A Computer Darkroom Feature Preview

It doesn't seem like all that long ago that Photoshop Lightroom 5 went into public beta. Yet, here we are just under two months later and the GM is available. Has anything new been added or changed in the interim?


So what's new and enhanced?

With previous versions Adobe tended to hold one or two headline features back for the GM version, but with Lightroom 5 this isn't the case. Sure, we've got a new logo and a few tweaks to the UI, but nothing more substantive. If you're disappointed by that statement then please keep in mind that the time between Lightroom 4 and 5 shipping is much shorter than has been the case in the past.

Lightroom 4 was predominantly about Soft Proofing, Books, Geotagging, Video and Develop module module enhancements. This time round Adobe have focused their attention on performance within the Develop module. Obviously, this isn't the only aspect that  has seen improvement, but the fact that attention has been paid to this particular area should please a lot of photographers.

The following table lists the headline features included in Lightroom 5:

Library & Workflow:

  • PNG Support - Lightroom can now import PNG files and also includes support for transparency.


  • Full Screen Mode - A true full screen mode is available via the a single key stroke (F).


  • User Configurable Grid Overlays - drag-able view overlays available within loupe view in Library module, and within the Develop module when using Tethered connection with camera.


  • Windows HiDPI Support - Support for Windows 150% and 200% resolution.


  • New Smart Collection Criteria.


  • Other features and JDIs.




  • Smart Previews - Lightweight images that can be used in place of the original raw files throughout the application, including the Develop Module.


  • Two types of Spot - Spot healing now includes the ability to brush arbitrary shapes (e.g. telephone lines) along with circular spots (dust)


  • Radial Filter - this new toll appears in the Histogram Toolbar between the Graduated Filter and the Adjustment Brush. Radial Filter allows users to apply existing local adjustment attributes to a circular mask with a feathered falloff. Users can now create off-centre vignettes, among other effects.


  • Upright - this is a technology that straightens pictures automatically. Common use cases include fixing horizons (to avoid "tilted pictures") and straightening buildings (to avoid the "keystone" effect).


  • LAB Colour Readout - the Develop module histogram now supports LAB colour values


  • Aspect Correction - a slider was added to the Lens Correction Manual Tab. Slider allows for small aspect ratio change that helps to improve image appearance. Dragging to the left should make things look more "squat" and dragging to the right should make things look taller and skinnier.




  • Improved Text Creation in Book Module - transparent Buttons for "Page Text" and if a photo exists on the page, "Photo Text". These are linked to the existing Page Text and Photo Text controls and are designed to help make the text experience in Lightroom easier to use.


  • User Created Page Templates - after modifying a page template (for example, by changing the cell padding), you can now save the modified template as a Custom User Page.


  • Video in Slideshow - users can now add video to their slideshows


  • Enhanced Blurb Support - Ability to print books with Blurb’s "Standard" paper stock. This is a lighter weight option than "Premium Luster" and may provide some customers with a less expensive option.

Ideally, you should refer to the Lightroom 5 Release Notes for a more comprehensive list of new new features and enhancements. Especially, since they'll also include information on Known Issues and limitations.

OK, and at the risk of repeating myself, the list shown above is definitely not as extensive as we've come to expect, but  don't let it fool you into thinking that this is a lightweight upgrade. Far from it, the engineering work that has gone into Smart Previews hopefully lays the foundations for some much need performance enhancements. In fact, even those with hardware meeting the minimum specifications should find that performance in the Develop module is much better than earlier versions.

Lightroom 5 System Requirements

When the public beta was released I expected a fair amount of grumbling when users, especially those using the Mac platform, read Lightroom's new system requirements. In particular, the fact that Lightroom can no longer run in OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard). Sure enough, the screams of foul rang out for a few weeks, but eventually folk began to accept the inevitable. For those who missed them first time round, the official list of system requirements for both platforms is shown below.


