Photoshop vs Lightroom? Wrong Question! – – Part 2



FYI, this is Part 2 of a 3-part series on this subject – – 


•  Part 1 is here:


•  Part 3 is here:


To see why Photoshop vs Lightroom is the “Wrong Question” (& much more),
I’d encourage you to check out Part 1 (at the link above) before perusing Part 2 below – that way, some of the things discussed below will be put in their proper context …




So, here’s the perspective I’m coming from:


•  I am, at my core, a custom photographic printer, and have been professionally since the early 1980’s – you know: enlargers, lenses, easels, chemistry, etc, etc. – “analog”, baby!  But, as analog printing started to go the way of the dodo bird (and my hairline!), I was dragged kicking & screaming into the Digital Age in the mid-1990’s.   Now, I embrace it with a passion.  


•  For decades, I’ve always strived to get the absolute best out of ANY image for custom printing – and sometimes there’s an “art”, as well as a “science”, to that.  Hey, I do this for a living – so generally, I know what works, and what doesn’t (and yet, I still seem to be learning – haha, joke’s on me!).


•  So, sometimes it pains me to see how photographers approach their post-processing  workflow, and I gotta ask myself – –



Why go to all of the trouble of capturing those awesome images – – all of the blood, sweat, tears, travel & money that’s involved in achieving your photographic vision – – 


 … and then proceed to use your digital post-processing tools incorrectly and/or improperly for “ho-hum” (or even mediocre) print output?



Yes – I’m speaking of the great
Photoshop vs.  Lightroom “debate”…  



For those of you who know me (or have worked with me), you know I’m not a big fan of Lightroom for most of my clients, for 2 reasons:


1) I believe that a lot of photographers who use Lightroom are not using the Develop Module properly for the highest quality output, either thinking that it’s the “end-all” in post processing for best printing results (it’s most definitely not!) – or that it’s “Photoshop Lite” or “Beginner Photoshop” – or that, just by moving a few sliders willy-nilly, they can make their image “look great”- – and generally, none of this could be further from the truth.


 FYI: The Develop Module is virtually the same program as the Adobe Camera RAW Plug-in (“ACR”, which is accessed through Photoshop), and they should both be utilized with the same end result in mind.  See these important post-processing “Goals” for your RAW capture in my post (and why), “The Philosophy of RAW”:


2) I also believe that it’s more “program” than most people need for browsing, cataloguing & labeling your digital files  – plus, it has its own separate (and sometimes complex) learning curve.  If you don’t need the organizational power of Lightroom, why learn a second complex program?


•  I use Bridge, by the way, and have for dozens of years – and even though I don’t personally shoot hundreds of images a week, its not unusual for me , as a printing professional, to work with hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of files in a week’s time, and I still don’t need (or want) the complexity of Lightroom – I prefer the sheer simplicity of Bridge.


•  Here are some examples of photographers who might benefit from the extraordinary organizational power of Lightroom (this list is far from complete):  wedding photographers, product / catalog photographers, fashion photographers, sports photographers, both professionals & amateurs with thousands & thousands of digital images, photographers who regularly shoot hundreds of images a week, etc.




So – do you still need (or want) Lightroom in your post-processing workflow?  Read on …


•  Remember, Lightroom’s strength is its incredible organizational power for those with a zillion images – That being said, I’d consider using it as your “Digital Library” ONLY(see Part 1to select those images that are ultimately deserving of a Master File.


•  For those Master File images, I’d recommend that you generally perform ZERO permanent post-processing adjustments in the Develop Module in Lightroom – but instead, perform your adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW plug-in, which is the first step of working in your “Digital Darkroom” – see Procedure #1 below for more …


Why this “Procedure”?


THE biggest reason:  migrating your files in & out of Lightroom can be confusing.  If you want the highest quality final output, you’re typically going to want to open the file in Photoshop.  By using Procedure #1 (discussed below), there is ZERO chance of corrupted metadata while migrating your RAW, TIFF or PSD files between programs.


•  Photographic community blogs are full of horror stories of compatibility issues when migrating files between Lightroom & Photoshop.  For example, one noted Lightroom / Photoshop guru even has a specific video course on how to “clean up” your Lightroom Catalog, and it’s over 5 hours long – yikes, really?!?


•  Now I admit that this is strictly a personal preference – but to me, the Develop Module workspace in Lightroom is not near as “user-friendly” as the Adobe Camera RAW plug-in (ACR) accessed through Photoshop.  The Develop Module has a very dark workspace & a cluttered layout – personally, I prefer a much cleaner, lighter interface (ACR, including the new RAW 12.3 User Interface) – but, hey, that’s just me …




Ok – so, if you’re a dedicated Lightroom user, you’ve got 2 possible “Procedures” you can use to migrate your files between Lightroom and Photoshop (& safely back) –  BOTH with the same ultimate post-processing “Goals”:



Before you decide which “Procedure” below to use, ask yourself a question: do you want to PROPERLY work on your RAW file …


– in the Adobe Camera RAW Plug-in (ACR) – –  


– in the Develop Module of Lightroom?



After answering that question, pick the appropriate “Procedure” below, and stick with it Procedural consistency is a major key to effective post-processing – ultimately, either “Procedure” gets the job done, especially if you use my suggested Photoshop Workflow Chart.



•  Procedure #1 Summary (using ACR):


 –  Use Lightroom as your “Digital Library” ONLY (See Part 1 of this series), then “Export …”


– Using the “Goals” as guidance, adjust your RAW file in the Adobe Camera RAW plug-in ONLY


–  Open your file in Photoshop, then use your PS “mojo”  to create your Master File (as a .PSD)


– Once saved in Photoshop (as a PSD), synch Folder in Lightroom



•  Procedure #2 Summary (using the Develop Module):


Using the “Goals” as guidance, adjust your RAW file in the Develop Module of Lightroom ONLY


“Edit in …”, Open in Photoshop, then use your PS “mojo” to create your Master File (as a PSD)


– Once saved in Photoshop (as a PSD), synch Folder in Lightroom




•  Once you decide which “Procedure ” to use, check out this blogpost for the specific illustrated “how-to” steps:

Part 3:  Lightroom to Photoshop Migration (& safely back):


•  For a closely related post, check out – “How (and why I use Adobe Bridge …”:




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By the way, all of this is part of my Photoshop book designed for photographers,  “Not just another Photoshop Book”,  available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment, and tell all of your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts  🙂



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