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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Photoshop vs Lightroom {Post processing and editing}

So does anyone out there have a lovely DSLR camera... and maybe you even invested in a wonderful 50mm lens... but now your wondering about software and editing?
I've been getting quite a few questions re my editing process and thought a blog post would be in order.  There is so many different types of photo editing software out there.  I mean a lot, and when I as looking around I found it so intimidating to sort through!  I'm just a soccer mom after all, who is far from a professional.  So here is my humble take of the things I've learned about editing thus far.

I'd bet most photographers use only 2 types of editing software, either Photoshop and/or Lightroom.  Both are Adobe products.  Until recently, I don't think I was knowledgeable enough to offer my opinion of Photoshop.  Both of these editing softwares I'm talking about are more than appropriate for regular ol' hobby photographers.  You don't have to be a pro to use either, although many pro's do use them, so you can rest assured you won't outgrow them either.  If you're an amateur photographer, who just wants to produce the best images possible, don't let either of these scare you.

I've taken several classes for both Photoshop and Lightroom now and although I'm FAR from learning all there is on these two types of software, I do know what I like (and don't like) about each.
I have both Lightroom 4.0 (an older version) and Photoshop Elements 10, (the cheap version) and I use both regularly.

Can't believe I'm showing you this... but this is the totally untouched version of this photo, SOC...
in dire need of editing.  
First, I'll say that as far as editing photos go, both pretty much do exactly the same thing when it comes to a "clean edit" of a photo.  This was a surprise to me!  They just do the same thing differently.  Photoshop has WAY more possibilities beyond a "clean edit" for creating stuff, like calendars, and cards, blog buttons, posters, and baby announcements for gorgeous 2-year-old Chinese girls.  BUT, all those extras are icing on the cake for me.  And if you're looking to control every single pixel in the photo, then please go with Photoshop.  Indeed there are times that I want to do some selective editing with a small little area in a photo.  But almost all the time, I'm trying to be efficient and do a clean edit a group of photos in a short amount of time, and thus I use Lightroom.  In the end what I want 99% of the time is to edit photographs... to do things like crop, and make a black-and-white photo, and/or "erase" that booger from my child's nose.
And bottom line, for editing photos, Lightroom is where it's at for me.
1)  Lightroom is faster to do a "clean edit" of photos and faster to "batch" process a group of photos.
2)  Lightroom is laid out the way a photographer thinks.  When I edit a photo, I literally start at the top of the editing screen and move through the steps to the bottom on the screen.  I do things like correct white balance, crop my photo, and adjust the exposure.  These are all photography terms.  In Photoshop there are things like the "magic wand tool," and a "magnetic lasso."  These mystical terms make me forget what photography is all about.  Frankly they scare me.  I don't want to do magic.  I want to do photography.
3)  Photoshop seems to have far more clicks and steps to do the same thing than Lightroom.
The last version edited in Lightroom.  Still far from perfect but good enough for me.
There are still a couple little tweaks I will do in Photoshop.
I didn't really care for that little bit of her tummy showing, call me old-fashioned, so I "painted" it out via Photoshop.
Also her shoes were a bit too big, so I also "painted" out the black parts that showed where they were too big.  Compare this image to the one above and you'll see the difference.  This "painting" is pretty easy and quick to do in Photoshop and although possible in Lightroom, it's just easier in Photoshop.  
However, if, after I have edited my photo in Lightroom, I want to use that image to create something else... say like a graduation announcement for the most awesome senior from the class of 2012... I will then pull up Photoshop and go to town...
 SO proud of our girl!

I will say that the possibilities in Photoshop are seemingly endless.  I mean there is SO much you can do in Photoshop, that after 3 classes, I'm still just barely scratching the surface of its possibilities.  In that aspect, Lightroom can be limiting.  To be frank, I like the limiting aspect of Lightroom.  I use Lightroom for editing photos, and not much else.  I like it that way.

Lightroom is currently $149 right now.  Photoshop Elements is $79.   (I researched and heard that Photoshop Elements does 99% of what the much more expensive Photoshop CS5 version does.  I think this is probably very true.)  Both offer free 30-day trials of their product.    And both regularly come out with newer versions that eventually need to be updated for a price.

In a nutshell, for photo editing, I use Lightroom 99% of the time because it's faster and easy.  Only occasionally do I pull out Photoshop.  But Lightroom is more expensive.  Still, If I could only have 1 type of editing software, I would be Lightroom hands down. 


  1. How did you know that I desperately needed this post!!! As I am in the most early stages of learning photography, I've been relying on the iphoto editing software on my mac, and just recently realizing that I need to step it up. Thank you so, so much for the advice!

  2. I don't have any editing on my computer so I need to start now, think I will go with Lightroom since you use that the most. Think that is good for a first timer??

  3. Thank you! That was very interesting and informative. I will have to check out those photo editing programs as I love photography.

  4. Very succinct! Except I got the educational discount on LR so it was only $59 on sale...typically $79...for all those teachers and students out there.

    I do now stay in LR 80% of the time, but cloning and creative art is much easier and possible in Photoshop Elements.

    It also took me a while to grasp it mentally, but I love how LR handles, organizes the photos.

  5. I also use Lightroom to edit and love it.... I would love to know how you did the opaque layer over the graffiti? These photos are stunning.

  6. Hey Martha! I have both but I am a Photoshop girl.

    It may be 'easier' to edit photos in Lightroom because all the steps are put togheter at the left and you just scroll down and do your job, but...

    Like you said, both do the same things. Just that Photoshop has more editing options. ;)

    Frankly, I only use Lightroom for its noise removal option (altough Photoshop does this too, I like to remove the noise in Lightroom).