  • Multicore Intel® processor with 64-bit support

  • Mac OS X v10.7 (Lion) or v10.8 (Mountain Lion)

  • 2GB of RAM (ideally 4GB)

  • 2GB of available hard-disk space

  • 1024x768 display

  • Internet connection

  • DVD-ROM drive


  • Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor

  • Microsoft® Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 or Windows 8

  • 2GB of RAM (ideally 4GB)

  • 2GB of available hard-disk space

  • 1024x768 display

  • Internet connection

  • DVD-ROM drive

The Internet connection is required for Internet-based services such as Books and Maps.

Upgrading Existing Catalogs

Unlike the public beta the GM version of Lightroom 5 can update catalogs from previous versions, which includes Lr5 beta catalogs. The actual process of upgrading an existing catalog is fairly straight forward, albeit a bit time consuming. It's also worth mentioning that your existing catalog will not be replaced or even deleted during upgrade. Therefore, if a problem occurs during the upgrade you'll still be able to use the older catalog.

Library Module and Workflow Enhancements

As mentioned above, the Lightroom UI hasn't seen much in the way of change since Lightroom 1. Sure, we've had new modules, new panels, etc, but the ability for user configuration is still absent. Personally, I don't have a problem with this, but I know a lot of users do. Anyway, there is no point in dwelling on what hasn't happened, especially when there's plenty of new stuff to drool over.


Lightroom 5 - Library Module Loupe View

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 images can be viewed in the Library in various modes or views. These include the now familiar  Grid view (G), Loupe view (E), Compare view (C) and Survey view (N). Each of these views is intended for a specific purpose, but users may find one view more useful than others. For example, Grid view allows the user to see large numbers of images as thumbnails whilst at the same time providing a workspace for applying metadata, labels, ratings, keywords, flags and even quick development adjustments to images in bulk. As with previous versions of Lightroom, the Loupe view restricts these actions to a single image. Compare and Survey views are designed to make the tasks of rating and flagging easier.


Grid Overlay in Loupe View

One very welcome addition to the Library module is the ability to overlay a grid in loupe view (see above screen grab). The grid is user configurable using a slider located on the toolbar just below the content area. To activate Grid Overlay just click on the toolbar drop down menu and pick the relevant menu item.  Modify the size of the gridlines by holding the command/control key and click "Size" while dragging the mouse to the left (to decrease) or right (to increase). This also works for the adjusting the opacity (Cmd/Ctrl + Option/Alt + 0 keyboard shortcut)

Smart Collections

Smart Collections are an important workflow tool, but have seen little love for a few versions now. However, with Lightroom 5, Adobe have enhanced smart collections with some new criteria:

  • Image size (in megapixels)

  • Bit Depth

  • Number of color channels

  • Colour Profile

  • Smart Preview status* (Filter-> Smart Preview Status)

  • PNG* (Filter -> File Type)

* also available as  filters

Smart Previews

Smart previews is an all new feature in Lightroom designed to help users with large numbers of files that they may wish to edit whilst away from their desktop computer. In the past this has meant that the user had to maintain copies of their images on a portable disk drive, which was then taken with them when on the road or away from their normal workplace. When files were relatively small this wasn't a big problem but photo libraries containing tens or even hundreds of thousands of files the ability  to transport all files was becoming increasing difficult, if not impossible. Obviously, Adobe have recognised the problem and for Lightroom 5 set about making it less of a issue.

Smart Previews are lightweight files that can be used in place of the original raw files throughout the application, including the Develop Module. They reside in the same folder as the catalog and are contained in a 'lrdata' file folder structure. This is similar to the existing Preview file structure. If available, the original files are prioritised above Smart Previews and will be used when available. When the original files are not available the Smart Preview will be used. Any edits applied to the Smart Preview will be saved to the Lightroom catalog. When the original files are reconnected these edits will be automatically applied to the original. Smart Previews are Lossy DNG files and are currently limited to 2540 pixels on the long side.

Smart Previews can be created during or after import, and files having an original and smart preview can be recognised by a note under the histogram (Library and Develop modules).


Original and Smart Preview Available

When only the smart preview is available (e.g. photos offline), files with smart previews can be recognised by the black rectangle on top left corner of thumbnail or the note under the histogram.


