of each column). The actual column layout can be saved as a custom preset by clicking on the Custom Filter pop-up located on the top right corner of the Filter Bar. Figure 13 above shows an example of the Metadata filter in use.

One of the most useful aspects of  the Filter Bar is filtering by keyword. The Filter Bar uses 'AND' between the columns and filtering within a column is an 'OR' function (i.e. hold down Ctrl/Cmd key then make appropriate selections within column). Using multiple keyword columns it is therefore possible for both 'AND' and 'OR' keyword filtering.

As mentioned above, the Filter Bar is also the location in which text based searches and attribute based filtering is carried out. The rule set for text based searches has changed little since Lightroom 1.x and they remain relatively self explanatory. However, it's worth mentioning a few of the less obvious filtering rules that come in handy for fine-tuned searches within the text entry field. For example, placing a '+' at the beginning of a word is the same as Starts With, placing a '+' at the the end of a word is the same as Ends With, and placing a '!' at the beginning of a word is the same as Doesn't Contain. Also, worth noting that the Attribute bar now contains White and Gray label chips for Custom Label and No Label respectively. Finally, multiple filters are activated by shift clicking the respective filter name (e.g. click Text then Shift+click Attribute followed by Shift+click Metadata).

Watermark Editor

 

The Watermark Editor first seen in beta 1 has undergone a fair amount of remodelling. With this new enhanced watermark editor you can apply a text or graphical watermark directly to a photograph. In addition to providing support for adjusting the size, orientation, location and opacity the watermark editor can also used to add creative effects such as a shadow. The watermark can be anchored in up to nine positions around the image or specific insets. Another new feature to beta 2 is, the size of the watermark can be set proportionally or to fit or fill the photo dimensions. Saved watermarks can be applied from within the Slideshow, Print, Web and Export modules. In figure 16 I show a sample watermark applied to a photo in the Print module.

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Figure 15 - Watermark Editor (click for larger view)

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Figure 16 - Watermarking a photo in Print module

Develop Module

As discussed above, the main changes within the Develop module are associated with the new raw image processing, noise reduction and sharpening algorithms. Beta 1 introduced these new algorithms along with an additional colour noise adjustment slider. With beta 2 we find that the promised luminance noise feature has been added, and with it, two additional sliders called Detail and Contrast.

On their own, colour noise and luminance noise are a substantial improvement over their predecessors, but together and in combination with the new sharpening algorithm they take image quality to a new level. Typically, details and textures are much cleaner, crisper and more natural. To see these new algorithms at there best I recommend that you make some prints.

Tip - it must be noted that these new algorithms only apply when editing a process version 2010 photo

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Figure 17 - Detail Panel

With five sliders available you could be forgiven for being confused, not to worry a description of each follows:

Luminance - Controls amount (or "volume") of luminance noise reduction applied. Lr3 has been tuned so that a setting of 25 is a reasonable balance of noise reduction applied, and detail preserved. This also means that the extra range between 25 and 100 can be used to control how much additional noise reduction to apply. A value of 0 means "do not apply any luminance noise reduction." When set to 0, the Luminance Detail and Luminance Contrast sliders should become disabled (greyed out). This slider is always enabled (for both process version 2003 and 2010). The default value is 0 (i.e., off).

Luminance Detail - Sets the noise threshold. Dragging the slider to right will preserve more details; however, doing so may cause noisy areas of the photo to be incorrectly detected as details (and hence will not be smoothed). Drag to left to increase smoothing; however, doing so may cause real details to be incorrectly detected as noise (and hence will be smoothed out). Other notes: effect mainly observable only on very noisy images. This slider is new to Lr 3. This slider will be disabled when photo is process version 2003, or when the Luminance slider (see above) is set to 0. The default value is 50.

Luminance Contrast - Dragging this slider to the right will help preserve contrast and texture; however, it may also increase perceived "noise blobs" or mottling in high ISO images. Dragging it to left when you want to achieve very smooth, fine-grained results; however, it may lose local contrast and textures may get smoothed out. As with Luminance Detail, results more noticeable on very noisy images (e.g., above ISO 6400 on a DSLR). This slider is new to Lr 3. This slider will be disabled when photo is process version 2003, or when the Luminance slider (see above) is set to 0. The default value is 0.

