Adobe has released the first public beta of its photo workflow package, Photoshop Lightroom 4. And while there are no revolutionary changes this time around, the new build does extend the program’s capabilities in some very useful ways.
Lightroom 4 is now fully location-aware, for instance. You’re able to display data from GPS-enabled cameras; there’s an option to manually add locations to photos; and it’s possible to find and group photos by location via the program’s Map view.
More targeted editing tools now make it easier to obtain exactly the results you need. White balance may be adjusted with a brush, for example; you can similarly apply noise reduction or remove moiré from very specific areas of your image only; and highlight and shadow recovery tries to bring out detail lost in the brightest and darkest parts of a photo.
There are worthwhile smaller tweaks throughout the package. If you use Digital Negative (DNG) files, for instance, you’ll find Lightroom 4 can now load them much more quickly, while new DNG metadata and filter options help in image organisation. And whatever formats you use, you’ll appreciate the new support for emailing images directly from the program (there’s even an address book to store frequently-used addresses).
Adobe’s partnership with Blurb has resulted in the new Photobook module, where you can create a quality book from within Lightroom, have it professionally printed, bound and shipped to you for prices starting from around $12.50. (Or if the photos are really good then you can even promote and sell them online in Blurb’s bookstore.)
And the latest Lightroom now includes strong video support. So now only can you organise and play back video clips from within the program, but you can also trim them, and apply many of the same tweaks you’d use on images, adjusting their white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation, vibrancy, tone curves and more.
If you’d like to take a look, the good news is that the Lightroom 4 beta can happily run alongside an existing Lightroom 3.x installation (although the new build can’t import existing catalogs – you’ll need to start from scratch). But if you don’t have Lightroom, take a look anyway: the beta seems very reliable on our first look, is packed with useful features, and won’t expire until the end of March 2012, so there’s plenty of time to explore its new functionality.