Lightroom: What is it and When Should You Consider it? - Digital Photography School

Lightroom: What is it and When Should You Consider it?

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There have been questions posted as comments recently asking about the role of Lightroom in a photographer’s workflow. Many posters who are not currently using Lightroom aren’t sure whether Lightroom it is an alternative to Photoshop or where it fits if you have Photoshop too. I thought it was a good time to look at where Lightroom fits in the Adobe line up and to explain why Lightroom isn’t a Photoshop alternative.

Lightroom was developed from the ground up as a tool for photographers and one which would provide a logical workflow for processing a lot of images in an effective and efficient way. Photographers have special needs for handling images from photo shoots and these aren’t necessarily reflected in how Photoshop is designed.

When you handle a lot of images in Photoshop you download them and preview them in Bridge. If they require fixing or printing, you take them via Camera RAW (if they are Raw files) to Photoshop. In Lightroom most of your workflow takes place inside Lightroom – Lightroom contains the organizing tools of Bridge and the processing tools of Camera RAW so, if it is an alternative to anything it is better seen as an alternative to Bridge and Camera RAW rather than to Photoshop itself.

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In Lightroom you import only those images you want to use and manage inside Lightroom. If an image isn’t in the Lightroom catalog then Lightroom cannot see it. This is in contrast to Bridge which shows you the entire contents of folders on your hard drive. In Lightroom you can build preview images as you import them or later on and these are also stored in the catalog – this makes it quicker for you to view and work on your images in contrast to using Bridge.

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Lightroom’s Library module also contains tools for managing images such as adding keywords, sorting and cataloging them.

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The Lightroom Develop module is the equivalent of Photoshop Camera RAW and it contains tools for applying image wide fixes. You can use these on any image that Lightroom can import and this includes Camera RAW images, JPEGs and Tifs.

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Lightroom also has a few tools which let you fix limited areas of an image, such as the Clone, Heal, Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush. However it is here that the differences between Photoshop and Lightroom are most apparent – there are lots of things that Lightroom cannot do that Photoshop can. Photoshop is a pixel editor so it can be used to affect images all the way down to pixel level – Lightroom isn’t. Photoshop supports layers and layer masks, Lightroom does not. Photoshop can merge panoramas, HDR sequences and align and blend layers – none of these features appear in Lightroom. In Photoshop Extended you can work with video and 3D – again these aren’t features of Lightroom.

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Other modules

The remaining modules in Lightroom are SlideShow, Print and Web which are tools for displaying images either as slideshows, web pages or assembling them for printing. Some of the same things can be done using the combination of Bridge and Photoshop but this is where Lightroom tops Photoshop. The Lightroom tools work better because your images are already there, organized, open and ready to work with and the tools are very fast.

Where does Lightroom fit?

So, if you are asking yourself if Lightroom is an alternative to Photoshop, the answer is No! It is, however, a possible alternative to using Bridge and Camera RAW although there may still be times if you are using Photoshop and Lightroom that you may still opt to use Bridge rather than Lightroom. For example, Lightroom can’t handle the wide array of file types that Bridge can and sometimes you won’t want to import images into Lightroom – for example if you use stock images you may not want them mixed up with your own photos. In this case you may choose to access them from Bridge rather than going to the trouble of importing them into Lightroom.

Most people who use Lightroom report significant savings in the amount of time they spend processing their images. This makes sense as all your images, once they are imported into Lightroom are immediately available and you can edit them without opening them and changes are saved inside the Lightroom catalog and not to the file itself (unless you change the default behavior). Most people who use Lightroom also report that they use Photoshop less than they did before because many of the fixes they might have performed in Photoshop can now be managed in Lightroom. Since I made the commitment to Lightroom, this is my experience – much less time spent working on images overall and much less time spent in Photoshop.

There are many people who can benefit from using Lightroom to manage their digital photo workflow and there are many who will not. If you work with lots of images, if you need to apply the same fix to multiple images, if you need to get your images from the camera and out to your client in a very short time – then Lightroom totally rocks.

On the other hand if you create composites or spend most of your post production time on a handful of images perfecting them by editing them and crafting them into your vision, then Lightroom may not offer any significant advantages. Remember too, that any program will take time to learn and Lightroom doesn’t always follow the Photoshop style of doing things so there is a learning curve you’ll need to commit to before you will feel at home in Lightroom.

So, there’s my take on Lightroom and Photoshop. Now it is over to you. What has your experience been – do you use Photoshop less now you have Lightroom? Did you try Lightroom and not continue? We’d love to hear your opinions…

If you’ve not yet used Lightroom but think it might be for you – grab a copy today at Amazon today.

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

  • http://moorephotography.net Eric

    It’s amusing reading comments from people who spend the money for CS4 but seem to cringe at the LR’s 300 tag.

    In addition to the color labels, star ratings, flags, and plethora of keywords, since LR doesn’t modify the original file but exports and writes a new one based on your edits, this opens the door for export plugins. I use many, including the mogrify plugin which exports with a watermark, an export to facebook plugin, picasa web, google mail, flickr, etc. All without creating a new file. And it’s possible to set jpeg quality, dimensions, and ppi with the exported files, even if they’re exported straight to web and never occupy any new disk space.

