If you have been a Lightroom user and have upgraded from previous versions the first thing you need to understand is the new arrangement and the renaming of the tone control sliders in the Basic panel of Lightroom 4. The new and improved tone controls have changed and moved around enough to confuse you at first look so lets see what's changed and how the new controls affect the developing of our photos.
First off, if you are developing photos you previously imported in to Lightroom 3 (LR3) they will default to the old Process Version 2010 when you first develop them in Lightroom 4 (LR4). To update your photo to the new Process Version 2012, and see the new Tone controls in the Basic panel, you can update your photo any of these ways: Either click on the exclamation point icon in the bottom right of the image preview window in the Develop module, select the new process in the menu Settings>Process>2012 (Current), or select the new version in the Process section of the Camera Calibration panel.
If you click on the exclamation point icon in the image preview, Lightroom will ask you if you want to update all the photos in the filmstrip or just the one photo. It may be wise to start with just one photo at a time especially if you had developed the photo earlier in LR3. Because of the changes to the Tone sliders and new tone-mapping algorithms, the image will more than likely change a bit visually and you will have to adjust the Tone sliders to get the photo looking the way it was before or hopefully better. Lightroom will adjust the new sliders too but regardless, the photo will look different anyways.
To simplify the process and to get better control of the tone and contrast in Lightroom, Adobe has renamed and moved a few of the tone controls. One of the biggest changes with the tone sliders is every slider now starts in the middle and starts at a value of 0. If you remember in LR3, the black slider started at 5 towards the far left, the brightness started at 50 just to the right of the middle, and the contrast started at a value of 25. Where these numbers came from I have no idea but I think starting all the sliders at 0 is a big improvement and makes it simpler to remember the default value and you can visually see if any sliders have been adjusted.
Starting at the top of the Tone area in the Basic panel, what used to be towards the bottom of the tone controls, Brightness and Contrast have moved up and the Brightness has been renamed to Exposure. Similar to the Brightness control of LR4, the Exposure control in LR4 adjusts the overall brightness of your image. The numerical values are the equivalent of the exposure values on your camera with a range of 5 stops. So an adjustment of +1.0 will equal adjusting your exposure in camera to a +1 stop. Watch when adjusting the Exposure to large values as it can affect highlight and shadow clipping. Contrast remains the same as LR3 adding contrast mainly to the midtones of your image. The dark areas become darker and the light areas become lighter.
The next section of the tone control in LR4 that has changed are the four controls named Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. The name changes from LR3 are: Exposure has changed to Whites, Recovery has changed to Highlights, Fill Light has changed to Shadows, and Blacks is still named Blacks. I think the new order makes sense and is a better workflow when developing your photos. I can see the thinking behind the LR3 order of sliders but it works better in LR4 because if you adjust the Highlights or Shadows you usually have to compensate the Whites and Blacks accordingly so they would be adjusted afterwards. Much better.
Starting with the Highlights, this slider adjusts the very bright areas of your image like the Recovery slider in LR3 and if you drag it to the left to darken your image it will recover clipped or blown out highlights if you have any. It will also try to minimize clipping when sliding it right to brighten the highlights of your image.
The Shadows slider, formerly known as the Fill Light in LR3, adjusts the dark areas of your image opening up the shadows when moving it to the right. Dragging it to the left will darken the shadow areas while minimizing clipping in your blacks. If you open up the shadow areas with the Shadow slider you will probably want to compensate and increase the Blacks slider dragging it to the left.
The Whites slider was formerly known as the Exposure slider in LR3, and still controls the white point or brightest point of your image. Slide this to the right to brighten your image but watch out for clipping in your highlights when using large values.
The Blacks slider remains the same in LR4, adjusting the black point or the darkest point in your image. Watch out for clipping in the shadow areas when sliding it the left. You will also notice the change in LR4, increasing the Blacks slider is sliding it to the left and not to the right like in LR3. I'm still trying to get used to this.
The Clarity slider name has not changed but the processing behind the curtain has improved a lot. Clarity adds local contrast to your image adding depth. We all love the Clarity but if you ever tried to use a lot of it you know about the halos that would appear around the contrasted edges. They have improved the slider in LR4 and you'll find it harder to get the halos in your photos now.
I hope this helps you navigate the new Tone controls in Lightroom 4 and I'm sure you'll find, like I have, that the new developing engine is a better process and will result in better looking images. Cheack back next week to learn about the new Tone Curve in Lightroom 4. Be sure to Like us on Facebook to keep up with all the new articles.