Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Beta review

This year marks Lightroom’s fifth birthday: not a bad milestone for a piece of software sometimes regarded as an uncomfortable compromise. But Lightroom has gone from strength to strength since version 1 was released in 2007, and the newest public beta of Lightroom 4 (downloadable now from Adobe Labs until 31 March) adds a number of new features.

The number of editing tools has been slightly expanded. Sliders such as Recovery and Fill Light have been replaced by tools for adjusting highlights, shadows, and fixing the black-and-white points. The Clarity slider has received an update, providing a better effect while keeping tell-tale halos on edges to a minimum.

Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta

The adjustment brush has received a boost as well. It could already make localised adjustments to exposure and various colour adjustments; it can now make local adjustments to white balance and noise reduction – useful for images with mixed light sources: an indoor scene with both artificial light and natural light from a window, for example.

Lightroom’s modules – the various workspaces – gain a few additions. Click Map, for instance, and you can either drag your images onto a globe to endow them with geolocation metadata, or Lightroom will do it automatically if your camera supports it.

Tagged photos are presented on the map, although our experience with the Maps module was the one area of the beta that felt a tad sluggish – hopefully something that will be fixed by final release. Another popular consumer feature with potential professional applications, face-detection, is absent from the beta, and will probably be missing from the final release as well.

Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta

The Book module is another new one. An arguably much-needed addition, this ties in with photobook maker Blurb to allow you to assemble and order glossy photobooks. There’s a choice of sizes, from 7 x 7in up to huge 12 x 12in books, and prices range from below £20 for a small, soft-cover book to well north of £50 for a large, hardback book on glossy paper. Adding pages is a snap, and there are pre-supplied page layouts for those who simply want to drag and drop images without worrying about the finer points of page design.

Text-only pages are supplied as well. Those who’d prefer to use a book service other than Blurb are reasonably well catered for: finished books can also be exported as a PDF. The beta allows only one of Blurb’s pre-determined sizes to be chosen, but Adobe says the option to set custom book sizes will be available by the time Lightroom 4’s release date comes around.

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