Lightroom Users Address Concerns with the Software

Sure, try haggling here.
Creative Commons License photo credit: gak

In a previous article, I stated 3 Reasons Why I Refuse to Use Lightroom. This got the Lightroom users pretty fired up.

But I didn’t write the article just to get these folks twisted up — I did it to get the discussion going. My “3 Reasons” are actually concerns that I’ve heard from various other photographers who haven’t jumped into Lightroom yet (and they’re my own concerns too). So I figured the best way to address these issues was through the community on this website.

We had nearly 40 comments (and one blog post response) in just a few days, and most of them were addressing the concerns presented. This is so awesome — exactly the thing I was hoping for. Here are my “3 Reasons” addressed by the community.


MY CONCERN: A database is a bad thing. It only adds more possibilities for things to go wrong. I like to keep my metadata with the files rather than in a database.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Keep a backup of your database. You can choose to have the database store minimal information. The database makes browse/search features much faster. It allows you to work offline with your photos.

Yes, it is true that Lightroom uses a database. However, it’s also true that Lightroom (1) Stores *all* of your images in folders on the hard drive and (2) Can keep *all* of the adjustments you make to your photos in the sidecar/XMP files (or within the metadata of DNG images)… So long as your storage system is somewhat sane, Lightroom handles storage on multiple drives with ease. In fact, you can perform many operations on files currently offline! Say you’re remote on your laptop and you want to find an image in your library – you can do pretty much everything you need short of exporting a full-res image without even connecting the USB drive that the image happens to be stored on. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

I too hate being tied to a database. The way I use lightroom, it’s almost as if there wasn’t one. In fact, the only thing that can really be said to be using the database is the thumbnails… version 2.0 of Lightroom preserves the navigation structure of the folders where the images are stored, so I take full control of the organisation. ~~ Neil Creek

On the DB issue: is you set up the system like Neil describes above, you really do not need to care if the DB is corrupted, destroyed or whatever. All of the data is still in the original files and can be reimported into a new catalog (DB). Also, copying a catalog from one machine to another works just fine (you can even copy the preview images, which aren’t stored in the catalog itself). ~~ ramin

I have the same paranoia with the DB, but as others have already said, you can simply turn on the global option to also record everything in the XMP sidecar file (or internally with DNG files). This does slow the processing down somewhat, but it is still worth it. ~~ Sean Phillips

The database is there for one simple reason, speed. The reason I gave up on Bridge/ACR is because it was too slow… With the LR database I can quickly parse through a folder of 3000 images with close to zero delay… If you want sidecar files, you can still get them with LR. I actually export sidecar files for all my photos after doing any editing of them… I backup the LR database daily and even if I loose it, all my work is still in the files on the NAS and I can just re-import everything with no loss. ~~ latoga

I delete my LR database all the time. It’s okay. The XMP files have all the information in them. And they sit right next to my .CR2 files — meaning they get backed up / moved TOGETHER as a unit. No worries about losing a database here. ~~ David Terry

A database would not mess up your directory structure and it shouldn’t have anything to do with your pictures. The LR database only contains metadata about your pictures and it doesn’t hold any of your pixels…so no worries there…if you lose the database you will only lose the metadata you haven’t saved to your image files. ~~ Vlad

I don’t mind being reliant on a database because LR keeps reminds me to back it up every week (more often, if I change my settings). I save the DB on a separate HDD, so I’m still covered if one drive fails. ~~ Luis Cruz

Number one advantage of using the database for me…. Offline access to your images. You can have images stored across dozens of external drives, CD/DVDs, networks, where-ever, and you can find them all without having the devices connected. You can do any database operations (searches, cataloging, etc) with the drives disconnected, but for editing of course they need to be online. You can’t do that with Bridge, once the drive is disconnected, so are the images and access to them. ~~ Mark


MY CONCERN: Lightroom is basically the same thing as Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw combined. There aren’t enough unique features to justify the extra cost.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Lightroom provides a fluid and streamlined interface as compared to Bridge/ACR. A single interface speeds up productivity over the long run.

