Lightroom 6 – a few thoughts.

Posted by on Jul 8, 2015 in Blog | No Comments

It’s been available for a little while now, and maybe the question you’re asking is: Should I bother with Lightroom 6? Is it worth the money?

Well, as a long-term Lightroom user, I’d automatically say “Yes, of course”. But is it?
I mean, is it any *better* than the last update of LR5?

Well, it has new features. Will that sway you?

There’s GPS data…. zzzz, face yawn whatever I mean recognition and tagging and something about printing. But they aren’t big sellers for me.

The first big deal for me is that you can combine the gradient tool with hand brushing, meaning a much more subtle and usable set of tools. Think of the landscape photographer who wants to drop a 3 stop grad onto the sky, but doesn’t want to kill the brightness of the snowy mountain tops? Now she can do the gradient, and then use a brush to erase the effect over the parts of the mountains she wants to keep gleaming white…

So, what else is new?

You can now merge several exposures into one “HDR” exposure, resulting in a .dng file. That’s two new things right away: a non-destructive, lossless file output from an HDR merge, and the ability to do it in Lightroom – and have it catalogued alongside the original files.
So, is that a big deal? Well, yes and no.
Yes, because if you do exposure blends (I dislike the inaccurate term “HDR” and just about everything associated with it) often, then it will save you time and keep your originals and blends together, potentially avoiding headaches when you can’t find what you are looking for later (this *may* only apply to me, the world’s least ‘filing oriented’ person, but I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of other photographers who would rather be shooting and testing new lights than organising files on a computer.) Also, having the output as a .dng rather than a .jpg (or other lossy file type) as you would with merges in Photoshop or other standalone applications, means you can tweak the finished result without losing any data.
No? No, because the exposure blending controls are pretty basic to say the least.
Some also claim that there’s no more going on than you could get by doing manual highlight/shadow/whites/blacks adjustments on the best exposure in your ‘stack’. While I’m not sure that’s true, it is fair to say the ‘strength’ of the blend is pretty low, meaning the finished articles usually end up looking realistic rather than tweaked to the psychedelic.
So, not a problem for me, but if you’re an HDR-head, this is not the upgrade you were looking for…

Also a new feature for LR6 is an auto panoramic tool.

If you shoot a lot of panos – which I do – this could prove interesting.
Again, the range of adjustments is limited and the output errs on the side of realistic rather than outrageous. However, it is very capable of stitching multi-row panos, and once again the output is in .dng, meaning they can be losslessly tweaked after assembly.
One caveat to this is that the software will disregard all adjustments you make to individual frames before merging, meaning that you should assemble first and do your post, well… post.
The one conceivable down side to this is for those with dirty sensors, who might use a dust mask pre-merge; where once you would do the spotting once and apply that to all frames, you would now need to spot the whole panoramic frame – and all those repeated dirty spots on the sensor. Ouch!

That said, the benefits of being able to catalogue your pano outputs alongside the original individual frames, and being able to work on them losslessly are just so valuable a time-saver for me that this alone would make me want to buy Lightroom 6.
At the upgrade price it’s pretty much a no-brainer. It has already saved me more time than I’d have had to work to pay for it. So, yes, I have bought it, and I’m very happy! Did I mention it was faster too?

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