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Perfecting Photos with the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Adjustment Brush

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Dan Moughamian discusses the improvements made to the Adjustment Brush controls in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, which are used for editing one specific area of the photograph without making similar changes to neighboring areas.

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If you’ve spent time recently getting familiar with Photoshop Lightroom 4, you’ve probably discovered just how powerful a raw workflow application it is. Lightroom 4 offers a substantially improved workflow (Called Process 2012) for raw picture editing. In this article, I’ll take a look another area in Lightroom 4 that has benefited from this new process. Specifically, I’ll cover the improvements made to the Adjustment Brush controls, which are used for editing one specific area of the photograph without making similar changes to neighboring areas.

New Controls

If you read my other Lightroom 4 tutorial (which focused on a revised Basic panel workflow), you have probably guessed that the Adjustment Brush also benefits from new tone and detail controls. That is indeed the case.

The Lightroom 4 Adjustment Brush controls now include: Temperature, Tint, Exposure (updated), Contrast, Highlights (new), Shadows (new), Clarity (updated), Saturation, Sharpness, Noise (new), Moire (new) and Color. Figure 1 one displays the entire panel with all of its controls.

Figure 1: The Lightroom 4 Adjustment Brush panel offers a lot of new and updated functionality, making it an even more powerful raw photo editor.

As mentioned in the prior article, the biggest process changes you need to be aware of are that the Exposure control now targets the center 50% of Histogram values (though it obviously will affect neighboring areas to some degree). Also keep in mind that Highlights and Shadows are designed to recover details in the brighter and darker portions of the image (respectively), without impacting the very brightest and darkest tones. You can handle any clipping issues in those areas with the Whites (new) and Blacks controls in the Basic panel.

Beyond these simple but powerful additions, the process for creating Adjustment Brush edits works just as it did in Lightroom 3, with one minor exception. In prior versions, Lightroom defaulted the Adjustment Brush settings to an Exposure value of +1. This provided a visual indicator of where your initial brush strokes were being applied. Once you were done with the brush strokes, you could revise the Exposure value accordingly, along with the other controls. Now, as with the Basic panel in Lightroom 4, all controls are initially set at a value of 0. Let’s take a closer look.

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