Sunday, April 1, 2012

REVIEW: Lightroom 4 – Part III – Conclusion

In Part I and Part II of my review of Lightroom 4 I tried to cover the things that I think most people will use in Lightroom – the Library and Develop modules. For this one I’m going to dive into the Printing (and the Print module) because it’s finally getting good enough to warrant serious consideration for fine art printing.

As hard as I’ve tried, I’ve been too unimpressed with the Map, Book, Slideshow and Web modules to warrant the effort required to bring a full review on them. I’ll briefly touch on them here for completeness, but I’ll warn you that I’m not a fan of any of these so don’t expect my typical “this is awesome because…” enthusiasm.

Web Module

I’ve always been unimpressed with the Web module as it doesn’t really serve much purpose with great services like Zenfolio and Smugmug out there for hosting photos, and it does nothing to help you do something creative or even integrate with those services.

Slideshow Module

I think both Microsoft and Apple have better software for their respective operating systems that will give you a much more interesting slideshow, and no earth shattering improvements have been made to warrant much new coverage here either.

Map Module

Adobe Lightroom 4 Map Module

I don’t geotag my photos intentionally (although some iPhone shots accidentally get tagged when I’m not paying attention during phone upgrades), so this didn’t excite me from the start. However, I did evaluate a geotagging product last year that didn’t impress me so I didn’t even bother writing a review, but it gave me lots of geotagged content to play with. I expected that I could just easily click and drill down to see where my photos were, but it was a lot more cumbersome than I thought it should be. Once I got in to see my shots it was about what you’d expect from a geotracking product, but nothing revolutionary.

Overall I thought, hum okay – is that it? Maybe geotagging fans will love it, but for me it was a big yawn.

Book Module

Unless I’m missing something, this is a lame attempt to have a different front-end for Blurb.com. I didn’t see anything that made me shout “wow, this is sooo much better the the other book editing apps I’ve used”. It just felt like more of the same, so once again I’m thinking it was a big yawn. Of course I thought there must be a way to add other book services, but I didn’t see one. In addition, it did a perfectly fine job of creating a pretty ho-hum book.

Sorry, but this is another module that I wish was an optional install as I’m just not seeing anything ground breaking here.

Printing in Lightroom 4 (& the Print Module)


Print Preparation begins in the Develop Module with Soft Proofing

Printing in Lightroom 4 is very well thought and not just an afterthought or checkbox feature like the Book and Map modules. It starts with the ability to soft proof your print using your desired paper profile in the Develop module. This is a HUGE improvement over previous versions where you had no soft proofing, so you really just had to print and see what happened.

Now soft proofing isn’t for amateurs as it’s a highly complex art, and Adobe really can’t make that part any easier for you. I touch on it in my Printing 101 eBook, but there are a lot of challenges you’ll face getting this to do what you expect it to. My advice is that if you are serious about soft proofing, then start by getting a good monitor like the NEC PA Series with a hood and a colorimeter or a Colormunki Photo spectrophotometer (different from the ColorMunki Display), or don’t even bother with this feature. That said, those who have managed to get a system where soft proofing is possible, you’ll find this to be a very nice edition and actually much more enjoyable than Photoshop softproofing.

Once you have created your proof copy (a new virtual image), you can then make your edits to remove any out of gamut problems (shown in the photo above in bright red and visible by clicking the “show destination gamut warning” box on the top right of the histogram) . You are now ready to take that over to the Print module.

Print Module

You can continue your printing workflow on this special virtual copy, but even if you aren’t soft proofing you can still create a special version just for printing using the new Create Saved Print as shown here:


Notice the Create Saved Print Button
near the top right of the photo


Give your print a virtual copy a name

This creates a new virtual copy that doesn’t modify your original so that you can make print specific changes that are accessible in the future if you need to make that print again.

Personally I like to have one virtual copy for soft proofing and then when I go to the print module I do a Print | Create New Print (Ctrl/Cmd+S) to create a specific print size (poorly labeled in my example). I do this as depending on the printer I chose (which varies based on size in my case) because I might find that I’ll do more print edits before I have my final signature print, but I don’t want to touch my soft proofing edited copy.


A better name for your saved print includes the layout style you used,
so a better name might be “Epson
4900 Letter Size” in this case

Now I’m free to print and from here nothing seems to have changed from Lightroom 3. If you were happy with your Lightroom 3 prints, then you’ll be happy here. If you weren’t, I can’t see that much has changed. There is a new Print Adjustment feature which is handy if your print comes out a bit to dark and you want to fix that here, but fundamentally thinks are basically the same.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the improvements, but I haven’t done any in-depth testing of the quality of the print results from the print module. I certainly think for the average self-printing photographer and many wedding photographers these improvements will be well worth the cost of the upgrade. I’m pleased to see Adobe taking printing seriously in Lightroom, and I only expect things to improve here more in the future.

Learn More

You can also read the first two parts of my review here:

Kelby Training also has some great video lessons on Lightroom 4 here, and don’t forget that you can get a discount for Kelby Training here.

To see more videos about what’s new visit http://tv.adobe.com/product/lightroom/. You can also learn more about what’s new for Lightroom 4 on Adobe’s website.

The New Adobe Press Lightroom 4 Book

While I’m sure The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers is going to be another must own book for Lightroom users, the Kelby-haters out there who want more depth are going to want this 704 page bible from Adobe Press. It goes way deeper than Scott Kelby does in his book and seems to answer everything you’d ever want to know (and for many of us, more than we have time to read). I’d love to read the copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers that I have on my desk now as it looks quite good, but I think it has more detail than I’m really interested in at this time.

Order Now

Click here to learn how to buy now for as little as $79.

Conclusion

While I know many complain that it is extortion to have to get a new release of Lightroom just because you got a new camera like the 5D Mark III, the reality is that Adobe does try hard to give us some goodness to make each upgrade worthwhile. Lightroom is a critical part of my workflow, so I couldn’t live without it.  Now that I’ve been using it for a little while and the 4.1 update that supports my new camera is about to be released I’m finding myself enjoying the new improvements. I’m still annoyed about the changes in the basic panel in the develop module, but there’s an easy workaround for that by just changing process under camera calibration back to 2010. In many cases I don’t think you’ll need or want to do that, but if you really hate the new change that option is there. Kudos to Adobe for having the forethought to design that feature well enough that this workaround is possible!

I’m also pretty happy with the upgrade and even the new lower full purchase price, so Mac users who were lured into getting Aperture when it became dirt cheap on the App Store can now come back to their senses and get the best digital asset management and most complete raw editor on the market.

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links in this article I may get a commission. Adobe has provided me with a limited-time serial number for my copy of Lightroom 4 for the purpose of doing my review.

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