Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives

New Feature Review: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5

By Stan Sholik

201306weLr5_boxshot.jpg

Photographers struggling with the concept of Adobe Photoshop CC and the Creative Cloud will be pleased to discover that all of the important image adjustment features added to Adobe Camera Raw 8 (ACR 8) for Photoshop CC (but not ACR 8 for Photoshop CS6) are now available in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, which remains a boxed product. Also added, in recognition of photographers’ increased use of laptops with limited storage, is the ability to create Smart Previews for any images stored in the Lightroom 5 catalog and to enhance these Smart Preview images when you’re away from your main storage devices. New improvements to the Book module offer more options for editing templates to create a custom look for your photo books.

These may seem like incidental changes, but for many portrait, wedding, and event photographers, the image adjustment changes could make Lightroom 5 a real alternative to Photoshop for anything but the most complex portrait retouching. The revised Spot Removal tool and new Radial Gradient tool may not have been created with portrait retouching in mind, but they are excellent tools for that purpose, as well as for enhancing landscape and scenic images.

201306we_lr5_1.jpg

CAPTION: With the revised Spot Removal tool it is now possible to minimize non-circular issues such as wrinkles and smile lines and remove fly-away hair as well as remove blemishes, spots, and sensor dust than can be covered by a circular spot. Image ©Stan Sholik

The revised Spot Removal tool deserves a new label in the tool strip of the Develop module. You can still use it to click on and remove spots or sensor dust. If you press the T key to activate the toolbar, there is a new Visualize Spots option to make this even easier. But you can now click and drag the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom 5 to remove wrinkles, fly-away hair, or other non-circular problems in a portrait. The Opacity slider gives complete control over each correction, allowing you to remove a blemish or fly-away hair completely, or leave a smile line, but simply tone it down.

The Spot Removal tool acts similarly to Photoshop’s Content Aware setting, but seems somewhat less able to consistently find the best area to heal into the problem. This results in the need for manual repositioning of the source area while retouching portraits. But for removing fly-away hair against a portrait backdrop or a power line against the sky, it works perfectly, and is a welcome enhancement to the tool.

lr5_2.jpg

CAPTION: The new Radial Filter allows you to select areas very accurately and apply a wide range of enhancements. For portraits there is a soften skin preset that sets the Clarity slider to -100, but you can move it to less softening if desired. Image ©Stan Sholik

New in the same Develop module tool strip is the Radial Filter, which Adobe also calls the Radial Gradient tool, that lies next to the Adjustment Brush. A more accurate name would be the “elliptical mask and adjustment tool.” While the same adjustment options available for the Graduated Filter are available for the Radial Filter, the adjustments are applied outside of the area you drag out with the Radial Filter rather than inside as they are with the Graduated Filter. However, the Radial Filter includes an Invert Mask checkbox so that you can apply the adjustments inside or outside the shape. There is also a feather slider. Neither of these controls is available for the Graduated Filter.

201306we_lr5_4and5.jpg

CAPTION: With the tools in Lightroom 5 it is possible to retouch an original portrait image (left) to a final output without opening Photoshop. Image ©Stan Sholik

For portrait retouching, you can drag a Radial Filter ellipse over the subject and click on the Effect drop-down menu of presets, one of which is Soften Skin. This sets sets Clarity to -100 and adds a bit of sharpening. You can customize the sliders for the specific image. There are also presets for teeth whitening and iris enhancement as well as for burning and dodging. You can create as many Radial Filter adjustments for the image as you need, and they play nicely with one another. For example, if you create an adjustment to add a stop of exposure correction, then create another to remove a stop and the two overlap, the overlap will revert back to the sum of the two adjustments; in this case the result would be no adjustment.

The Radial Filter is a welcome addition to the Lightroom 5 toolset, as it is to ACR 8, for many uses besides portrait retouching. You can create multiple vignettes in an image to draw the eye to specific areas of a landscape image, or add highlights to areas, or eliminate moiré, or make any other adjustment.