    I also use preset brushes to whiten teeth, smooth skin, and other things in my people pictures.

  • Rachel

    I love Lightroom for many of the reasons already mentioned. The Kelby book was an excellent learning tool.

    Now I’m ready to learn Photoshop CS4 and am running into trouble. CS4 books barely acknowledge that Lightroom exists. Are there clear instructions someplace on how to integrate LR into the CS4 workflow?

  • Nora

    “It’s amusing reading comments from people who spend the money for CS4 but seem to cringe at the LR’s 300 tag.”

    Many of us already have been using Adobe Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator) for many, many years and keep up with our upgrades because other elements of the Suite are integral to our work. For instance, I am a graphic designer who relies on InDesign and Illustrator on a daily basis, therefore I have CS4 already (and it’s my graphic design work that “pays the bills”). Why spend extra $300 on LR, when would those of us that have CS4 already as part of our everyday work flow don’t need to, if Bridge/RAW is working for us. That is why I can’t justify the expense. If it was my first and only program for working with my photos, perhaps, but since I have the tools I need already, makes no sense.

  • jim giner

    So many comments about having PS and not understanding why anyone would go to LR. Gee – I think the whole point of this thread was to answer the question about LR and who should use it. People – if you already have PS and any/all of its add-ons, you’ll never buy LR! Not unless you have lots of disposable income and plenty of free time to play around with not one but two photo packages.

    Just finished playing with the LR trial download and can’t wait for Ver 3 to come and so I can buy that. I’m an accomplished amateur who doesn’t need the power of PS but did need something that worked better than the free Canon software. LR fills that bill with easy to access features (keystroke shortcuts are a godsend – why didn’t Canon ever implement them, at the very least for the star ratings!) and strong print and web modules.

    My take on LR: If you want to organize your photos, track them, review them and modify them and save them or output them, LR can do it all. No – you can’t put Uncle Jim’s face on top of a busty blonde, nor can you do other high-powered tasks that frankly, I’ve never wanted to do, but you can crop, adjust colors, brightness, recover darkened areas of photos very nicely, and in general, improve upon what you failed to notice while taking the shot. I love this package!

    Now don’t take offense at this next part, but if you’ve got CS4 or PS or whatever, great! Don’t bother us with your lack of understanding why anyone would leave that world to join the LR community. We know you won’t. But for those of us who aren’t in PS, this thread is here to help us start to walk along side the PS users, although at a much lower cost of entry.

  • http://moorephotography.net Eric

    Sorry for the incorrect assumption, Nora. LR is a program for the photographer with a high volume of pictures. It’s probably not for the graphic designer. It might even be too much for the hobbyist photographer with the occasional snapshot. It doesn’t sound like the program for you.

  • http://www.nkgd.com Nora

    Well, I am a photographer too (not full time, but enough to call me MUCH more than a hobbyist or occasional amateur shooter — I do PAID shoots, just not enough to make a living at this point). I think the point is being missed. I am not saying that LR is a bad program, by any stretch. IF I were starting from scratch, I am sure I would purchase it, but since I find the ACR/Bridge combo to be powerful enough to handle my work, I see no reason to purchase it. I rarely even open my photos in PS for editing. I am able to tag, keyword, organize in Bridge and convert my RAWs using ACR, just as quickly as I was able to in my demo of LR. So didn’t see the point in spending more money on a tool that duplicates what I already have. To each his own. I network with professional photographers (the ones that MAKE THEIR LIVING doing nothing but shooting), and some absolutely swear by LR, others swear by Aperture and claim they would use thing else, and still others swear by ACR/Bridge. To each his own. All the programs are available for demo and I think each person should test the programs themselves to determine what works best for them.

  • http://katja-nina.artistwebsites.com/ KAtja Nina

    Great article!
    I had 30 trial together with Scott Kelby book and I am sold!
    Will be buying Lightroom, it works really well for my needs.

  • tsc

    Hi
    Just wanted to know how you did up the name at the bottom .. .
    http://digital-photography-school.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/print-tm.jpg

    thanks

  • http://believefotografie.com/believe/ Ed

    Great article! I participated in the beta for LR3 and the additions to the program truly made it a very valuable tool to save time. I use LR3 for about 90% of my images and CS5 extended for the balance. I rarely use bridge. I really don’t see much use for it other than to bring other portions of the master suite together as a transitioning tool (if that term make sense).

    As photographer progresses in the digital age the will use several programs just as a composer uses different instruments to create his music.

  • Kats Kathleen Klein

    thanks! this was very helpful.

Some older comments

  • Ed

    April 2, 2011 05:59 pm

    Great article! I participated in the beta for LR3 and the additions to the program truly made it a very valuable tool to save time. I use LR3 for about 90% of my images and CS5 extended for the balance. I rarely use bridge. I really don't see much use for it other than to bring other portions of the master suite together as a transitioning tool (if that term make sense).

    As photographer progresses in the digital age the will use several programs just as a composer uses different instruments to create his music.

