Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lightroom 4 Brings New Life to HDR

Last August I experimented with a Lightroom only HDR image just to see how close I could get it compared to using some other HDR work flow such as Photomatix.  The results were promising.  Now, with the new "Basic Panel" controls in Lightroom 4, things are looking up even more.  Time for another experiment.

For my source image, I chose the shot that pushed me into the world of HDR, "The Great Escape".  You see the original unedited version above.

Here are the steps I took to process the image in Lightroom 4.
    Upgrade Process
  1. Updated it to 2012 Process engine.  This image was originally imported using LR3 and the 2010 Process engine. Until you upgrade the image to the new process engine you won't even see the new Basic Panel in the development module to be able to use it.  Look for the exclamation icon in the lower right of your display window.  Click on the icon to access a dialog box that will help you upgrade.  You can also chose the Process option in the Calibration panel.
  2. Adjust the Basic sliders.  With the image upgraded to the 2012 process engine, you will now see the new LR4 Basic Panel. Gone are the Recovery and Fill Light sliders, replaced with Highlights and Shadows.  These new sliders really provide you with more control over adjusting just those parts of your image that need it.  In this example, I pushed up the troubled shadow areas of the foreground without any adverse effects on my colorful sky.
  3. LR4 Basic Panel
  4. Local Brush Adjustment.  Even with the magic shadow slider, the silhouette of the bluff in the background still needed a little help.  After painting the dark areas, I started pushing the various sliders, including the new local "Noise" reduction slider until things started to fall into place.
LR 4 Local Brush
The end result...

I don't know about you, but I find myself fairly impressed.  My need for HDR in my landscape images was to overcome the tonal range limitations of my camera.  The new Basic Panel in Lightroom 4 is a very serious tool to help fit that need.

Lastly, I wanted to comment on LR4 performance.  I've seen a lot of comments out there about things seeming a little "doggy" in the development module and based on my limited experiences to date, I'd have to agree.  It's not unbearably slow, but it also isn't what we've come to expect from Lightroom.  I can remember similar complaints when Lightroom 3 came out of beta and it didn't take long for Adobe and the user community to get things rectified. 

Have any experiences of your own with the new Lightroom 4 Basic panel?  Share your thoughts using the comments section below.

Until next time, keep on click'n.


Tom said...

That is impressive Ken! Thanks for the step by step. Image editing in these tools is still a bit intimidating to me . . .

ZMAB15 said...

Cool. You just have to jump into the deep end. How many of us really understood all of the dials and sliders on our stereo? You can just play until you see what you like. Thats what I do!

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