A Look Inside Lightroom CC

The top 5 new features in Lightroom CC for nature photographers

Adobe released the long- anticipated Lightroom 6; or is it Lightroom CC, or is it both? In fact, Lightroom is now branded in two distinct ways, but the offering is not actually new. Functionally, there is no difference between the two, other than that Lightroom CC provides access to Lightroom Mobile and Creative Cloud workflows, and Lightroom 6 does not. However, over time their paths will diverge. As time goes on, Adobe will begin to stuff new features into Lightroom CC that will not be added to Lightroom 6. So Adobe thought it would be a good idea to make the two camps easier for consumers to distinguish and just brand them differently. It’s not the beginning of the end for those that want to purchase a perpetual license, but Adobe does hope consumers eventually see that CC is the way to go, and that the users’ experience will ultimately be richer with the Creative Cloud. But as I said, this new offering isn’t really a new offering, only new packaging. So what is? What are some of the new features important to us nature shooters in, well, let’s call it Lightroom CC?

Lightroom CC is actually chock-full of new features that I think are as universally useful to outdoor photographers as they are to studio photographers. From changes in how to interact with keywords to GPU acceleration (a feature that speeds up the Develop Module), the wait for this release has paid off in many ways. Still, most of the features are minor, while major additions to Lightroom CC such as Facial Recognition may not be indispensable for us landscape and wildlife photographers. And so, please allow me to distill what I think are the Top 5 new features we outdoor shooters will truly appreciate—plus a few extras at the end.

If you are working with a red image, you may have trouble clearly seeing the red mask. Try holding down the Shift key while tapping the “O” key for your Mask Overlay. The color of the mask will then cycle between red, green and white.

Filtering through Collections
Nature photographers love Lightroom Collections. They allow us to design different groups from our image Library to help keep us organized for output, or to maintain categorical organization. But regardless of the workflow, I’ve also seen many nature photographers create a daunting number of Collections over time. I for one am guilty of this, and since Collections are a major tool in my workflow, sifting through our Collections has been tedious.

Figure 1 With the new Collections Panel Filter, simply type in the collection you want to locate and Lightroom will narrow down your search.

To the rescue is a new feature in Lightroom CC that’s considered a minor edition, but it has made a major impact on how I engage my Collections. Simply put, Adobe added the ability to filter through our Collections (see Figure 1). To access the filter, click the “+” symbol on the Collections Panel header and select Show Collection Filter.

Figure 2 The flaw inherent with the Gradient Filter has been that it can only adjust in a straight line. Notice the dark areas covering the mountaintops—an unwanted effect with this development.


Figure 3 Here is a before and after view of a Gradient Filter line that was modified to fit the contours of the given landscape.

Universal Access To The Adjustment Brush
Localized correction tools in the Lightroom Develop Module such as the Adjustment Brush, the Radial Filter and the Gradient Filter, are powerful instruments. But until now, the Radial Filter and the Gradient Filter have been tools primarily for broad stroke adjustments. For example, if you wanted to darken tones above a horizon line, you could use the Gradient Filter to adjust everything above the adjustment placed on your image, as shown in Figure 2. Unfortunately, the Gradient Filter has a flaw—the areas we want to adjust are not always straight lines, but often the landscapes we encounter have shape. Lightroom CC solves this by allowing us to change the shape of the straight line to whatever we need (see Figure 3).

In the upper right corner of the Gradient Filter and the Radial Filter is the added Brush button. If you desire to erase areas of an adjustment, select the Brush and then brush over unwanted adjustments while holding down the Alt (PC users) or Option key (Mac users). You can also first hit the Erase button located at the bottom of the panel after the Brush has been activated. Needless to say, you can also add adjustments to other areas of your image with the Brush without having to create another adjustment. When using the Radial Filter, you can take advantage of this feature to create custom vignettes that go way beyond the capabilities of the Post Crop Vignette tool in the Effects Panel.

Figure 4 Mask Overlays are now available with the Gradient Filter and the Radial Filter (hit the “O” key to access). Turning on Mask Overlay while detailing localized correction filters with the Adjustment Brush will aid with performing precise adjustments.

Universal Access to Mask Overlays
For number three in this countdown, Adobe has added a feature that is, in a way, an extension of the previous feature. Or at the very least, they work well in concert with one other. One of the tools that’s been available with the Adjustment Brush is the ability to overlay a red mask over an image to clearly identify where we’ve applied and where we haven’t applied the Brush. The Mask Overlay then becomes handy for dialing in the details around the edges of an adjustment. It helps us color in the lines, if you will. Of course, we can access the Mask Overlay in any localized correction now by tapping on the O key (see Figure 4).