Color - It is designed so that its default value of 25 does a "pretty good" amount of colour noise reduction, balancing the competing requirements of suppressing ugly colour noise blobs whilst maintaining colour edge detail. Setting the slider to 0 means that no colour noise reduction will be applied at all. Setting the slider to higher values than 25 means that much more aggressive colour NR will be applied. However, doing so will likely cause "colour bleeding" at edges. The default value is 25 for raw files and 0 for non-raw files.

Color Detail (formerly Edge Detail) - This control is mostly useful only for extremely noisy photos. It allows users to refine colour NR for thin, detailed colour edges. At high settings (e.g., 75 to 100), it will try to retain colour detail in edges, but this may cause pixel-level "colour speckles" to remain in the photo. At low settings (e.g., 0 to 25), it will suppress these small isolated colour speckles, but thin features in the photo may become desaturated (i.e., some colour bleeding at fine edges). For testing purposes, Adobe suggests you try zooming to 400% pixel view to get a clearer understanding of the effect. This slider is new to Lr 3. The implementation has been changed since beta 1 to be more noticeable. This slider will be disabled for process version 2003 photos, or when the Color slider is set to 0. The default value is 50.

Figure 18 below shows a comparison between the old and new colour noise algorithms. The photos was shot on a Canon EOS5 Mk11 at 3200 ISO in quite poor lighting conditions. The color noise and sharpening are at default settings. Even allowing for JPG compression associated with the screen shots it should be pretty obvious that the new colour noise algorithms are vastly superior to the old. Figure 19 compares the same photo, but this time with a luminance noise adjustment of 25 applied. The left version uses default sharpening and the right has sharpening slider set to 50 and radius at 0.8

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Figure 18 - Comparison between Colour Noise in Lightroom 2.6 (i.e., PV 2003) and Lightroom 3 Beta 2 (default noise/sharpening settings)

 

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Figure 19 - Left image includes Luminance Noise/Sharpening at 25/25 - Right image includes Luminance Noise/Sharpening at 25/50

Process Versions

I have mentioned Process Versions and the new naming convention a few times earlier in this feature review. In this section I'm concentrating on the other changes that have been introduced in beta 2.

Adobe received quite a bit of feedback from photographers confused by the process version options in the first Lightroom 3 beta so, in addition to new names, they made several improvements with the aim of ensuring that photographers can access the best raw processing quickly and easily. The improvements are summarised below:

  • The graphic to let you know that the current image selected in the Develop module is a previous process version has been enhanced and relocated to a more prominent position over the lower right corner of the image (shown on figure 18 above).

  • Clicking on the process version graphic provides additional details (shown on figure 20 below) about what will happen if you should chose to update to the current process version, the ability to see a before/after view of the old and new process versions and the ability to update all the selected images or all of the images in the filmstrip at the same.

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Figure 20 - Update Process Version

Point Curve

It's been asked for nearly as long as Lightroom has been around, and finally we have it - and adjustable point curve. The parametric curve (i.e. original) operates as it always has, via sliders, by clicking on the curve and dragging up/down or using the Target Adjustment Tool (TAT). The advantage of this approach is that the adjustment of the curve is constrained to predefined limits, which have been optimised to prevent detrimental adjustments to the shadow, mid-tone and highlight regions. However, the in-built constraints occasionally prevent the user from making fine adjustments to specific parts of the tone curve. With the point curve very fine adjustments to specific parts of the curve are possible because you can set your own limits (lock points) and adjust the curve within them. Even greater control can obtained when you hold down the Alt/Option key while adjusting the curve. This flexibility, unlike the parametric curve, means that is possible to over adjust, thus causing some fairly extreme results. Some users may actually like what happens and use the point curve for creative effects.

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Parametric Curve

Point Curve

Figure 21 - Enhanced Tone Curve

Local Adjustments

The Local Adjustment tools were updated for beta 1 with the removal of the button sets and Amount slider. Since there was little, if any adverse feedback no further changes were made to this aspect. That doesn't mean that there have been no changes, only that they may not be immediately obvious.  Enhancement to local adjustments include:

  • The  Color palette is filled with a cross (X) to indicate that not colour has been selected for the brush or graduate.

