Archive for the ‘Lightroom’ Category

Friday, March 26th 2010

Noise Reduction in Lightroom 3

In my review of Lightroom 3 beta 2 I wrote:

… software still can’t do magic and I prefer to keep all the detail, and grain, in my photos. I only use colour noise reduction to get rid of the ugly colour blotches.

It turns out I had completely missed a very important slider, under the main luminance noise slider: Detail

And having discovered that slider I realize that software nowadays can do magic! Lets have a look at an example.

First, lets see what Lightroom 2 can do with luminance noise (grain).

While trying to find a good photo to illustrate this I realized that the photo I picked completely at random for my last post was actually a very good one for this puropse. Plenty of detail and grain in the same area of the photo. This is a 100 percent crop from a photo I shot at Christmas with my trusty 30D. 1/20th at f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Hover the image to see what a noise reduction setting of 50 does in Lightroom 2.

Test of noise reduction in Lightroom 2.

As you can see, the detail in the painting is definitely blurred. And the frame, as well as the little gnomes at the bottom of the crop, are also slightly blurred.

Here is the same crop in Lightroom 3. You’ll notice there is much more detail to start with. This is one of LR3’s strengths. But when you’re shooting at ISO 1600 it means the grain will be very visible too. (My aggressive sharpness settings of 40 – 1.0 – 40 – 40 don’t help either.)

I set the luminance slider at 50, and the new detail slider at 70 (default is 50) while leaving the contrast at 0. That’s what you’ll see when you hover the image below.

Test of noise reduction in Lightroom 3.

In my eyes at least, the sharp grain completely disappears. Meanwhile the actual details are left virtually untouched! This is pretty amazing!

When looking at the painting I don’t get that feeling of greasy smear on my glasses that I get in the first demo.


To summarize, Lightroom 3 is much better at identifying which pixel variations are noise and which are part of some actual detail in the image. For the first time I feel that I have noise reduction that actually does more good than bad!

I will definitely be using both luminance and colour noise reduction in the future.

Finally a direct comparison of Lightroom 2 and Lightroom 3, both with NR on. Its like getting a new pair of glasses!

Lightroom 2 compared to Lightroom 3.

And to think that image detail was one of the selling points for me when I moved from Canon’s own raw converter to Lightroom. 🙂

Wednesday, March 24th 2010

Speed: Lightroom 3 beta 2 vs Lightroom 2

I’ve done a few timed tests of some heavy tasks in Lightroom to see what progress has been made since the first beta of version 3.


Here’s what I wrote about the first beta back in October:

I imported (added to a new catalogue) two folders containing a total of 295 photos from my Canon EOS 30D. I chose to render 1:1 previews at the same time. This took just over six minutes in Lightroom 2, but almost three times as long in Lightroom 3 beta!

This time I did a slightly different test, but it is obvious that beta 2 is a lot more efficient than beta 1. Now I imported 200 raw photos from my memory card in the card reader and chose to render 1:1 previews.

The actual import (copying of the files) took roughly 2 minutes 50 seconds in both versions. The rendering though took 4:25 in Lightroom 2 and 6:29 in Lightroom 3. That is almost 50 percent longer.

Still, it is a great deal faster than beta 1.


I also timed how long it took to export 100 raw files to full-size JPEGs. (No sharpening in the export settings.)

Lightroom 2 took 2:31 and Lightroom 3 beta 2 took 2:55. While it is still 16 percent slower than Lightroom 2, the new beta is a lot faster than the first beta. Here’s another quote from my previous review:

I also tried exporting 82 photos to full-size JPEGs. This took 95% longer in 3 beta, even though it was using roughly 80% of the CPU compared to around 63% for v2.

Navigating Through Photos

I tried to think of a way to measure how quickly Lightroom displays photos when flicking through them. So I decided to measure how long it took to click through 19 photos in the develop module, while waiting for the Loading sign to disappear for each photo.

Obviously, this method does introduce some user error, but I still believe it is accurate enough to give an idea of the responsiveness of the two versions.

The test took 45 seconds in Lightroom 2 and 57 seconds in Lightroom 3 beta 2. That’s 27 percent more time. Lightroom 2 definitely felt snappier too while doing this test, so I think it is a fair result.


Adobe have managed to make huge improvements to the speed of both importing (preview rendering) and exporting since the first beta of Lightroom 3. Beta 2 still lags behind Lightroom 2 in these tasks, but I feel the speed difference is not a big deal any more considering how much the image quality has been improved thanks to the new rendering engine.

Tuesday, March 23rd 2010

Lightroom 3 beta 2 Review

Adobe released their second beta of Lightroom 3 today. I’ve downloaded it and played around with it a bit – here are my thoughts and observations so far.

(If you want to read about the big changes since Lightroom 2, have a look at my previous posts.)

The slow scrolling has been fixed! Hallelujah! In the first beta each notch on the mouse wheel equaled one pixel of scrolling, which made it pretty much unusable.

