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Monday, 10 June 2013


Just so I can understand where you're coming from, what would you like ACR/LR to do, that they don't at the moment, that would make them what you'd call "good photo editing software"?

I'm sure you'll get a dozen variant of this comment, but I'll challenge your statement that lightroom is designed to be used in conjunction with photoshop. It used to be the case that lightroom was for global adjustments and photoshop for local (via layers/masks) but I don't think it is the case anymore with the increasingly featured brushes, gradient tools and, as in the today-released LR5, complex clone brushes.

Of course, there are many things you can only do in photoshop, but lightroom is now enough for the vast majority of photo editing tasks, and I have launched photoshop perhaps a dozen times in the last year. It seems a general trend observed with most of my photo friends. More LR, less PS, which may push many to not subscribe to Creative Cloud.

Also, you seem to have forgotten about Capture One, which is a big deal for fashion shooters and medium format people, as well as Photo Mechanic, the workhorse of many photojournalists.

Isn't this like asking for the perfect darkroom? No such thing as it's completely dependent on the individual and their personal workflow.

The thing I dislike about Lightroom is it feels like I'm having a workflow imposed on me (though I may not fully understand the product) - and this applies to many packages I've tried.

While I agree that the ACR/PS combo is overkill for many photographic uses, I like the fact that there are numerous different ways of acheiving a desired result.

I'm sure like most photographers I only use 20% of the software's capabilities - but I also suspect my 20% is different to your 20% (or anyone else's) and is tailored to how I want to work with images.


Most photographers I know have switched to LR almost exclusively. I probably use CS5 on about 5% of the images for the "last bits." And now with the new perspective correction tool and the smarter healing brush, that percentage will be cut in half.

Mike, I Googled PWP and am no wiser in the context of photo editing. Was that a typo for PSP?

[Picture Window Pro from Digital Light and Color. --Mike]

Lightroom + Photoshop Elements is not a bad solution, with elements having a good percentage of the functionality you actually use in the full-blown version.

Yes, photoshop is way too complicated, way too over-featured, and way too expensive (if you are only a photographer). But Photoshop Elements is just right. I use Lightroom; it does 99% of what I want. Elements does the other 1%; panoramic stitching, and when I prepare photos for printing on canvas, I use it for adding the 'gallery wrap' edges -- I do it manually (it's not hard). I don't add clouds when there weren't any, and I don't remove people/cars/telephone lines when they were there. I could afford photoshop, but never thought it was worth the money. As an aside, there are books which show you how to make Elements do some of the things photoshop does automatically, like separating luminosity. But if you only do it once in a while, it's fun. And cheap.

Ralf Engler, NZ

Mike, given all the recent TOP discussions about invasions of privacy, I'm shocked to see you posting a surreptitious photo looking up a woman's dress.

Aargh. Capture One has frequently led Lightroom in the quality of its all-in-one full frame and some local adjustment tools, has invested somewhat in DAM features, but probably not enough for the most data-swamped, and is pretty essential to the folks who do MF (well, at least some of them). It supports Mac and PC pretty much equally. But it seems to be off your radar. Anyway, it is not yet a subscription cloud-based service.

But your main point is right on target. There is no tool for everyone, and there are no pictures from raw files without these tools.



the late Bibble, now AfterShot Pro might be quite close to what you look for - nondestructive, extendable, fast, allowing to restrict modifications to regions, it does at least for me 99% I ever needed. And it works on Mac, Win - and even Linux (where it is the only commercial raw converter available).

The problem with it? The last update from Corel, the new owner, dates back *ages*, and new cameras' raw files are simple not known to AfterShot Pro. Now there's message from a Corel developer from May 2014 that they indeed continue development, so not all hopes are lost.

Amen! I learned Photoshop with a pirated copy, but when it came to buying my own, I just couldn't afford it. I'm now using Aperture + Nik plug-ins + Pixelmator + PT Lens and still can't replicate all the functionality of ACR + Photoshop. Here's hoping some developer will come up with an all-in-one solution for photographers.

To actually address your point somewhat:

One of the reasons there's not a good all in one photo editor is because of the decision list/pixel pushing dichotomy.

You can make and edit lists and you can make and edit pixels, but mixing the two is really hard (and probably a Bad Idea, but I'm not smart enough to be sure).

Raw developers use an edit decision list to process your file. They don't change the file itself and they don't store actual pixels aside from thumbnails and masks. They just make note of everything you want done to the the raw file, and then they do it every time you write the file out. They store your instructions, and when the called upon to do so, they execute them in whatever order the software engineers have decided is optimal.

It's a slow process. Try making a dozen local adjustments in ACR, spotting out some dust, correcting chromatic aberration, and maybe doing a bit of perspective correction. Then write out that file. You'd be amazed how little work it takes to slow a decision list-based system to a crawl. Or even bring it to a grinding halt.

Photoshop and the like make pixels. That's what they do. You can push pixels, pull them, twist them, and mutilate them. Photoshop is fast because of that. It will do everything what you tell it to*, in the order you tell it to, and when you tell it to do it. If you change Layer 0, Photoshop won't update Layer 1 to reflect that. It just changes exactly the pixels you told it to change. It doesn't know or care that Layer 1 is a bunch of healing brush strokes based on Layer 0. That makes it fast, and that's essential if you're doing anything other than light touch up work.

Photoshop does have a limited decision list capability in the form of adjustment layers, smart objects, and actions, but PS and other pixel editors will always differ fundamentally from raw processors in that they're designed to permanently change your files.

Also, I personally can't stand Lightroom. It's Adobe Camera Raw with a clunky interface and the world's worst asset management system tacked on to it.

