Cutting to the Chase: How does Lightroom differ from Photoshop and should photographers use it? Lightroom is a Digital Asset Management application with a very user friendly version of Adobe Camera Raw. Advanced editing such as layers aren't available, and other techniques such as object removal are difficult. With this understanding, Lightroom seems to be a great alternative for most photographers and should likely be part of the workflow for most, if not all, photographers.
When I first began reigniting my interest in photography, I began using Photoshop, as we had purchased a student version for one of my son's classes. While it was very difficult for me to learn to utilize Photoshop with any usefulness, I soon reached that point, and what was work became pleasure.
As time went on, I began hearing other experts saying that Photoshop was not really the best tool for photographers, and that photographers should be using Adobe's Lightroom. While this seemed good to me, as Lightroom was far less expensive, I already owned Photoshop and did not have a compelling reason to purchase Lightroom.
Fast forward several months. Now my hobby has turned into a business, and I am needing to make the process as efficient as possible. My current workflow in Photoshop is not going as quick as I need it to for this to be profitable, so I began looking at what others are doing. Of course, I found many ways others are automating their work, but the one message I kept coming across is how Lightroom is more efficient for photographers. Lucky me! I had just purchased Adobe's Creative Cloud, so I now had access to Lightroom.
Despite my new-found access, I just couldn't get into Lightroom. I convinced myself that it was because I cut my teeth on Photoshop, but it still frustrated me. Even so, I kept hearing folks say that Lightroom should be a part of a photographer's workflow, so I was determined to learn it, and Memorial Day weekend was the time to do this! So I hunkered down and started learning.
Don't get me wrong, I could process photos in Lightroom, that was never an issue, but I didn't find it intuitive or fast. I could easily whip out my photos in Photoshop (with Adobe Camera Raw) before I felt I could do it in Lightroom. I watched videos, read great posts, and still struggled. Then it hit me. I was expecting Lightroom to be something it wasn't. Lightroom is not Photoshop. Wow! That was revolutionary! I kept thinking Lightroom was a dumbed down Photoshop, and though I have never used Photoshop Elements, I am sure that is more in line with what I thought Lightroom was.
So what is Lightroom? Keep in mind, I am far from an expert, and in fact, I am just a brand new beginner. That said, I think I can summarize Lightroom far more simply than I have seen it summarized elsewhere. Lightroom is a Digital Asset Management application with a very user friendly version of Adobe Camera Raw. Yes, yes, the zealots will tell me about all the differences, but frankly, I think they are muddying the waters. Though there are differences, the crux of the software is simply Digital Asset Management and Adobe Camera Raw - period.
So, that said, is there a place for Lightroom in my workflow? I think so. I love the Digital Asset Management in Lightroom. LOVE IT! I am also appreciating the editing features more, and I see value (thanks to Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski). I intend on using it as a major piece in my workflow going forward, but for me, there is still a place for Photoshop too. One example is the use of layers. Even so, the advantages of Lightroom are enough that it makes sense to use now that I understand it. So, for me going forward, I will use Lightroom for most tasks, and I will finish the task in Photoshop if necessary, and with the new features being added all the time, I suspect my reliance on Photoshop will become less and less.