A Computer Darkroom Feature Preview
As mentioned above, there is no perpetual license version of Lr Classic, which means that the application is installed or upgraded via the Adobe Creative Cloud application.
With each previous versions of Lightroom we got a new splash screen, and Classic is no different. For what it's worth, I think this is the best yet!
Lightroom Classic CC splash screen
With Lightroom 6/2015 CC all customers were required to set up an Adobe account or ID, and Lr Classic has a similar requirement. Existing customers can continue using their current Adobe account/ID. However, if you're a new customer you'll need to create an account. Either way, an active internet connection is required to sign into the account when first launching the application. In the absence of an active internet connection the application can only be installed in trial mode.
Lightroom Classic CC Sign In dialog
Another relatively new feature is the ability to sign in using your Facebook or Google account, although you'll still need to create an Adobe account beforehand then link it to your Facebook or Google account. I should also point out that a single Adobe ID means that Lightroom can only be operational on two desktop or laptop computers at the same time. If you want to run it on a third computer you'll need to deactivate one of the other two first.
Upgrading Existing Catalogs
Long time customers will already be familiar with the process of upgrading catalogs each time a new version ships. The good news for those who have not experienced the catalog upgrade process before is that it's fairly straight forward, albeit a bit more time consuming than previous versions. The longer catalog upgrade time is as result of the contents of the catalog (primarily develop history) being compressed during the upgrade process, thus making the new catalog significantly smaller than previous versions. It's also worth mentioning that your existing catalog will not be replaced or deleted during the upgrade process. Therefore, if a problem occurs during the upgrade you'll still be able to use the older catalog.
Library Module and Workflow Enhancements
The Lightroom UI hasn't seen much in the way of change since version 1. Sure, new modules and new panels have been added over the years, but the scope to reconfigure the UI is still absent. Personally, I don't have a problem with this, but I'm conscious that many customers would like to be able to rearrange panels, etc.
Library Module Grid View
The Library continues to be at the heart of Lightroom in so far as it's the module that provides most of the tools for managing your photographic assets. Imported images can be viewed in the Library in various modes or views. These include the now familiar Grid view (G), Loupe view (E), Compare view (C) and Survey view (N), and People view (O). Each of these views is intended for a specific purpose, but depending on your workflow, you may find some more useful than others. For example, Grid view allows you to see large numbers of images as thumbnails whilst at the same time providing a workspace for applying metadata, labels, ratings, keywords, flags and even quick development adjustments to images in bulk. As with previous versions of Lightroom, the Loupe view restricts these actions to a single image. Compare and Survey views are designed to make the tasks reviewing, rating and flagging easier, and People view is used for face tagging.
I mentioned above that import had undergone some work, particularly in terms of performance. Although not all visible, the improvements resulting from this work are huge. For example, importing proprietary raw images with standard-sized previews takes only half the time it took in Lightroom 6/2015. This improvement in import speed is most obvious on computers with Quad-Core or higher CPUs, and is achieved by allowing both concurrent and parallel import and preview building. What this means is that all CPU cores are put to work with multiple threads utilised for both import and preview building. It's also the case that these will be prioritised over other tasks. Obviously, utilising pretty much all available CPU and memory resources can place a lot of stress on the computer, especially if importing many 10's thousands of images. Therefore, the engineers have included the ability to disable parallel preview building via the Preview Generation Settings preference. With parallel preview building OFF Lr Classic is only marginally faster at building previews than previous versions. Below screenshot shows where this preference can be found. Although not related to import, I've also highlighted an additional means by which you can open Catalog Settings.
The maximum size of cache for Camera Raw is now set at 5GB. If using proprietary raw files it's best that you leave the cache at 5GB as there is little or nothing to be gained from a larger cache. Setting it to a lower value is not recommended.
