With the release of the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 public beta, new and current users have the opportunity not only to explore the latest additions to the company's database-driven image editing and workflow tool, but to provide feedback to Adobe and help shape the final release. Adobe also has a dedicated user forum to share thoughts with and hear opinions from the Lightroom community.
The Lightroom 5 public beta has come to light surprisingly quickly, just 13 months after the final release of Lightroom 4. And while Lightroom 4 brought sweeping changes to working methodologies along with two brand new modules, the headline features in the Lightroom 5 public beta are devoted almost exclusively to image editing.
The Lightroom 5 public beta introduces a refined healing tool that can be used to paint on an image, much like the Spot Healing Brush found in Photoshop. A new Radial Gradient tool offers a more flexible way to apply selective location-based edits. Also making its debut is a perspective correction tool that uses image analysis to automatically straighten images and eliminate keystoning. The feature that will potentially have the most wide-reaching impact on every photographer's workflow is the ability to edit images while they are offline, by enabling what Adobe calls 'Smart Previews'.
I'm going to briefly take you through these and some of the other more significant additions to the Lightroom 5 public beta so that you can jump in and start experimenting with these tools on your own. As always, bear in mind that this is a beta version, whose release is aimed at generating feedback and bug reports from a diverse user base. Tools, features and performance may change significantly before a final shipping version is released. You'll need to create a new Lightroom catalog to use version 5 and I'd never recommend performing mission critical work on an early beta release.
With that said, let's get started and take a look at the following:
Users of older machines should note that the minimum operating system requirements for Lightroom have changed. Support for Windows Vista has been dropped. Lightroom now requires a version of Windows Windows 7, Service Pack 1 or higher. Mac users must be running OS 10.7 or higher.
|The Spot Removal tool is now more versatile, with the ability to use it as a brush...||...to remove unwanted scene elements.|
While Lightroom's Spot Removal Tool is effective at hiding dust and small blemishes - one click at a time - users have long been requesting a faster and more flexible retouching option. In response, Adobe has introduced significantly more advanced functionality to the Spot Removal Tool in the Lightroom 5 public beta. In addition to the regular click-a-circle approach, you can now paint on an image area to apply cloning and healing adjustments that can remove large, irregularly-shaped objects from the scene entirely.
If you're a user of Photoshop CS5 or later and use the Content-Aware mode in the Healing brush or Fill menu, start drooling now, because the ability to clone/heal irregular shapes - whether retouching crow's feet or removing scene elements - inside Lightroom eliminates perhaps the most common reason Lightroom users still head to Photoshop. Here's how it works.
The Spot Removal results won't always be this good when eliminating large objects. I'd bet that nearly all of the demos you're going to see of this tool involve large areas of grass, sand or other repeating textures. Like Photoshop's Content-Aware Fill option, this technique requires large patches of consistent color and tone to work well. Patterns like grass, sand and masonry are very helpful for hiding seams.
This new Spot Removal capability is something you'll definitely want to experiment with to get the most out of, so we've provided the full size images used in the above example so you can try out the Spot Removal tool's new functionality for yourself. Click to download the before image and the after image.
As I mentioned earlier, you can still use the Spot Removal tool just as you always have, one click at a time. And that's still the best way to handle the dust-spotting of your images. And for those instances, Lightroom 5 public beta offers a Visualize Spots option (shown below), that when checked, provides a 'Threshold' view to more easily identify spots.
Photoshop users who've tried the Blur Gallery tools in CS6 will recognize the interface of Lightroom 5 public beta's new Radial Gradient Tool (Shift+M). This newest addition to Lightroom's group of selective editing tools features the same slider options for white balance, exposure, sharpening, noise and moiré removal as the Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter. The difference here is that you draw an oval shape around the area where you want to direct the viewer's attention. Here are three examples of how this can be put to use.
