Lightroom 4 is the latest version of Adobe’s “other” image editing application and while there are a bunch of new features under the hood, including video support, Blurb Books integration and a brand new Map Module, there are three big reasons, at least in my opinion, to upgrade (or four if you count the new lower upgrade price). First up are the new Adjustment Brushes, which allow you to paint in things like White Balance, Sharpening and Noise Reduction. You can still do global adjustments, but now, as an example, you can paint out shadow noise locally when shooting at higher ISO. Very cool. We’re starting to do a lot more in-studio printing, so the new Soft Proofing feature is our second must-have new feature. Soft proofing allows you to more accurately gauge how your image will look on a given paper type and make adjustments to match the printed image to what you see onscreen. The third new feature to Lightroom 4 we’re loving is the new Tone Curve tool. You may be thinking, “Hey, Lightroom 3 had Tone Curves.” Sorry, Lightroom 3 had parametric Tone Curves, which are a different type of adjustment. The new Tone Curve tool allows you to make individual adjustments to each of the RGB channels. The addition of this to Lightroom 4 marks one less reason to take your images into Photoshop and one more step in your workflow that will remain non-destructive. Of course you could (and should) use Curve Adjustment Layers in Photoshop, but more and more photographers are using Lightroom as their main post processing application, so having the new Tone Curve tool is a fantastic addition.
The new Tone Curve is such a flexible and powerful tool that the folks at Totally Rad have used it as the basis for a new set of presets called Amped, which are exclusive to Lightroom 4. This new package contains 20 brand new presets that get applied to your image as custom color curves. They don’t adjust any other parameters, which means you can use them alongside your other plugins and presets or simply as the starting point for your own edits and customizations. Each preset comes in three levels (or “volumes” if you’re keeping with the rock ‘n’ roll metaphor), allowing you to more accurately dial in a look that works for a given image. The Amped presets range from subtle to strong, but none of them are going to really overpower your images. Nik and I have been playing with them for about a week and rather than starting with them, we have actually been using the Amped presets as one of the last steps in our Lightroom workflow, using them more as sort of a digital glaze or varnish to finish off the image.
Amped is a great compliment to Lightroom 4, especially if you haven’t spent much time working with Curves, but even if you have, it gives you the ability to get a variety of looks quickly and intuitively. At just US$49, it’s not a huge investment and, if you use our F+B coupon code at checkout, you can save an additional 15% on all Totally Rad products.
Doug Boutwell Using AMPED