Custom tone curve

Now Adobe have made it possible to use the tone curve in the normal Photoshop fashion. Here’s how to:

Screenshot of the tone curve panel in Lightroom 3 beta 2.

In the bottom of the Tone Curve panel, there is now a button to the right. If you click it you get into Custom mode, where you can drag the points on the curve any way you like.

Screenshot of a custom tone curve in Lightroom 3 beta 2.

This allows more extreme treatments, but most of the time the default mode is both easier to use and more photographically useful.

Luminance noise reduction

The developers have now switched luminance noise reduction back on. (In the first beta it wasn’t ready for testing.)

Here’s what it does to an ISO 1600 shot of mine, at 100%:

100% view with luminance noise reduction switched off.

Above at the 0 setting, and below at the 25 strength. It seems fairly good at keeping the detail in the photo while smoothing the luminance noise, or grain if you wish.

100% view with luminance noise reduction switched on.

Even so, software still can’t do magic and I prefer to keep all the detail, and grain, in my photos. I only use colour noise reduction to get rid of the ugly colour blotches. I have the colour noise setting at 10 as default and almost never change it.

Highlight tone priority

In beta 2, the highlight priority method has been made default for post-crop vignetting. It was available for evaluation in the first beta as well. This vignetting effect is a much better simulation of real, physical lens vignetting, and looks much better in my opinion.

Below is an image with the old paint overlay method of vignetting. Hover it to see the new highlight priority method.

Demo of vignetting in Lightroom 3 beta 2.

Have a look at the bright snow on the right when you hover in and out. The old method makes these highlights grey in a very unnatural way. Highlight priority lets highlights burn through the vignetting darkening in the same way they would do with real lens vignetting.

I want slide-show sharpening!

The slide-show module now has an option to render the images before starting, to avoid waiting time between the slides.

Screenshot of Lightroom 3 beta 2 prepare previews in advance option.

This is great, but they still haven’t fixed the one reason I don’t use Lightroom for slide-shows: sharpening. I would like to be able to choose between low, medium and high sharpening for screen – just as I can do in the export dialog.

This should be a pretty simple fix for the developers – especially now that they allow pre-rendering. They already have the algorithms to do the sharpening, they basically just need to add a drop down box in the panel.

Until that is fixed, slide-shows will always look better if I export the photos with sharpening and use FastStone to create the slide-show.

Other fixes

Adobe have also had the good sense to fix the folder view in the Import dialog. In the first beta it was really weird. Now it works like a normal folder tree structure – i.e. as you would expect. (The first beta was automatically uninstalled when I installed beta 2 so I can’t check to see exactly how the folders were weird. I just remember they were weird.)

There are a few other things that have been added that are of limited interest to me. I’m sure many others will like these though:

  • Tethered shooting for certain Canon and Nikon DSLRs.
  • Support for importing and organizing video clips.

Automatic lens correction

Sadly, Adobe still haven’t added automatic lens correction in Lightroom 3. I’ll have to keep dreaming for Lightroom 4. 🙁

Saturday, October 24th 2009

More about Lightroom 3 beta

Here are a few more things I’ve noticed about Adobe’s new Lightroom 3 beta.

  • Keyboard shortcuts for +/- exposure have been fixed, which I really like. Previously, hitting the + key would increase exposure by 0.33 steps and the – key would decrease it by 0.10. Now they both change exposure by 0.10, and holding shift gives you 0.33 steps. The way it was meant to be!
  • The spot removal tool is still laggy, as I showed in a previous blog post. It seems to be related to having two monitors active (in Windows, not Lightroom).
  • The White Balance picker still only picks one pixel. It would be much more accurate (and less affected by colour noise) if it would average at least a 9×9 sqaure of pixels.
  • This has nothing to do with the new beta, but I’ve just discovered how the Masking slider (under Detail) can help keep smooth areas smooth when you increase sharpness in the image. My new settings for the details panel will probably be 40 – 1.0 – 40 – 40.

Thursday, October 22nd 2009

Lightroom 3 beta Review

Edit: Want to read about the new Lightroom 3 beta 2?

I woke up this morning to the news of Lighroom 3 beta having been released to the masses. Now, after work, I’ve downloaded it and run it through some tests. Here’s what I’ve found so far. (If you want a full list of improvements, check out the Lightroom Journal.)

Image Quality

Now, many know-it-all photographers complain about other photographers pixel-peeping. Looking at your photos at 1:1 or 100% is the worst thing you can do, according to these people!

Since photos are made up of pixels, there is no other way of checking image quality than looking at the pixels – peep away! And that’s what we’re going to do here. Otherwise we wouldn’t see any differences at all. So basically all the anti-peepers need not worry about Lightroom 3 beta.

Lightroom 3 beta is much better at dealing with purple fringing than version 2. This is without any de-fringing turned on in the Lens Corrections panel. As you can see the difference is pretty clear:

Comparison of purple fringing in Lightroom 2 and 3 beta.

Here’s another 100% comparison, where I think you can see that Lightroom 3 beta makes the yellow leaves less blotchy and more detailed. That’s how I see it anyway, and the branches are clearly sharper. (This is at my fairly aggressive default sharpness settings: 40 – 1.0 – 40.)

