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Window Recovery With The New Highlight and Shadow Sliders in Lightroom 4 Beta

Published: 20/02/2012
By: larry

After using the new re-designed Basic controls in the Develop Module of Lightroom 4 Beta for a while it's beginning to sink in how great these improvements are. In particular I'm talking about the Highlights and Shadows sliders.

Everyone that has ever shot an interior shot with bright windows has dreamed of having an slider that controls the exposure of the windows and one that independently controls the dark corners that every room predictably ends up with. Well, now you can do exactly that! The new Highlights slider lets you darken just the highlights (usually the windows) and the Shadows slider independently lets you lighten the shadow areas (usually the dark corners). The other amazing aspect of they way these work is it appears to work just as well with JPGs as it does with RAW files.

The old Recovery slider  in LR 3 used to do this a little but the amount it could help drop the exposure of the windows has always been disappointing to me. I went back to a view listing we had a number of years ago where I had to end up masking the windows to make the client happy with the way the view showed through the living room windows and I was amazed by how much I could control with window exposure with just the Highlights slider in LR 4 Beta. These new sliders won't always eliminate the need to mask windows to get a perfect view but they make a huge difference compared to the old Recovery slider.

I think these new controls are worth the price of the update  to LR 4 all by themselves. They are a game changer.

The other slider that looks that same but works WAY better now is the Clarity slider. To my way of thinking, almost every image can benefit from some added Clarity. Problem has always been if you go too far halos would always start appearing. Now that's gone! No halos! Use all the Clarity you want. Over doing it on Clarity now just gives images sort of a HDR look.

It's best to try these sliders out on your own images. You can get a free copy of LR 4 Beta here. Also, if you just want see a quick detail description of how these new sliders work go checkout the free LR 4 Beta video at Chris Orwig gives a really nice detailed walk through of all the new features of LR 4.

Update 2/20 9:30 Pacific: For Mac users, commenter Rochelle below raises an excellent point. Aperture 3 (released Feb 2010) has had this Highlight/Shadow slider function, which actually appears to work better than the implementation in LR 4 Beta, for two years. One could easily argue that all the items being added to LR 4 will make it almost equal to Aperture 3 which is less than half the price of LR. If I had to make a wild guess regarding the next version of Aperture, I'd guess that it would be out real soon and  will jump way beyond LR. Just a guess.

15 comments on “Window Recovery With The New Highlight and Shadow Sliders in Lightroom 4 Beta”

  1. wow. just wow. really impressive. I was avoiding to try LR4 since it's still in BETA but now I'm gonna try it and perhaps even start using it instead of LR3.

  2. I have to add that LR4 Beta has totally changed my workflow. Previous to this beta, I used both LR3 (Mac) and ACDSee Pro (Newest Version, on Win 7 Via Parallels on an iMac). I would shoot most of my images jpeg (Canon 5DMKII, 17-40mm) and process in ADCSee Pro. Only if I were shooting HDR would I use LR3 as the main workflow tool. ADCSee had separate sliders for Highlights and Shadows that worked very similar to how they now work in LR4 Beta and, ACDSee Pro seemed to have better tools for rotation and skewing (hey, I shoot handheld on most shoots, sue me!). I downloaded the LR4 Beta the day it came out, realized how the changes were going to affect me, and made some decisions. For the last month, I have shot only RAW, and I have used ONLY LR4 Beta as my main workflow tool. No more ADCSee, no more PTLens, no more Nik Define. The only other plugins I use are Photomatix Pro and PTGui for their obvious uses. This has really cleaned up my workflow and I can't wait to buy the release version!

  3. While some of these features are will be incorporated into camera raw - we should remember the difference between lightroom and photoshop/camera raw is that lightroom is a workflow tool and as such is the better choice for the majority of real estate photographers on the majority of pictures that require processing. Photoshop/CameraRaw should be used for those fixes that just can't be accomplished in lightroom on its own or with plug ins.

  4. I’m very impressed and can’t wait to try this.

    I have been using ACDSee pro for many years (when I shoot JPGs) it has become a wonderful program, with some issues. But anything I shoot in RAW, always done in LR3, and then I bring it into ACDSee Pro, because of the lighting tools which help with the window lighting, and correcting perspective is a breeze. Also sorting the images and viewing them full screen helps me. I think it is a much underrated program and some pros are Photoshop snobs and look down at it.
    But I can’t wait to try the new Beta-4. Is it still only Beta, or is it completed and offered as a paid upgrade?

    I am still in need of advice on sky replacements, which I think you guys up in the Northwest, would be the pros on that. I wish there was an easy masking solution for sky replacement.

  5. So when will 4 be released in post-beta form?

    If I use beta 4 now, is there anything I have to redo or change in the images worked to date in the beta once the "real" 4 is out? In other words, what are the downsides to just going with the beta now vs waiting for the released version?


  6. @Rochelle- Excellent point. For those not familiar with Aperture 3, it has had this kind of Highlight/Shadow slider since version 3 came out (over a year), I just used the same image in Aperture 3 to adjust the windows and in my judgement Aperture 3 is significantly better in this area because I can make the windows noticeably darker. Not bad for a $79 app!

    @Eric- the risk you take with converting your whole catalogue now is that there is some problem with the beta release. I've never experienced any problems using LR beta versions but there is always a risk when using Beta software. If I were to guess this Beta release is very close to release.

  7. Yes, these are way improved from LR3. I usually never like to crank anything to 100 - but you can with these. and in LR3, adding 'fill' worked, but it sure cranked up what noise was there. the new Shadows doesn't seem to introduce near the amount of noise

  8. I have tested it out and I am quite impressed.

    Larry mentions Chris Orwig, he does have a great update on L4, but all of his classes are fantastic. The other component is That website via Chris Orwig's classes took my work to a new level. I highly recommend going through his L3 class and eventually his L4 class. I believe in the's product and Chris so much I became one of their affiliates. Through this link you can get a 7 day trial so you can take as many classes for free during the trail.

    It changed my life dramatically and I hope it helps someone else. If you like the site you can then sign up for less than $30 per month.


  9. @Debra- Yes, this new version of what is called "process 2012" is vastly improved and only available in LR4 and Photoshop CS6.

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