Figure 5 A before and after view of images stitched together using Lightroom CC’s new Photo Merge Panorama feature.

Stitching Panoramas
The new Photo Merge Panorama feature is terribly exciting for a couple of reasons. First of all, I’m thrilled with the idea of keeping everything in Lightroom. The less I have to use 3rd party programs in my workflow, the faster I am and the easier my organization gets. Secondly, and frankly most importantly, how Lightroom stitches panoramas is different than any other program. It actually generates a raw file while stitching. Other programs require all files be first processed as a TIFF or JPEG before stitching. But with Photo Merge Panorama, no processing is required and a DNG (Adobe’s raw file format) file is the final result. Furthermore, the implication to one’s workflow because Lightroom generates a raw file is also exciting. Before, it made a lot of sense to develop the file as much as we could before stitching, in order to take full advantage of the benefits of raw processing. But since we are generating a stitched raw file, we can develop after. Exciting, indeed!

Figure 6 To launch the Photo Merge Panorama Dialog, use quick keys Control M, or go through the main menu.

Stitching images in Lightroom is also easy. First, select a set of images without concern for order and go to the Photo Menu > Photo Merge > Panorama (quick keys Shift M), as shown in Figure 6. This launches the Merge To Panorama Dialog offering different projection options such as Perspective, Cylindrical and Spherical—you can tell Lightroom to Auto Select Projection (see Figure 7). After you’ve established your settings, hit the Complete Merge button in the lower right corner of the dialog, and watch Lightroom do the rest.

Figure 7 The Photo Merge Panorama settings are simple. The only two settings to consider are to choose which projection method you want, and to check the box to Auto Crop.

Blending Images for HDR
In addition to Photo Merge Panorama, Lightroom has also added the ability to blend images to create HDR files. Akin to Lightroom’s unique approach to stitching panoramas, Photo Merge HDR blends images and also generates a DNG. Thus, the workflow implications are also similar in that Develop After Photos Have Been Merged is now a viable option.

Figure 8 A before and after view of three images blended to create an HDR file.

Accessing Photo Merge HDR is also similar to Photo Merge Panorama. First select a set of images for blending, and then go to the Photo Menu > Photo Merge > HDR (refer to Figure 6), or use the quick keys Shift H. This launches the Photo Merge HDR Dialog, as shown in Figure 9, and here there are only three settings to choose from. You can choose to Auto Align your photos (I suggest having this checked for anything handheld), Auto Tone, or you can choose the magnitude of your deghosting engine. Simply hit Merge on the bottom right when ready and Lightroom will generate your HDR DNG file.

Figure 9 With the Photo Merge HDR dialog (quick key Control H to launch), you can choose to Auto Align, Auto Tone, and set your Deghost amount.

Obviously, these Top 5 features aren’t the only new features to Lightroom CC, and your personal favorites may not have even made it to the list. So with this in mind, here is a list of a few extras, or honorable mentions that I think are certainly worth your time to explore and learn. For a complete list of Lightroom’s new features with links to instructional videos, visit www.adobe.com/products/photoshop-lightroom/features.html.

Jason Bradley is a nature and underwater photographer from Monterey, California. He owns and operates Bradley Photographic Print Services and Bradley Photographic Workshops, and has authored the upcoming book, “Creative Workflow in Lightroom” by Focal Press. To see more of Bradley’s work, go to BradleyPhotographic.com.

More Lightroom CC Features
Facial Recognition: A fun new tool that identifies images with faces and makes tagging people an easier step of your workflow.

GPU Acceleration: Lightroom now engages the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to speed up interactive image editing. Basically, Lightroom can give you more feedback on the changes you’re making immediately.

Advanced Video Slideshows: There are a number of improvements to the Slideshow Module, but most notable are the additions of “Ken Burns” Pan & Zoom affects, and the ability to add and sync multiple music tracks to your slideshow.

Moving Adjustment Brush Edits: You can now freely reposition your Adjustment Brush edits by selecting and repositioning your edit pins.

Zipped Backups: All of your catalog backups are now Zipped to save space, but most importantly to avoid any accidental opening of your backup catalogs.

Jason Bradley has a unique set of skills. He specializes in nature and wildlife photography both underwater and above; he’s the owner and operator of Bradley Photographic Print Services, a fine art print lab; he leads photographic expeditions around the world, and is the author of the book Creative Workflow in Lightroom, published by Focal Press. Visit BradleyPhotographic.com to see more of his work and find info on his upcoming workshops and expeditions, and BradleyPrintServices.com to learn about his fine art printing services.