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09-24-2009, 11:51 AM   #1
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Lightroom vs. Photoshop

Pardon the n00b question...

I figure that Photoshop can do way more image editing than Lightroom, not to mention graphics creation. But it seems like Lightroom has a very simple interface to do some very powerful things, like sharpen functions that actually look good, etc. (I'm assuming you can do all these things in Photoshop as well)

I think I get that Lightroom is more of a image management program, but what would you say are the big distinguishing factors? If I already use GIMP for basic touching up, would there be a reason for me to get Lightroom or Photoshop?

(I do not own either of these programs, but just realized today that since I am taking a class at a time towards a master's degree, that I am eligible for student discounts!)

P.S. - I basically want to do what Cloggie_UK did to my picture here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-beginners-corner-q/71344-how-can-i...-colors-3.html

09-24-2009, 12:20 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChooseAName Quote
Pardon the n00b question...

I figure that Photoshop can do way more image editing than Lightroom, not to mention graphics creation. But it seems like Lightroom has a very simple interface to do some very powerful things, like sharpen functions that actually look good, etc. (I'm assuming you can do all these things in Photoshop as well)

I think I get that Lightroom is more of a image management program, but what would you say are the big distinguishing factors? If I already use GIMP for basic touching up, would there be a reason for me to get Lightroom or Photoshop?

(I do not own either of these programs, but just realized today that since I am taking a class at a time towards a master's degree, that I am eligible for student discounts!)

P.S. - I basically want to do what Cloggie_UK did to my picture here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-beginners-corner-q/71344-how-can-i...-colors-3.html
Lightroom and photoshop are complementary programs. They work hand in hand.
Get them both and join NAPP. OK that's a selfish plug. But I use both depending on what I need to accomplish. Photoshop is a very powerful program. Expensive, but powerful.

Last edited by graphicgr8s; 09-24-2009 at 05:53 PM.
09-24-2009, 12:30 PM   #3
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Graphicsgr8 wrote: Lightroom and photoshop are complimentary programs. They work hand in hand.
Get them both and join NAPP. OK that's a selfish plug. But I use both depending on what I need to accomplish. Photoshop is a very powerful program. Expensive, but powerful.


Well, they may "compliment" one another when they are doing well, but occasionally they get into a spat

I think you meant "complement" ... but be that as it may, the OP might want to consider Photoshop Elements. That will probably do all the editing they will need in the foreseeable future. When the need arises that they detect a desire for greater editing capability, they can then move to PS-CS3/4/5/6 with very little retrain time.
09-24-2009, 12:32 PM   #4
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Although complimentary software, LR and PS work quite differently.

To sum it up in a few words, LR is meant more as a catalog organizer with the ability to process your RAW (preferably) files. Also, after the introduction of the adjustment brush in LR 2.0 you have great flexibility to do selective adjustments in parts of your picture.

PS on the other hand, at least for me, takes over when I'm in the need to do more selective work on my photos. PS is a very powerful image editor, and has loads of features that LR does not have. For me though, I almost exlusively use Lightroom for most of my pictures (as I find Lightroom is enough as I only tend to adjust my photos). When in the need to do some more serious processing, there is no way around PS.

09-24-2009, 01:13 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChooseAName Quote
Pardon the n00b question...

I figure that Photoshop can do way more image editing than Lightroom, not to mention graphics creation. But it seems like Lightroom has a very simple interface to do some very powerful things, like sharpen functions that actually look good, etc. (I'm assuming you can do all these things in Photoshop as well)

I think I get that Lightroom is more of a image management program, but what would you say are the big distinguishing factors? If I already use GIMP for basic touching up, would there be a reason for me to get Lightroom or Photoshop?
You are asking two quite different questions, I think.


First question: Do you need something better than The Gimp?


Only you can decide that. The Gimp is pretty powerful. It's also a pain in the patoot to use. I could not personally use it for the photography that I do, because I am typically processing hundreds of photos a week. But if I were working on fewer photos, I don't know, maybe The Gimp would do the trick.


Second question: Lightroom or Photoshop (or both, or neither)?

I'd like to make this easy and say simply that you don't need Photoshop. But since I'm not sure that you need Lightroom either, it's hard for me to know what to say.

Photoshop is a program designed on a MUCH older concept. It is an image program designed to prepare images for print. Images of any kind: digital drawings, logos, whatever. Dealing with photos has always been part of its M.O. (when I used Photoshop in, I think, the early '90s, the photos were of course always scanned). But it was never really designed to be a raw-workflow program for photographers. It has way more features than most photographers need. I no longer use Photoshop at all personally. Stopped upgrading years ago.