Lr Classic now supports the ability to use the embedded previews or sidecar JPEG images, which is something many customers have requested since version 1. In the past, customers who needed a quick turnaround on images would use applications such as Photo Mechanic for initial image review and culling. They did so because Photo Mechanic was able to utilise the embedded previews thus making it much faster than Lightroom. Not any more, in Lr Classic you can choose to import images into the Library module with their embedded previews. There is a catch though, some cameras don't embed a full size previews. Therefore, if you particular camera falls into this category it's best you configure the camera to capture both raw and JPEG images.
Lightroom Classic Import Window
Select Embedded & Sidecar from Build Previews drop-down menu
Another import enhancement is the ability to filter images by file and media type using the Sort button in the import window. This will be really helpful for those who capture Raw + JPEG and video on a single CF or SD card, but only wish to import one or other. Also, new to Classic is the ability to define the order in which images are imported. This means that when Capture Time is selected as the default then the images will be displayed according to their capture times when they appear in the Library Grid.
Lightroom Classic Import Sort Order
Importing images with embedded previews or sidecar JPEG previews is very fast, and displays the images as is they appeared on the back screen of your camera. The badge is used to indicate that an image is using the embedded preview.
Library Module Grid View - Embedded Previews
Embedded previews appear almost instantly the application switches back for the import window. As such, you can immediately begin the review and culling process. Flagging [Pick (P) or Reject (X)] images using auto advance (enable the Caps lock key) can be really fast. For example, if your camera supports full-sized embedded previews you can zoom into 100% then scan around the image to decide whether it's sharp, etc. Likewise, you can view a selection of images in Compare and/or Survey mode. A badge or overlay will denote whether the image being viewed is using an embedded or a Lightroom rendered preview.
Library Module Loupe View - Embedded Previews
If you want Lightroom to build the standard-sized previews automatically after import then is quite easily achieved by setting a new preference (Replace embedded previews with standard previews during idle time). Alternatively, just click on the embedded preview badge and choose whether you want to update the selected image or all.
Embedded Previews - Idle Time Preference
Still on the subject of previews and 'idle' time where "idleness" is based on the average CPU usage being below 20% over 5 minutes. If this is detected Lightroom attempt to do two things:
Export speed has been improved over recent years, and this new version is faster again when it comes to bulk exports. However, faster exports tend to be at the expense of performance when carrying out other tasks in Lightroom. So, don't get too greedy.
Customers have for a long time requested the ability to exclude camera raw develop sittings from exported images, and with Classic their wish has come true. Choose All Except Camera and Camera Raw Info if you want to keep the EXIF and Camera Raw data hidden.
With each new version, the Lightroom engineering team set aside a few days to implement mini features. These tare features that tend to require minimal work in terms of coding or UI changes. The name given to these mini features is JDIs or in long hand Just do it! Lr Classic includes some in Smart Collections. These are new criteria for Title (i.e. 'is empty' and 'is not empty'). There are also smart collections to find images with/without Lens Profiles and Chromatic Aberration corrections.
For many customers, the Develop module is the most important component of the application, especially since the underlining code and feature set is directly linked to Adobe Camera Raw and thereby Photoshop. It's also via the Camera Raw code that Adobe provides support for new cameras and lenses.
Process Version Update
Whereas in previous updates to Process Versions had a very obvious visual impact on existing edited images this latest update only affects Range Masks and Auto Masks:
Auto Mask has always been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde feature. With some images it was your best friend, but for others, particularly if noise reduction was also being applied to the image, it would often produce terrible selections. With Lr Classic the engineers have worked on improving Auto Mask and how it interacts with noise reduction settings. The resulting improvements are significant, and should result in superior selections to those in previous versions of Lightroom.
Next up is the new Range Mask. That is, the Colour Range Mask and Luminance Range Mask. These are precision masking tools that can be used to isolate an object or a region of an image. They do so by detecting changes in lighting and contrasting edges based on colour, tones and luminance.
