Switching from Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

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Let’s be honest – over the past couple of months, more than enough has been said about Adobe’s recent change in policy regarding how the latest versions (yes, all two of them) of Lightroom are to be purchased and used. Articles have been written, disappointment expressed in some volume, silver linings spotted where there seemed to be none.

There’s also a good chance that you have made up your mind regarding the change to do one of the following:

  • To stick with CC and Classic.
  • To start the fairly painful process of moving on to a different piece of software.
  • Or to put off the decision for as long as the already-purchased version of Lightroom supports RAW files from your camera.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

Thus, we are not here to discuss Adobe’s brilliant decisions or lack thereof. This article is meant for those who chose the second option. Specifically, for those, who have decided to switch from Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate. Hopefully, the last article I wrote on ACDSee Photo Studio has helped you make up your mind whether or not this software is suitable for your needs. If it is, I will try to help make the transition as painless as possible.

An important disclaimer: as before, the license for this copy of ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate has been provided by ACD Systems. Having said that, even though ACD Systems has asked me to write this article, it has not been dictated by the company in the slightest. My words are always my own, as are your reasons for switching or otherwise. More than that, ACD Systems never implied they expect anything but integrity.

Direct transfer from Lightroom

I am afraid I will have to start with some disappointment, so I will try to rip off the bandage as quickly as possible. As of today, there is absolutely no way to transfer editing data from Lightroom to any other post-processing software or vice versa. It’s the result of closed-standard tools and database format that each software developer uses – not even sharpening is equivalent, let alone tonal adjustments.

So, the progress you have made with Lightroom is bound to remain accessible via Lightroom only, at least as far as RAW files themselves are concerned. For all the convenience catalog systems provide, this is one of the downsides – switching to a new RAW converter can really be a hassle.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

It may not be possible to transfer edits from LR to ACDSee, but Photo Studio sure has a lot of tools to cover most post-processing tasks.

But if you are here, I am guessing you have decided to push through the process now rather than become even more tied-in with the system Adobe is sticking to, and have even more to deal with at a later date. One solution you are left with is exporting full-size JPEG images from your Lightroom Catalog for any future needs (uploads to social media or websites, for example). But should you ever need to tweak a setting or two, you will either have to go back to Lightroom, or start from zero using ACDSee or an alternative tool.

Mind you, this caveat is only really valid for two or three years at the most, since there is a good chance that after a couple of years your taste in post-processing – as well as your skill – will have changed noticeably. I know mine has. Still, it is something that you will need to accept as an unavoidable result of having been part of such a closed system.

It is my hope that, over time, software developers such as ACD Systems will work out a way to read Adobe’s (and other) databases and interpret adjustments in an equivalent manner so that none of the edits – at least not those most prominent – would be lost when switching.

Now that the bandage is off, let’s go through what can be achieved with Photo Studio Ultimate.

Importing Lightroom Catalog Data

As I have mentioned in the previous article, culling and adding metadata information is an enormous pain for me. I am sure I am not the only one who just wants to get on with post-processing. Having to assign ratings and keywords all over again for images that have been organized in Lightroom would be insufferable. It is an enormous relief that this is something ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate can greatly help you with.

Photo Studio has the functionality to import ratings, color labels, keywords, and collections from any Lightroom Catalog, thus preserving the major image organizing-structure of your portfolio. The process of importing this data is very easy to initiate and requires minimal effort.

1. Find the Adobe Lightroom Database Import tool

While in Manage Mode, select the Tools menu at the very top of the screen. There, navigate to Database > Import > Lightroom Database, which is located at the very bottom of the Import submenu. This will open the Lightroom Database Import Guide.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

2. Select Data and Catalog to Import

As soon as you launch the Lightroom Database Importer, a dialog with a short introduction to the tool’s functionality will pop up. Click Next, and you will be given options to specify which database entries you want to be imported, as well as the location of the Lightroom Catalog itself.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

2.1 Ratings

This is the star-based filter assigned with numeric keys (1 through 5) in Lightroom. ACDSee does not have stars as such, but it provides a numeric rating that is equivalent for all intents and purposes. If you check this option, ACDSee will interpret the ratings you have assigned with Lightroom and apply the same values.