*Except "Don't crash." It never listens to that one.

Perhaps "Photoshop Elements" ticks most of the boxes you mention? I don't know - I'm only suggesting; I have very little experience of Elements. My wife uses it but I find the interface so off-putting that I can scarcely bear to use it. This is presumably intentional on Adobe's part - one quick look at Elements and you rush out to buy the full version.

In general I think it's not unreasonable to have two pieces of software: one to do the raw conversion and one to do the image-editing; they are different jobs, after all.

I think the biggest problem is defining that "core function" that is the requirement of photographers. Looking at comments on the latest Lightroom (which I use and like), there are those who hate the DAM aspects & love it; require overlays (HDR); "must have"panoramic stitching; layered edits etc etc.

Can any one product ever satisfy all the needs?

I was very supportive of Lightzone, pity it faded: that functionality on a Lightroom-style platform would satisfy all but a very few specialist needs for me.

Capture One?

"Is it possible that good photo editing software just doesn't exist?"

Is it possible that a definition of "good photo editing software" just doesn't exist? Or is different for each user? It is said in the context of a large and complex application that nobody uses more than 15% of its functions but everybody uses a different 15%. My experience is that when I start with a new application I don't know which 15% I need and with time my use changes and grows.

Think of your chosen software in the same way you do that Leica plus one lens for a year. Or with using only Tri-X in 1:1 D-76. You have to work within the confines of your medium. For me, it's Lightroom. If Lightroom won't produce the image I want, then the image is a fail and I move on. (Of course I'm an amateur and can get away with this attitude.)

Maybe I'm just a rube, but the "it's 8-bit only" argument that I hear to knock Gimp and Photoshop Elements, well, I just don't get it. I have used Elements since 2004, mainly for cost reasons, and it does everything, and I do mean everything, I need to do with my photos. The prints I have displayed in my home, all processed with Elements, get frequent compliments. Not one visitor has mentioned bits while looking at my photos. I occasionally do some portrait work to help finance my hobby, and my customers seem very pleased with my Elements processed work. In the 25 or so portrait sessions I do a year, not one customer has ever questioned why my software was 8-bit only. Never. I'm sure some will chuckle and sneer about me being so unsophisticated as to use "hobbyist" software, but honestly, if I or those who see my photos can't see a difference, why should I use anything else?

I know that Lightroom is supposed to work in tandem with Photoshop, but I find myself using PS less and less. Mostly to do simple layout work (cards, posters) and, rarely, heavy-duty pixel editing on a photo.

I do a lot of stitched panoramics, but use PTGui and work the final pano in Lightroom -- no PS needed.

So while I am "stuck" with PS CS4 for the foreseeable future, it's really all I need since 99% of my work is done in Lightroom. I could actually see myself not using PS at all at some point soon.

My combination actually is LR4.4 and Photoline 17.53/PhotoshopCS4, and i am very happy with it. On the LULa forums there is already a discussion brought on by Jeff Schewe about a "new photoshop" ..... nice, but will it help? I think even if people found a program or a combination of programs that works for them, they like to try out new things, and if its just for fun of it to do so. That´s why the muddling will never end. What i really hate is the upgrade circus without backward compability, and this adresses not only to programs but also to the makers of the two most used operating systems. My computer is nearly 5 years old and runs with mac os 10.6.8. Wanna try Lightroom 5? Go mac os 10.8. first. Why? I think i am not alone when i say that i would prefer digital solutions with a perspective of at least ten years, a period in which you can easily get your hardware fixed if necessary, have a stable and supported OS that chews every program out there... and so on. A dream i know.
And yes, i would welcome a program which could do it all, may be its prime time in five years, then i will have a new computer and everything will be better, and faster.
Let´s muddle...

Despite the origin of its name I don't think Photoshop is actually for photographers anymore. As you say there is unfortunately no viable alternative. I can't believe there is no one out there that could develop a modern app for photographers to replace it. If I am generous I would guess I use about 5% of the tools in Photoshop and I find them to be quite antiquated in their conception and implementation – most likely due to its long legacy. I don't think it's an impossible task to challenge Photoshop if you can ignore 95% of its code. CS6 brought about a slight modernisation to the interface but only slight. It really is a software dinosaur.

No mention of ACDSee Pro.

A good RAW converter, good and inventive non-destructive development tools (the colour and lighting equalizer tools are something I've not seen in other software so far), solid post-process abilities and (most importantly) batch processing tools. The organize tools are nothing to sneer at either.

I don't know if it's the best (haven't tried all the options) but it certainly does everything I want to do.

I could not agree more! I'm using both DxO and lightroom. Neither has layers, which I think is a huge problem, but I refuse to pay for Photoshop (too expensive and too many things I don't need or want). LightZone was starting to move in the direction I wanted, but it seems a lack of Capitol killed it, maybe it will exist as an open source product, but I kind of doubt it. A large part of the problem is that as long as camera manufactures don't embrace a standard RAW file (like DNG), software vendors need to come out with a never ending stream of updates to accommodate new models. This forces anyone new to have huge resources of fail...

I agree with your premise, Mike. And I'd add that without the program being completely customizable by each user---and by that I really mean complete, down to the code level, which in itself presumes users have those abilities----there will never be "A Perfect Editing Program". Really, that would be a neat trick, to have a program that could accommodate light-touch users without the complexity of a graphics program (like PS...) as well as those who need to stomp on their images until they conform to an inner vision. That's not even getting into lens and camera profiles. Is there one perfect automobile?

And this goes back to the core of what photography is or isn't: crop or not, manipulate or not, composite or not, etc.