The most obvious use of a Range Mask would be to locally apply an adjustment to an image (e.g. the sky). In earlier versions, a graduated filter could be used for this, but when the horizon wasn't straight (i.e. due to presence of trees, mountains, etc) it was often necessary to resort to using the Brush tool. However, with the introduction of Range Masks in Lr Classic the task of applying a graduate filter to an uneven horizon is now very simple.
The following screen shot shows an example of where the new Colour Range Mask can be used to tone down the sky and mountain but leave the front lit trees largely untouched. Click on the image to open a video demonstration.
Graduated Filter Colour Range Mask - Video Demo (no dialog)
(click to start)
In above example, I began by:
This next example again uses the Graduated filter, but this time I used Luminance Range. The red overlay (O) helps to show where the graduated filter is applied.
Graduated Filter - Luminance Range Mask
For this last example, I used the Local Adjustment Brush to paint in the sky. Again, the red overlay (O) shows where the brush has been applied. Also, since the selection is based on luminance it's not necessary to avoid painting over other parts of the image. When I painted in the entire sky region I selected Luminance Range then adjusted the range and smoothness sliders to taste. Once satisfied with the mask I applied some exposure reduction to the image then dragged the colour temperature slider to the left to add some blue.
Local Adjustment Brush - Luminance Range Mask
GPU acceleration was first introduced in Lightroom 6/2015, and uses the computer's Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to speed up interactive image editing in the Develop module. Originally, the idea was for real-time or near-time updates to the image while making adjustments in the Develop module using sliders, particularly when using the new breed of high-resolution screens, such as 4K and 5K displays. Unfortunately, it hasn't, to date, lived up to the early promises.
For most recent computers, GPU support is enabled by default. However, it can be disabled by going to the Performance, tab in the Lightroom preferences, and uncheck the Use Graphics Processor checkbox. Typically, you'll want to disable the GPU if you observe issues in the Develop module.
Lightroom Classic - GPU Preference
When enabled, Lightroom will automatically determine whether the system's GPU can be used to accelerate image drawing. If yes, Lightroom will display the name of your graphics card below the checkbox. Otherwise, Lightroom will display an error message.
For Lr Classic, the Camera Raw and Lightroom engineering teams have made some significant advances in optimising the speed of getting the pixels to the screen as quickly as possible. By way of example, you should see Develop module improvements in:
Notwithstanding the attention given to improving performance in the Develop module some customers, particularly those with 8 and higher CPU cores, high-end GPUs graphics cards driving 4K and 5K displays will likely continue to experience progressive slow downs. Adobe engineers are aware of this issue and will continue to eliminate the slow downs. In meantime, and to take advantage of the improved GPU performance, etc you should endeavour to adapt your editing working flow so that the features that make greatest use of the GPU are undertaken first. As such, the recommended order for editing images for best interactive performance is:
Features now available to customers upgrading from Lightroom 6
In addition to the features appearing in the Develop module for the first time I think it useful to summarise those that were added to Lr 2015 over its life that are present in Lr Classic.
Reference View is a view mode in the Develop Module that provides a dedicated 2-Up view that lets you place a Reference (static) photo next to an Active (editable) photo. It is particularly helpful when making a group of images from a single event look similar. Other examples where you might use this feature are:
Develop Module - Reference View
There are a number of approaches to accessing the this tool, but below is probably the simplest.
In addition to the horizontal 2-up view it’s also possible to display the reference and active photos as vertical 2-up.
Reference View is most useful when used to visually match photos to a reference photo. It’s also possible to adjust by the RGB values associated with pixels directly under the cursor. However, the RGB values themselves are displayed under the Histogram, which means you are constantly having to switch your view from the photo to the histogram. Personally, I find this rather tiring on the eyes, and would prefer that the RGB values be displayed at the cursor position rather than the histogram.
While above describes a work flow where the reference photos and all of the other images are from the same event it is possible to set any photo in your catalog as the reference photo.
