So which is better, Lightroom or Photoshop?
This is a question I get asked often on workshops and safaris and many photographers still believe that Photoshop is better than Lightroom, or vice versa. To say that one of these programs is better than the other would be completely unfair as they are aimed at very different end-users, even though people like to do a straight comparison between them from a photography point of view.
The fact of the matter is that if you are using the latest version of both Lightroom and the latest version of Photoshop you can process your files in pretty much the same manner and the RAW processing power is exactly the same.
The main difference between the two programs is the interface, of which Lightroom features a much more easy to use and streamlined user experience as well as Lightroom’s ecosystem which allows you to not only process your images but also organize and manage your digital content all from within the program. For a wildlife photographer this is priceless as the entire exercise of sifting through hundreds sometimes thousands of images from a day’s shooting and processing these images is simplified without the need to jump between different programs such as Adobe Bridge and Photoshop.
That being said, let me just make one thing clear.
Photoshop is and always will be an absolute powerhouse in the realm of digital processing and I do still use it occasionally for some advanced processing. For many years it was the only real option available to photographers, and the arrival of Lightroom purely offered a new, far easier way for photographers to manage and process their images and complete the digital photographic process. It would be naïve and very shortsighted for any photographer to dismiss the one over the other and I do believe that there is room for both programs in any given digital workflow.
Now if you are new to processing your images, the answer to the initial question is quite different and very simple.
These days I use Lightroom for more than 95% of all my image processing and it has been a long time since I felt the need, or due to a lack of functions or ability of the program moved across to Photoshop. If anything I use the collection of Nik Filters which, when used correctly and it’s pretty damn easy to use them correctly, is a very powerful sidekick program to Lightroom.
With a user interface that is very similar to Lightroom’s easy-to-use sliders and panels, it feels immediately familiar and the ease with which you can jump from Lightroom to Nik makes for a quick and easy to follow workflow. I would almost go as far as to say that if there is anything that I cannot do with the Lightroom – Nik – combo I am not sure I would even want to take my wildlife images through such a laborious process.
Or let me rephrase that.
I would really need to have a very good reason to take my images into Photoshop. A very good reason. I enjoy messing around on my computer as much as the next person but when push comes to shove I would much rather be out in the field, get as much right in camera as possible and then use Lightroom, and sometimes Nik, to process my RAW files. Process. Not manipulate. Big difference.
The last while I have been playing with the Special Adjustment Brush in Lightroom, the Flow and Density sliders and doubling up on some brushes – yes you can do that – and this has made a huge difference in the amount of times I might have been tempted to look to Photoshop to be able to use layers. It might require be a bit of lateral thinking but it’s a definite winner as far as I am concerned, and it’s quick!
Seriously, when was the last time you looked at an amazing wildlife image and wondered what program the photographer used to process the image? I’m talking a normal, natural history type wildlife image. My feeling is that if you actually notice the processing, or at least the results of the processing, it’s been overcooked. Would it not then make sense to keep the process as simple as possible by using the simplest software to process your images?
So, let’s just recap quickly.
Photoshop is and always will be an absolute powerhouse in the realm of digital processing and I do still use it occasionally for some advanced processing. It would be naïve and very shortsighted for any photographer to dismiss the one over the other and I do believe that there is room for both programs in any given digital workflow.
If, however, you are new to processing your wildlife images and are not sure which program to choose to get you going, I guarantee you that Lightroom is going to give you the best combination of value for money (unless this happens in which case I would not use Lightroom or Photoshop), processing power and ease of use.
So which is better, Lightroom of Photoshop?
You have to ask yourself what you want to do with your images and take it from there and yes, it’s definitely a case of horses for courses.
But you know what I think.
Until next time.
Gerry van der Walt
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