Brian is correct here: Lightroom uses the exact same RAW converter that Photoshop does via its Camera RAW module (ACR). However, it is quite a bit more than just a combination of Bridge and ACR. Browsing through your photographs and making adjustments in Lightroom is a very fluid process. This is not my experience with Bridge + ACR! What is missing is the database back-end that Lightroom leverages to make browsing quick and efficient. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

While that may not be drastically different than what you’re used to [with Bridge/ACR] the benefit is having the tools in one consolidated piece of software. ~~ Jim Goldstein

The feature parity you mention only refers to what can be done to the images, not how it is done. You may prefer working with ACR for your raw processing, but from my little experience with it, Lightroom walks all over it. In fact, the interface is entirely the reason I prefer Lightroom to Bridge/ACR. ~~ Neil Creek

I still do use Photoshop but just for the heavy lifting of going in depth or fine tuned adjustments to a photo. At this point LR gets me through 90%+ of my editing work and much faster than any other tool I have used. ~~ latoga

I’ll concede this – there is a lot of overlap between LR and PS Bridge + ACR. I’ll say this much though – my processing times were cut in half (and that’s understating it) when I started using LR. I process anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand images for each shoot, and while I still promise to deliver images within one week, I can usually submit my discs the next day. ~~ Luis Cruz


MY CONCERN: Just because everyone is using the software, it doesn’t mean that it’s the absolute best thing to use.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Most photographers are very software savvy and they don’t just use something because everyone else does.

Lightroom is definitely mainstream, but it’s for good reason… You need to make your own decisions about the tools you use in your workflow and remember that it’s about making great images – not the tools you’re using to get there. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

People haven’t jumped onto Lightroom because everyone else is doing it. They’ve done so because the software saves photographers time (processing and searching) and its filled a much needed niche for easily organizing ones work. ~~ Jim Goldstein

Your equally silly for NOT wanting to use Lightroom because of the mob mentality as those who may use it for the same reason. I couldn’t care less what the mob thinks. I care what people I respect think, and my own experience. I’m sure you’re the same really, but don’t think you have to be a rebel or rage against the machine. You may be missing out on something you’d othewise like. Sometimes the mob gets it right. ~~ Neil Creek

It really is about saving me time…I could care less what the mob thinks as well. But since it saves me time, that is value that I’m willing to pay for. ~~ latoga

I think the reason for the cult following is simple – LR is a great tool for managing images. When I first used it, I thought – what was all the fuss about? However, after I first processed a shoot with over a thousand images with it, I was sold. ~~ Luis Cruz


Creative Commons License photo credit: obeck

In addition to giving the Lightroom community a chance at defending their software, I wanted to see how many Lightroom misconceptions bubbled out of the discussion. I prompted this with my point #2 — being redundant with Bridge/ACR. I find that many Photoshop users are unaware of the features they already have at their fingertips, and they assume that they have to go buy Lightroom to get those features.

Want a view that shows you all of the files you’ve taken with the 24-70mm lens in 2008 on the 5d with the keyword ‘Tree’ (but not those with the keyword ‘apple’) and are rated 5 stars? Not a problem; it’ll even update itself as you import new photos. Want to build a collection of images that you’ve displayed at a particular gallery show? Just make a collection out of them and this view is always available to you – without requiring extra storage since the collection is just info in the database. You can’t do that in Bridge! ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

Yes you can. The search capabilities are the same between Bridge and Lightroom. Bridge also has the ability to create Collections based on pre-set search criteria. What it can’t do is create “drag-n-drop” albums (or groups of photos) — you have to use keywords or other metadata to prompt the collection.

… the database IS handy for finding a photo or photos, whether it be by keyword, lens, shutter speed or any other metadata. Can Bridge do that? ~~ Neil Creek

Yes, it can.

The reasons I like it better than Bridge are…
[1] easier library management, including tagging, titles, search etc – and it’s faster than Bridge
[2] non-destructive edits
[3] ability to make changes to one RAW file and copy and paste those settings to a selection of other RAW files
[4] good integration with Photoshop when you want to do advanced edits
[5] good plugins, including an Export to Flickr plugin and develop preset plugins
[6] I can do RAW development without needing to go into Photoshop/Adobe RAW
[7] I can work so much faster in Lightroom.
~~ Tim Johnson

[1] Yup, it tends to be a bit faster if you have a well-kept database.
[2] ACR is also non-destructive, even with JPEG files.
[3] Bridge can copy and paste image settings too.
[4] Photoshop isn’t really integrated with Lightroom, it’s the same with Bridge.
[5] ACR has good presets too — they’re the same raw process settings as Lightroom.
[6] Bridge can also launch ACR without launching Photoshop.
[7] I don’t doubt it.

Try taking a batch of 200-300 images (after selecting the shots that will be processed further), adding metadata to them (subject names as keywords, copyright info, titles, and locations), processing them, and exporting to the web, and you’ll get an idea why it really has gained such a following. ~~ ramin

No problem, that’s what Bridge and ACR are built for. I do exactly that with every shoot.

It’s all in the workflow for me. Photoshop doesn’t have too much of a workflow capability as far as i’ve observed, whereas Lightroom is flexible enough with an array of workflow options which works great when you have several hundred photos from an event to process and pick for different uses. ~~ Charlene

You’re totally right. Photoshop doesn’t have workflow capabilities when it comes to large sets of images. Bridge does — that’s the software that I was comparing Lightroom to, not Photoshop. Bridge.