If you need to copy a pair of open eyes from one shot and paste 'em into another shot where the bride's eyes were accidentally closed, well, Lightroom can't do that. If you need to take 50 lbs off the bride, or if you're shooting a group of young ballerinas and one girl showed up with the wrong color tights and you need to fix that, well, again, that's not really Lightroom's thing.

But otherwise, Lightroom 2.5's photo-processing tools are quite powerful, and I've heard people who know both programs well say that in some respects Lightroom is better than Photoshop. You can certainly do in Lightroom the kind of processing that you linked to. And because Lightroom (unlike Photoshop) was designed from the ground up to meet the specific needs of working photographers and to meet those needs exclusively, the tools in Lightroom are laid out beautifully.

Lightroom is not Photoshop, on the one hand, nor is it a completely full-featured DAM tool, either. It's a very good compromise designed to meet an individual photographer's overall needs. Lightroom is particularly well-tailored to the needs of event photographers like me, folks who deal with lots of photos.


If you do NOT take lots of photos, you have other options worth considering. At one time I would have suggested taking a look at LightCrafts' LightZone but I'm not sure that product has a future. Too bad. Bibble Pro 4.10 is really powerful but very dated (almost as dated as The Gimp) and Bibble Pro 5, well, who knows when it will be released. SilkyPix Pro Studio 3 was just released and it's VERY good, I think. But it's almost as expensive as Lightroom. SilkyPix has a couple features not found in Lightroom, but after careful consideration I decided to stick with Lightroom. And there are other programs.

The main good thing I can say about Photoshop Elements is that it has most of what most photographers want to do in Photoshop but it costs a lot less. But I own Elements and Lightroom, and I launch Elements less than once a month.

Will
09-24-2009, 01:38 PM   #6
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This is a very helpful reply. Thank you. +1 for Will!

Okay, so I definitely don't need full Photoshop. I figured as much. Currently, I don't think I need something better than GIMP. Photography is just a hobby for me. Would you say that Lightroom greatly streamlines your workflow compared to Photoshop Elements?

Typically what I do in GIMP is play with the level adjustments, then bump up contrast and maybe the brightness and/or saturation. Every now and then if there's a picture that I really like that is unfortunately blurry, I will salvage by applying some dreamy blur, deliberate high contrast, or black and white. If Lightroom does all this and much quicker, I might be in love.

Does Lightroom do good sharpening? Do any of you have the time to post before/after examples of an image sharpened using only Lightroom? I know that no computer can fix bad focus, but many times my pictures come out fairly focused, but not as razor sharp as I'd like.

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
You are asking two quite different questions, I think.


First question: Do you need something better than The Gimp?


Only you can decide that. The Gimp is pretty powerful. It's also a pain in the patoot to use. I could not personally use it for the photography that I do, because I am typically processing hundreds of photos a week. But if I were working on fewer photos, I don't know, maybe The Gimp would do the trick.


Second question: Lightroom or Photoshop (or both, or neither)?

I'd like to make this easy and say simply that you don't need Photoshop. But since I'm not sure that you need Lightroom either, it's hard for me to know what to say.

Photoshop is a program designed on a MUCH older concept. It is an image program designed to prepare images for print. Images of any kind: digital drawings, logos, whatever. Dealing with photos has always been part of its M.O. (when I used Photoshop in, I think, the early '90s, the photos were of course always scanned). But it was never really designed to be a raw-workflow program for photographers. It has way more features than most photographers need. I no longer use Photoshop at all personally. Stopped upgrading years ago.

If you need to copy a pair of open eyes from one shot and paste 'em into another shot where the bride's eyes were accidentally closed, well, Lightroom can't do that. If you need to take 50 lbs off the bride, or if you're shooting a group of young ballerinas and one girl showed up with the wrong color tights and you need to fix that, well, again, that's not really Lightroom's thing.

But otherwise, Lightroom 2.5's photo-processing tools are quite powerful, and I've heard people who know both programs well say that in some respects Lightroom is better than Photoshop. You can certainly do in Lightroom the kind of processing that you linked to. And because Lightroom (unlike Photoshop) was designed from the ground up to meet the specific needs of working photographers and to meet those needs exclusively, the tools in Lightroom are laid out beautifully.

Lightroom is not Photoshop, on the one hand, nor is it a completely full-featured DAM tool, either. It's a very good compromise designed to meet an individual photographer's overall needs. Lightroom is particularly well-tailored to the needs of event photographers like me, folks who deal with lots of photos.


