Lightroom 5 was released on June 9th 2013. It is a solid, but less spectacular upgrade to Adobe’s main software package for photographers. The limited number of changes may be because it took 1 year to develop (compared to Lightroom 4 that took 2.5 years). The version of Lightroom may have been needed to get a clean baseline of tools that coincided with the release of Adobe Creative Cloud.
Despite its official name
Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 5.0
Lightroom does not create modified image files from original files like Photoshop does. Instead it stores the adjustments you used to modify the image (e.g. “crop the image”) on disk. This is done in a so-called catalog. It automatically re-applies these adjustments whenever you view, print, edit or export the image. This saves storage space, simplifies file management and is convenient if you afterwards change your mind about any of the settings (e.g. “make the crop larger”).
From Photoshop to Lightroom
In general, Lightroom is meant for photographers who want to post-process their images, while Photoshop is nowadays mainly for graphics professionals who want to create new images. Sometimes a photographer does need Photoshop, but usually Lightroom is easier and faster to use because it is designed for photographers.
In each new Lightroom release the needs for Photoshop decreases a bit. The new licensing model for Photoshop may further accelerate the migration of photographers to Lightroom: you can still buy Lightroom, but you need to pay a yearly fee to use Photoshop (and a bunch of other Adobe tools).
Main new features in Lightroom 5
Radial gradient – This is a way to adjust a circular or elliptic area with soft edges in a number of ways. It is comparable to “dodge and burn” in the darkroom days.
Previous Lightroom versions had a few tools that are somewhat comparable:
- Graduated Filter – for modifying one end of the image. Straight.
- Adjustment Brush – for modifying an area which you paint in with a brush. Flexible.
- Post-crop vignetting – light/dark adjustments only. Always in the middle of the crop.
Smart previews – These are essentially about 4 MPixels versions of the images that can be used if the full images are temporarily not available. You can choose which images or directories have smart previews. The software uses available smart previews if the USB drive or (in my case) NAS containing the images is not online. If you have access to smart previews, you can edit the images just like you could edit your original image – although you cannot see the image at full resolution. In my case that would mean editing at max 2540 × 1693 resolution without being able to zoom in to see the full 21 Mpixel resolution of my Canon 5D2. The feature is useful for laptop use, but also has benefits if you need to send somebody a Lightroom catalog to view or even edit.
Straightening – The “Upright” feature corrects tilted horizons and fixes problems with perspectives in architectural photography. Unlike DxO’s Viewpoint, you don’t have to indicate a set of lines or a rectangle that are supposed to be straightened. The software detects this automatically and gives a few options within the Lens Corrections section. Note that the image is warped to get this result.
Note that there are parts missing parts in the final image. These would normally be shown in black and cropped off by the user.
You could argue that this feature is the poor man’s Tilt and Shift lens: with a camera on a level tripod a wide-angle lens should get you similar results. The wide-angle should be enough if you keep the camera level, but shifting the lens up can get the horizon below the middle of the photo if required. This was not required for the above photo.
Other new features
PNG file support – I have some PNG files in my archive that I used for creating photo books. “Synchronizing” my storage folders using Lightroom 5 now brings these files into Lightroom. The files are not too relevant as the format is seldom used for photos, but here is an example of a PNG file that I used as an illustration in a photo book:
In addition, a tool is provided to make sensor dust spots show up better. Here is part of the original image before any corrections. If you look carefully while slowly scrolling the image you may discover several dust spots:
While using the Spot Removal (Q) tool you can enable Visualize Spots mode. This enhances edges and shows them as white pixels. Black pixels represent lack of local detail. The ten or so small circles in the sky are dust spots:
The next screenshot shows eleven spots that I had manually discovered (using Lightroom 4) and had fixed earlier. In this case, you can see that I had manually discovered (using my motion trick at 100% magnification and slightly increased contrast) pretty much the same spots that Lightroom 5 could capture. Note that finding spots in a cloudless blue sky would be easier.