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Is Adobe Lightroom the best program for managing your pictures?

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For a good while now, Adobe Lightroom has become the software of choice for professional photographers. It’s true, when I read about how professional photographers manage their pictures, they mostly talk about Lightroom as if it’s expected that they would use Lightroom. However, I have been using Google’s Picasa for a good few years now, ever since Google has added image metadata support in Picasa. Picasa has been great for organizing, editing and sharing my pictures. So why am I talking about Adobe Lightroom? Are you thinking about using Lightroom?

Adobe Lightroom is now at version 5 and up until this version the price has been prohibitive because around $300, I would have needed a very strong reason to justify purchasing Lightroom. However, with version 4, Adobe has changed the price dramatically. Now you can purchase Adobe Lightroom for less than $150 which is 50% OFF from the old price (See Adobe Lightroom at B&H). Now, Adobe has created some competition indeed!

If you have been reading my website for a while, you would know that I always wanted to buy Adobe Lightroom, but could not justify the high price tag at all when there were so many free programs for managing my pictures. However, right before version 4 of Lightroom came out, B&H Photo Video had a great sale on version 3 and I was able to purchase Adobe Lightroom version 3 for $70. The sale was only for one day and I decided to buy it. So I got it and I have playing with it for a while.

So here is what I think after playing with Adobe Lightroom version 3 for a few good months.

This is not a review of Lightroom, but more what I like and what I don’t like.

Adobe Lightroom has amazing picture editing capabilities

This is the main reason why professional photographers gravitate around Adobe products. Adobe has taken some really cool tools from Adobe Photoshop and made them available in Lightroom. Adobe has picked the most useful tools that can be use quickly so users can transfer, organize and sort through their pictures as quickly as possible.

So, does it work well? Let me say it simply: picture editing is awesome in Adobe Lightroom!

I don’t think any other program comes even close to what Lightroom offers. When compared to any of the free programs, Lightroom is way above anything else when it comes to image editing.

Here are some of the features I love. These features make me open Lightroom every time I want to edit any of my pictures.

  • Black and white levels, Shadow correction, Clarity and Vibrance are just awesome.
  • Then there is the Clone tool which is great for removing unwanted objects in your pictures…like telephone poles, trash cans and other “ugly” things.
  • Also, the Neutral Density Filter function is really cool for making blue skys bluer without having to have a Neutral Density Filter attached to your camera lens.
  • And, if you have a DSLR the Lens Correction function is also very, very cool. With a simple click of a button, Lightroom will correct most issues that come with any lens. This means correcting Chromatic Aberration and Barrel Distortion. This is very cool!

Adobe Lightroom has great image metadata management functions

Another thing I like about Adobe Lightroom is how it handles image metadata. It reads and edits EXIF, IPTC and XMP and since version 4 you can also add geotags to your images. As the inventor of the XMP metadata standard, Adobe should get this right and it does get it right in Lightroom.

Lightroom has hierarchical tags, metadata templates and also the ability to apply metadata when importing images from your camera. Very cool!

Adobe Lightroom has poor file management capabilities

File management in Lightroom is clunky in my opinion.

The “Catalog” idea was probably created with professional photographers in mind. Professional photographers have hundreds of thousands of pictures, and the software does slow down when loading large catalogs.

The issue with slowdown when using large catalogs has been mostly solved since Lightroom version 5 came out.

However, for me, I want to see all my folders with pictures and be able to navigate them when I want to. This is what I can do with Picasa for example.

Here is an example why I think Adobe Lightroom’s file management is not the best.

Let’s say I want to see some pictures in some folder. In Adobe Lighroom you need to create a catalog and point the software to a folder on your hard drive. Then, Lightroom will read all the folder and subfolders and display them to you on the left so you can navigate through your folders. It’s all good so far.

The problem comes when you later add another subfolder to that folder and you add it with another software…outside of Lightroom. What happens in this case? Well, nothing happens unless you import the whole thing again in the same catalog.
Same thing happens if you rename an image or folder, outside of Lightroom…the changes are not reflected in Lightroom unless you refresh the catalog.

In my opinion, Lighroom should provide a simple mechanism of detecting changes to the files in a catalog…or maybe do away with the entire idea of a catalog and just scan the hard drive for changes…like Picasa does. With the newer computers these days, performance should not be a problem.

So, should you switch to Adobe Lightroom? Is Lightroom the best software?

Well…it depends what you get it for. If you get it for doing some advanced editing for your pictures, then, the answer is yes, yes, yes! It’s awesome!

However, if you buy it just to keep your pictures organized and you only do minor edits to your pictures (like cropping and adjusting colors and ligting), then no, Adobe Lightroom is not worth the money. You can easily get done what you need with Picasa or Faststone or XnView…for free.

In addition, as I have mentioned before, managing your folders and files is pretty difficult in Adobe Lightroom. Personally, I keep organizing my pictures with Picasa and only when I need some special editing done on a few pictures, I open Adobe Lightroom.

Start organizing now using detailed, step-by-step instructions and videos:
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