Smart Previews Only Available

To create the smart previews during import - check the "Build Smart Previews" field in the File Handling panel. This checkbox is off by default and is persistent between Import sessions. The checkbox should revert to off in between Lightroom sessions. Within Preferences, check the "Build Smart Previews during Import" option. When enabled, this will make the "Build Smart Previews" checkbox enabled by default within the Import dialog. You can still uncheck this on a per session basis, but it will revert back to the default on Lightroom restart. To create smart previews after import - in Library, go to the Library-> Previews -> Build Smart Previews menu command

When exporting to catalog, there is a "Build Smart Previews" checkbox available. This will create a new catalog and the Smart Preview lrdata file will be contained in the same folder as the new catalog.

Keyword List Filter

One of the most irritating aspects of the 'Filter Keyword' feature in Lightroom is the fact that it filters on letter sequences irrespective of whether they're the first letters in a word or just appear somewhere within it. An example, say I’m searching for the keyword 'el rancho'. One of the keywords returned by Lightroom is 'religious person'. Now you might well ask - why did Lightroom display 'religious person' as a match for 'el rancho'? Simple answer - the sequence of letters 'el' appear in 'religious'. I could equally have been searching for 'eel' (as in fish). In this instance, the filter would return words like - 'stainless steel', 'wagon wheel', 'wheeline irrigation', and 'prayer wheels'. The list of inappropriate suggestions goes on and on.

So, having drawn your attention to above quirk in Lightroom behaviour you might expect that I'm going to announce that it's been fixed. Sorry, to disappoint - it hasn't! No, instead of fixing the silliness, the engineers have focused their attention on another aspect of keyword filtering namely 'keywords inside matches'. Now this, for some, might well be a dream come true, but for me... The new feature or tweak is a drop-down option within the 'Filter Keywords' search field. When enabled, 'Show all keywords inside matches' will result in Lightroom displaying all matches for the word being searched for plus any that are contained within it (i.e. child keywords within the hierarchy). The screen grab shown below demonstrates how it works. The first tab shows my top level keyword list, the second shows what Lightroom will filter if I search for the word 'civic', and the last shows the list of child keywords within 'civic buildings'.


Enhanced Keyword List filter

Other Features and JDIs in Library

  • Upon hiding the Filter bar, an overlay bezel informs users that the Filter Bar is hidden and can be restored using the / keyboard shortcut. This occurs in Library, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print and Web.

  • Upon hiding the Toolbar, an overlay bezel informs customers that the Toolbar is hidden can be restored using the T keyboard shortcut. This occurs in all Lightroom 5 modules.

  • A new menu item has been added to the View menu called Lock Zoom Position. If the menu item is checked, the zoom position of each image will be remembered, and when switching between images, the loupe view will be centered on the point you clicked last time.

  • New keyboard shortcut 'F12' to trigger tethered capture.

  • A Direction field has been added to the EXIF Metadata panel. Obviously, this only appears when the files contains GPS with directional data. This field will show the compass directions as one of 8 options (North, Northwest, West, etc.). The degree value will shown as a tooltip on mouse hover. The "Direction" EXIF metadata field is editable. The 8 compass directions (North, North-west, east, etc.) are the only values that can be entered in this field. This field can be synced across multiple images using the "Sync Metadata" button.

  • A new new Import option has been added to Preferences. When Show the 'Current/Previous Import' collection during Import" is checked, the customer is shown their newly imported photos. When unchecked, the photos are still imported, but the focus will remain on the last previously viewed images (prior to Import).

  • Photos can be dragged directly to Saved Locations and Saved Locations can be dragged to photos. In both cases, the photo will receive the same location as the already defined "Saved Location".

  • There is now a command to verify the integrity of DNG files (Library>Validate DNG Files). Any invalid DNG files will be placed in a special collection. Only DNG files created by Adobe software can be validated. Note that camera-created DNGs cannot be validated because they do not contain the necessary checksum).

