October 6, 2021

Three Lightroom features I want

Adobe's photo-editing software, Lightroom, is missing some things that would make it easier to edit and save hard drive space

Last week, Adobe announced some new features that we’ll see in Lightroom from 26 October. The 15-minute video gave us a sneak preview of a new masking tool that can select subjects and skies, so edits are applied to those elements selectively. It will make the job of editing easier with less need to dip into Photoshop. It shows the advantage of subscribing to the Creative Cloud that we get regular updates helping to streamline the editing process. I will write a blog showcasing these changes the day after the release date.

Also, last week I had to edit a set of photos for a client. There was a recurring theme of the type of edits that I needed to open in Photoshop. As well as the time taken to switch between the two programs, the issue it causes is that a duplicate file gets created, which takes up hard-drive space. If we could reduce the times we edit in Photoshop, there would be less need for storage. This week, I will discuss the three things that I would love Adobe to add to Lightroom.

Spot Healing Brush Tool

One of the tools at the top of the Develop module in Lightroom is the Spot Removal. If you have dust spots on your photos, it does a great job of taking these out. However, in the example below, if I want to remove the emergency exit sign from the photo, the spot removal tool doesn’t do a great job. Lightroom appears to take a random part of the photo and replaces it where we have painted the removal tool. You can move the point that Lightroom samples, but quite often, there is some residue of the edit left.

I usually edit in Photoshop to remove items like this. The Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop works in a much better way through the use of content-aware fills. Photoshop will look around the area removed and predict what is replaced. The brush tends to work well when there are recurring patterns around the area. Adding this tool into Lightroom feels like it would reduce the number of times I’d need to edit in Photoshop, so please, Adobe, add this to a future release.

Clone Stamp Tool

While the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop can do a good job, it can also struggle when editing more complex scenes. If you have attended a Switch to Manual workshop, I often try and remove some stickers from a street lamp on the Vennel in Edinburgh. The healing brush struggles to ‘see’ the lamp-post and often fills the leaves behind the post instead. When this fails, I use the Clone Stamp Tool instead.

Cloning works in a slightly different way. You decide where the sample point will be, and then you can paint this to where you want something replaced. In the Vennel example, I sample from further up the lamp post where there are no stickers and paint over the offending items. The clone stamp tool usually gets the results I need, so I’d love it to be available in Lightroom. Go on Adobe, add it in a future release.

Layers and blending modes

I often get asked why I use Lightroom and not tools such as Capture One or Affinity. I have looked at both of these, and they are excellent programs. One of the things they both do is to allow the use of Layers, whereas to use the same functionality in the Adobe world, I would need to edit in Photoshop.

Photoshop layers are like sheets of stacked acetate. You can see through transparent areas of a layer to the layers below. You move a layer to position the content on the layer, like sliding a sheet of acetate in a stack. You can also change the opacity of a layer to make content partially transparent. When combined with blending modes, layers become a powerful tool. I often use them on my Night Photography Workshop to merge several images and bring the lightest part of each photo to the front. It would be fantastic to allow the images to be stacked inside Lightroom and apply a blending mode to the stack. Again, I could avoid the creation of a second file.

What else?

These three additions to Lightroom would take away 90% of my call into Photoshop. The rest are mainly when I want to add text to photos. Lightroom isn’t a desktop publishing tool so I can quite understand why this would sit outside of it. Are there any other things you’d like to see in Lightroom to make the process better? Add your suggestions in the comments below.

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About the author

As well as running Edinburgh Photography Workshop, Rich Dyson is a professional photographer. His photographs are regularly used in newspapers such as The Times, Guardian and Daily Telegraph. He also had two solo exhibitions as well as being featured in a members sponsored exhibition in the Scottish Parliament. You can see and buy his photography at richdysonphotography.com

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