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Changes to the Basics Tab in Lightroom 4 Beta

Recently, I have seen a lot of discussion regarding the changes to the development module in Lightroom 4 Beta and I wanted to go over some of these changes since Lightroom 3.

In my previous post, I briefly mentioned the changes to the Basics tab in the Development module.. with the familiar Fill Light, Recovery and Brightness sliders making a departure and Highlights, Shadows and Whites making an appearance.

Lightroom 3 and Lightroom 4 Beta Basics tabs

The advice from Adobe is that you should learn how the new sliders work from the beginning and not expect them to work as they do in LR3 (Process version 2010). This is not as complicated as it sounds and quite easy to pick up with a few examples below.

All sliders set to the default zero

Brightness and Exposure Sliders

In Lightroom 3, the exposure slider affected the whole of the histogram and the brightness slider affected the middle of the histogram more than the highlights & shadows.

Lightroom 4 Beta on the other hand, creates a new and improved Exposure slider.. that has all the benefits of the the Brightness controls from LR3. The new Exposure behaves more like film, with a graceful fall off with the highlights.

In the photograph, my histogram is a little too far to the right.. with blown highlights and no deep blacks in the image.

Histogram of the unedited image

Bringing down the exposure just a little gives us a good starting point for the edit.

Exposure set to -1.10

As you can see in the Histogram below, the exposure has been brought back to reveal a little of the detail in the sky.

Recovered highlights

The image is now in a good starting position with all the data falling within the histogram, from here it is on to the Highlights and Shadows sliders

Highlights and Shadows

These two new sliders affect the bright (highlights) and dark (shadows) areas of the image.

First I reduce the Highlights to bring out more detail in the clouds.

Darkening the Highlights

As you can see, this has brought out the clouds

Cloud Detail

Now to the Shadows..

Lighten the shadows to +59

This brings out the detail hidden in the shadows..

Increased shadow detail

and now we look at the Whites & Blacks

Whites and Blacks

These sliders cover each end of the histogram. Whites are brighter than highlights and Blacks are darker than shadows. This may seem a little confusing as most photographers are used to referring to the very right of the histogram as the highlights, but it makes sense that the Whites slider plays the opposite role to the Blacks.

In my example image, I did not need to adjust the Whites as there are no blown highlights. The Blacks on the other hand could do with a little adjustment to increase the contrast.

Darken the Blacks to -11

This gives a little more contrast in the lower range of the image..

A little low end contrast thanks to the darker blacks

The image is almost complete now with just a touch of Clarity needed.


In Lightroom 4 Beta, the Clarity brush has also been improved dramtically. The old LR3 Clarity had a tendency to create halos if over used. The new slider in LR4 Beta is much better at controlling artifacts and halos.. so much so that Adobe has also increased the strength of the slider. The advice from people at Adobe is that the Clarity slider in LR4 Beta is approximately twice as strong as that in LR3.. so expect to use lower settings to achieve the same affect as LR3.

Clarity is an intelligent contrast for the mid range tones on the histogram and can add a nice pop to an image.

Clarity settings

now you can see the difference in the Before and After screenshots




I hope that you have found this look at the new Basics panel from LR4 Beta to be useful. My one piece of advice if you are coming from a previous version of Lightroom is treat the sliders as completely new. A quick 30 min play with the new sliders will give you more insight than trying to use familiar settings from LR3.

As always, please feel free to ask questions or comment below


About Scot Baston (31 Articles)
Scot Baston is a Commercial & Wedding Photographer that lives on the south coast of Devon, that inspires much of his work. Whether it the technical or emotive sides, Photography is a passion that continues to challenge and inspire.

8 Comments on Changes to the Basics Tab in Lightroom 4 Beta

  1. Leonard F Grant Jr // 17/01/2012 at 1:18 am //

    Very good information, as usual. Thank you.

  2. Hi Scot. Thanks for that useful post. One question though: if Adobe is changing the mechanism by which settings are applied, and the strength of available settings, do we have any clarity on the mechanisms for translating image adjustments made in LR3 to images residing in an LR4 catalogue?

    Has anyone seen the conversion process and vouched for its integrity?


  3. Hi Giles,

    Anyone can download the LR4 Beta and compare the differences.. so you can see for yourself, especially as LR4Beta runs in parallel with LR3. ( I would advise working only copies of images though)

    In LR4 Beta, you can use either the LR3 Process version (PV2010) or the LR4Beta Process version (PV2012). when using PV2010 the sliders look and behave exactly like they do in LR3 so there would be no conversion at all. In PV2012, the LR4 version, the image is adjusted to the new process version which does create small differences. From what I have seen so far, an image converted from PV2010 to PV2012 has a little more contrast and seems generally brighter but only by small amounts.. and often to the images benefit.

    I hope that helps


  4. Thanks for that Scot. Yes, it helps. I’ll have a look at the Beta.

    I have no doubt I can get used to the new adjustment mechanisms, but I’ve become quite adept at taking essentially unusable images and transforming them just with the existing sliders. I’d hate to go back to them and find I had to re-adjust them all!


  5. You have no need to adjust old images, just leave them as PV2010 in LR4.. having said that I’ve taken a few older images and made better adjustments with the LR4 Beta than I could in LR3



  6. Hi Scot, we must be neighbours I’m in Lyme. My question is why have you not mentioned Vibrance. I tend to use it on most of my images instead of Saturation.

    Sorry one more, when importing straight from the memory card, why does LR4b treat them as PV2010 and shows the LR3 Basic Module set up even thought they are not copies from LR3? I use the PV2012 on the metadata on import.

    Thanks and regards


  7. Hi Vic,

    I love the vibrance slider, I find it often gives me more realistic colours compared to the saturation slider. In answer to your question, I did not mention the Vibrance slider simply because I cannot see any change in its operation since LR3. Also the image above didn’t require any Vibrance or Saturation adjustment.

    I’m not sure why your images are importing as PV2010 instead of PV2012, esp as you say they have not been editing in previous versions of Lightroom. The default for new images is to use PV2012. I would suggest contacting Adobe on their Adobe Labs forum and explaining it to them and maybe they can advise you.



  8. Just a big thanks, Scot. When I opened up my just-downloaded LR4 last night i was taken aback by the new Basic sliders, and was confused by “Whites” vs. “Highlights”, “Blacks” vs “Shadows”, and looked in vain for “Brightness”. Your explanation was very clear.


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