  • tsc

    April 1, 2011 06:32 pm

    Hi
    Just wanted to know how you did up the name at the bottom .. .
    http://digital-photography-school.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/print-tm.jpg

    thanks

  • KAtja Nina

    July 23, 2010 03:04 am

    Great article!
    I had 30 trial together with Scott Kelby book and I am sold!
    Will be buying Lightroom, it works really well for my needs.

  • Nora

    January 7, 2010 10:33 am

    Well, I am a photographer too (not full time, but enough to call me MUCH more than a hobbyist or occasional amateur shooter -- I do PAID shoots, just not enough to make a living at this point). I think the point is being missed. I am not saying that LR is a bad program, by any stretch. IF I were starting from scratch, I am sure I would purchase it, but since I find the ACR/Bridge combo to be powerful enough to handle my work, I see no reason to purchase it. I rarely even open my photos in PS for editing. I am able to tag, keyword, organize in Bridge and convert my RAWs using ACR, just as quickly as I was able to in my demo of LR. So didn't see the point in spending more money on a tool that duplicates what I already have. To each his own. I network with professional photographers (the ones that MAKE THEIR LIVING doing nothing but shooting), and some absolutely swear by LR, others swear by Aperture and claim they would use thing else, and still others swear by ACR/Bridge. To each his own. All the programs are available for demo and I think each person should test the programs themselves to determine what works best for them.

  • Eric

    January 7, 2010 10:22 am

    Sorry for the incorrect assumption, Nora. LR is a program for the photographer with a high volume of pictures. It's probably not for the graphic designer. It might even be too much for the hobbyist photographer with the occasional snapshot. It doesn't sound like the program for you.

  • jim giner

    January 7, 2010 06:54 am

    So many comments about having PS and not understanding why anyone would go to LR. Gee - I think the whole point of this thread was to answer the question about LR and who should use it. People - if you already have PS and any/all of its add-ons, you'll never buy LR! Not unless you have lots of disposable income and plenty of free time to play around with not one but two photo packages.

    Just finished playing with the LR trial download and can't wait for Ver 3 to come and so I can buy that. I'm an accomplished amateur who doesn't need the power of PS but did need something that worked better than the free Canon software. LR fills that bill with easy to access features (keystroke shortcuts are a godsend - why didn't Canon ever implement them, at the very least for the star ratings!) and strong print and web modules.

    My take on LR: If you want to organize your photos, track them, review them and modify them and save them or output them, LR can do it all. No - you can't put Uncle Jim's face on top of a busty blonde, nor can you do other high-powered tasks that frankly, I've never wanted to do, but you can crop, adjust colors, brightness, recover darkened areas of photos very nicely, and in general, improve upon what you failed to notice while taking the shot. I love this package!

    Now don't take offense at this next part, but if you've got CS4 or PS or whatever, great! Don't bother us with your lack of understanding why anyone would leave that world to join the LR community. We know you won't. But for those of us who aren't in PS, this thread is here to help us start to walk along side the PS users, although at a much lower cost of entry.

  • Nora

    January 7, 2010 06:22 am

    "It’s amusing reading comments from people who spend the money for CS4 but seem to cringe at the LR’s 300 tag."

    Many of us already have been using Adobe Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator) for many, many years and keep up with our upgrades because other elements of the Suite are integral to our work. For instance, I am a graphic designer who relies on InDesign and Illustrator on a daily basis, therefore I have CS4 already (and it's my graphic design work that "pays the bills"). Why spend extra $300 on LR, when would those of us that have CS4 already as part of our everyday work flow don't need to, if Bridge/RAW is working for us. That is why I can't justify the expense. If it was my first and only program for working with my photos, perhaps, but since I have the tools I need already, makes no sense.

  • Rachel

    January 7, 2010 01:26 am

    I love Lightroom for many of the reasons already mentioned. The Kelby book was an excellent learning tool.

    Now I'm ready to learn Photoshop CS4 and am running into trouble. CS4 books barely acknowledge that Lightroom exists. Are there clear instructions someplace on how to integrate LR into the CS4 workflow?

  • Eric

    January 2, 2010 11:17 am

    It's amusing reading comments from people who spend the money for CS4 but seem to cringe at the LR's 300 tag.

    In addition to the color labels, star ratings, flags, and plethora of keywords, since LR doesn't modify the original file but exports and writes a new one based on your edits, this opens the door for export plugins. I use many, including the mogrify plugin which exports with a watermark, an export to facebook plugin, picasa web, google mail, flickr, etc. All without creating a new file. And it's possible to set jpeg quality, dimensions, and ppi with the exported files, even if they're exported straight to web and never occupy any new disk space.

    I also use preset brushes to whiten teeth, smooth skin, and other things in my people pictures.

  • Kathy Nairn

    January 1, 2010 03:42 am

    I 'watched' the price of LR for a number of months and put it in my Amazon Wishlist. Just before black Friday (day after Thanksgiving in the US), Amazon sold LR 2 for $169. I swooped in on it and a copy of Scott Kelby's Lightroom 2 book.

    Without some type of manual to lead you step by step through all of the marvelous capabilities of the software, you might find it a bit of a learning curve and miss out on a lot of goodies.

