Before Adobe Lightroom, photographic manipulation was very limited. Photographers only had a handful of possibilities to manipulate an image during its printing. The use of cropping, multi-grade filters and a few other techniques were available. Dodging and burning were the only things that could be done after the negative was processed.
The digital world needed more control over images. More exact colour management and strong dominance over lighting became important. This need gave birth to photographic manipulation software package.
Taking stunning images is one aspect of being a photographer. You also have control over what happens to the pictures and what it will be used for. Post-processing can sometimes be more important than taking the original photograph, depending on what that image will be used for.
Choosing the right software can be troublesome as there are so many options to choose from. The most popular software package is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. It’s almost the industry standard for photographers. It is also one of the easiest to learn and navigate, making it accessible to everyone.
The other Adobe product that you might know more about is Adobe Photoshop. This program is bigger and stronger than its younger sibling. They share similarities, but where they differ is the reason you might use one over the other.
Don’t feel pressured to choose only one. Some photographers use Lightroom and Photoshop in succession for more intensive manipulation techniques.
What is Adobe Lightroom?
Lightroom is a RAW converter. When you add images, it manages the file type silently, in the background. When you use other software, you might have to use another program to edit and convert. If you would like more information about raw and JPEG file types, see this article.
Adobe has built one of the most popular post-processing programs for photographers. This is where most photographers start their journey of working on their images. With this program, you can do anything as it is versatile and simple to use.
You can work on projects from start to finish. Lightroom has a no-nonsense interface that allows you to organise, process your images, print them and even share. All from one place. In the latest version, you can even create books from your photographs. You can also use a virtual map for geotagging images.
This program focuses on speed when working with hundreds, if not thousands of images. The program acts as a library, with easily accessible folders that you can organise how you wish. Simple clicks allow you to process an image and then copy and paste those settings over many images.
The best feature is that all the tweaking while editing is non-destructive. This allows all the settings and adjustments to be reset, taking you back to the original image whenever you want.
All these great features make Lightroom the most popular software package for photographers.
Who is Lightroom for?
Lightroom is a professional tool for photographers. Most of the adjustments you would want to apply to an image are all here, in one easy to use, no-nonsense package. It would also suit people who take a lot of images, be them photographs of your pets or a street documentary project.
Aspiring photographers would get a lot out of this software due to the control it gives you. There is a learning curve at the beginning, but this dips fast and is well worth the patience. Lightroom supports images in all kinds of formats: TIFF, DNG and JPEG, but also CR2 and NEF which are RAW file types of Canon and Nikon.
Those who would gain the most are photographers who capture and need to process a lot of raw or JPEG images quickly. Here is a great article on how to use Adobe Lightroom’s Develop Module.
Comparing to Photoshop
Adobe is great for making software packages to help the workflow of those in creative fields. There are two other programs that Adobe created for photographers, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Lightroom differs somewhat from its siblings, but the basic goal is the same. Processing photographs to produce stunning results.
All three are similar in many ways. Photoshop can manage RAW files but through a converter called Camera Raw. It only lets you process one RAW image at a time through this initial step.
All three are very flexible in what they can offer the photographer in photo editing. Yet, Photoshop can become very confusing due to having too many features and tools. The learning curve for this program is very steep. This is due to Photoshop not only being available for photography, but for all kinds of graphical editing.
Furthermore, Photoshop lacks all kinds of organisation and only lets you work on one image at a time. It edits those images in a destructive manner and becomes slow due to the huge amount of processing power.
The strongest contender against Lightroom would be Capture One by Phase One. They too have a software package that allows organisation and photographic manipulation. But they focus on a better colour management system than Adobe. When it comes to price, however, they fall short, costing twice as much as Lightroom per month.
Lightroom is the go-to photography processing program, and it’s easy to see why it is the most popular choice. It is very accessible as you get to organise everything within the program itself.
All the editing tools are presented well and easy to use. If you can’t do everything you want with Lightroom, you could still export your photos to Photoshop easily and continue there. Together they are a formidable force, but even on its own, Lightroom is more than enough for many photographers.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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