But what we do have today is pretty impressive, if you ask me. And thanks for mentioning Fabio. We are less than 24 hours away from re-releasing LightZone as an open-source, free software. I'll send you a modified press release, so look for it.

Mike, I think you should give Capture One Pro a look, they led the way with X-Trans conversion and have all the features of LR with enough that they forced Adobes hand with LR5. You even have limited layers.
I for one will continue to explore it and am pleasantly surprised often. Definetly it has better rendering for my M9 files off the bat than any other software and I have tried and paid for most of them.

You don't mention Capture One by Phase One. Haven't used it myself but some people seem to like it. I use Aperture 3 and find it ok, but have been planning to move on to Lightroom.

Oh, and by the way, I notice the last two or three comments I posted (over the past few weeks) never appeared on your site, so I'm wondering why that might be.

I find it interesting that you didn't mention Lightroom in this post. For me, it's more than enough to get an image all or most of the way to how I want it to look. If I need pixel-level editing I turn to other software, but I'm doing that less and less. And it's based on your beloved ACR. It isn't perfect, and there is plenty that needs improving, but it's very good indeed and has dramatically simplified and added enjoyment to my workflow.

[Well, thank you for contributing your thoughts about it, but I did mention Lightroom in this post, in the third paragraph. --Mike]

I think you're right. For me, Aperture and Firefox both come very close to what I want, but not quite. (I was completely fine with Aperture until I bought a Sony RX100 and discovered its RAW conversion couldn't deal with the barrel distortion).

TOP is always so timely! I'm going through the same befuddled exploration and consternation right now. With the Fujifilm X-E1 being my first serious digital camera, I'm finally deciding to quit being afraid of RAW and figure out how to get the most out of my images instead of trusting the camera to do the processing for me. (I know, they say the Fujifilm cameras do wonderful jpeg conversions. "They say." It's time to do my own thinking for a change.)

So I'm now playing with the trial versions of DxO 8, Lightroom 5 Beta, Capture One 7 Express, and Adobe's DNG converter. I am a fairly experienced Photoshop CS5 user, but my version of ACR does not recognize my camera, and I've not upgraded it yet.

Bottom line, I don't like any of them, but at this point I'm sure it's just that they require different ways of doing things than I'm used to in Photoshop. Familiarity in PS just makes it harder to comes to terms with a new paradigm. It will take me several more evenings this week to figure out which one I can best cope with. Right now, it looks like Capture One, but who knows where I'll be by the end of the week!

Interesting point about using ACR as a stand alone RAW editor. The cheap alternative to CS6 is Photoshop Elements, which combined with ACR might do most of what photographers need without the expense of full Lightroom or CS. I am fairly sure CS6 will be the last version of CS I pay out for (the new rental system is far to expenses for me as a hobbyist), so I plan to start looking for alternatives the day ACR updates no longer support whatever camera I will be using at the time.

I don't know if they're fully there yet, but Pixelmator and Acorn are both getting very close from my perspective. They're Mac-only, and built on Apple's Core Image technology -- so their RAW support is the same as is available in iPhoto and Aperture. Apple does issue free updates to this pretty often.

I'm a very light user of retouching tools, but for my needs, Lightroom plus one of these two (I'm still playing around with them for UI preferences, etc) works pretty well.

My theory: A subset of Photoshop would be perfect for most people. Wouldn't that be Photoshop Elements? I haven't tried it for years --what's the verdict?

Lightroom - "...it's intended to be used in conjunction with Photoshop." Hmmm, I'm not sure about that. I think a better way to look at is that Lightroom is 100% a photographic tool. Photoshop is a different creature altogether. And as I mentioned in a previous post, some of the enhancements in Lightroom 5 will probably make the occasional round-trip to Photoshop redundant for many photographers. So any intention to make it dependent in some way on Photoshop seems to be contradicted

NB I meant to add in my previous comment that I feel the term "Photo-editing software" maybe needs to be looked at. "Photo processing software" would be my preference. Maybe it all ends up back in the debate about when a photograph ceases to be a photograph

Hi mike
I am struggling to see or read what you want.
I use Lightroom, Ps6 (ACR) Nic , Alien Skin and Topaz, okay that is. Lot of real estate but none of them ar perfect but they all are complimentary and usage logs show LR, Silver Effex are the most used and my standard print size is A2 with a border.
Lightroom 5 does a hell of a lot I can only think you have some unique requirements as compared to using film, labs for tyrannies and Cibas hours on chemically infested darkrooms which have given me respiratory problems Lightroom is heaven.


No love for Capture One? I'd been using a combination of ACR and Photoshop for years, then Aperture more recently. But no software makes my RAW files look as pretty as Capture One. The 'smart' noise reduction and sharpening in C1 do a much better job than I could ever do in ACR.

After shooting Kodachrome for 60 years, and printing everything from Dye transfers to Cibachromes, all I need is some cropping, dodging and burning, and color adjusting ability (just like a real darkroom). IMO if the original image is carefully crafted, then all that digital masturbation power is not needed.
Photoshop Elements 2 would work just fine for me, although I seem to upgrade every other year and now at Elements 11. PS5 sits unused on my MacBook Pro.

Apple's Aperture & NIK's plugin suite -- its like my favorite corner in my house! Sure its not as posh as my friends palatial McMansion but it just feels like a nice familiar place to be........... (:-)


An .jpg file is also 8 bit only. And lets face it so is your trusted printer. So if you only use GIMP for pixel shoving, no problems there. You seem to forget the RAWTherapee and that my dear freind is missing out on free greatness.

Greets, Ed.

