Adobe Lightroom 4 Public Beta

Adobe Lightroom is one of my all time favourite applications. I have been using it almost religiously since version 2 was first released, so when the public beta of Lightroom 4 became available three days ago, I downloaded it with some excitement. Although it seems both remarkably stable and feature complete, it is, nevertheless, a beta, so if you decide to download it, you do so at your own risk, should backup everything first and are well advised to import and work with COPIES of your media (and Lightroom catalog). This beta will co-exist with earlier installations of Lightroom, does not require a serial number or activation and will remain fully functional until the final version of Lightroom 4 is released. 

What’s new in Lightroom 4 Beta?

Source: Terry White

Lightroom 4 seems like almost as big a jump from Lightroom 3 as Lightroom 2 was from Lightroom 1. The biggest and most exciting changes are in the develop module and these changes alone are worth the price of the upgrade, but there’s much more besides. A new Book module offers Blurb book creation and a new Map module enables photos to be pinned to a Google Maps driven window. Video handling has been improved (you can now actually do something with videos, other than marvel at the ability to import them) direct emailing is built in and soft proofing has finally been added (hallelujah!).

A very long list of all changes is available on the Victoria Brampton’s Lightroom Queen  blog.  Below is a look at the headline features of Lightroom 4, with some help from Adobe’s Senior Digital Imaging Evangelist, Julieanne Kost.

Develop Module

The most important change in Lightroom 4 is the new 2012 process which, in conjunction with  a redesigned Basic Panel, corresponding five zone histogram and adjustment brush panel, brings massive improvements right across the board.

Adobe Lightroom 4 beta 2012 Basic Panel
2012 Basic Panel
Adobe Lightroom 3 basic panel
2010 Basic Panel









As you can see, any confusion over the difference between ‘brightness’ and ‘exposure’,   nomenclature such as ‘Recovery’ and ‘Fill Light’ is gone. Instead there is simply, ‘Exposure’, ‘Contrast’, ‘Highlights’, ‘Shadows’, ‘Whites’ and ”Blacks’. All are set to zero by default and offer both positive and negative values.

Photos look better from the moment they are opened, the ‘Auto’ colour temperature setting seems to have been significantly improved and the clarity slider’s effects are more pronounced (be careful – a little goes a long way).  Best of all though are the shadow and highlight sliders which, because they are ‘content aware’, do exactly what they say on the tin. Prior to the advent of these, I used to have to go into curves to tweak my highlights and shadows. However, these new controls provide a much faster, more logical and pleasurable method for so doing.  That said, curves do have their uses and the addition of separate RGB channels in the Tone Curve panel is very welcome.

Adobe Lightroom 4 beta 2012 Basic Panel
2012 Adjustment Brush Panel
Adobe Lightroom 4 2010 Adjustment Brush Panel
2010 Adjustment Brush Panel









The sliders in the 2012 Adjustment brush panel mirror those of the Basic panel…with a notable addition…a new noise slider, which is massive news! Why? Noise lives in the shadows, so when shadows are pushed, noise increases. Noise reduction can be applied but since it works by softening detail to blur noise, it affects details everywhere, including the places where noise isn’t a problem. The answer to this  more detail & more noise v less detail & less noise conundrum is to apply noise reduction locally in just the areas it is required…which is exactly what this noise slider enables the adjustment brush to do, making its inclusion a…ahem…master stroke.

Dave Vanian, The Damned, Rebellion 2011, Lightroom 2012 Process
2012 Process
Dave Vanian, The Damned, Lightroom 2010 Process
2010 Process











Dave Vanian, The Damned, Rebellion Festival, Blackpool, UK, 2011

Use of the 2012 process is not obligatory. The 2010 and original processes can be selected and switched between on a per photo/folder/collection basis.  Doing so very intelligently switches between the new and old Basic (and Adjustment) panel setups.

Lightroom 4 beta presets

One other change, that is small, but which aids usability is that Lightroom’s presets have been rearranged into several themed folders, instead of a single big one. Irritatingly though, hierarchical sub folders still appear to be unsupported.

To summarise, the changes to the develop module are almost as big a revelation as Lightroom itself. Adobe have taken something very simple and effective and made it even more so.


Video functionality has been expanded and most popular video formats are now natively supported. A ‘Set Poster Frame’ button allows any frame of a clip to be used as its library thumbnail…Poster Frame? Adobe really need to change this to ‘Set Thumbnail’!  Clips can be scrubbed using the cursor, adjusted using the ‘Quick Develop’ Panel and have their ‘in’ and ‘out’ points set. The results can be exported and, using the publish services, uploaded direct to Facebook & Flickr…though bizarrely not to YouTube and Vimeo?

Frustratingly, the Develop module still does not support video per se. There is a workaround which involves grabbing a frame in the library module, opening and adjusting that frame in the develop module, creating a preset from those adjustments, returning to the library and applying that preset to the clip(s). However, doing so reveals that not all develop module settings are even supported. This feels like a convoluted, hacky way of doing things that runs counter to Lightroom’s simplicity and user friendliness, which is a shame, because the potential to use Lightroom for grading is massive.

C’mon Adobe, give us what we want, full support for video in the Develop module…coupled with the ability to switch between the histogram and scopes…and while you’re at it, throw in Adobe Dynamic Link for seamless exchange of data between Lightroom, Premiere Pro & After Effects…or better yet…just build the develop (and library) module(s) into Premiere Pro!


It has taken a while, but Adobe’s has finally introduced soft proofing and it was worth the wait, because their implementation of this key feature is as simple and intuitive to use as the rest of Lightroom 4.