    I could say I wasted my money, but not really. It's useful when someone asks me, I say I own this and that and they are all like: oh wow! lol :))

    I recently came across this article that I loved:

    My very personal opinion based on my own testings? Photoshop is way better. I was quite surprised to find out Lightroom's editing options rather... ugh... limited. I CAN live without Lightroom. :)

  7. Thanks so much for this post! I desperately want to use my DSLR more now that the days are longer and more daylight is available after work. Post processing is something I know nothing about so your post was a huge help.


  8. Great post, I'm always looking for easier and faster ways to edit photos. Photoshop takes so long! It is possible to do actions on Lightroom though?

  9. Heather- Yes and no re your questions about actions. They are called something different in LR. They are called "presets" and you can't transfer your Photoshop actions into LR. But like actions, presets are widely available, sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee. IMO it's also very easy to make your own presets in LR. Just a click and it's made, then you can transfer your "preset" to your other photos and keep it for a long time. About 1/3 of my presets are ones I saved myself. Hope that helps.

  10. Very interesting and helpful. Helpful because I understood all the terms and everything you were talking about-- that's a big step up from most of the reviews of these products. I'm not a professional. I'm not going to be a professional and I don't have the lingo. So thank you! Hubby is trying to talk me into some other software entirely-- something that someone told him is very Mac friendly and does the same thing. I'm hesitant to go with something none of my bloggy friends have ever mentioned...

    BTW-- Adobe gives the educators discount to homeschoolers. Gets you a much better rate.

  11. Thanks Nancy - interesting. I "cut my teeth" doing crime scene photograhpy, with is "no art stark" and post processing isn't allowed....but it DID teach me that if you can see it with your eyes you can photograph it! Of course that was back in the "film days" where you had to learn it because you didn't have a delete button on the camera if you needed to make another exposure!

    I've got both programs - and one day maybe I'll even sit down and use them - but all of my pics seem to still have that "clinical" feel - don't know if I'll ever out grow that!

    hugs - aus and co.

  12. Thanks, Nancy! This post was so helpful!!!!

    I just upgraded my camera from a point and shoot to a 'compact camera/power shot'...I think. (?) It's not a DSLR, I guess my new camera is somewhere in the middle. :)

    I am anxious to try both PS and AL. Hopefully this summer I will feel brave enough to purchase a DSLR. lol In the meantime, I feel like I am getting "my feet wet" with my 'in between' camera.

  13. I have PSE and ended up buying Lightroom because I heard the same thing - and totally agree! Would you mind telling me what kind of computer you bought? Mine is on its way out, I'm afraid, and I'm so confused on what I should get to replace it. Thanks!

  14. Nancy, I have heard you can only edit RAW photos in LR not PS. Is this true? I'm trying to decide if I need both. I currently edit my pics with my Creative Memories software but I'm thinking it's limited, basic edits and I know you can't edit RAW with their software. I'm just getting myself familiar with the manual mode and shooting in RAW but not sure it's necessary to shoot in RAW for a hobbyist. Your thoughts please.

    Cathy S.

    1. Cathy--first off, and maybe even more importantly, ALL RAW images will need to be edited. All of them. They come out of the camera kinda dull and lifeless. So I only recommend that folks who are in the habit of editing ALL their images, shoot in RAW. Otherwise JPEG will work better since often they don't need any editing at all if exposed properly.
      But back to your question, Yes, you can edit RAW images in PS, but you will have to bring it into PS though Camera RAW or Lightroom or another system. You can't bring RAW files directly into PS.

  15. So do you add the Ordinary Miracles signature onto all your pictures in Phooshop?

    1. Good questions, Bailey! No, I do not add it in PS. I add it either in LR or in an online ap that is just for publishing pics online. 95% (ish) of my pics never go to PS.

  16. Should I buy CS6 or Elements?

    1. Hi Anonymous, without knowing what you are going to be doing with Photoshop, I'd recommend Elements. It does almost everything PS does for a much cheaper price. Most tutorials and classes however are for the full PS/CS6 so that's something to consider too.

  17. Yes, I love Lightroom and Photoshop. I certainly believe that every serious hobbits that wants {and is ready} to go the next level should get Ps. It is important to have a firm understanding of Lr first. Spending time only in Lr really teaches you about the nitty gritty essentials: training your eye for proper skin tone, highlights and shadows, blacks and whites, clarity, proper black and white conversions. Having Ps as your first editing software would not be wise. It is less straightforward and therefore photos would lack most of the clean editing stages. Many beginners go straight to Photoshop and end up with photographs that are too heavily edited. You could call it editing because you can, as many beginners stay at F/1.4 when their new lens comes. If you want to ditch Lightroom at some point, that's fine. As long as your eye has been trained in Lightroom. I went twenty months before downloading Photoshop, and I am so glad I did. I do not use Lightroom as much nowadays. I owe all my Photoshop success to Lightroom.

    1. I very much agree with you, Liz, except that that PS is not a RAW editor. Most folks that take photography to the next level shoot in RAW so they can have the extra data when they edit. A photo taken directly to PS loses all that extra. thus a pic taken with a RAW file really needs to have the "clean edit" part (exposure, white balance, Highlights, Shadows adjustments, noise reduction...) of editing done in a RAW editing program like LR before it goes to PS. Now LR certainly isn't the only RAW editing program and other ones can be used, but taking a pic directly into PS eliminates the whole reason the photographer shoots in RAW to begin with. So if someone wants to ditch LR they need to replace it with some type of RAW editing program. Well... unless they prefer to shoot in JPEG, but like I mentioned most folks I know that taken it to the next level do shoot in RAW. ---And LR also offers the photo system that is a HUGE time saver for me. I totally love both LR and PS, but use them very differently.


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