Adobe’s Lightroom is probably the best software available when it comes to a photographer’s digital darkroom needs. The company has been putting lots of time and effort into building it into something that appeals to both pros and enthusiasts, and now it’s releasing Lightroom 5 beta, representing the fastest turnaround for a major point release in the app’s history.
One big change is the new flexibility of the spot removal tool. Now people can change the shape of the spot removal brush, so that it isn’t just a circle. You can make it person-shaped, for instance, to get rid of a someone with a single digital brushstroke. It’s now fully customizable, so you can change it to whatever shape best suits your needs for the actual composition you’re working on. Adobe Digital Imaging Product Manager Sharad Mangalick explained in an interview that this was among the top-requested features from users, and from the team itself.
The algorithm underlying the spot removal tool itself has also been completely redesigned, making it much better at matching than has been possible at the past for taking out large chunks of the scenery and replacing them with seamless background. The change is both fast and non-destructive. In a demo, it worked extremely well about taking out a person in the foreground without any noticeable detrimental effects.
Other great new features include the spot highlighting tool, which points out dust and specks in stark relief, making them much easier to zap with the spot removal tool so they won’t show up and ruin large-scale prints. There’s also a great new engine for selectively highlighting certain parts of an image, which makes it much easier to give focus to a composition that otherwise might not have any one place that draws the eye, with varying degrees of impact. And there’s a new tool called upright that automatically corrects distortion and horizon skewing, which can instantly transform an image from unusable to attractive in a single click.
Images can now be edited in a preview mode that doesn’t actually require the files to be physically present on the working drive. Any changes made by an editor are automatically backed up to the preview version, and then applied to the original when it’s present, which is great for photographers who store most of their library on external disks.
Adobe Lightroom 5 beta is available as a free public beta for anyone to try, regardless of whether you’ve ever used an Adobe product before, and it will remain free and fully functional until Adobe releases a full retail version of the program later this year. Requires Windows 7 or Windows 8 on PC, or Lion and Mountain Lion on Mac, and supports HiDPI (or Retina display resolution) on both.