Everyone is downloading the new beta version of Lightroom 4 and wondering what's new. It might take you a few minutes to figure out what's changed but I've outlined the big changes I see in Lightroom 4 that will have the biggest impact on your photos. I've included side by side screen shots of some of these tabs with the changed areas in red.
At first look in the Library module you will see two new tabs, Map & Book, which are new features to geo tag your photos and organize and filter them by location. The Book module will allow you to create a Blurb book right inside Lightroom and let you add photos from anywhere in your catalog. It also has many templates, and auto layout feature and you can even save it to a PDF.
The pair of sliders, Brightness & Contrast, from Lightroom 3 have been moved up between the White Balance and the other tonal controls. They have changed the name of the Brightness slider to Exposure but it still controls the same area of the image, midtones.
The next section maybe a bit confusing at first glance but we still have the same basic controls we did before. Adobe has renamed three of the four sliders here and to make things simpler we now have a Whites and Blacks slider to control the white and black points. The Blacks slider was there before but the Whites slider was called Exposure in version 3.
The Recovery and Fill Light sliders in version 3 have been renamed Highlights and Shadows. The name is not the only thing that's changed but the processing these two do are more advanced than in the previous versions. Adobe has fixed a problem when the two were used together and now they process the image much more elegantly with some fantastic results.
The Clarity didn't change names but got some big improvements under the hood. It now adds the local contrast we like but without the big halos you would get when used heavily.
You may also notice all of these sliders now start at 0 and not some arbitrary number like some of them did in version 3.
The next big change in Lightroom 4 is the added features to the local Brush & Graduated Adjustments. Adobe has added five more controls, White Balance, Highlights & Shadows, and control for Noise and Moire. Adding a White Balance control to the local adjustments will be a big help with pictures containing indoor light mixed with sunlight. Now you can brush away those problem light sources and match the rest of the photo. The Noise adjustment will also be a big benefit when opening up shadow areas and being able to apply noise control to just that area and not the entire picture.
Adobe has also made a small change to the Tone Curve tab that will make big changes to your photos. You can now apply curves to each of the red, green and blue channels separately. The RGB control is available when you switch the curve to a Point Curve. I can't tell you how many times I had to bring a photo in to Photoshop just to apply color changes in a Curves adjustment. Lightroom has now made it easier to make color changes with the sophisticated curves adjustment without leaving Lightroom.
Other big enhancements to the program are new DNG options, Soft Proofing and Emailing directly out of Lightroom. Also, the ability to adjust the photo for printing on the fly, enhanced video support allowing to make changes to imported videos like a picture, and they have now made the Tethered controller adjustable so it isn't so big on screen. These don't change the way our photos look or are processed but they do make working in Lightroon better and more efficient.
Overall it looks like Adobe has really made some thoughtful changes to Lightroom making not only our pictures look better but also making the workflow and experience easier for us photographers.