Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lightroom 5, Is Photoshop Necessary Anymore?


 Adobe has just released their new version of Lightroom, available for for $150 for new customers and only $80 for users upgrading from Lightroom 4.  Lightroom 5 is also available for users of the Adobe Creative Cloud for $50 a month along with their whole Creative Suite.

The big question here is if the upgrade is worth the money.  I've tested the beta version of Lightroom 5 and was very impressed with some of the new features, especially the enhanced ability of the "spot removal" tool to now act very much like Photoshop's "clone" tool.  Adobe claims to have completely redone the algorithms behind the tool, improving it's ability to create a more realistic look.  With their old "spot removal" tool from Lightoom 4 it was very difficult to get any realistic results and it was usually necessary to go into Photoshop to get the desired result.

Another cool new feature in Lightroom 5 is the radial mask tool.  I had the opportunity  to use this feature editing a friend's botched wedding photographs to try to salvage a few shots.  The whole concept of a mask in Lightroom is new and it does not resemble Photoshop's masks, it is much easier to understand and manipulate.  It is extremely powerful for highlighting part of a photograph or to make a variety of other changes to contrast, shadows, highlights, clarity, or any of Lightroom's sliders.  Where in Photoshop masks can be complicated and hard to master, masks in Lightroom are intuitive and easy to use without any experience.

The new "Upright" tool is also very interesting, especially for architecture/landscape photographers.  Most of this ability is in Lightroom 4 but Lightroom 5 introduces automated corrections that do a remarkably good job of straightening horizontal and vertical lines of buildings or bridges as well as evening out horizons with one click.  This can save a lot of time when batch processing photos and gives you one less thing to worry about.  This feature also includes an automatic chromatic aberration removal button. 

As a landscape and portrait photographer, I rarely use Adobe Photoshop CS 6 and when I do it is mainly to do some minor cloning.  With a $900 price tag, this can be an expensive feature and with Adobe now moving Photoshop to a subscription only service via the Creative Cloud, one would no longer even own the software. At $50 a month (assuming no price increases) one would have to pay $6,000 for Photoshop and it's family of software in 10 years of use and if they didn't have enough money to pay Adobe that next month, they would lose their ability to produce work.

For new photographers, I wouldn't recommend buying Photoshop as it is has become a behemoth of a program that is not very intuitive.   Lightroom on the other-hand is a very easy to use tool that is very powerful for photographers of all sizes of workflows.  It seems that Adobe is placing Lightroom to fill the amateur/semi-pro photographer niche while taking Photoshop out of that spot and marketing it towards professional studios.   

While Adobe makes this transition, they have been continually adding features from Photoshop into Lightroom and  have revamped some of the features making them better in Lightroom than in Photoshop.  In this latest offering, Adobe has given photographers the ability to do the majority of processing in Lightroom without taking the time and effort of taking their photo into Photoshop to do further editing.

Don't get me wrong, Photoshop is a very powerful program but caters for a much larger audience than just photographers.  Many of the features that photographers use in Photoshop weren't created with them in mind.  In Lightroom, however, photographer's and their workflow are  the first priority and it shows.  For those who currently have Lightroom 4, I would still suggest the upgrade to Lightroom 5 as the new features in Lightroom 5 make it a much more powerful post-proccessing program with the ability to replace Photoshop in your workflow.

Personally I'm going to make the upgrade soon and will continue to use the NIK Software package to supplement my Lightroom editing, hopefully phasing out Photoshop from my workflow. 


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