I have had requests for an example, not of a new image processed through Lightroom 4’s improved controls, but an older image that was problematic, moved forward to the new method. Its a fair question: what can the new Process2012 do for an older image? I selected an image that I could clearly recall having posterization and reversal issues with on original processing, and used it as an example here.
The image was shot hand-held with the Canon 5D in an abandoned villa in Tuscany, not long before the Canon 5D Mark ll became available; a fact I recall, because I wished I had the Mark ll in hand when I took what I knew would be a problem shot. Yes, a tripod and longer exposure would have helped, and yes a tripod and multiple exposures for HDR processing would have helped even more. But it was an impromptu image, without those options.
When processing later in Lightroom 2, the temptation was to gain more detail in the clouds and landscape with the Recovery slider, and more detail in the interior with the Fill Light slider. Doing both resulted in rather painterly, non-photographic result in the landscape with lack of detail and levels, but an unacceptable reversal creating a double edge to the window, and even to the tree outside the window. My solution at the time was to recover the highlights in Lightroom, and do the rest in Photoshop, to eliminate the reversals. This didn’t improve the landscape, but in this case, unlike some others, the dreamy result was acceptable. The resulting image has been popular as a small size matte paper print.
I accessed the original RAW file in Lightroom 4, and created a virtual copy of it. I left the image in Process2003 and set the Recovery and Fill Light sliders to the heavy settings that I had originally attempted, only to find I needed to back them off to avoid reversals. A closeup of the result, much as it looked the first time, is on the left below.
I then updated the image to Process 2012, and set the tone curve to Linear, since the custom curve in the older format had not been converted in a reasonable manner, as discussed in a previous article. The resulting image (on the right above) is darker, but being darker should show the posterization and reversal issues even more clearly.
And yet it does not. Click on the image above to examine the edges in detail. The top edge of the window is very soft, but neither edge of the window, nor the tree outside, show the clear double border that occurred in the earlier process.There is less loss of levels in the landscape as well, though this closeup does not focus on that.
Clearly, it would be possible to create an improved version of my earlier image by reprocessing in Lightroom 4.1. That would require doing dust busting and other work a second time, since those steps had occurred in Photoshop, not Lightroom, originally. But for an image such as this, the reworking would be worthwhile for the improved results, and the possibility of then offering the image in larger sizes than previously possible.
If I had the luxury of reshooting the image today, a hand-held image with the Canon 5DMark lll, plus Lightroom 4.1 processing, would offer far more detail, far less noise, and more levels in both the highlight landscape and the shadow interior.