If you do NOT take lots of photos, you have other options worth considering. At one time I would have suggested taking a look at LightCrafts' LightZone but I'm not sure that product has a future. Too bad. Bibble Pro 4.10 is really powerful but very dated (almost as dated as The Gimp) and Bibble Pro 5, well, who knows when it will be released. SilkyPix Pro Studio 3 was just released and it's VERY good, I think. But it's almost as expensive as Lightroom. SilkyPix has a couple features not found in Lightroom, but after careful consideration I decided to stick with Lightroom. And there are other programs.

The main good thing I can say about Photoshop Elements is that it has most of what most photographers want to do in Photoshop but it costs a lot less. But I own Elements and Lightroom, and I launch Elements less than once a month.

Will
09-24-2009, 02:45 PM   #7
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I'll tell you that sharpness is probably going to be a matter of opinion. I find that lightroom does ok, but it will depend on what you are starting with (subject and file type), etc.

The best suggestion would be to download a trial of Lightroom and see how it does for you. Realize that there is a bit of bias in it that it is intended mostly for RAW file adjustments and management.

It's real strengths as mentioned before lie with processing multiple raw files. However, even then freeware such as UFRaw (which can work with Gimp) or Rawtherapee are nice RAW processors although not as efficient as Lightroom.

As far as file management goes, Picasa isn't a bad way to start, and it offers basic file adjustments as well.

Mostly I would say that if you are finding gimp sufficient, you are probably in fairly good shape. I keep hoping it gets to the full 16 bit file support soon, as I think I'd jump at it considering that for what little processing I do beyond Lightroom and Rawtherapee (my 2 RAW processors of choice), Gimp would suffice.
09-25-2009, 02:31 AM   #8
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Thanks emalvick. Raw image adjustments are what I am looking for.

I do use UFRaw, and I have wanted to try Raw Therapee, but it crashes every time I try to load any raw image. I have Windows XP SP3 and apparently this is a known issue (as seen by the thread on the RT bug sub-forum).

How practical is batch processing of raw images? Sometimes when I'm photographing, I will change my white balance every couple of pictures until it looks right. Would batch processing only work if picture taking conditions don't change? (for example, indoor, constant lighting, subject not moving around much...?)

09-25-2009, 04:13 AM   #9
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I guess I would start with Photoshop Elements. It has most of the things you are looking for. ACR is easy to use. I would just make sure that you get a book on using it as well, like Scott Kelby's Elements book. Elements can't batch process things. It has never really bothered me -- I'd rather spend a little time with each photo anyway.
09-25-2009, 08:38 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChooseAName Quote
Thanks emalvick. Raw image adjustments are what I am looking for.

I do use UFRaw, and I have wanted to try Raw Therapee, but it crashes every time I try to load any raw image. I have Windows XP SP3 and apparently this is a known issue (as seen by the thread on the RT bug sub-forum).

How practical is batch processing of raw images? Sometimes when I'm photographing, I will change my white balance every couple of pictures until it looks right. Would batch processing only work if picture taking conditions don't change? (for example, indoor, constant lighting, subject not moving around much...?)
I will say that on a lot of the software out there, you can usually get away with utilizing presets even if they don't have a great batch processor. I tend to do that a lot with my RAW processors, although I haven't used ACR or Photoshop products to know if that can even be done.

I find that for most shoots there is a baseline set of corrections that will work for a series and then I go back through and tweak individual photos for fine tuning (e.g. WB, Sharpness, Highlights, etc). I have never really given UFRaw much of a chance, so I'm not sure how capable it is for that, but it is a great RAW processor.
09-25-2009, 08:53 AM   #11
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I'm at the point where I couldn't live without both Photoshop and Lightroom. I like that I can do basic edits in Lightroom, and that it catalogs my ever increasing number of digital files, but it isn't a powerful enough image editor.
OTOH, Photoshop, while a powerful image editor, doesn't do cataloging.
They really are complementary programs.
If I had to chose one or the other, I would choose Photoshop, but I would miss Lightroom very much.
09-25-2009, 09:01 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChooseAName Quote
Thanks emalvick. Raw image adjustments are what I am looking for.

I do use UFRaw, and I have wanted to try Raw Therapee, but it crashes every time I try to load any raw image. I have Windows XP SP3 and apparently this is a known issue (as seen by the thread on the RT bug sub-forum).

How practical is batch processing of raw images? Sometimes when I'm photographing, I will change my white balance every couple of pictures until it looks right. Would batch processing only work if picture taking conditions don't change? (for example, indoor, constant lighting, subject not moving around much...?)
Are you asking specifically about Raw Therapee here? I've never used it, so cannot answer. But for most decent RAW workflow programs - including Lightroom, Aperture, Lightzone. ACDSee Pro (which is what I use), Bibble 5 should it ever get released, etc - the sort of thing you are describing is their bread and butter. Already happy with the WB because you set it in camera? Great, then you can just batch other settings, like sharpening or contrast or whatever, and let each image keep its own WB. Or, better yet, stop worrying about setting WB in camera all the time (and hence missing shots!) but set it just as quickly in your software: customize wb for one image, then copy that setting to all other images shot in the same light.