    I use PS7 and PS Elements 6 and Corel PSP x2U; BUT... since implementing LR2 as my work flow, I spend less time in these other programs. As a portrait photographer, I still require the use of the other software to 'fix' certain things that LR doesn't. However, I have found that my general photography looks its best after running it through LR. So you could say that LR could be a replacement. As others have stated, it all depends on your post work preferences and requirements.

    I like the cataloging ability and the fact that you can create more than one main catalog is awesome if you shoot hundreds of images and of different categories. IE: you can separate your weddings, images taken in different countries; different clients, etc. Endless ideas there. You can loupe through your images, compare and flag the best for a quick catalog.

    I highly recommend it the software.

  • Nora

    January 1, 2010 03:13 am

    I have worked with both Aperture and Lightroom, but always comes back to Bridge and ACR. I just don't see any advantage, for me, in using LR over Bridge and ACR. Can't justify the expense. I rarely have to open photos further than ACR (i.e. in Photoshop). I would say 95% of my photos are edited in ACR and I am done. It can even edit JPGS, when I choose to take photos that are not RAW. The engine is the same as LR, the interface, at least to me, seems cleaner in ACR. I have tons of presets already setup in ACR as well, for applying special effects. So I am sticking with the workflow I have. And yes, editing in ACR/Bridge is NON-DESTRUCTIVE to the photos as well, so I can always go back to my originals if I want to.

  • Scott Herman

    December 31, 2009 04:06 pm

    I explain to my friends that Photoshop is a graphics program and Lightroom is a cataloguing and editing program. Certainly, professional photographers need CSx. However, for the great majority of amateur photographers who only want to make their pictures 1) look better, 2) easy to find, and 3) easy to share, Lightroom is far and away the better stand alone program. It is a much easier program to learn and use. And for those who want to use panorama or HDR, they can access these through Photoshop CSx (if they have it). And, to be honest, the HDR in photoshop isn't all that good! So if we're talking about the average Joe or Jane, using this software is easier and cheaper than CSx.

  • Sean

    December 31, 2009 03:53 pm

    @chet
    Good detailed review of how you manage your workflow,
    I'm still not seeing that much there though that I dont do already in Bridge -
    also AFAIK all the Bridge editing is non destructive editing.

  • benjamin lau

    December 10, 2009 01:07 am

    Would you consider Lightroom a replacement for iPhoto or other entry level program like that?

  • Jason

    December 7, 2009 05:08 pm

    Currently, my workflow is Bridge > ACR > Photoshop CS4 (if needed). I am not sure if I would spend extra $$ on purchasing LR. I am a fan of commerial photography ala Chase Jarvis, Dave Hill, etc. Hence, there are times I spend a day just working on PS to try different effects on a photo - gets addicting that's for sure. Lol.

    For photos, that doesn't need effects, Bridge > ACR does the trick for me. I also like the way bridge organizes photos along with creating META Data, etc.

  • Jeremy G

    December 1, 2009 10:04 am

    I use Lightroom exclusively, and maybe that's just because I'm afraid to really dig into Photoshop. I have played with Photoshop a bit, but for the basic editing I like to do on my photos, I think Lightroom is the cat meow. Also for cataloguing and managing workflow: super easy and very efficient. I highly recommend Lightroom, and wouldn't want to be without it. Cheers.

  • Helen Bradley

    December 1, 2009 09:53 am

    Sure @megs.. like most other Adobe applications you can download a 30 day free and fully functional trial version of Lightroom from here: http://www.adobe.com/downloads/

    Visit the site. Locate the Lightroom link and below it you will find a Try option that links to the trial download.

    Helen

  • Megs

    December 1, 2009 07:52 am

    THANK YOU! I've read a plethora of reviews and descriptions but could not figure out what this program was all about- and mostly how/IF it would benefit my work in addition to my current tools PS4/Bridge- to no avail. Now, I know I probably don't need it. I'd still like to know if there is a trial run available or some shop I can go play with it for a bit to decide.

  • elizabeth

    November 25, 2009 06:37 am

    I would say I use Lightroom 75% of the time and CS4 25% of the time. I use Lightroom to organize and do all my basic edits. I love it for this. It's very slick, fast and easy. I love the organization. I use CS4 to run actions on special things and for hybrid digital scrapbooking. I also use it to make photocards and things like that.

  • Ed Hamlin

    November 24, 2009 05:22 pm

    I don't think have I disagreed with a position given in an article until now. a little background to indicate why I have the position I am about to state. I shoot roughly 200 frames in a short portrait sitting, 900 frames in a wedding, 1500 frames when I shoot nature/landscape on a given day depending on what is scheduled, if that makes sense.

    Given the number of photos to process, determining usable or not using lightroom is extremely valuable. Then when looking at various minor adjustments it becomes very valuable, even making some very borad adjustments it is still valuable and I would never crack open PS. To a photographer that can actually spend more time shooting and less time processing photos it can almost replace PS. for the portrait work I do, maybe 1 out of a hundred phots will I take to PS to edit.

    To me for everyday workflow it does replace PS, unless you do HDR, Composites, or Pano's. then yes not doubt you pop open OS and have fun.

    There are too many presets and plug-ins that you can't soley use Lightroom. I am using the beta for LR3 and it is looking better esp for Noise reduction. Hey there about 2-4 months before its release and change and additions can still be suggested. JMHO

  • Patty Reiser

    November 23, 2009 02:44 pm

    @jeremy
    You are most welcome!