2.2 Labels

This specifically refers to color labels that both Lightroom and ACDSee support. Again, by default, the labels that ACDSee provides are exactly the same as those found in Lightroom, so files marked with a Red label in a Lightroom Catalog will be marked with the same color in ACDSee after the data from the Catalog is imported.

2.3 Collections

These are a bit more complicated than Labels and Ratings and not something Photo Studio promotes as a means to managing your files, at least not by default. But if you were using Collections in Lightroom to sort your images, ACDSee will readily take over.

Simply select the Panes menu and enable Collections there and a new navigational tab will become available. Located right next to the Folders tab in Manage mode, it will list all the Collections that the imported Catalogs contained, along with the images assigned to those Collections.

It has been a couple of years since I last used Collections in Lightroom, preferring to stick with simple filters now, but it is nice to know this option is available and neatly integrated.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

2.4 Keywords

These are perhaps self-explanatory. Any keywords that you applied in Lightroom to any given RAW file will be seen by ACDSee too. This is useful for when you want to find images of specific locations, events, or people, provided you specified those keywords in Lightroom in the first place. Obviously, if you have not, ACDSee offers enough image management tools to have you covered.

2.5 Location

ACDSee will navigate to the default Lightroom Catalog in the Pictures folder on your computer, so keep in mind you may need to change the location. There is no way to select several Catalogs at once, so if you have more than one (which is very likely), the Catalog Import process will need to be repeated once for each one.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

Make sure Lightroom is not running while attempting to Import a Catalog.

Depending on the size of the Catalog being imported and your computer hardware specifications, the process might take up to a few minutes to finish. In fact, it took ACDSee over 30 minutes to process my Catalog. More than enough time to take a break from work and have a cup of coffee (you will have to wait for the Import to finish before you can use Photo Studio for anything else).

Admittedly, the Catalog was quite large, with a year’s worth of RAW files, and stored on an external hard drive on top of that. And not the fastest sort either. Be that as it may, importing will certainly be quicker than having to apply the filters and ratings manually, and nowhere near as tedious.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

Once the process is finished, you will find (upon navigating to the corresponding folder) your RAW files to contain the same labels, ratings, and metadata entries as applied in Lightroom. Honestly, this is great. The only omission that I can think of is that ACDSee does not seem to take Flags into account, so any images you may have marked with Pick or Reject Flag in Lightroom will not have the filter imported.

Part of the reason is that ACDSee simply has no Reject Flag equivalent, even if marking a file with backslash key tags it in a similar fashion to how Pick Flag works in Lightroom. Something to improve upon perhaps.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

The ratings and labels Lightroom is showing…

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

…are now transferred to ACDSee. And it gives you a good before-after glimpse too/

Plugins are added

Here is something that’s as unexpected as it is brilliant; ACDSee supports plugins designed for Adobe Photoshop. If you have been using Lightroom, this may be of relevance to you, too, as so many of these plugins are also meant for Adobe’s standalone RAW converter and image management software.

I have no idea how much work had to go into this little trick, but it is a massive attraction for anyone who is not fully satisfied with the extent of default ACDSee tools.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

Long time no see, Silver Efex. Fancy finding you here.

While I have not done any extensive testing – I rarely, if ever, use plugins anymore – I was able to verify this with one of the most well-regarded plugin packs by Nik Software (now owned by DxO after being nearly killed-off by Google). Color Efex worked like a charm. I encountered an occasional error here and there, but often to no direct effect on the functionality of the software or the plugin, so while annoying, it was rarely terminal.

I also tried a couple of plugins by Topaz some time ago and they worked without issue. The full list of officially supported tools can be found here.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

It is necessary to path the location of the already-installed plugins. To make sure ACDSee can locate the plugins correctly, first go to Edit mode. Then, select Options from the Tools menu at the top of the screen, or simply hit Alt + O. Once the Options panel is displayed, choose Edit Mode from the list on the left. There, you will be able to select the GPU that ACDSee will use to speed up processing, among other things.

