When we reviewed Lightroom 4 I pretty much vowed to myself I won't bother with the next upgrade. My reasoning? Lightroom did pretty well everything I needed it to do: it's a great editing place for my Nikon 600 images with all the tools that I as an aerial photographer could possibly need. There were even modules which I had not used yet...
What changed my mind?
Let me just highlight a couple of things that made the most recent upgrade compelling for me.
I have just finished my first photo book using the Book module which can print to PDF and to Blurb, arguably one of the better known self-publishing platforms. I have had no previous experience with self publishing but I am pretty familiar with the publishing world itself. I had watched an excellent tutorial by Julianne Kost on this Book module (all of her tutorials are absolutely brilliant!) which convinced me this is a piece of cake.
A bit of familiarity with previous editions of Lightroom helps of course, but generating a photo book of any size is indeed amazingly simple. The pages can be auto-populated with all the photos, corrections can be quickly made because you are already in Lightroom and there is a huge selection of templates and formats available. See below the cover of the book I made for a construction project for which I did the aerial views.
There were a couple of moments of frustration when I discovered there is no easy way to Undo the last few actions, unlike the facility you have in the Develop module where you can try out certain things, and turn them back if you don't like them. The Book module needs an easy Undo too.
Sometimes text formatting and text placement is more fiddly than it should be and can trip you up when you generate an e-book. To create a book for iPad is generally easy except for text boxes that all needed adjusting. It would be handy if the Book module already indicated a possible conflict with later e-book printing. In Lightroom 5 the Book module has been upgraded in a few minor ways, like the page numbering system, text input and crop overlays.
It might not be a bad idea for Adobe to fully integrate the Blurb plug-in into Lightroom. I did not say just buy Blurb but it would make for a better integration....
Now, this Book module was also available in the previous edition of Lightroom so that is not a particularly compelling reason. There is however a one click healing brush mode that is a bit like the Content Aware mode in Photoshop. See below for an example of how this Advanced Healing Brush works. Have a look at the red car in the centre. Gone in 60 seconds...
Please note: this is the initial result after one click only. So the car is gone but for a good result you still need to fiddle around with the lines in the car park to make it look believable. This can be extremely handy to remove any splotches or unwanted features or persons from your images. Also: make use of the Visualisation Tool to spot all your spots!
If you want to have access to your photos that may be residing on an external drive which is not always connected, you can generate Smart Previews which will allow you to still be tweaking them. And as soon as the drives are connected again, the RAW files will be updated with the changes you have made. It's also handy to directly publish the much smaller Smart Previews to Facebook and other sites.
When you photograph a building, most of the time the outside walls seem to be tilting inwards towards the top. The famous keystoning effect.
The Upright tool analyses your images and detects skewed horizontal and vertical lines, and even though it can be very useful, it might look a little bit unnatural, given that we have got used to the way it "normally" looks. However, just watching Ms Kost's video on this subject showed there are better ways of utilising the Upright facility. You can tell Lightroom to do a Full or Auto transform which will make it look more natural. For most of my aerial shots where the horizon might be a bit slanted it is very handy to use the Level function. If only that would apply to flying my plane as well... Good to use on your wide angled shots where the earth horizon seems curved.
It's fun to play around with the new radial gradient filter as it allows you to highlight or emphasise the focal points of your images. An off centre vignette can really draw your attention to the important part in an otherwise ordinary photograph. Initially I thought that only the outside of the filter could be changed but there is an Invert Mask button that will allow you to only change what's inside the circle or oval.
A welcome addition!
Lightroom 5 has generated a new desire in me to explore and actually use as many of its features as I can for my professional work. I have not used the Map module yet because most of my work is shot fairly locally, but I can see where, with some upcoming trips further afield, the integrated GPS coordinates in your EXIF data can be very handy indeed.
I'm truly excited with the Book module and look forward to further improvements from the people at Blurb.
If there's any feature that I personally want to have included in a next edition of Lightroom, it is photo stitch for panoramic shots.
For an upgrade price of AUD 99 this is a no-brainer for people who use Lightroom regularly.
Adobe has been pushing the Cloud possibilities for all their software and whilst I personally won't go that route, it might be an affordable way for many folks.