  • Jeremy

    November 23, 2009 12:45 pm

    @Patty
    awesomeness. thanks so much. i store all my photos on an external drive.

  • Patty Reiser

    November 23, 2009 11:27 am

    @Jeremy
    With Lightroom you have the option to have the photos copied to another folder or you can leave them where you already have them and LR will know where they are unless you move them.

  • Patty Reiser

    November 23, 2009 11:25 am

    @Jeremy

  • Jeremy

    November 23, 2009 07:45 am

    does anyone know if LR handles photos like iPhoto in the sense that it practically copies them into a library thus taking up extra HD space or does it just reference a file in a folder like the iTunes library does? i have 10s of GBs of pictures and really don't want to double that amount by importing into a program that will do that (like iPhoto does) which is the reason i don't use iPhoto.

  • Rob Tarr

    November 20, 2009 07:44 pm

    For me, the main benefit of lightroom is the ease of multiple keyword insertion, and subsequent searches for keyworded images. My images date back to 2002. It was a hassle to put keywords into the older images, but it pays off big-time in being able to find old images. That, and batch-editing of similar images ... Its definitely a must ...

  • Matt

    November 20, 2009 04:08 pm

    I'm semi-pro, and I actually started out with CS4, but didn't get very far with it because I was using it mostly at school (didn't have a home copy). It worked pretty well, and ACR is hugely important, but it turns out that since I got Lightroom (about 8 months ago) I've been using it almost exclusively. If you aren't doing blemish removal or spot retouching, but rather whole photo edits, Lightroom is a lot faster and easier to use. All your ACR adjustments are readily available the moment you click on the photo, if you so desire, and it's very easy to move around, copy settings, batch process, try things quickly, organize your photos, and so much more. Yes, most of it can be done with Bridge and ACR, but it takes far longer. And I'm only using LR to perhaps half of its potential. The LR3 beta is also awesome, so if you aren't sure if you want to take the plunge, try it out. It's good till April, so you'll have time to get used to it. BTW, I do have my own copy of PS CS4 now, and I still use LR most of the time.

  • Kerri

    November 20, 2009 09:32 am

    Jim: I've found the answer to all of your questions concerning LR to be yes. Though LR keeps the original image, it does include the metadata when you export the image to use elsewhere. Also, my husband is in grad school, so we were able to snag LR with an education discount. Just wanted to throw that info out in case it's of use to you. You can do a 30 day trial of LR for free, as well. That helped my decision along quite well.

  • Neil Wood

    November 20, 2009 03:05 am

    I am a photoshop CS4 user and i have to say i have tried LR and went back to PS CS4 for all my work.

    Bridge (as implimented in CS4) is a full filing system and compliments PS perfectly. Prior versions however did fall short quite badly.

    My workflow:
    Insert card in reader
    Bridge asks me if i want to import
    Then i review them in bridge, tag them and rate them
    Open in ACR and perform bulk editing (WB, exposure level, contrast, capture sharpening etc). Batch work is possible with changes synced as required.
    Open selected in PS CS4 for further edits.
    Save in required formats.

    Nothing i have seen in LR leads me to believe i need another piece of software to carry this out or work any more efficiently. Bridge and LR now work so similarly that I dont see the point of having both.

    That and i dont see the need to spend £xxx to do it.

  • jim giner

    November 20, 2009 02:55 am

    I"m a polished amateur - that's all I'll ever be. That said, I'm never going to spend the money for photoshop - that's just ridiculous. While I have been using the supplied Canon software for a few years, I'm looking for something a little more friendly to the user. The canon software makes it very tedious to go thru the photos and rate them or zoom them and I found that lightroom provides much (altho not perfect) better ways to supply that kind of info and do that kind of viewing.

    The real question I still have beforre shelling out the $300 for LR is - will it allow me (us amateurs) the ability to tweak our photos (brightness, sharpness, contrast, some global color boosts, etc.) that the freebie Canon software allowed us to do? I"m not asking for much - just the ability to upload, store, speedily review and classify and make some enhancements prior to saving, emailing or printing them.

  • cdiver7

    November 20, 2009 12:51 am

    Hi I use lightroom and elements for my photos at my age( 50) the cost and time to learn photoshop is way too long , and at the price I would rather put to a lens ,maybe if photoshop prices come down I would try it but not now .Lightroom is amazing

  • Patty Reiser

    November 19, 2009 02:50 am

    @ignacio - I have a Canon as well and I ditched the software that came with my camera and just use LR and Pse7. These programs do so much more than what comes with the camera in my opinion.

  • Ignacio

    November 18, 2009 11:27 pm

    I am a Canon newbie. I was considering to buy LR but after reading this post I find that LR is pretty similar to the DPP software that came with my camera, DPP. Am I wrong?

  • kelvin o

    November 18, 2009 10:51 am

    Lightroom is great. It is a key player in my photography work flow. The sync functions allows me to process corrections on multiple shots at once.

  • Ricky

    November 18, 2009 10:48 am

    Am using both Lr and Ps. Light/simple editing are done in Lr while the heavier stuffs are done on Ps.