  • The adjustment brush and graduate filter sliders can be reset by holding down Option/Alt and clicking on Effect (Reset)

  • Double click on adjustment name (e.g. Exposure) to reset individual sliders

  • Sharpness values between 0 and -50 will remove any capture sharpening applied via global sharpening. Values between -50 and -100 will blur the area you brush (similar effect to lens blur)

  • Additional brush strokes or gradients (stacking multiple pins) to strengthen the effect of the first

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Adjustment Brush

Graduate Filter

Figure 22 - Local Adjustment Tools

The Gradient Tool and Adjustment Brush have their own set of keyboard shortcuts, with the following being the most important:

  • Open Adjustment Brush - K

  • Open Gradient Tool - M

  • Show/hide Pin - H

  • Increase/decrease brush size -  ] / [

  • Increase/decrease feather - Shift+] / Shift+[

  • Commit a brush stroke or gradient and/or start new - Enter

  • Delete selected pin - Delete

  • Holding down - Alt/Option key activates erase mode

  • Toggle Auto Mask On/Off - A

  • Pressing 'O' toggles on/off the overlay

  • Shift+O cycles through alternative colours for overlay

  • Constrain gradient to vertical - hold down Shift plus drag

  • Invert gradient - '

  • Scale from centre - Alt/Option plus drag

Post Crop Vignette

Post-crop vignette was introduced in Lightroom 2, but many users complained that the manner in which it was implemented did not properly reflect the desired effect. In particular, photographers wanted a tool that increased/decreased exposure/brightness rather than simply paining black or white into the image corners. Adobe thought they had addressed the earlier shortcomings in beta 1, but user feedback quickly dispelled this idea. With beta 2 they have reinstated the original post-crop vignette style. So, we now have three vignette styles, i.e. Highlight Priority (default), Colour Priority and Paint Overlay (original). Highlight priority is intended to produce vignettes similar to what you would get with lens vignetting. Colour Priority produces a similar effect, but is designed avoid hue shifts. Figures 23 and 24 show the first two styles with the same settings applied.

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Figure 23 - Highlight Priority Post-crop Vignette

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Figure 24 - Color Priority Post-crop Vignette

Other Develop module enhancements include:

  • Crop presets choices have been edited for clarity

  • A checkbox has been added to the toolbar to turn on/off overlay visibility

  • The targeted adjustment tool is deactivated when switching to a new Develop panel

  • Keyboard shortcut (X) to flip Crop Orientation

  • Return of original Paint Overlay post-crop vignette command

  • In the 2010 Process Version, the algorithms for Fill Light and Highlight Recovery have been changed to reduce the possibility of tone inversions. You will likely need to fine tune the settings on these sliders after you upgrade the process version

Lens Corrections

On 27th April Tom Hogarty, the Lightroom Product Manager, blogged about a yet unseen feature to be included in the final release version of Lightroom 3. You can read his comments on the Lightroom Journal  This new feature is Lens Corrections. Unfortunately, I can't provide any further information at this time, but Tom has provided a demonstration video. The video use Camera Raw 6.x, but the features described will also available in Lightroom 3.

Slideshow Module

Beta 1 added the ability to export your slideshows from Lightroom 3 beta as HD video. In addition, the link to iTunes was been broken which means that incorporating your music tracks is much easier than it was in the past. Double clicking on the music track duration will automatically adjust the slide change time so that the slideshow duration matches the music. In beta 2, the Playback panel has been enhanced to include new buttons for selecting the music and automatically adjusting the slide change time. A palette tile and checkbox has also been included to enable the user to add colour fades.

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Figure 25 - Enhanced slideshow Playback panel

Other Slideshow module enhancements include:

  • Watermark editing extended to Slideshow module

  • An option to prepare previews in advance will ensure that a slideshow is never interrupted waiting for image information to render to the display

  • Developers can now use ActionScript 3 galleries in the Web Module

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Figure 26 - Export slideshow as HD video

Print Module

The last new feature I want to discuss is Custom Print Package. Like the Watermark Editor mentioned earlier the custom print package has been high up the request list from very early days. Laying out a page is relatively easy in so far as you can add Cells of various sizes using the button set located within the Cells panel. Once the cells are in place you can drag the images into them. Alternatively, you can create a free-form layout by dragging the images directly to a blank page then resizing them to taste. Figure 27 below shows fairly simple free-form layout containing 3 images of slightly differing size.

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Figure 27 - Custom Print Package

Other minor, but nonetheless important enhancements to the Print module include:

  • Black or a custom color can be selected for a print layout background

  • The Identity Plate can be moved in small increments by selecting it and using the arrow keys

  • Match photo aspect ratio is now a persistent option in the Cell panel

  • Maximum print resolution increased to 720ppi

  • Rotate to Fit option and a Rotate Cell command were added to the custom print package layout tools

Additional information

Remember Rule 5 - Enjoy!

Adobe Community Professional

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