Another addition to Lightroom 5 from ACR 8 is the Upright tool. Portrait photographers will find little use for it, but other photographers certainly will. In Lightroom 5, the Upright tool is located in the Basic tab of the Lens Corrections panel. Upright is useful whenever a photo is taken with a tilted horizon, or the camera is pointed up at a building, or the perspective is distorted. 

201306we_upright_1and2.jpg

CAPTION: The new Upright tool has four automatic correction options for straightening horizontal and vertical objects. The correction worked so well on this image (left) that the verticals are properly corrected, but the tool wasn’t fooled by the angled smokestack (right). I used the Spot Removal tool to remove the upper power lines to the front stack. Image ©Stan Sholik

Rather than making a set of separate adjustments, there are four Upright modes, Auto, Level, Vertical, and Full, that perform the corrections automatically. With the right circumstances, it can turn any lens into a perspective control lens, making verticals upright, making wall mirrors rectangular without your reflection, as well as correcting tilted horizons. Upright works best with strong lines in the image, and the Full mode can work so well that perspective is completely altered and large areas of the original image end up containing no image information. Other times, none of the modes work well. You need to click through the modes to find the one that you want to use, and be sure to click the Enable Lens Corrections checkbox before you use Upright. When Upright works, it’s great.

201306we_upright_3and4.jpg

CAPTION: The Upright tool also corrects photos shot at an angle (left) so that it appears that they were shot straight on.  Image ©Stan Sholik

The new Smart Previews function in Lightroom 5 allows you to create a set of high resolution DNG-format copies (up to 2,054 pixels on the long side) to carry on a laptop with limited storage while the full resolution files remain on external high-capacity storage at your studio. You have full use of the Lightroom 5 tools with the Smart Previews, and when you reattach your external storage, Lightroom synchronizes the laptop adjustments with the high resolution images. This worked flawlessly for me when I tested it, but I would be cautious about visually applying sharpening or noise reduction to Smart Previews and expecting the same result with the full-resolution image.

There is no shortage of lesser enhancements in Lightroom 5. Pressing the F key now gives you a true full screen view of the selected image, and the arrow keys allow you to move forward or backward through your image folder with full screen views. You can include videos with full HD output in slideshows in Lightroom 5, and balance music with a video soundtrack. In the Book module you can edit templates, add page numbers, individual captions or captions for an entire page, customize font options, and output a photo book as a JPEG. Soft proofing is enhanced with the ability to compare the original side-by-side with the soft proof. You can set up Smart Collections to gather images by size or by bit depth. GPS-aware users of the Map module can drag photos directly to a saved location, or drag the saved location to a photo. Right-clicking on the histogram in the Develop module lets you change the RGB percentage readouts to Lab numerical values. Even the Crop tool is enhanced with aspect ratio overlays and the ability to select an aspect ratio to display. And there are probably more enhancements that I have yet to discover.

Lightroom began as a program strictly for photographers, and Lightroom 5 builds strongly on that concept. It is not yet a replacement for Photoshop for some users, but with the new and enhanced tools in Lightroom 5, photographers will need to open and adjust far fewer images in Photoshop than they have in the past.

Full boxed versions of Lightroom 5 with a perpetual license have a MSRP of $149. Upgrade cost is $79. Lightroom 5 is also available as part of a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud.

Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, CA, specializing in still life and macro photography. His latest book, “Photoshop CC: Top 100 Tips and Tricks,” (Wiley Publishing) is available soon.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Windows

Processor: Intel® Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 processor
OS: Microsoft® Windows® 7 with Service Pack 1 or Windows 8
RAM: 2 GB (4GB recommended)
Hard Disk: 2 GB of available hard-disk space
Media: DVD-ROM drive
Video card: DirectX 10-capable or later
Display: 1024 x 768 monitor resolution
Internet connection required for Internet-based services

Macintosh

Processor: Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support
OS: Mac OS X v10.7 or v10.8
RAM: 2 GB (4GB recommended)
Hard Disk: 2 GB of available hard-disk space
Media: DVD-ROM drive
Display: 1024 x 768 Monitor Resolution
Internet connection required for Internet-based services