  • Remington

    November 18, 2009 06:41 am

    LR really is a workflow too. It's a powerfull RAW converter built on the same engine as ACR with a few extra develop tools. Other things that were not mentioned about LR are:

    Slideshow Module - shoot, import, sort, batch develop, show your client a slick slideshow, with music if you wish, all from your laptop on location
    Web Gallery Module - create web galleries (html and flash) that you can upload via ftp to your own site
    Print Module - picture packages, batch printing, print to jpeg
    Collections - Scott Kelby just did a great tip on how to use collections over folders on his blog www.scottkelby.com

    Not sure Bridge can do any of these feature with as much ease or at all.

    Cheers!

  • Chet

    November 18, 2009 02:54 am

    The next wave of photographers will be buying lightroom before photoshop. This is not just a photography thing, this is the future of file systems as well.

    Something else that's pretty big I didn't see in the comments is this:

    1. LR has non destructive editing, Bridge + Photoshop does not.

    This gives rise to:

    1.Virtual Copies (Several different versions of your picture, but doesn't take more room)
    2.1 picture infinite formats. Email, prints, digital, any size, any dpi, Only 1 file.
    3.Speed. It's a lot faster to apply virtual changes than to apply actual pixel changes.

    Digital photographers can easily come back with hundreds if not thousands of photos in one day. Opening up actual large files to make picks will never be as efficient as opening up previews of the images instead, and file organization doesn't give you the flexibility of a metadata and keyword based organizational system.

    LR and software like it is the future. It is a fundamental shift in how file management will be.

    This is besides all the other wonderful benefits that others have pointed out.

    @bluenoser
    The best way for me to explain what LR is and when to use it is to tell you a workflow. This is not mine exactly, but will highlight the things LR can do.

    1. Import images from cards. On inserting your memory card, LR will ask you if you want to import images.
    2. LR can copy files from your card to your file destination and a backup destination. On import LR can rename your files, add your metadata such as copyrights to the files, keyword them and apply a process to the images (eg. Auto Toning). All these things are options that can be saved so that you can apply different options when importing. All this is done in LR in one process. Put your card in, select your import type, and go do something else, LR automates this for you.
    3. Make your picks. Use stars, colors, flags, etc to choose/rate your pictures. LR will quickly give you side by side comparisons if you like. You can also view several at a time to compare a similar set of images. Select the images from the ribbon, press N and they will be auto maximized to best fit onto your screen. Window management is not necessary.
    4. At this stage you can fine tune your metadata. Update add/remove metadata and keywords for one, some, or all images.
    5. Tone and edit. In batch, make broad edits to images. Forgot to set white balance when moving indoors? Fix those images in batch. LR develop presets allow you to use other people's develop settings and for you to make your own. Make a change for one image, save the setting and apply it to all/some images.
    6. Make basic local edits. Edits applied to portions of the image you paint, not the whole image. Use healing or clone tool. Adjust Exposure, Brightness etc....
    7. If the image still needs work, open it in Photoshop through LR. Edit in photoshop. Save it and your photoshop edited image is now in LR with all your metadata and stuff. Now you're back in LR.
    8. Output your images. Export your images using presets. Add your watermark, Choose file type, file renaming, file size. Presets allow you to quickly export images optimized for email, digital, or print. No need for several versions. Even allows post process sharpening. Plugins allow you to upload directly to sites like flickr or add multiple watermarks auto sized for your output.
    9.Decide to make an image BW and cropped. Open in LR, make virtual copy of image(optional). Crop and apply BW preset. Adjust BW and then output. If you don't make a virtual copy, you can still undo the BW and crop.

    Hope that helps you understand what LR does and when to use it.

  • Fletch

    November 17, 2009 09:15 pm

    Lightroom rocks!

    I went from PS Elements, editing all of my images view ACR and the the PSE editor. Editing one image was between 5 mins and an hour.

    With Lightroom 95% of my editiing is done in LR all my images can be selected and edited in the time one pic would take in PSE alone. If required for panoramas or compositing images then I go to PSE (which links seamlessly with LR) but for everything else it can be done solely in LR.

  • Patty Reiser

    November 17, 2009 12:45 pm

    I recently discovered Lightroom and I absolutely love it! Though it is not the only tool in my photographer's bag of tricks, it is the first tool I use to edit my images. I use Photoshop Elements for tweaking any images I need to.

  • Steve Brown

    November 17, 2009 12:09 pm

    I use Lightroom now for 90% of my postprocessing. PS for about 10%. I still think PS does a better job and offers more control when editing only portions of a photo, but Lightroom is narrowing that gap with each version released. I'm glad I have them both (as well as some other software like Photomatix). Overall, I think I'm spending less time in postprocessing since I started using Lightroom.

  • geoff

    November 17, 2009 12:01 pm

    The Only way to work (IMNSHO) is to shoot RAW and use LR. Then you have a non-destructive editing/cataloging workflow which enables multiple versions of the same file (different development/crops,etc), and is essentially the one-stop tool all the way through printing. And I am decent with PS, but PS is really for layering and much more custom editing of files.

