Forget Photoshop, Launch Lightroom!

April 13, 2010


“What software should I get first?” is a common question to aspiring photographers, especially when first getting into using DSLR cameras. Or more commonly, “Should I get Photoshop CS4 or Photoshop Elements to start out?” With the term Photoshopped entering the vernacular, it is not surprising that most people think about it first when starting to get serious about digital photography. However, diving straight into Photoshop CS4, or even the simpler Photoshop Elements alone is not the best choice for an aspiring photographer. While Photoshop CS4 and Elements are extremely powerful tools, they are more than you need to get started when there is a fantastic solution available in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Beyond simply offering the ability to edit your photographs, Lightroom gives you a unified interface for organizing, editing, printing and sharing your pictures. The Library module is a fantastic place to start good organizational habits by importing into custom folders, keywording and grouping into collections.

The develop module allows you a huge amount of latitude, mirroring and greatly simplifying nearly any technique available in a classic wet darkroom or most non-pixel editing processes from Photoshop CS4 or Elements. The develop module is also completely non-destructive, so you can always go back to your original files today, tomorrow or down the road when you learn new techniques. Finally, this module makes working with RAW files as simple and transparent as JPEGs.

The very easy-to-use print module offers multi-image prints and simple but powerful sharpening and resizing algorithms. Sharing digitally is also very easy with the web module and export plug-ins.

All of these modules support a variety of presets, which make working in Lightroom even easier, quicker, more reliable and fun. It is very easy to repeat a process without learning how to record custom actions or create a signature post-processing look that takes little to no time to apply.

What about Photoshop? Well, if you need to erase a fire hydrant, or insert a dog next to one, then Photoshop CS4 or Elements is the best choice. And eventually you will learn new techniques that require the added pixel-punishing power of one of these versions of Photoshop. Spend a year working on your photography, getting it right in camera, and using Lightroom to organize, tweak and export. As a new photographer your time is best spent learning to use your camera and seeing the light.

Still not sure? Get the free trial and give it 30 days. I think you’ll find it tasty and delicious.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 20 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Jeremy is a photographer who lives in Connecticut. Jeremy is an expert on Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and his goal is to share a piece of our reality in a way that perhaps the viewer had not considered. You can follow Jeremy on twitter at

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6 Responses to “Forget Photoshop, Launch Lightroom!”

  1. Mark Hahn Says:

    Don’t forget to encourage users to back up their Lightroom Catalogs! I just had a system failure which resulted in catalog corruption. Thankfully I had a current backup. Everyone should take advantage!


  2. Jack Larson Says:

    If you must choose one or the other, I agree. Having said that, I use PS primarily as a host for my third party plug-ins. You can create Smart Filter layers, change the Opacity and use Blending Modes, all of which are quite valuable. Cloning and Healing works much better in PS. There are features in CS5 that photographers will love.


  3. Jeremy Pollack Says:

    Mark – Absolutely. Backing up the Lightroom catalogs via the LR backup reminder is a key part of a comprehensive backup strategy. There are many things that are saved back in EXIF if you have software set to do so, but certainly many things that are not! The catalog backups have twice saved me from having to restore from an older onsite or offsite backup. I’m glad to hear that you didn’t lose your data from the corruption either!


  4. Jeremy Pollack Says:

    Jack – I agree. I was intentionally a bit blunt in the tone of the article, and it is targeted primarily at a beginner just starting out with post processing and organization.

    I use Photoshop quite a bit myself; There are many things that you can do much better there (the subject of a future article I’m working on actually). But for a beginner or someone new to digital from film, I definitely think if you can only afford or handle to learn one app to start, Lightroom is the way to go!


  5. Sally Says:

    Just started using Lightroom in the past couple of weeks…I’m hooked!


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