In the example above, you could certainly achieve this result by painting with the Adjustment Brush, but using the new Radial Gradient Filter is much faster precisely because you're selecting the relatively small area that you want to protect from the edits. With the Adjustment Brush I would have had to paint everywhere except the oval area around the eye.
The Radial Gradient Filter has additional functional benefits as well. In the example below, I've drawn an oval shape and adjusted the feathering of the exposure edits.
If the previous examples are a bit too dramatic for your tastes, you can use the Radial Gradient Filter for very subtle results, as shown below.
|In this original image I felt that my subject could benefit from standing out just a bit more from the background.|
|By using the Radial Gradient Filter, I was able to give him greater separation without calling undue attention to the edit.|
As with any of Lightroom's selective edit tools you can apply multiple pins to achieve different results on separate areas of the image. That's what I've done to get the result shown above. Here's how.
The new Radial Gradient Filter is intuitive and provides a lot of flexibility for precisely targeted edits. It's very easy to go overboard into the realm of smartphone filters, but equally you can use it to more subtle effect for natural-looking, yet still dramatic results.
Lightroom 5 public beta introduces an automated perspective correction and leveling tool. It's called, appropriately enough, Upright, and is an important addition for both architectural pros using wide angle lenses and vacationing photographers who often find themselves pointing their camera up at tourist attractions.
Upright works most effectively when used after checking the Enable Profile Corrections box. This allows its algorithms to take into account the lens characteristics contained in a Lightroom lens profile. You can still use Upright on unsupported lenses, but it's best to enable these profile corrections where possible. Below we'll take a look at a couple examples.
Here's another example of perspective distortion that required more drastic correction.
It's important to note that after performing its corrections, Upright is cropping your image. It's not creating new pixels to fill in blank image areas. This means you end up with a file of smaller dimensions, just as you would with a manual crop. But it greatly minimizes the possibility of compromised image quality along the edges of your image.
Below is an example of just how much image area can be lost after the correction, something to be aware of when shooting detailed interior scenes such as this one.
|This is the image result after applying Upright.||Correcting for the skewing you see in this original version of the image means cropping off a significant portion from the bottom (indicated here by the shaded area).|
Okay, here's the update that may get overlooked, but one that has serious workflow implications for nearly every Lightroom user. Lightroom 5 public beta now lets you edit images that are offline. That's right, you're no longer prevented by the '?' icon from making Develop module adjustments to files on drives that are not plugged in.
This is made possible by Smart Previews. Built on the lossy DNG file format Adobe introduced back in Lightroom 4, a Smart Preview is a lower resolution (2540 pixels in the long dimension) DNG file that takes up only a small fraction of a full-size DNG file. When available, Lightroom will use this Smart Preview to provide an image preview in the Develop module. Best of all, any edits you make to the photo are re-associated with to the original raw file and its 1:1 preview once the file is brought back online.
|In the Library module you can selectively generate Smart Previews by clicking on the Original Photo box underneath the histogram. That brings up a dialog window explaining the rationale behind Smart Previews along with a confirmation button.|
The only catch here is that you must proactively generate a Smart Preview with the image still online. You can do this to a single or multiple images by checking the Original Photo box shown above. You can also turn on an option to create Smart Previews upon each new Import session.
While this may just seem like a boon to those who don't want the hassle of plugging in missing drives, what's really valuable is the ability to export your Lightroom catalog, using only Smart Previews, to a laptop with smaller storage capacity than your desktop machine when traveling. This makes it feasible to not only add metadata but to edit any images in your existing catalog while on the road without lugging around numerous external hard drives for storage.
How much space do you save? We're still running comparisons, but in a Lightroom 5 public beta test catalog containing 1100 raw files, the standard Previews.lrdata file (which contained 1:1 previews) took up 3.65GB of storage. We exported this same catalog of images using only Smart Previews and the resulting Smart Preview.lrdata file weighed in at a meager 420MB. The size of each Lightroom catalog (.lrcat) itself was essentially identical.