Note that by default, Lightroom will clear the current reference photo when you switch away from the Develop module. To lock the current reference photo to the Reference window, click the Reference Photo lock icon in the toolbar before switching away from the Develop module
The Upright tool in Lightroom 5 helped customers easily straighten images, fix horizons, and reduce or eliminate the keystone effect in buildings. However these tools were auto only and tended to work best with prominent vertical and horizontal lines in the photo. With Lr CC 2015.6 Adobe introduced Guided Upright, which provided customers with the ability to manually define the vertical and horizontal lines to be used for the Upright transform. This feature is included as standard in Lightroom Classic.
Use the following procedure:
Develop Module - Updated Lens Corrections Panels
that the Upright tab has been removed from the Lens Corrections panel thus simplifying it. The new Transform panel is for all users. However, only CC customers will previously have seen the Guided Upright button.
Develop Module - Transform Panel
The following photo is a typical example of where Guided Upright works particularly well.
Photo before applying Guided Upright
Photo after applying Guided Upright
If needed, you can fine tune the results with the manual transform sliders, including the X and Y transform sliders. These can be used for repositioning/moving the image within the canvas after applying the perspective corrections to choose which part of the (warped, non-rectangular) image to show within the rectangular canvas. It’s also possible to fine tune the guide lines by clicking and dragging on the guide handles.
Photo after applying crop
Anyone who has used Photoshop or Lightroom to create panoramas will be familiar with the white non-rectangular boundaries. There are several ways to handle these irregular boundaries; the most common of which is to switch Auto Crop on or apply a rectangular crop. This method is straightforward, but important image details near the edge of the image may be lost due to cropping. An alternative approach is to use Content Aware Fill (in Photoshop) to fill in the transparent areas outside the boundary. While this can be effective with some images it’s very often not appropriate for others. For images where Content Aware Fill can be used it may require multiple attempts to obtain a satisfying (smooth, artifact-free) result. It can also be expensive in terms of processing power, and requires rendering out the panorama to an output-referred (non-raw) format. Boundary Warp is a feature that provides another approach to handling the irregular boundary of panoramas. The feature analyses the boundary and warps the image so that its edges fit a rectangular frame. Here’s a Before and After example of the feature in action.
Boundary Warp – Before
Boundary Warp – After
Photographers of every skill level will be aware that many outdoor scenes have some amount of haze due to atmospheric conditions. Dehaze is a feature introduced in Lr CC 2015.1 for removing/adding haze and fog to/from your photos. You can control how much haze to remove by adjusting a new slider in the Effects panel. This feature can also be used in the other direction to increase the amount of haze.
Develop Module - Effects Panel
The recommended workflow for getting the best results from this new too – Adjust the white balance of the image before applying the Dehaze control. You may also find that the saturation levels in some images needs to be reduced slightly relative to what would be normal had Dehaze not been applied. Below you’ll see a Before/After example of an image where the Dehaze control has been used to reduce the atmospheric haze in the distant mountains. This example also required that I applied a slightly smaller amount of saturation/vibrance than what I’d normally apply.
Dehaze - Before and After
I suspect many long time Lightroom customers will be disappointed with this update. Some might also question whether there's enough to even warrant the upgrade. In my opinion, there is, especially if upgrading from the Lightroom 6 perpetual licence. As for Creative Cloud Photography subscribers, you'll already be aware that many new features and enhancements have been added since Lightroom 6/2015 first shipped, and there's no reason to expect anything different in the future. As for the future, I believe customers can take comfort in the fact that the Develop module in Lightroom has always included all of the new features added to Camera Raw. In my opinion, this is a powerful incentive to stick with Lightroom Classic rather than seek out non Adobe alternatives.
You may have noticed that I've made little reference to syncing images from Lightroom Classic to Adobe Cloud and mobile devices. The reason being, that there's no change to syncing behaviour in Lightroom Classic when compared to Lightroom 6/2015. In fact, rather than investing engineering time in improving support for cloud and mobile in Lightroom Classic, Adobe have instead developed a completely new application. This application, which goes by the name Lightroom CC for the desktop is specifically intended to be a first class citizen of the Creative Cloud ecosystem.
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