Lightroom vs Photoshop

May 5, 2013 — 1 Comment

Just. Keep. Walking.
Just. Keep. Walking.

Subject not related to image, by the way. I found this mural near Shoreditch High Street and instantly loved the symmetry and the piece. Just gotta wait for one of those pesky pedestrians to enter the frame. I waited. 2 minutes! Thankfully the first person to walk past I could see had a purposeful stride. Shutter speed a little slow to exacerbate the moment. Framed. Pause. Captured. I’d hoped to get across a little anxiety. Did it work?

I get asked a lot, “Why Photoshop over Lightroom?” and I think my answers over the years have, much like my requirements and experience of these products, evolved.

Lightroom excels with image management and as a workshop for the RAW image. If, like me, you purely use Bridge and Photoshop you’ll be well aware you need to apply a little discipline to organize your own images. As for working with camera RAW files I already did the work for exposure and framing – do you use your feet? 😉 So my time in Adobe’s Camera Raw is fleeting.

When LR first emerged my better half, Suzy of the impressive, embraced Adobe’s offering as an eco system for her photography. In addition to the file management and camera RAW work, there is a comprehensive array of image finishing tools; gradients, brushes for dodging, burning, healing, et cetera.

Suz and I prepare images quite differently. She’s principally a nature and wild life photographer so all the effort is at capture time, some raw manipulation and some sliders and backscatter removal.

I work images in layers, not available to LR. Most of the time, the image above for example, my workflow will result in an image base layer, a filter from Silver Efex Pro 2 and an additional low contrast SEP2 filter set to a layer blend mode of Soft Light.

Where Photoshop excels for me is I can vary the opacity of these layers which, I assure you, can transform the photograph in terms of contrast and depth. I can save the photoshop document and come back later to re work it. Yes, I know there are virtual copies in LR, but I find it easier to manage layers inside a single file. Horses for courses, I think.

I’m going to wrap this up for fear of rambling, but Photoshop clearly spanks Lightroom in terms of accurate manipulation of portions of the image. LR’s brushes and gradients just will not do and it’s all too easy to end up with those rotten halos around objects. I can select an area, refine that selection and create a mask. I doubt portrait photographers will work on hair with Lightroom. They’ll export to Photoshop.

Personally I don’t remove anything from my images, but I will process areas separately. Water and other reflective surfaces require a much higher contrast manipulation than people or buildings. I’ll quite often increase clarity and structure for wood like textures. Trust me, this high contrast high structure work does not go down well with female skin. Accurate mask based layer work also hides areas of transition between the different areas of work; essential when printing.

Of course, it’s entirely possible I get my images to where I want them through sheer dumb luck, but no one tells me I don’t know what I’m doing 😀

If you’re in the UK, enjoy your Monday public holiday!



One response to Lightroom vs Photoshop


    I think you are right with specific images but when dealing with many many images lightroom 4 is a god send. You can do the contrast crunching and a medium amount of editing with the brush that you can go back and change. You also have snapshots and history. I think it might be because I need to learn more CS6 but I am getting there.


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