    Plus you can create and/or purchase many development presets for LR that are already out on the web that achieve amazing results with little stress on your end. And LR offers a direct round-trip to Photomatix and back for HDR's.

  • Andy

    November 17, 2009 09:05 am

    Well, 90 percent of the time LR is an alternative to Photoshop for me. These days I only use use Photoshop for critical work on certain photos (e.g., if I'm preparing them for something very special) and design work. In my opinion, Photoshop is more critical for people who love design.

    If you do minimal processing on your photos (color correction, basic sharpening, etc.), then Lightroom is all you need -- and it's a TREMENDOUS time saver once your learn the workflow!

  • RonT

    November 17, 2009 08:05 am

    Two good sources of self-paced training, reading, and reference for Lightroom 2;

    1. The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers (Paperback) by Martin Evening. Be sure the book is the one with the woman's face on it.

    2. The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers (Paperback) by Scott Kelby.

    Personally, I liked the Scott Kelby book for its step by step instructions on the use of Lightroom 2. Scott also has a website that you can download the training pics. I found the Martin Evening book to be good as a great "reference".

  • silpha

    November 17, 2009 05:46 am

    just got LR 2.5. I had carved out a nice little workflow in bridge/ACR for my really nice shots and am still using iSlowto (iPhoto) for all of my snapshotties. Many of the images I take of my daughter ride the fence between artsy and snapshot, so i am beginning to find this workflow cumbersome. I like Bridge because it works with whatever file structure i choose and is therefore software independent. They way Aperture and iPhoto handle metadata is quite annoying to me. It seems that apple software should be able to utilize spotlight. I can see a similar workflow using LR to the folder structure is currently use, but i am not sure i like all the importing and cataloging. I do like the idea of editing on the fly and having the edits sit alongside the originals, and the combination of bridge and ACR is pretty sweet. Previous RAW conversions made in xmp sidecar files seem to be loading just fine as well, but i worry that i will get myself too immersed in the LR workflow and later decide it's not for me and want to revert to the K.I.S.S. method of simple folder structures. Any tips on workflow for the semi-pro shooter?

  • Aleeya

    November 17, 2009 05:28 am

    I just got LR and being a visual learner, have been following video tutorials for how to use it. If there is a video with concise, start to finish work workflow demonstration I would love to see it.

  • wayoutnumbered

    November 17, 2009 04:31 am

    I did try the 30 trial of Lightroom. I liked what I could figure out but it did have a huge learning curve that I just didn't have the time to do. My goal was to color correct several images quickly and I think it is the perfect vehicle for it, just have to learn it.

  • Bluenoser

    November 17, 2009 04:07 am

    Well, the title of this topic sure is misleading. I thought it was going to tell us what lightroom is and when to use. Instead, we got a bunch of comparisons to PS. Also, saying LR isn't an alternative to PS is misleading. Depending on what and how much PP one does, LR is a great alternative. Especially for those who can't afford the high cost of PS.

  • Nathan

    November 17, 2009 03:34 am

    Personally, I wasn't expecting a comparison between LR and PS, as they're not really comparable. I was hoping more for a pro/con between LR and Bridge...

    Anyone prefer LR to Bridge? Or is there anything LR does better that would make it more compelling to use?

  • Sarah

    November 17, 2009 03:34 am

    I just got LR 2 a few months ago and I can't imagine how I survived without it for so long. It has VASTLY reduced my editing time and its organizational tools are right up my alley. I LOVE IT!!! I don't have full-blown Photoshop, rather I use Paint Shop Pro Photo X2...I find myself still using it for extensive edits, but I can usually do most of my edits in LR. I highly recommend LR for photographers looking to streamline their workflow.

  • Nathan

    November 17, 2009 03:32 am

    For me, LR doesn't offer much of an advantage of Bridge.

    I take all the RAW files from my memory card, put them on my (external) hard drive, then review them all in Bridge. Choose the ones I like, and then open them in ACR, make basic edits (which you can propagate across all the images you've opened, if you like), and then open ones that need fine tuning in PS.

    No need to import what you think you'll like into LR or any of that... and anything that doesn't make the cut gets marked as "Reject" initially and deleted after.

  • RonT

    November 17, 2009 03:23 am

    I am a big fan of Lightroom. This past summer, I shot nearly six thousand (6K) photos during a month-long trip to France, Switzerland, and Italy. I bought Lightroom 2 just after it was released for my desktop at home. I loaded Adobe Bridge on my travel laptop (ACER netbook). Once overseas, I used Adobe Bridge to catagorize and add initial metadata on a ACER netbook connected to a portable 300GB flash drive (this was done in case of lost or damaged mem cards) during the trip. Once I got home, I used Lightroom 2 to import, sort, catagorize, edit, and add better metadata to all of the files. I also imported my friends' photos into the Lightroom catalog (e.g. database). This enabled me to produce a consolidated DVD and Presentation of the trip all produced through Lightroom. The majority of my photo editing was done in Lightroom. However, there were some photos and panaromic shots that required Photoshop CS4. The good thing about using Photoshop with Lightroom is you can directly create a .PSD file from Lightroom, then edit the new file in Photoshop. Lightroom saves the .PSD (if you wish) inside its catalog so you can keep track of the original file (jpg's and/or RAW files) plus the newly created/edited .PSD file. This software alone has become the centerpoint of my photography workflow. In summary, on the road for extended trips: Step 1 - I use Adobe Bridge to capture/archive/initial metadata; Step 2 - once at home, I use Adobe Lightroom for the heavy lifting (mass edits + touchups, metadata, catagorization); Step 3, I use PhotoShop CS4 for special circumstances that require detailed editing while saving the new file into Lightroom's catalog (database). The only caveat is when I shooting pics that do not require remote travel, I skip step 1 and import everything into Lightroom. I shoot a Nikon D90 with various lenses.

