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Lightroom 4 - Changes to the Basic Panel

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Some of the biggest changes in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 happen in the Basic Panel. I have been so used to the way that I developed my photos in Lightroom 3 (and the older versions, too) that this new version had a bit of a learning curve. So, I am here to break down what you need to know about the changes introduced to the Basic Panel that will get you on your way!

1. Sliders

One of the first things to notice about all the sliders in the basic panel is that they are now all set to 0 in the middle. In Lightroom 3 many of these sliders were set to preset numbers other than 0. This took more getting used to that you'd think. I was very used to sliding certain sliders in certain directions and having certain sliders in certain places. For instance, I typically increase the "blacks" slider a bit when developing a photo. Now that the sliders are set to "0", the slider is no longer on the far left and to increase the "blacks" I actually slide the slider in the opposite direction than I used to. The new way really makes more sense and I am guessing my brain will eventually catch up!


2. Exposure

The Exposure slider got a fabulous little makeover with the new version of Lightroom. Essentially it has been combined with the Brightness slider (which is now gone.) The Exposure slider now brightens or darkens the exposure of the photo, AND also protects the highlights or blacks from clipping as much as possible. I always thought that it would be wonderful if the Exposure and Brightness sliders from Lightroom 3 could be combined in this way! Apparently Adobe thought so, too!


3. Highlights and Shadows

This is like the more intuitive version of Photoshop's Shadow/Highlight tool. Lightroom 4's highlight tool works a little like the Recovery tool did in Lightroom 3--only the slider is now in the middle. To bring down your highlights, move it gradually to the left. Do the opposite to brighten the highlights.

The Shadow tool can brighten or darken the shadows in your photos. Generally, I think you will be brightening your shadows and moving this tool to the right.


4. Whites and Blacks

We had a Blacks slider in Lightroom 3, so I think that most of you will be familiar with this tool. But the Whites slider was a mystery to me. The Blacks slider works as it did before but now these two tools can be used together to set your darkest and brightest point of the photo and to ensure that values aren't clipped. Hold down "alt" on a PC or "Option" on a Mac while moving the Whites slider will turn the photo black and help you see where the highlights are and when they are getting clipped. You can do this with the Blacks slider as well. The only difference is that your photo will turn white so you can see where your shadows are getting clipped.

5. Contrast

This slider hasn't really changed--just moved. It is now located up under the Exposure slider instead of down toward the bottom.


6. Clarity

This slider does the same thing it always did, add clarity and sharpness, but has been improved in a big way. Basically, it does a better job of sharpening without the halos around the edges that used to appear. I don't feel like it degrades skin quite as quickly as it did before.


What Do All These Changes Mean?

When I updated from Lightroom 2 to Lightroom 3 there were also some changes to the Process Version (this is what Adobe calls the formula it has for developing the photos.) However, the changes were not to the basic panel, a tool or two was added/improved and none were taken away (that I remember.)

When I made the choice to upgrade a photo to the new process version so that I could use a new tool on my photo, I didn't notice too much difference.

But, that is not the case with Lightroom 4. In the following image, the BEFORE photo is as I developed it in Lightroom 3. The only change I made to the AFTER photo was to change to the new process version. The difference is striking!

This means that I won't be changing most of my old photos over to the new process version without consciously thinking about it even though I really like the changes to the Develop Module! That is really okay because with the photos that you already have in your catalog you'll maintain the ability to edit them using the same old tools you had before.

BUT new photos that you import will automatically come in using the new process version. You have the option to change any photo to the new or old process version at any time--so don't stress! You can do this at the top of the Camera Calibration panel. Just click the drop down menu next to the word "Process" and select the version you want. REMEMBER this little trick if you are having withdrawals from one of your old Pretty Presets!

Hi!! I am Gayle. I am a wife to my handsome husband and mom to 4 beautiful kids. In my spare time, I am a photographer and blogger at Mom and Camera. I have a passion for sharing my love of photography with others. I teach local photography classes and regularly share photography tips and tricks on my blog. I hang out there a lot—I’d love you to stop by and visit!

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