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.
ABOUT THAT DATABASE…
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
NOT SO REDUNDANT…
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
THE MOB RULES…
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
ADDRESSING SOME LIGHTROOM MISCONCEPTIONS
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…
 easier library management, including tagging, titles, search etc – and it’s faster than Bridge
 non-destructive edits
 ability to make changes to one RAW file and copy and paste those settings to a selection of other RAW files
 good integration with Photoshop when you want to do advanced edits
 good plugins, including an Export to Flickr plugin and develop preset plugins
 I can do RAW development without needing to go into Photoshop/Adobe RAW
 I can work so much faster in Lightroom.
~~ Tim Johnson
 Yup, it tends to be a bit faster if you have a well-kept database.
 ACR is also non-destructive, even with JPEG files.
 Bridge can copy and paste image settings too.
 Photoshop isn’t really integrated with Lightroom, it’s the same with Bridge.
 ACR has good presets too — they’re the same raw process settings as Lightroom.
 Bridge can also launch ACR without launching Photoshop.
 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.