Develop Module

I have already mentioned Smart Previews, which, when available will significantly reduce the initial rendering of files in the Develop module. However, smart previews are only a small part of the story for the Develop module. The three headline features in Develop are:

  1. Upright,

  2. Radial Filter, and

  3. Advanced Healing Brush


Adobe first introduced serious lens correction tools when they released Lightroom 3. These were further enhanced in Lightroom 4, but even then some of the most difficult corrections depended on user interaction via sliders. However, even the most skilful user often found dealing with the corrections necessary to fix perspective or even the poor choice of lens were extremely difficult, if not impossible. Wouldn't it be nice to have such corrections dealt with automatically? Well, with Lightroom 5 many of the most awkward corrections can be automatically fixed with the click of a button. A close-up view of the Upright tool panel along example of Upright in use is shown below.

Upright tools in Lens Corrections panel

When the user presses Auto button within the Basic tab the Upright tool will analyse the image to determine the optimum correction based on the best balance between level and perspective. In many cases the auto button will be sufficient. However, in some situations the Level or Vertical will produce the best results, and in others Full will be best. Each button has a short tooltip describing what it does.


Upright - Basic tab in Lens Corrections - Before view (click image for larger view)


Upright - Basic tab in Lens Corrections - After view (click image for larger view)

In above example, Auto mode produced the best results. However, with other similar images the best result was produced by Vertical mode.  The purpose of me restating this is to enforce the point that the best results results may not always come from the most likely mode.

Usage Instructions:
  • Within Develop -> Lens Corrections panel, ensure Enable Profile Correction is checked. Upright works best when lens profile is enabled.

  • Ensure that the image has not been cropped or manually transformed. Applying Upright will reset any crop or manual transform adjustments

  • Click on one of the 4 mode buttons to apply a correction.

  • Tweak (if necessary) using the Manual transforms available in the "Manual" tab.

  • The Reanalyze button is helpful if you enable/disable Lens Correction. Reanalyze will force Upright to calculate a new transformation.

Upright Modes:
  • Off: Upright is disabled (no adjustment). This is the default option.

  • Auto: Apply an automatic "balanced" correction to the image. It generally tries to level the image and fix converging horizontal and vertical lines, but will be conservative (e.g., it will not completely fix converging verticals if doing so would involve an overly strong correction that would result in distorting too many image features). In general, Auto will not be the same as Full, Level, or Vertical.

  • Full: Apply a full 3D correction to the image (level + fix converging horizontals and verticals), even if it involves an extremely strong correction (large rotations).

  • Level: Level the image (i.e., fix tilts). Similar to an automatic application of the Straighten tool (crop panel) or using the Rotate slider (Manual tab). Does not fix converging horizontals/verticals.

  • Vertical: Combines the levelling step (see previous item) with fixing converging verticals.

Copy/Sync Behaviour:
  • 'Upright Mode' will utilize the same Upright mode as part of the preset or copy/sync. Each image will be independently analyzed to determine the best transform based on the Upright mode chosen.

  • 'Upright Transforms' utilizes the Upright transformation from that image for presets and copy/sync. Each image will utilize the exact same transformation.

Radial Filter

The new Radial Filter can be access from the Develop module toolbar. It's located between the Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush. The purpose of this new tool is to allow Lightroom users to apply local adjustments to a masked area rather than via a brush. While the tool will usually find use in allowing the user to apply off centre vignettes it will also enable more creative effects to be applied (e.g. highlight multiple areas within an image). The shape, size, rotation angle and edge feathering of the Radial Filter can all be configured by the user.


Radial Filter (click for larger view)

Usage instructions:
  • Select the tool and drag out a bounding ellipse or command/Ctrl + double-click on the image to set the bounding ellipse to the image bounds

  • Bounding ellipse can then be manipulated in the same way as the Crop overlay

Keyboard Shortcuts:

  • Shift + M - Expand Radial Filter tool

  • Drag - Radial Filter is scaled from centre

  • Cmd/Ctrl + double-click: Expand Radial Filter to visible image area

  • Cmd/Ctrl + double-click on existing Radial Filter - Expand to visible image area

  • Option/Alt + Cmd/Ctrl + Drag: Duplicate Radial Filter

  • H - Hide Bounding Box

  • Apostrophe key ( ' ) - Invert Mask

  • Double-click on existing Radial Filter - Apply & dismiss Radial Filter

Advanced Healing Brush

The last of the new headline features that I want to discuss is the Advanced Healing brush. In previous versions of Lightroom it was only possible heal or clone circular defects such as dust spots. However, if  more complex shaped defects were present in the image then it would need to be edited using Photoshop's much more powerful and flexible tools. With Lightroom 5 this shortcoming has been partially addressed in that we now have brush tool that can be used to heal non circular objects. The following screen grab shows an example before and after view of an image with contrails.