I agree there is no "One Program to rule them all" and Photoshop is pretty valuable as a final step.
I think the answer is to use a number of smaller programs, each one specializing in one aspect of the workflow (DAM, Raw processing, and final retouching).
Currently I use Digikam (totally under rated by mainstream), Darktable or RawTherapee (neither one has a great interface, but both produce great tiffs) and Photoshop

I think you're right that there is nothing ideal out there. (I tried Lightzone a while back and it was promising). But on the other hand, I wouldn't equate using PS to "muddling along" either. Sure, it's not optimized for photography in the same way Microsoft Word isn't optimized for to do lists ... but overkill isn't the worst thing, especially when it doesn't feel like bloatware and isn't buggy, the way lots of other software I've used is. (I haven't used Corel products in a while, but they always struck me as a poorly integrated, poorly tested collection of programs shoe horned together).
I would like to see some more advanced editing capabilities added to Lightroom, particularly given that Adobe seems to be acknowledging that their recent changes are driving photographers away from CS.

I think the assessment is right on. But then, we all have different ways of working too. I've always hated ACR for some reason and 15 years of working within the Photoshop ecosystem is not something easily put aside. Trying to learn Lightroom for me so far has been - frustrating. Some of the controls are incredibly well-sorted for photography. Working with basic inputs it's almost (almost) fool-proof. But other things, oy. In Bridge it took two keystrokes to instantly get a full-screen slideshow where you could rate images. Best I can tell, it takes 15 keystrokes to get an approximation of that same thing in Lightroom.

..still voting for the camera company supplied software...a slight problem if you're working with two or three different cameras, but you CAN have multiple software on a machine...

1. Cheap or free...

2. Most like has a better raw file reader for your specific camera software, compared to Adobe.

3. Dodge, burn, change color, contrast, sharpness, more than I could do in a film darkroom. Not interested in anything else...

For actual storage data-basing, maybe it isn't the bomb, but most photojournalists I know use Photo Mechanic for that...

I was just beginning to like using Corel's AfterShotPro when a camera firmware update mean't it could no longer open my raw files - over 6 months later and still no update to fix it!
Anyway, even if I was still happy with ASP there would be plenty of others complaining that it doesn't do this or that - we all want something different from our photo software so maybe Adobe got so big by covering more options than anyone else?
Yes Mike, There Is No Good Photo Editing Software

Lightroom is getting much better, so that Photoshop is needed less and less. And once PS goes to the cloud, many LR users will likely make the break.

Still, user preferences will always vary, not just regarding tools desired, but for the interface in general. Some love LR; some hate it. That won't change, for LR or for any other software.

One tends to like that which they spend time learning and using (despite the gripes). With the many options available, those preferences are now too ingrained to ever hope for a software embraced by all.

Well, Mike, a lot depends on what you mean by "good" and on what you want your software to do. The more needs or expectations you have, the harder it is to find something that does it all, does it well, and is relatively easy to master.

I don't know whether this is causality or correlation, but there is a significant percentage of photographers who quite content to avoid this problem by not simply editing their photos. They either limit themselves to the adjustments available in their RAW converter of choice or they shoot JPEGs. As long as the results are good, no one else cares or is the wiser. Let's remember that image editing (meaning manipulation, not deleting weak images) is an OPTION, not a fundamental requirement.

1. Lightroom seems to me to be just about perfect as a dedicated photo editor (and catalog manager). Plus it does not require Photoshop as an accessory. It can, and generally is, be used stand-alone or can be easily linked to any other editor.

2. Aside from that, how about Capture One? DxO? These are hardly "muddling by" tools, particularly C1 which is a very deep, rich image editor capable of everything up to compositing.

You say: "So is it possible that, when it comes to photo editing software, there's just nothing really, well, good out there?" Then you go on to list your requirements for a Photo Editing app.

I don't know but that sure sounds like Lightroom.

I'm really looking forward to the comments for this posting.

I think Lightroom, even without Photoshop, takes care of 95% of my needs. That last 5% is tricky not because any particular feature is hard to get right, but because the user base, even among photographers, is so diverse. Everyone's next 5% is different.

For example, maybe the software is not complete unless you can put text over the image. To do that well, you now need support for all the trappings of typography—fonts, kerning, justification, etc. Maybe you just want compositing, but with that comes selections, scaling, local color balancing. Hell, maybe you only want to add rounded corners, but even that needs an interface that includes corner radius.

It seems that the perfect software for me would be so specific to my workflow, that 95% of the other users would find it severely lacking. Trying to make most people happy is how you end up with feature bloat.

Mike, never forget that Perfect is the enemy of Good Enought. For me, UFRaw & Pinta or Gimp, under Linux is "good enough". Yes there are flaws but UFRaw runs well & does what I need it to well enough that I have actually turned my E-PL1 to RAW instead of JPG finally.

If ACR & CS6 are "good enough" for your work, then stay with them. Don't let anyone else - especially Adobe - make you think you have to change anything. You'll know when you need to and only then worry about what is "good enough" at that time.

I use Lightroom. I don't use Photoshop. What do you need Photoshop for?

Mike, I'm curious what you think is missing from Lightroom, and why you think it's intended to be used with Photoshop... Lightroom actually grew out of ACR, not Bridge, and as of 5.0 it can do virtually anything a photographer would need to do.

The implied question is "do photographers need photo editing software at all?"

I do 90% of my manipulation in a raw converter: exposure, color, crop. The rest takes place in the printer driver.

I can see why graphics professionals and retouchers need Photoshop, but I don't.

In my case, Lightroom does 90% of what I expect a post-processing photo software to do. And at a reasonable price.