Furthermore, how long do you expect that Bridge will continue to exist now LR has been out for a while? As you mentioned before, LR is using bits from Bridge and I see little business reason for Adobe to allow Bridge to potentially cannibalize LR. Don’t be surprised if the current version of Bridge is the last one. ~~ Chris

Bridge CS3 won’t be the last one — I’m using Bridge CS4 right now. I can’t see them getting rid of Bridge because it’s bundled with more than just Photoshop. The software is a media management system, not just a photography tool.

So listen, the big overall point here is that Lightroom is a killer piece of software. If you’re looking to step up your organization/productivity game, this is the way to do it. The software is still very new and I expect that future releases will be better than we can imagine — Adobe has a tendency to listen to the users. But also keep in mind that if you’re already a Photoshop user and you don’t want to jump into Lightroom quite yet, you can get a majority of the functionality from Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw. Whatever you decide to use, make sure it meets your needs and gives you room to grow.

18 thoughts on “Lightroom Users Address Concerns with the Software

  1. Susheel Samuel Chandradhas


    I love the way you’ve handled this debate. True, it does look like link-bait, but you’ve got some great responses and that has taken it into a different league altogether.

    Just the kind of work I’ve come to expect from the EpicEdits Weblog. :D

  2. Guido

    Lightroom uses no proprietary database. Lightroom uses SQLite as SQL database. SQLite is free (public domain) software and also the database behind Apples Aperture, Safari and Mail, Firefox, some Google applications and a lot more well known software. It’s not impossible to extract data from the Lightroom database – also if you don’t have a current Lightroom version.

  3. Ryan Dlugosz

    Great wrap-up post, Brian. Thanks for pointing out the tip on the Bridge search/collections capability, I hadn’t realized that was there.

    Since writing my post I’ve remembered two additional key features that seal the deal for me with Lightroom: Export and Print.

    I used to maintain multiple directories; one for my RAWs, another for the web JPEGs, a third for full-res JPEGs, a fourth for PSD/TIFFs, maybe another for b&w versions, etc. I no longer bother with any of that – in LR I just have my RAW files in the directory & any web or other exporting I do is via the LR Export Module. The files are transient: they exist only long enough to be uploaded & are then gone. Any TIFFs that I create to do extra Photoshop work on are saved right next to the DNG and are “stacked” within LR. Provides a nice view of a given shoot.

    I don’t need to keep the extras around just to “save state”; I can do that via Virtual Copies and Snapshots which take essentially zero storage space. These features really cut down on the large number of files I used to maintain.

    I often print larger images here in my office. It certainly isn’t cost-effective to print your own stuff (well, in most cases), but I like the fact that I can print-tweak-reprint without the lag time of sending things out & waiting for the prints. The LR print interface is a great tool, albeit with a few limitations that will likely be improved upon in future releases. Still, it is significantly easier to use than the Photoshop print system & does a lot of smart things when it comes to saving your printer settings along with the paper, size, layout, etc. Print sharpening is greatly improved since the early editions of LR and I’ve got no issues with the current state. Worth a look if folks haven’t seen the Print module in a while.

    Thanks for a great dialogue here! -RD

  4. William Beem

    Thanks for providing a good discussion. I don’t have any doubt that Lightroom is a good product. I chose Apple’s Aperture before Lightroom came out and I’m still pleased with it. Each product seems to have some features that are present or not in the other, and some that are slightly better in one or the other.

    It’s good that we have these two products to compete with each other, occasionally leapfrog each other in various features, etc. The competition keeps both vendors working to serve our needs.

    Lightroom is good, but it hasn’t come out with a killer feature that makes me willing to buy it and abandon my investment (and also my plug-ins) for Aperture. Even if I were starting from scratch today, I still think I’d go with Aperture because the feature-set of that product better serves my wants and needs. Still, I hope Apple keeps an eye on Lightroom and adds some of the features it has…just as Adobe matured Lightroom with some of the features from Aperture.

  5. Brian Auer Post author

    @Susheel Thanks man! Always grateful to have you as part of the community.

    @Jim Who knows? Maybe LR3 will be my breaking point. Once Lightroom becomes a little more mature, I could imagine doing without Photoshop. I’ve been using it less and less — especially with my film scans.

    @Guido That’s really good to know. I had no idea.

    @Ryan Great follow-up points! I do feel that Bridge is lacking the export/print functionality. And the virtual copies feature is really a great thing.

    @William I’ve heard similar things from other Aperture users. I think it’s great that the two pieces of software can leapfrog each other, because the users truly benefit from such a thing.

  6. Hitesh Sawlani

    There is only one reason that holds me back from using Lightroom, and the reason is that it runs slow on my machine (3 year old laptop) whilst it can manage Bridge sort of okay.