Advanced Healing Brush in use

  • Usage options:

    • Click + Drag - create brush spot

    • Single click - create a circle spot from auto-find source

    • Shift + Click - connect the selected spot with the new spot via a straight brush stroke

    • Cmd/Ctrl + Drag - Create a circle spot from user-defined source

    • Cmd/Ctrl + Option + Drag: Create a circle spot that scales from centre

    • Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Drag: Create a circle spot that scales from anchor

    • Backslash (/) - select new source for existing circle or brush spot

    • Shift + Drag - Constrain brush spot to horizontal or vertical axis

  • Deletion

    • Option/Alt + Click - delete spot

    • Option/Alt + Drag -  Marquee batch-delete multiple spots

  • New visualization to help detect hidden spots (such as sensor dust)

    • A - Visualize spots (to both enable and disable)

    • H - Hide spot overlays

  • Using the shift-click to "connect the dots" will now automatically re-evaluate the source selection. In other words, the spot tool will now account for the fact that the user has extended an existing spot. Exception: if the user has previously manually set the source for a spot, then shift-clicking to extend that spot will not invoke the "auto find source" logic.

  • Improve spot tool's ability to patch spots automatically

  •  Shift+Drag to constrain the brush to horizontal or vertical stroke

  • A "Select New Source" command has been added to the contextual menu. This has the same functionality as the '/' keyboard shortcut.

Other Features and JDIs in Develop Module

  • New keyboard shortcut for Shift + Q: Toggle between Clone & Heal modes

  • A lower resolution preview (i.e. Camera Raw cache file or Smart Preview) enable the "Loading" bezel disappears sooner than in previous versions.  This will provide access to certain Develop adjustments (such as Basic panel) while Lightroom builds a high-resolution preview in the background.  The lower resolution preview is swapped to high-resolution preview once built and enables full Develop module functionality. When entering the Develop module individual panels are not loaded into memory unless they're already open.

  • Option/Alt + Cmd/Ctrl + Drag: Duplicate local adjustments and linear gradients. Since local adjustment pins cannot be moved, the dragging gesture is treated the same as clicking, which means both gestures will duplicate the selected correction in place.

  • The before/after views now show the current photo and the proofed photo in Soft Proofing.

  • A new Aspect slider has been added to the Lens Correction Manual Tab. This Slider allows for small aspect ratio change that helps to correct image distortions after applying perspective corrections. Dragging to the left should make things look more "squat" and dragging to the right should make things look taller and thinner.

  • The new Basic panel with Lens Corrections includes a checkbox to enable a lens profile, constrain crop, remove chromatic aberration, and Upright. As in previous versions, Lens Profiles can be enabled via the Profile tab, and Chromatic Aberration can be enabled via the "Color" tab.

  • Clipping indicators are now persistent between Lightroom sessions.

  • Crop Overlay Aspect Ratios – Enable via Tools-> Crop Guide Overlay -> Aspect Ratios. These provide a crop aspect overlay that can be enabled using the 'O' keyboard shortcut while in the Crop tool.

Output Modules

If you've already been using the public beta you'll be aware that the output modules haven't received a lot attention with this release. OK, so there are enhancements to the Book and Slideshow module, but nothing on a par with what's been added to Library and Develop modules. The headline features are summarised at top of page. So, I'll not repeat them here. Nevertheless, it's worth mentioning that like smart previews, the work that has been done under the hood in the slideshow module should pave the way for some really cool enhancements in future versions. Sadly, a side effect of this work has resulted in Lightroom 5 loosing much of its capacity to create time-lapse sequences. This means folk who are into creating time-lapse sequences will need to keep Lightroom 4 around for a while.

Adobe Community Professional

Contents on this site: Ian Lyons © 1999 - 2023. All Rights Reserved