We recently discussed the Adobe cloud issues and alternative software at our monthly photography club meeting. Some Apple users are considering Aperture. The Lightroom Develop module beats Aperture hands down, especially for black and white processing. I am using Topaz plug-ins to supplement Lightroom. Nik (now Google) software works equally well as Lightroom (or Photoshop) plug-ins. The Topaz masking plugin is better than Photoshop's 'marching ants.'

Care to define what is "good" photo editing software?

You mentioned Fabio Riccardi. Fabio has released LightZone to open-source. Pavel Beňak and the rest of the open-source development team have spent almost six months replacing proprietary libraries and build products, and the finishing touches are now being put on. Important details like installation and usage guides remain to be dealt with.

LightZone for Windows, Mac, and Linux is coming back, this time as free software.

That's what I've always thought. It all comes down to what our preferences are, doesn't it? The best editing software is the one that suits our needs the best, the one that leaves us satisfied with the way it improves our photographs. There's no point in claiming one programme is superior to another. I tried Lightroom alongside with DxO before buying the latter, but it was a tough decision. DxO gave me better results, but someone else might think otherwise. In fact, my choice doesn't refrain me from stating Lightroom is a very powerful tool that I can recommend with no reservations.
One should try all converters (or at least the ones from a shortlist based e. g. on affordability) and make the decision based on the results obtained, and not because there is some bias towards a brand or one is influenced by technical specifications that can be meaningless. And certainly not because it is touted as 'the best'.
On a personal note, I hope you're feeling better now. And, if you ever go to a portuguese-speaking country, NEVER ask for 'Kona' coffee. People will giggle at you. (I'll tell you why on a private message, if you want to...)

Well, the older I get, the more I appreciate simplicity. Adobe may have intended Lightroom to work in conjunction with Photoshop, but for me, Lightroom alone works quite well.

"...like ACR (which it incorporates), it's intended to be used in conjunction with Photoshop. (Lightroom is essentially the greatly expanded distant descendant of Bridge, with DAM capabilities emphasized.)"

I know you know what I'm about to say Mike, though it seems to me you've stated the above upside-down...

The (great) minds who made Photoshop what it is went back to the drawing board and wrote Lightroom as a 'better version' of PS (true for so, so many reasons). Single-file archiving (w/ only multiple instruction-sets saved), masks auto-applied behind brushes/gradients being used, etc., etc., but MAINLY... ACR was actually engineered as LR's RAW processing engine, and it turned out so well that they replaced Photoshop's RAW engine with it as well.

While Photoshop can certainly be used in conjunction w/ LR (for heavy lifting/layers), Lightroom has rendered PS pretty much unnecessary for 95% of DigitalPost in my work as well as the work of many, many other pro photographers (Michael Reichman, et al?).

But I do love your bog and daily discussion topics!

You're right, nothing's perfect, and nothing ever can be, because "perfect" is both an individual and moving target. For me, Lightroom would be perfect if it had some simple compositing tools, but that's a slippery slope, and if you added a few tools, the next thing you know you'd have the bloatware mess that Photoshop is. I'd be pretty good if not much further were done to LR, but that's almost impossible because if nothing further were done, then Adobe would have no reason to issue further versions, and Adobe's money would stop...and Adobe's not a charity. To keep that from happening, Adobe would probably go to a CC model, and there we'd be -- more for less. (Or more for nothing.)

"Lightroom... like ACR (which it incorporates), it's intended to be used in conjunction with Photoshop. (Lightroom is essentially the greatly expanded distant descendant of Bridge, with DAM capabilities emphasized.)"

100% DISAGREE with you on this one. In my workflow, Lightroom is NOT being used in conjunction with Photoshop. I don't even use Photoshop anymore. I suppose, Lightroom and NikCollections which you could buy for less than $200 combined, are a great combo.

I dunno, Mike.

Lightroom does just fine for me as an end to end photo editing solution, particularly since v4 came out. I've not had the need to open a photo in Photoshop for a year or more.

Everyone edits in his or her own way. For example, I don’t use ACR at all for serious work, but Photoshop works great for me. I don’t use much of Photoshop, but I can’t find the set of features I use anywhere else. I do wish that Photoshop were not the only option for me.

Since GIMP comes closest to having what I need, is open source, and I’m a programmer, why don’t I join the team and help break the Photoshop monopoly? It doesn’t work out economically. In Silicon Valley, programmers make $100,000/year and up. Assuming (conservatively) a programmer at $100K retains 50% of earnings after taxes, that’s $25/hour. At the full price of Adobe CC for Photoshop ($20/month), that pays for 12 hours of work per year.

Perhaps I’ve taken a selfish view—other Photoshop users would benefit from my work after all—but if I’m going to work for charity, there are far more deserving beneficiaries than photographers who don’t want to pay for Photoshop.

For myself, I would rather be TAKING photographs than messing around on the computer trying to make up for my shortcomings as an image maker using someone else's electronic tricks. If I don't get it right IN CAMERA, I simply delete it! Isn't that the main advantage of digital photography?

I am a recent convert to Photo Ninja, which I think puts ACR deep in the shade as a raw convertor. At this early stage of its development, PN does not have many of the features and workflow enhancers that can be found in programs such as Lightroom, Aperture and Capture One, but I find that PN's output is so good that I have much less need for additional tweaking in Photoshop than I previously did with other raw convertors. So, overall, the total time I spend editing an image is less with Photo Ninja.

Personally, I have given up searching for the holy grail of a single program that can do everything that I might want or need. As long as the flow from one program to another is reasonably smooth, I will be happy. Of course, I am not a working pro whose livelihood depends on rapid through-put.