Comparison between Lightroom 2 and 3 beta.

The above comparison becomes clearer if we zoom in to 300%. The leaves look like oats in a porridge to the left – ugly blotches – and I’d say there is more detail to the right:

Comparison between Lightroom 2 and 3 beta.

If you pull the sharpness slider down to 0 though, the difference between the two versions is pretty much nil. So I draw the conclusion that the sharpness algorithms have changed more than the underlying de-mosaicing algorithms.

As for the noise reduction, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. The reviews I’ve read/seen this morning have hailed it as something almost revolutionizing. I’d say colour noise reduction always has been very good in Lightroom, and I can’t see that 3 beta makes it any better (or worse):

Comparison of noise reduction in Lightroom 2 and 3 beta.

NR on in the comparison above means colour noise reduction set to 10. Sharpness settings were now at Lightroom defaults, 25 – 1.0 – 25.

Of course, they haven’t yet implemented luminance noise reduction, let’s see what they can do there. In Lightroom 2 I never use the luminance slider because it just takes away so much detail.

CPU usage and responsiveness

I imported (added to a new catalogue) two folders containing a total of 295 photos from my Canon EOS 30D. I chose to render 1:1 previews at the same time. This took just over six minutes in Lightroom 2, but almost three times as long in Lightroom 3 beta!

The actual import though (minus the 1:1 rendering) took roughly half as long in 3 beta as in 2.

I kept an eye on CPU usage while doing this. There isn’t much difference, but Lightroom 3 beta seems to be slightly worse than v2 at using all the power in our quad core AMD Phenom II CPU.

Lightroom 2 (ignore the right third of the four graphs):

CPU usage when importing photos in Lightroom 2

Lightroom 3 beta:

CPU usage when importing photos in Lightroom 3 beta

I also tried exporting 82 photos to full-size JPEGs. This took 95% longer in 3 beta, even though it was using roughly 80% of the CPU compared to around 63% for v2.

I read somewhere that you don’t get the blurry thumbnails in 3 beta that you got in v1 and v2. That’s not entirely true. You maybe won’t see them as often because scrolling is slower (see below) but you can definitely still get to see blurry thumbnails.

I’m not sure there’s been any real improvement when it comes to leafing through photos in loupe view either. There can still be a delay before you see the photo nice and sharp, depending on how much time you allow for the next image to pre-load.

Scrolling made worse

The scrolling in the Library was changed from Lightroom 1 to 2, for the better. It was made much faster. Now it has been made worse again.

Adobe have implemented scroll acceleration, so you need to scroll fast to get anywhere. I liked the old way, in 2, where you could scroll a notch or two and still get somewhere. This new implementation is much more hard work for my index finger.

Grain effect and watermark

Lightroom 3 beta lets you apply a grain effect, and I suspect this will be a somewhat overused look in the coming months:

Lightroom 3 beta grain effect and watermark.

Here the grain is combined with a split toning, which is possible in version 2 as well.

Library filters are lockable!

In Lightroom 2, any filter you make in the Library will remain active in the folder or collection where you created it even when you moved to another folder and back. But it wouldn’t remain active from one folder to another.

This is done much more intuitively in Lightroom 3 beta, if you ask me. Now, by default, the filter will be forgotten if you switch from one folder to another. But you can choose to lock it with a padlock icon, and it will remain active for any folder or collection you browse to.

In Lightroom 3 beta you can lock filters with the padlock icon.


There are still a few things on my feature wish-list for Lightroom 3 final.

  • Plug-ins for the develop-module.
  • Automatic lens correction. (Barrel/pincushion distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting.)


Quite a lot of nice improvements! Some may seem insignificant to others while making a huge difference for me.

The best part is that the Lightroom developers are still hard at work, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the two things above!

Saturday, October 17th 2009

Spot removal tool in Lightroom 2 jumps and stutters

My mother in law had ~1500 scanned photos where she wanted dust spots removing. No problem I thought, that’s a pretty quick job in Lightroom.

I imported the photos, and got going with the Spot removal/clone/heal tool. It didn’t take long before I noticed that it stutters, jumps and lags endlessly, which makes it extremely frustrating and basically impossible to use.

I really think this should be considered a bug for the Lightroom team to fix.

I made a screencast to show you the issue:


All that jumping and stuttering you saw there was in Lightroom, not just because of the video/recording.

I’ve tried to find more information about this on the internet but without any real success. I guess it’s not a very common problem, or more people would be complaining. So I decided to post something about it, hoping to get responses from people who’ve noticed this too.

If you have seen this, leave a comment!

Edit: I seem to have found what’s causing this bug, and hence a workaround. The stuttering of the Spot Removal tool only appears when I have two monitors active in Windows. (The setting in Lightroom though makes no difference.)

Actually, that’s not quite true. Here’s what I should say: The stuttering goes away when I disable my second monitor in Windows. I have found the stuttering to reappear after a reboot, even though only one monitor is active. Really weird!!