  • Alex Perry

    November 17, 2009 03:06 am

    Already owning any of the Photoshop CS versions, I don't see the need to spend the extra money on lightroom. I agree that you should be comparing the use of LR to Bridge, not LR to Photoshop as some have done in the comments. But with improvements in bridge in CS4, I don't see much need for the extra expense. I rarely ever go into photoshop until I've selected one or two images I need to really edit. I do all of my adjusting in ACR, and am able to label, star, select and compare in bridge. You can even run automated actions. The new ACR and bridge have much of the same tools that have been described in LR including graduated adjustments. Whereas I see LR as a must have for those people who have elements and not bridge, not so if you have CS.

  • Kerri

    November 17, 2009 02:40 am

    I'm pretty new to editing, and just started out with iPhoto because it was on the mac. I then tried Aperture, but wasn't thrilled with it. Love Lightroom. I've been using it for only a few months, but have been able to learn everything I need so far. I did have a rookie mistake on a photoshoot that involved a green hose in the background of a set of family photos. grrrrr....Photoshop was the only way to get that out effectively. Other than that, Lightroom has met all my needs.

  • Remington

    November 17, 2009 02:24 am

    I have been using LR since v1. It's a fantastic program for work flow and organization but where it really shines is in the Develop module. You can do some amazing things with this module. I use this for about 90-95% of my images. I went from Elements 3.0 to LR because it was chepaer than PS CS3 and allowed me to do pretty much all the things I want to with a photo. However, I have since bought CS3 and find that in combination you have the best of both worlds. I am still 90% LR and 10% CS3 only because there are some things LR cannot do. Here are a few things I make the trip to CS3 for

    If I need serious sharpening
    If I need to blend two exposures together using a layer mask
    Serious "painting with light" to correct certain aread of the image
    Any work in Lab mode to fix or enhance colour
    Obviously, any image compositing

    Another great feature of LR is the ability to "Edit in" another application (i.e. PS. NIK, Photomatix etc.) once you're finished in the other app your new file is automatically imported back into LR as a PSD or TIFF (depending the program), right beside the original and it's also saved in the same folder.

  • Miguel

    November 17, 2009 01:40 am

    I'm a neat-freak and I like to keep everything organized. I got frustrated each time I had to look for a particular photo and I had to spend time looking for it. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom took care of that problem, and more.

    I started out using Lightroom 1.0 right after I had tried Apple's Aperture. I liked using Aperture, however I stopped using it because it only worked on an Apple computer and my PC was much faster.

    The principle of both applications is the same: organize an entire photo shoot by selecting only those photos you want to work with, make changes to the appearance of photos without directly affecting the pixels, etc.

    Lightroom 1.0 was not very powerful and I was happy when version 2.0 came out. The new tools included with it (see Darren Rowse's article above) turned it into a power tool for me to use in my daily workflow. When this version of Lightroom came out, I did notice that my usage of Adobe Photoshop declined first by about half, and then to the current levels of about 30% Photoshop, 70% Lightroom.

    I'm currently beta-testing version 3 of Lightroom and I'm already in love with it.

  • Anthony

    November 17, 2009 01:26 am

    I just got into LR recently and have been amazed at the capabilities. Previously I was using Picasa, which was not bad for a few photos here and there but Lightroom truly is a wonderful tool... the workflow is just so smooth. You can try LR beta 3 for free on Adobe's website if you are interested.

  • Paul

    November 17, 2009 01:06 am

    I bought Lightroom to replace iPhoto. Lightroom and Photoshop complement each other. I use Lightroom for all my images, then import (seamlessly, since they are from the same software maker) a few selected images into Photoshop Elements for further adjustments - maybe 10% of my images. Lightroom is amazing and I highly recommend it. It is a great photo-management software.

  • Ed O'Keeffe

    November 17, 2009 01:01 am

    When advocating Lightroom to friends I describe my change when moving from an digital compact to an SLR was pretty ground breaking to my photography, moving from just Photoshop to Lightroom 85% and Photoshop 15% changed my photography in the same ground breaking way.

    In terms of selecting the best from a photo shoot. Previewing them, picking the best. The time I used to waste looking through my old JPEG photos and taking them one at a time in and out of Photoshop to see if they were any good now seems like a crime.

    Its not just Lightroom, there are other great pieces of Photo management softwares out there like Apples's Aperture but in my professional opinion Lightroom is the best and changed the way I work on a daily basis.

  • Kyle Stern

    November 17, 2009 12:50 am

    What I would like to see most of all is a comparison of Aperture and Lightroom. Has DPS covered this or is there a link anyone can recommend?

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