Adobe have also tackled one of the biggest problems that people face when printing, namely prints turning out darker than on the screen. Their solution is simple, elegant and so Lightroom, it doesn’t hurt.  A print adjustment option has been added to the ‘Print Job’ tab. When selected, one can adjust the brightness and contrast of the print itself, without making any changes to the photo. Clever! Now they just need to add TIFF export, so that I can get my triptychs printed professionally!

Book Module

The ability to create Blurb books is, like soft proofing, a feature that has been highly requested, so  the inclusion of this new module will delight many.  It makes it incredibly quick, easy and painless to create Blurb books and, as a producer, I love the fact that as changes are made, one is kept informed of the cost implications. However, its not just blurb books that can be built. One can also export their project as a PDFs, which is great for creating ebooks.


It is now possible to email directly from Lightroom by simply right clicking a photo and selecting ’email photo’ from the context sensitive menu. Doing so brings up a window in which one can compose an email, add a title, caption, CC, BCC, etc. However, there is no spell checker, which given the disproportionately high number of dyslexic photographers out there, seems like something Adobe should add ASAP.  Nor is there an option to include a watermark, which many will regard as essential.

Although one can create profiles that determine size & resolution, it seems these profiles can only be for different flavours of JPEG…which isn’t of much use if one wants to email a 16 bit TIFF to a designer or print bureau. Sure it’s possible to export a TIFF and email it manually, but that is rather missing the point (and before anyone says that 16 bit TIFFs should be FTP’d not emailed, may I remind you that 4G is just around the corner and is so fast it can teleport people, so 16 bit TIFFs really shouldn’t pose a problem).

Pretty much any email account(s) can be setup and used, but although there is an address book, it is Lightroom’s own, rather than the local machine’s or webmail program’s, which would be nice options to have. Nevertheless, direct email is a feature that photographers have been crying out for and what there is works well.


The ability to display, search and pin photos to Google Maps is, depending upon your perspective, either incredibly useful, or visual masturbation. For those who take the latter view, it is  possible to hide this new module and indeed any others for which one has no regular use.

Geotagged photos are automatically pinned to the map, as are photos to which location metadata has been manually added. Images without location metadata, unsurprisingly, must be manually pinned. This involves moving back and forth between the Library and Map modules, which for anyone with a large collection of non geotagged photos shot in multiple locations, is a bit of a chore. The whole process would be far more streamlined if  Adobe added the Library module’s folders panel to the map window (and preferably, every other module)…or dropped the idea of a separate map module and built its functionality into the library module by adding a map view button.

Clicking a locator pin opens a mini window in which one can browse all photos pinned by it. However, this window is rather small and does not appear to be resizable. Double clicking a photo in this window opens it in the library. The option to open it in a different modules instead, might be useful.

What’s missing

Very little actually. Adobe have done an excellent job of responding to customer requests and Lightroom 4 certainly seems to fulfil most of my needs. That said, there are a handful of things I’ve been wanting to see in Lightroom for a very long time…but I’ll save them for a separate post…


Lightroom 2, whilst not perfect, was streamlined. Lightroom 3 added some useful functionality,  but as a result, started to feel ever so slightly bloated. Although Lightroom 4 adds new modules, it also simplifies and improves existing ones, in the process eliminating this bloat. Once again it is streamlined.  More than ever before it just works. What more is there to say other than I can’t wait for the official release of the final version of Lightroom 4? Happy Birthday Lightroom!

Download Adobe Lightroom 4 beta

Adobe Lightroom 4 beta resources

Adobe Lightroom 4 beta forum 


© 2012 – 2015, Paul D. All rights reserved.

Author: Paul D

Paul D is a multi award winning director & producer who makes music videos, documentaries & feature films. His recent 'Toadlickers' promo for multi Grammy nominated artist, Thomas Dolby, won Gold in the W3 Awards, Gold in The Davey Awards, was nominated for 2 Webby Awards, reached #18 in YouTube's 'Most Watched' Chart and was broadcast on The BBC.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your review of Lightroom 4. I do agree that it is a super app.
    I found a few things I don’t like. For starters I find it annoying that in the devlop module you can only open one tab and not more together so you have a better overview. Then I find  that in the standard module the order of sliders is wrong and should go from light to dark and not jump light, dark light,dark.
    I tried the video workaround too and did some corrections on a still that I pulled from the video.
    In my DSLR images I tend to get a lot of moire kind of noise in water. The moire slider in the brush panel works perfect for this but is not available as part of the presets and it is therfor not possible to be copied to the video image. That’s a shame because this is a very nice filter.

    Thanks, Mario

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  • Christopher Wilson

    I love the new noise brush feature…. I was dying to see if they would have a better Clone/Heal brush , similar to the one in Photoshop for any items just big enough to make the Lightroom version useless and then having to import into Photoshop.   Lightroom 5?

    • A clone stamp tool has been on my wish list since Lightroom 2. If enough people ask for it, we might get it before Lightroom 5!

  • Pete111r

    GPS sucks compared to other solutions like GEOSETTER.. i don´t knwo why no reviewer writes that or compares LR to other solutions.

    • Geosetter is PC only, which makes Lightroom’s GPS functionality on a Mac better than Geosetter’s 🙂

      That said, this is a beta, not a final product and its purpose is to elicit feedback from users, so if there is specific GPS functionality you want, I would suggest spelling it out on Adobe’s forum:

  • Seth

    Hi there. Great article. Would be very interested to know what ‘bloat’ has been eliminated since lr3? Or is it more of a feeling rather than specific functionality?

    • The redesign of the develop module means less, better laid out sliders.

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