What we need is the bottom-most field called Adobe Photoshop Plugin Paths. A couple of directories will be listed by default, but in some cases (as with Nik), they won’t be enough. You need to specify where the plugins are located. Since I am interested in using Nik Software, I added (click the Add button) a new path that leads to C:\Program Files\Nik Collection. The destination of your plugins might be different, so make sure you set the path correctly. Once you’re done, click OK.

From Lightroom to ACDSee Photo Studio: Making the Jump Easy

If the plugins are supported and the path has been specified accurately, you will find the plugins listed in the Photoshop Plugins section of the Tools menu (still in Edit Mode).

I won’t claim there is no chance of errors happening – after all, those plugins were never really intended for anything but Adobe. Yet the fact that they work so well despite that is an impressive and convenient achievement no matter how you look at it.

Just keep in mind that not everything might work as expected every single time, or it may take time for some plugins to be properly supported.

Final Words

Breaking and rearranging an established workflow is not a pleasant experience. Especially if the previous routine worked well and it is the company’s decisions, rather than the quality of the tool, that has become an issue. With that in mind, it is good to know that less-dominant software developers are going out of their way to show how welcoming they can be.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate attempts to make the transition from Lightroom as simple and straightforward as possible, not only by offering a plethora of powerful (and often similar) post-processing tools but by also taking steps towards preserving any image organizing you may have already done with Lightroom.

It’s not perfect and there is certainly room for improvement (perhaps edit transfers are not as far-fetched as they might seem?), but what has been done is by no means a small feat and will save any new user hours of rating and filtering what has already been done before.

Whichever software you will find yourself choosing next (or sticking with), there is plenty for the giant developers to learn from such attention to detail.

Disclaimer: ACDsee is a paid partner of dPS

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Romanas Naryškin is a photographer based in Vilnius, Lithuania. With a degree in visual arts, he spent a few years writing photography and art-related articles before fully immersing himself in intimate artistic portraiture, preferring a documentary approach. Romanas is exploring solitude, quietness and human vulnerability through environmental portraits of self and others. You can find his personal work on Instagram, while most of his commercial work can be found on his current website.

  • David Harpe

    Big fan of the ACD folks. I’ve supported their software for years and bought every major upgrade.

  • Great article. But it feels like I’ve been missing out on something regarding Adobe LR? The discussions you mention have totally gone pass me… could anybody fill me in? // M.

  • De La Foi,

    most of it is about the subscription licence that Adobe forces on the user. There is no way to purchase either Lightroom CC or Classic – you basically rent it. Which means you will have to continue to rent it. Financially, it’s not that expensive, unless you don’t update gear frequently and don’t chase after the newest features – in which case, a copy of the software, purchased once, might last you for years. No such choice now. Not to mention the fact that, as Adobe ties you in more and more in its ecosystem, it becomes harder and harder to switch somewhere else. Even if they decide to raise the price, which they can do at any time.

    It also has to do with Adobe having lied about the fact Lightroom will continue to be available as a once-paid licence, despite the whole Creative Cloud thing taking hold. I don’t like companies that go back on their word so easily. Don’t get me wrong, the tools they have a very, very good. In some cases, pretty damn great. But I don’t find the company as trustworthy as I used to.

    And I won’t start on how resource-heavy Lightroom has become.

    None of this is as one sided as it might seem from my short reply. But Adobe has not been enjoying great feedback lately, and for good reason.

  • I know how much they appreciate their customers and their loyalty, David.

  • Thank you. I think your reply is everything but short 🙂 and I appreciate the wake up call. Been running on Adobe’s stuff for as long as I can remember and and it’s a bit scary how I’ve gotten used to that there really is no other option. Not that there isn’t, but for the mere fact that the longer you do something, the harder it is to change. Which is why I found your article in the first place. I’m running on a full creative suite subscription since years now, a bit numbing I admit. We’ll see, maybe a big change can be an energy boost as well. // M.

  • Betty

    http://GoogleCashGoldCareerPartTimeJobs/get/hourly ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????…..

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