  7. Susheel Samuel Chandradhas


    My PC is just over 2 years old… and it ROCKS Lighroom… I do believe that this difference stems from the purpose that the PCs were intended for. Mine was always meant for image manipulation and retouching, while I suspect that yours was not.

  8. Guido

    My Notebook is nearly 3 years old (Single Core Pentium M Processor with 1,7 GHz and 2 GB RAM) and Lightroom speed is not really fast but OK.

  9. Kris

    Hi, hope to find a Lightroom wizard …
    Got a question / problem with Lightroom about the ‘date’ a picture was made. When I add captions in Library I can see the date the picture was made. When I send the images to an agency they never see the date appear and I have to add it online again on their website. How come that the date doesn’t go through ? Got version 1.4

  10. Pingback: 3 Reasons Why I Refuse to Use Lightroom

  11. Jeremy Hall

    I’ve enjoyed catching up on the discussion. I am definitely a software agnostic – whatever is best for your workflow, more power to you.

    I agree with most everything discussed in terms of LR offering great interface, speed & organization over the ACR/Bridge approach which I also used to favor. Unless I’ve missed it the tools LR currently offers over ACR are the local adjustment brush and graduated filters. These have become a very handy tool for me when enhancing images for creativity or fixing some tricky exposure issues.

    I look forward to the continuing maturation of LR, but right now it is a pretty kickin’ tool that I live in for my workflow.

  12. Brian Auer Post author

    Yup, I’m probably going to jump ship to LR with v3. Right now, it’s just about there and I’m sure I could make it work for 98% of my photos.

    Oh, and ACR also has local adjustment brushes and graduated filters. The post processing engine is the same as LR. Bridge, on the other hand, is lacking some of the organization/visualization tools found in LR — it’s still very basic.

  13. David

    Just a comment on ACR/LR redundancy.

    Another factor to consider is that NOT everyone uses full blown Photoshop. Some of us get by quite nicely with Photoshop Elements as our primary pixel-editor (saves some major $$$, and more functional than most think.)

    Problem there is that ACR as used in Elements (for windows) is crippled. LR makes a great cost alternative for a large subset of users who will not be shelling out for CS4. (Especially if you had been lucky enough to get LR at its early adopter discount or through Academic discounts!)

    However, I too often wondered why someone with CS4 might need LR… as I am not in that situation I can’t answer for it. But for my situation without CS4, LR fills an important niche.

  14. Dan WIll

    I have PS-CS3,Aperture,Lightroom,Nikon Capture,Elements, and a few more.

    I have been a user of PS for years. Recently I got serious about learning how to use it. Elements came with several of my cameras as did Nikon Capture. Given that I already had PS they were never used after playing with them for a day or two. Next came Aperture and it was great. I thought it would win out in the end but that was not to be. Once Adobe made the move it was only a matter of time. Twice I downloaded LR and used it for a few days. Didn’t like it versus Aperture. Once LR2 came along or maybe 1.5 things started changing and I took the plunge.

    At first I downloaded my images using Apple’s finder and a compact flash reader attached. Later I started to download in LR but I still have LR put the images on my external hard drive. I also have LR re-number(name) the pics and add oinital keywords. This is very nice. Keeps thing better organized and I don’t worry about the LR database.

    Most processing is in LR which is a big savings. Once is a while I do external editing in photoshop. Recently, I scanned saveral hundred slides onto my hard drive. I debated whether to use PS or LR to adjust them. As most adjustments couls be made in ACR alone I opted for LR because it was so much faster.

    For those who do not have PS-CS3 or CS4, Elements and LR2 are a great cost effective way to go.

    The ONLY thing I don’t like about LR is–non-destructive editing. There are exposure adjustments that NEED to be made no matter what. IF only adjustment could be made either as temps in a sidecar or permenently onk a case by case basis. Sure I could export my raws and re-import them but that is stupid.

  15. Florian

    I really like this discussion, thanks a lot.

    Just one thing, I have statet this in the other post already: If you don’t want to do extensive retouching you actually don’t need Photoshop you could just use Lightroom. LR 2 is so advanced that a lot of photographers could save a lot of money.

    And another thing: The Photoshop skills of many professionals are really quite basic because it’s an enormous complex programm. Within LR you can do a lot of the same things but in a much more simple manner.

    If someone who starts whith photography asks me, what should I get Photoshop or Lightroom, I will say LR instantly. It will take him years before he becomes so advanced that he will actually need Photoshop for extensive retouching.

    So if you already have PS your point of view might be worth consideration (But only if you got a lot of skills within PS). If your new or lack the skills my point of view is there is now discussion than getting LR (Or Aperture, if you prefere that)

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