Actually PS Elements 11 is a nice affordable option. I purchased it to be used as a raw converter for my latest Olympus pen. (Adobe stopped supporting my Cs5). Find myself using it more and more for web based photos. Not much it can't do really. A big improvement over earlier versions.

Never had these problems with TRI-X and Dektol.

"... it's intended to be used in conjunction with Photoshop. (Lightroom is essentially the greatly expanded distant descendant of Bridge, with DAM capabilities emphasized.)"

I don't agree with either of these statements. There's nothing at all in LR that requires, or even suggests, that Photoshop plays a role in the workflow. You can go to PS and back smoothly, which is nice, but this is definitely not central to what you do in LR.

Even for its browsing, LR is very different from Bridge, in that it has a database, rather than using the file system for organization. You generally organize virtually (keywords, collections, etc.), not physically, as in Bridge. Add to that the develop, map, book, slidshow, print, and web modules, and there is very little that is descended from Bridge.

While I suppose you might argue that in some way what you're saying is theoretically correct (it would be a stretch), it misleads your readers who might be wondering where LR fits in.

The key thing that keeps me coming back to P'shop is the ability to work in layers -- including adjustment layers and layer masks -- and the resulting ability to make very precise local edits. I'm not aware of any other program that has this capability (though I'd love to be informed otherwise).

I'm not a programmer or a patent lawyer, but I have to think that 20+ years after Adobe brought this functionality to market, it shouldn't be that hard for someone else to include it in a program of essential photo editing tools.

My feeling is that as non-professionals like me move away from P'shop, there will be an unfilled market niche for someone to fill -- a program with about one tenth the functionality of P'shop at about one half (or less) the price.

I've used Aperture for several years now, since it first came out. Recently I added the Nik suite of software (which loads as an integral add-on to Aperture). Aperture has always done everything I've needed.

I consider myself lucky in that I came to photography in the age of film and darkroom work. So for me, a digital image processor need only do a few basic tasks in order to match what I was capable of doing in the darkroom. Processors like Photoshop and Lightroom offer way too many bells and whistles for my needs, and thus they seem way too cumbersome and confusion. Aperture seems just about right.

Post processing is at its best a creative act, part of the very making of the photograph. The software tools are intimately connected with aesthetic choices. I think this is where an analogy with word processing programs, for example, breaks down.

If you just want a quick shot of good technical quality, publishable in a newspaper (to which you would give it free these days), you have the software all firmed up in your camera. It makes JPGs.

Good point!
Lately, I've been trying to find a decent image management software for *my* needs. My workflow is to import and copy only new files from the card, resize jpg files for web format and save them in a separate directory. I need the SW to recognize raw+jpg as one file (both Nikon and Canon), and have either good raw conversion or integration with my choice converter.
Is it too much to ask?
Nikon View coupled with a simple file management tool do a decent job, but won't work with Canon CR2;
Lightroom refuses to work on files directly from the memory card (for batch resize as a separate copy)
Anyone suggestions?

Quite the opposite, I think there's great software out there, but they all have huge holes.
Lightroom doesn't have a good brush to under/over expose and do other accurate adjustments on little parts of the photo (I miss the little index finger icon in Photoshop).
Aperture lacks a perspective correction tool. That's a must to me, and I don't think I'm alone.
I haven't try DxO, but I refuse to learn how to use yet another software, especially If I'm not sure it's gonna fit my needs.

I forgot to mention on my previous comment Capture One 7.X or greater. This photo cataloguing, image editing and output application has matured tremendously over the last 10 years, and is remarkably Lightroom-like in it's interface and functionality, except that it supports adjustment layers, which LR does not, presently. It also does the best RAW conversion of Fuji X-Trans RAW (RAF) files, bar none, and has one of the simplest and most effective transformation tools for correcting keystoning I've yet used. Unlike Lightroom, it has this uncanny ability to support adjustments for Shadows and Highlights without flattening contrast. I also happen to think it does the best job of RAW conversion for my Canon and Fuji cameras I've seen. Wtih the arrival of my Oly OM-D, we'll see how it stacks up to LR and ACR in that regard as well.

I actively do NOT want "all-in-one" software. I don't want DAM integrated with photo editing, in particular -- a nasty path that both Bibble (in v5) and Lightroom (from the beginning I believe) went down. None of them are even 10% as good as Photo Mechanic for initial sort and rating and IPTC marking (they're HORRIBLY slow). DAM comes later, when I integrate the new session with my full collection, and later yet need to find specific people or locations.

As a general philosophical thing, all-in-one tools are second (or so) best at each thing they do, maybe actually best at one thing if you're very lucky. Given how photography pushes data storage processing speed issues, I can't afford second best for many aspects of my photo software.

I think Lightroom would be adequate for most normal processing, but it's nowhere near adequate for fine printing (I'm always nervous using that term; I don't do commercial printing for others, and don't sell much of any prints myself, so I don't have objective evidence that my printing skills are any good; however, what matters is the tools I feel I need to do them, and that includes both image layers and adjustment layers with layer masks, working on 16-bit originals).

Why 16-bit? The simple explanation is that, while 8-bit results are good enough, you frequently need 16-bit originals to get 8 bits of real result. If it's a photo that you got perfectly in-camera, you may actually NOT need 16-bit originals. For my work, which is not primarily highly-controlled studio lighting, I've gotten in the habit of converting to 16-bit whenever I work an image, rather than recognizing the problem later and going back and starting over when necessary.

The big question seems to me things like content-aware fill and resize, and liquify. I do find myself using those tools. Since I don't make money with photography I can't say I need them to make a living, but I do find them very useful now and then to get the results I want.