The idea being that these programs are all about letting you quickly adjust exposure, color, sharpening, NR, etc, for lots of images at once. Not by forcing you to use the *exact* same settings for all, but by giving you tools to quickly identify which images need which adjustments, and letting you actually apply those adjustments quickly. While Photosho can do that to *some* extent, that's not its strength. It's strength is more like The GIMP, which you say you are familiar with: if you've got an hour to spend on a singleimage, it gives you amazing number of things you can do in that hour. The RAW workflow applications like Lightroom et l are more about, how good can you get your images in a matter of seconds each (or less, if you can take advantage of a lot of batch operations).
09-25-2009, 09:06 AM   #13
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Thanks Marc. I wasn't asking specifically about RT.

I have a 4 month old to help with in the evenings, so I don't have as much time as I'd like to pore over pictures. Lightroom does sound like it'd be good for quick editing so I can upload pictures of the baby for my parents

What is the appeal of the image management functions in these programs? Currently what I do is when I take pictures, I just cut/paste the folder off the memory card onto my computer. That way folders are arranged by date. What more do programs like Lightroom do in relation to organization?
09-25-2009, 09:29 AM   #14
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Take a month to play with Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, etc. to find out what you would utilize the best. All these applications have trial versions for download that are full versions without watermarks that allow you to use them just as you would if you purchased them, just that it works for 30 days only. Lightroom is very nice and polished compared to PS and does process RAW images neat and tidy like. Great presets from the get go. I have CS3 Design Standard so I use Photoshop and ACR to process my RAW images and I really liked working with Lightroom, but it didn't do anything better than PS for me, just had a great streamlined interface and presets so I decided for the money I'd just stick with what I already had. I want to download the Elements trial just to see how that works too, just haven't had a chance. JFYI, I'm usually only processing small numbers of images at a time. Most of my stuff is family shots and some creative things I like to play around with for fun, but I worked in the design and printing field so I have the standard Adobe lineup just to keep the rust from settling.

Photoshop is a beast of a program so if you don't plan on learning what you can do with it then I'd pass on it and go with Lightroom or Elements, if you decide on the Adobe route.

Good luck with your decision.

edit: got interrupted while posting and saw your question after I posted....so I'm adding that both Adobe Camera Raw/Photoshop and Lightroom offer you various ways to title your folders and image names before importing. Those are very nice features cause sometimes you just don't want the image title to be IMG00001. I would suggest you check out Scott Kelby's books from your library, if possible. Lightroom for Digital Photographers and Photoshop CS4 for Digital Photographers.
09-25-2009, 10:42 AM   #15
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The best answer to your question about organization is to suggest you get a copy of "The DAM Book" by Peter Krogh and read it.

But here's the $0.05 answer:

What I would consider the basis of good organization would include adding keywords to images to identify the people / objects / scenes depicted, and rating the images to help straight which are the ones you want to focus your efforts one and which are there just because you can't bear to delete anything.

So right now, if you asked to me to send you some pictures of my cat Sylvie, I'd type "Sylvie" into the search box in ACDSee, up would come all images I've taged with that keyword, and then I'd hit a key to sort th list by rating. I'd go straight to end of the list, where I'd find my 4-star images - the ones I had previously decided were the ones I liked enough to want to share.

Obviously, *getting* organizing in this way takes time, but it's time you save every time you try to *find* pictures later, so it's practically free. And it doesn't actually take that long once you get the hang of it - again, these progrmas provide batch capabilities to make quick work of this. For instance, looking at a folder full of thumbs, I find all images of Sylvie, select them them, and type "Sylvie" into the Keywords box. Repeat for the images from that folder of my wife, images of squirrels, etc - within a minute or so I've keyworded a day's worth of images. As for rating, I do that the first time I look at the images; assuming I'm going to look at them anyhow, it takes no additional time to hit a key to assign a rating. I used to spend way too long *thinking* about what to rate an image, but now I don't. I have a simple scheme:

1 = will probably delete this later
2 = nothing wrong with it, won't delete it, but don't need it taking up space on my laptop drvie either
3 = I want this on my laptop drive
4 = this is one I'm especially happy with / proud of and would want to share with others if they are interested (virtually everything I've ever posted here is a 4).
5 = someday I may go through my 4's and mark the *really* memorable ones as 5
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