I have read a lot of debate on the internet about how much better Lightroom is than Picasa. I also read how much easier to use Picasa is compared with Lightroom. What I do not read however is how similar these two popular products are. I am not talking about how they look and their different image editing features, but I am referring to the way both of these programs have been built, their foundation if you will. When looking closely at these core functions, both Picasa and Lightroom are more similar than most people think. Read on to understand how these programs are similar.
Picasa and Lightroom have core similarities
I am not talking about how Picasa and Lightroom look and I am not even talking about the image editing algorithms these programs use. These are different for both Picasa and Lightroom. But there are three core functions that make Picasa and Lightroom more alike than different.
Comparing core functionality is like comparing the layout of two houses. If the layout is very similar, then both houses will have similar features inside even though on the outside they might look completely different.
Both Picasa and Lightroom programs are database driven
What does this mean?
This is simpler than it sounds. When a program uses a database to store its data this means that it doesn’t really store pixel data at all. Instead its stores data about your pictures. This is called metadata.
How does this work ?
Both Picasa and Lightroom have a process called importing when they bring new information about your pictures into their database. Essentially, in each program, you have to show them where your pictures reside on your hard drive, and both of them will import a lot of image metadata (data about your images) like: the path to the picture, the keywords associated with the image, and other pieces of data.
When these programs import your pictures, they actually only look at the data that exists inside your pictures and on your computer. They do not actually import the pixels inside your pictures. Your pictures reside on your hard drive and not inside these programs.
What kind of data do Picasa and Lightroom store?
First of all, they will store where the actual picture is on your hard drive. This means that they do not take the image itself but they only need to know where the image is stored on your hard drive.
Secondly, they will store additional information that they find in the picture itself maybe what camera it was taken with, aperture, exposure time and other attributes or properties of the image itself.
Granted, there are great differences in the amount of data each program stores (with Lightroom storing a lot more data than Picasa), but essentially both Picasa and Lightroom look at your pictures the same way.
Why is having a database such a great feature?
A database is very efficient when storing data. When you need to search for your pictures both Picasa and Lightroom will actually search the information they have stored about your pictures in the database instead of searching the file system.
Database searches are very fast as compared to searching on your hard drive. So when you search for your favorite photos based on keywords, or other attributes, both programs deliver the results very fast.
Picasa and Lightroom use non-destructive image editing
What is non-destructive image editing?
Again this is a term that sounds more complicated than it actually is. When an image editing software edits one of your pictures it can do it in one of two ways. Some software programs will actually modify the pixels inside your images. Other kinds of programs like Picasa and Lightroom will only apply the edits without changing the pixels in your image.
How does non-destructive image editing work?
Let’s take for example a picture I have taken at sunset. I want to reduce the brightness of my picture because my camera has overexposed some parts of it. So I use a control and my image editing software to reduce the brightness of my image. In most image editing software once I use the control and I save damage the changes I have made are saved to my original image or a new image. This means that I can edit a picture by either changing the original image for creating another image with the changes.
In Picasa with Lightroom however when I make a change to an image nothing happens to the original image. Both Picasa in life will save in the database the fact that I have reduced exposure for the sharpness or the contrast of one particular image but they do not make any changes to my image. I do see the changes to my image when I look at my image in Picasa or Lightroom but the changes are not applied to my regional image until I export that image into a different image.
Why is this so great? Well let’s think about it!
Let’s continue with the previous example. I have reduced exposure of my photo then later maybe next day I look at it again I say well to let me back a lil bit more and then maybe add some saturation. Then two days after that maybe or 3 days I look at it again I say well I can also um increase the contrast a little bit and I think I have changed exposure too much so I need to reduce that a lil bit more. With Picasa or Lightroom these kinds of changes are very easy because they do not take affect until you export a picture you can see your changes you can see what happens when you play certain changes but you’re already in olymics does not change.
This is called non-destructive image editing and both Picasa in Lightroom do a great job using it.
Both Picasa and Lightroom need to synchronize their database with your folder structure on your hard drive
What does it mean?
This means that if any changes are made to your folder structure on your hard drive outside of Picasa or Lightroom will not be carried into these programs unless you synchronize the folders with the database of these programs.
Let’s take an example. Outside of Picasa or Lightroom I am renaming a folder that has pictures in I rename it from my birthday pictures too 2014 February 1st my birthday.
If I try to go see this folder weather in Picasa Lightroom I will be surprised to notice that that folder does not exist it is not visible in these programs. Picasa has an advantage because he can continuously scanned the folders I tell it to scan any will pick up the changes and get the new folder name pretty quickly. Lightroom on the other hand unless I specifically tell it to synchronize the new folder name with the database the new folder will not appear in Lightroom. Instead the old folder name will still be visible in Lightroom and it will be great out which will indicate to me that I have to synchronize it. Once I synchronize that old folder name the new folder name will appear correctly.
Are Picasa and Lightroom the same?
No! Absolutely not! However, these three functions I have described have to do with the architecture of the program, they are like the foundation of a house. While the look and feel of both programs and many of their features are different, the foundation of both programs have more in common than being different.
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I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has excellent photo editing capabilities. Yes, Lightroom has a steeper learning curve as you have to learn to keep your catalogs in sync with your hard drive. However, Adobe Lightroom makes most sense especially when you do lots of image editing.
If you don't like the subscription, you can get also download the last standalone Adobe Lightroom 6 for Mac or Windows (while it is still available). However, the product is no longer maintained by Adobe.
Excellent Lightroom and Picasa alternative. If you're looking for a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac or ACDSee Pro for Windows is my preferred solution for organizing your media on your computer. It has a very fast browser, beautiful image editing capabilities and you don't work with catalogs at all.
In addition, make sure you have an inexpensive and reliable external hard drive for backing everything up. It is absolutely essential for backing up your media regularly.
If you're looking for a reliable unlimited cloud backup service, I recommend Backblaze Cloud Backup. I have used Backblaze for my online backup for more than 3 years now. All my files are safe and secure and I have never had any problems with them.