Based on the text of your post alone, I have a hard time finding the reason you don't like Lightroom for this. I've used Lightroom since the pre-release beta (I had to buy it as soon as that beta expired because it had already become an everyday feature in my workflow), and I've purchased at retail every version of LR except for 3.0. I have photoshop, but I don't find myself going into it for anything that Pixelmator (which I also have, and continue to "play with" hoping it will suffice when I finally have to leave the PS fold) couldn't also do... the only benefit to me for PS over Pixelmator is adjustment layers, which I imagine the Pixelmator team is working on.

Adjustment layers don't even offer an "output functionality" that I don't get in Pixelmator. The adjustment layers simply allow for nondestructive workflow, where if I decide sevral edits later that I wish I'd handled that curves adjustment differently, I can go back to that adjustment without losing everything that came after it in the workflow.

Regardless, my trips to Photoshop are either for text or for very specific and uncommon edits usually rooted in composite shots, stitching (itself a kind of composite), or text. Pixelmator does all but the stitching. Either way, I'm leaving lightroom maybe .5% of the time. Lightroom handles it.

All of that said, Pixelmator has a better healing tool as far as I'm concerned, and has leapfrogged PS in selection tools. If they can implement stitching and adjustment layers (or another nondestructive option), Pixelmator will be the $15 David to slay the subscription-only Goliath. Either way, if I absolutely had to (LR and Pixelmator survived an OS update but PS didn't), I could do without PS, and even then, I have to leave Lightroom VERY infrequently.

"Need" is a hard thing to get a hold of in software.

People tend to think they "need" certain things because someone told them they do. Or they used some piece of software 10 years ago that worked a certain way, so that's the way they want things to work forever. Or they haven't really though about what they DO with the software, and have concluded that they need X, Y or Z just on the basis of weak intuition or understanding.

Some software, and certainly photo processing falls into this category, has the additional difficulty of modeling something that people have done for a long time in a particular way, and if your software presents an unfamiliar model then people won't use it.

This is a long winded way of saying that people still use Photoshop even though all they really "need" is lightroom (at least 99% of the time) for a lot of complicated reasons that have nothing to do in principle with whether LR does everything you "need" from a photo tool. I will say this. LR does do the following things:

1. Streamlined workflow for importing/adjusting/storing/tagging pictures.

2. Non-destructive adjustments, even for JPEGs, and even for local and masked adjustments ala adjustment layers.

3. Decent support for lots of cameras

4. I imagine decent support for lots of printing workflows.

5. OK database/meta-data support. But not super.

6. Runs pretty fast, even on laptops.

7. OK support for various sorts of sycning.

Unless someone is after some very specific thing that is somehow tied to the Photoshop ecosystem (my favorite extension, or some macro, or panoramas, etc) you can make a pretty strong argument that LR (or Aperture, or even iPhoto) have every general digital photo processing workflow feature supported.

Is it perfect? No. Is it like working in a darkroom or with a lab? No. Does it have weird hiccups and an annoying learning curve? Yes. That's just how things are. If this means there is no "good" software than so be it. But I think the question is more complicated.

So finally, for whatever reason, people will always think they "need" something else.

Finally finally, I pretty much thought it was gospel that of all the choices the camera company's software is ALWAYS the worst to use. The pictures might look the most like the hardware, but it's hardly ever worth it. Nikon's software in particular is truly awful. I've never heard that Canon or the others are any better.

> I'm the first to admit I'm not
> an expert on software ...

Mike, you may be no expert on computers or software, but you definitely are an expert on lenses. So maybe you can help me with this one: I've been struck by an idea that won't leave my head: Is it possible that good lenses just don't exist?


I'm happy. I use Nikon cameras and I edit with Capture NX2. I think they are no longer updating it but I don't care because it does what I want now. My photo editing computer isn't even connected to the internet and I like it that way. I've looked at Lightroom and Silkypix and a few others and can't see an advantage over NX2 (for me). I used Photoshop before (CS) but I find NX2 better for me. I like it.

I think you are wrong--at least about Lightroom. The idea that Lightroom must be used in conjunction with Photoshop probably persists because we all started out with Photoshop, paid a lot for it, and are reluctant to give it up. This notion is further promulgated by the sub-industry that teaches how to use Adobe products. They have a vested interest in encouraging us to keep buying them.
Lightroom is all about photography--exposure, contrast, color balance, etc, not pixel cloning, layer masks, and blending modes. The modular structure of Lightroom makes it relatively easy to understand. I can ignore (actually hide) the parts that I don't use, like the map, book, and slideshow modules.
I have no hard data, but I suspect most photographers who have adopted Lightroom but also own Photoshop spend 90 to 95% of their time in Lightroom. I own both, and as a photography dilettante, the figure is probably 99.9% Lightroom. With Adobe's new marketing model, I may decide to give up Photoshop completely, but I will be bitter about all the money I have spent on it over the years.
Although Lightroom is now a part of the CC, it is also still available as a separate purchase with a perpetual license. I hope it will remain so.

Here we go again... Lr is great in general, but as far as IQ is concerned Photo Ninja has that "in there" quality.

PS? Nah... only for altered reality. So late last century. :)

A few naive questions and some "fighting" words...

Do photographers (picture-takers) need photo editing tools beyond Lightroom at all?

Need digital post-processing and printing be more powerful—rather than just being more convenient—than film?

Shouldn't pictures be posted or printed "as found": enhanced maybe, but not altered?

Photo editing ought to apply more to the process of selecting and discarding photos post-capture, rather than "editing" them in post.

If one needs to make pictures digitally, he or she should become a graphic artist.

There is no perfect software, no perfect car, no perfect power drill, and no perfect camera.

