One question I get repeatedly when giving presentations to photographers is whether you should abandon Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or some other photo processing software in favor of Adobe Lightroom. The short answer is most definitely. Now let me tell you why.
Comparing Lightroom to Photoshop (or Elements) is really comparing apples to oranges. Photoshop was designed as a general purpose graphics application. It is used by designers, illustrators, scientists, publishers, digital artists, and photographers. Because of its widespread use, it caters to none of these groups, and includes a huge range of features and options that are usually daunting to a photographer wanting to process and edit his/her images. Now this is not to say that it is not useful and immensely powerful, and it probably does belong in the arsenal of any serious photographer. But I recommend Lightroom as the core application for your digital photography.
Lightroom was designed from the ground up with a single purpose – provide one application that functions as the modern digital darkroom. All of its features are targeted at the digital photographer, and as such provides a complete workflow from capture to print. And because Lightroom also works with psd, tiff, and jpeg files, you can work with all of your older images that may have been scanned or processed with another application.
My experience as an instructor is that the vast majority of photographers at all levels need to simplify their workflow, and focus more on the creative side of post processing. It should be fun and enjoyable, not frustrating and something to be approached with negativity. I think Lightroom helps in this regard, and allows you think like a photographer, not like an engineer. Plus there are many great plugins that provide enhanced editing features that were previously only available in Photoshop. This keeps your workflow much simpler. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Nik Color Efex – great suite of creative effects
- OnOne Photo Suite – another great suite of effects
- Photomatix Pro – the standard for HDR processing
- Perfect Layers – add layers to your Lightroom RAW workflow, and FREE
In short, use Lightroom as the command center of your digital worlkflow, and Photoshop as a powerful, but specialized tool that can be called upon only when you need the extra horsepower. As Lightroom matures and adds more specialized features, my trips to Photoshop are becoming fewer and fewer.
For those who suggest that Adobe’s Bridge application offers the same benefits as Lightroom, that is correct to a degree. But here are a few specific Lightroom advantages:
- Much better database functionality – try accessing 20,000 images in Bridge the way you can bring them up in Lightroom with virtually no delay.
- Intuitive before/after views for comparing your adjustments easily
- New Book and Map modules
- Vastly superior printing workflow – this alone is worth it, even if no other benefits existed
- Off-line access to image library – means you can still access your images even if the original RAW files are on external drives not connected or available – great for travel.
Finally, this is my perspective and based on my particular workflow and processing needs as a fine art photographer. If you’re in advertising or commercial photography, then your needs may require heavy Photoshop use. That’s not my situation, so I would rather spend as much time making images rather than behind my monitor pushing pixels. I think Lightroom helps me do just that. Find what works best for you.
Which do you prefer? Still have questions? Please let me know!