But you can overcome many imperfections by learning to exploit what you do have to the fullest, and with image editing it is also possible to build a complete bespoke solution on top of the right platform.

LR has the same RAW engine and controls as ACR and is much cheaper than Photoshop (CS or CC). And you can buy all sorts of plug-ins, like Perfect Layers, and Nik Effects, that give you as much (or as little) extra editing power as you need, from masking to printing. The only thing they wont do is allow you to create vector graphics.

The result is much better tuned to one's needs that off the shelf bloatware designed to suit everyone, and quite a bit cheaper.

Most of the time I don't need to do much more than adjust the colour balance and exposure, the simple stuff that you can do in ACR. However there are times when I need Photoshop and nothing else will do so there is little point in spending time learning other packages and money buying them.

Mike, don't think you've ever gotten it so wrong, LightRoom is a great tool for most photographers that don't need to go into fantasy land, or extended edits/adjustment removed from reality.

And Photo Ninja is under very active development and enhancement. Like a lot of small software companies it has a small lean team of experts and while I have no idea - I have no inside relationship or financial interest here - I would think it's highly funded as any software has huge margins.

I do have a friendly relationship with the owner/developer of PN and continue to suggest enhancements as I find or think of them. And he's working on some of them if not all.

Photo Ninja is what I consider the best of class RAW converter today. It's being built and enhanced by what I consider the perfect sized development team, 2-3 programmers. As a former developer and IT designer and consultant, it's a real issue when a programming team moved beyond 3 people. Communication and coordination become a real problem.

However I still use ACR via Bridge and LR to manage files and sometimes for reason's I'll leave off the table use them to convert files too.

This makes my head hurt. My solution is to make physical negatives, optical prints on paper and be done with it. If it's too hard to do, it's wrong.

For me and my needs, Lightroom is pretty much perfect. But as a primarily film photographer, my digital editing needs are much less than those shooting digital. I don't need layers, I don't need strong compositing features. I simply need features I would use in the darkroom.

Lightroom has all those features and more. It has all the management tools I need - I'm a general low output photographer and so don't need super fast management tools when I'm only usually importing as many as 10 - 15 images at once (on a very prolific day).

You don't have to use the features you don't need and unless you are suggesting that the features you don't need slow the system down, then I think you are just talking about the price.

And if you are talking about the price - well you have CS6, so you have already paid your entrance fee.

And if you are making a point on behalf of photographers generally, I would say that far more inadequacies come out of the camera than were ever going to be fixed by image editing software.

Just a quick note: Gimp 2.10, probably out later this year, will have full high-bit-depth support.

I like a lot of Lightroom, except I feel the interface is very clunky. I love sorting, renaming, and rating files in Bridge, but HATE doing that in Lightroom. Lightroom is far better at asset management than Bridge, so I usually import via LR, adding keywords. Then it's off to Bridge and ACR.

I like the results of Photo Ninja raw conversion, but I HATE the interface. I feel like I'm fumbling through CAD software when I try to use it.

I still use Photoshop for its precise selections, compositing, blend modes (if you think the power of layers is just non-destructive editing - you are missing out on some fun), LAB color work, Liquify filter, and probably a couple of other things I'm not thinking of right now.

I have a question for the "get it right in the camera" crowd: Did you feel the same way before digital? Did you just print a negative and be done with it? Do you think digital cameras magically "get it right?" (I guess that was "questionS")

I ask because I will occasionally have students (who have never worked with film) espouse the same sentiments.

The camera doesn't "see" the world like we do. Local contrast and color differentiation are just a couple of examples. There are also a lot of photographers who want more than what they "see."

"There Is No Good Photo Editing Software"

In a moral sense, I suppose you're right. It's a shame. Who will step up and deal with all those EVIL cameras?

A pro commercial photographer uses compositing techniques. If there are no layers, masks, cut and paste, the software does not cut the mustard.

If you add to this any shortcomings in the handling of file types, bit-depth, color spaces and their conversions, you are out of luck selling you software to a pro commercial photographer.

Seems my initial post got lost in the mail, but nth-ing what others have said:

Whilst Lightroom can be used in conjunction with Photoshop, there is nothing to say you have to.

Given your photographic tastes and style, Mike, I find it hard to believe that you couldn't happily use LR exclusively.

I find your apparent determination not to see for yourself whether LR would suit you rather perplexing.

Another vote for Capture One. I get the best IQ for my OM-D files from it, followed by Olympus Viewer. C1 lets you handle DAM your way; I prefer simply to use my filesystem.

The open source converters and Lightroom seem to be in the same category for OM-D conversion. A few clicks in C1 or OV give me better results than extended fiddling in LR or the open source programs. I confess I'm still a rookie at the digital darkroom (another remnant of the Tri-X/D-76 Nation).

I'm still trying to learn the pixel-pushing software (GIMP). So far, I've just used it for spot retouching.

Dear Sarge,

Putting it in traditional darkroom terms, your rules almost might make sense if you're a slide photographer.

If you're a negative photographer, they're almost antithetical to producing good prints.

Same problem applies in the digital world. If you think of your digital camera as producing virtual slides, then maybe your rules work. If you think of it as producing virtual negatives, they are really, really bad rules. They'll produce inferior work.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I know I'm late to the game on this thread but wanted to point out that the 2.8.4 Mac distro of The Gimp has a 16-bit UFRaw (http://ufraw.sourceforge.net/) included as part of it so the comment about Gimp only supporting 8-bit editing of RAW images is out of date.

I personally use Apple Aperture primarily and The Gimp when that isn't enough for me. I am FAR from a power user and a poor photographer :-s but I have fun with it and the software is more powerful than I can take advantage of so free is more than "good enough".


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