Choosing the right software for managing your digital photos is very important because you spend a lot of time with this tool. These days, with so many digital photos and videos on our computers, the task of managing all this digital media has become very complex. So having a good tool is very important for every photographer. Google’s Picasa and Adobe’s Lightroom have become the two main choices of programs for most photographers. While there are similarities between the two, both Picasa and Lightroom are very different as well. Read on about four fundamental differences between the two most popular digital asset management tools.
6 video modules - over 30 videos containing step-by-step instructions for Windows or Mac programs like Lightroom, ACDSee, Picasa and Photos.
All my e-Books for free - all my products are included.
Completely self-paced. Learn at your own pace and take as long as you want until you learn how to organize your photos. More info
1. Picasa Has a Different Purpose than Adobe Lightroom
Even after using Picasa a little bit, its purpose becomes clear. That purpose is to move users towards Google+ and Google services.
It is true that you can use Picasa completely independent of having a Google account. But when it comes to sharing media, everything in Picasa becomes easier if you have a Google account.
So, while Picasa is a great tool for organizing and managing your digital media, Picasa is mainly about sharing media using Google services.
Lightroom on the other hand has only one purpose and that is centered around you as the photographer. You as the photographer use Lightroom to get your photography tasks done regardless of trainer or Google or YouTube or Facebook or any other platform you want to showcase your pictures on. Lightroom provides plugin so you could actually explored all your photos to any of the well-known online services that are available. Picasa and the other hand has only primarily only one service in mind and that is Google+.
Even though I use Lightroom for editing my photos, I still go to Picasa whenever I want to email some pictures. Picasa’s integration with GMail is excellent and it is the simplest thing to use. Picasa also integrates well with Outlook or other desktop email client. Lightroom on the other hand gives you all the tools to prepare your images for email. But Lightroom doesn’t create the email with the images already resized, as Picasa does.
To summarize, Picasa is a master of media sharing, as long as you use Google services.
2. Processing Raw Photos with Picasa is Fundamentally Different than Adobe Lightroom
Every digital photo management program needs to first convert a RAW photo before displaying it to you. While this is fine for viewing purposes, when editing a RAW digital photo, you want your edits to be applied to the RAW image. This is why you shoot in RAW format to begin with.
However, Picasa only knows how to edit JPEG photos.
So how does Picasa handle RAW photos? Well, Picasa tricks you!
Picasa transforms every raw photo into a JPEG before showing it to you and before applying any photo editing algorithms to it. So instead of taking advantage of the added information in the RAW format, when you are editing a RAW photo in Picasa, you are in fact editing a compressed image.
Tricky isn’t it?
If you shoot RAW format photos, Picasa cannot and will not help you other than allowing you to view your RAW images.
Adobe Lightroom on the other hand handles your RAW photos correctly which means that it leaves them alone. Lightroom can also transform your camera’s file format to the open source DNG RAW format for images.
3. Image Metadata Management is Different in Picasa versus Lightroom
Metadata is the key to organizing large quantity of data in general, and in particular it is the key to organizing your media with more dimensions(Read When folders are not enough).
When it comes to photography, metadata is best when embedded in the image file itself (for JPEG and DNG formats at least). When it comes to creating this image metadata Picasa and Lightroom are different.
Picasa has taken the minimalist approach. Picasa will allow you to see EXIF information, add keywords (in both IPTC and XMP formats) and geotags (in the right place in EXIF) using a beautiful integration with Google Maps.
This will cover 80% of world’s photographers probably and it takes care of the minimal set of metadata most people will ever use. Except when you need more.
Image metadata includes a lot more than keywords and geotags, and if you need to enter IPTC type of fields, then Picasa can’t help you. You need Lightroom if you want to add author, country, city, and any descriptions of your pictures.
If you need more metadata fields than keywords and geotags, then you must choose Lightroom.
4. Image Editing Algorithms in Picasa are Different than Adobe Lightroom
Picasa has acquired Nik software some time ago and it looks like they have integrated Nik’s image editing algorithms into Picasa. For the most part, these image processing functions are pretty cool, but they are somewhat basic when compared with what Lightroom offers.
Adobe on the other hand is well known for its absolutely gorgeous image editing algorithms that span tens of years going back to the first version of Photoshop and other image processing tools. Image editing is Adobe’s “bread and butter” as they say.
Some of my favorite image editing functions in Lightroom are: highlights, shadows, blacks and whites (all with plus and minus controls), lens profiles for correcting lens problems (only if shooting RAW) and noise reduction. They are just gorgeous, especially when applied to RAW images.
A good Adobe Lightroom review will help you understand the multiple Lightroom products as well as the best features.
Should you choose Picasa or Lightroom?
This is a hard question because it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are shooting JPEGs and you only need basic editing capabilities (cropping, brightness, contrast, etc.), and you don’t need access to all the metadata fields, then Picasa is probably sufficient for you. Picasa, is also much easier to use when compared to Lightroom.
On the other hand, if you are shooting RAW photos and want to edit them, then your choice must be Lightroom.
The most important question to ask when choosing between Picasa and Lighroom is this: am I shooting and editing RAW digital photos?
Essentials for organizing your digital photosHere are the essential products and services I have come to rely on for many years to keep my media collection organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.
Excellent Lightroom and Picasa alternative. If you need a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac (save 20% until Feb 15) or ACDSee Pro for Windows (save $20 until Feb 15) is my preferred solution for organizing all my media. It has a very fast browser, great image editing and it's simple to use.
If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has best photo editing capabilities even though it comes with a steeper learning curve. If you do image editing, Adobe Lightroom is my favorite.
I recommend Backblaze Cloud Backup for affordable & reliable unlimited cloud backup. I have been using Backblaze for backing up all pictures & videos for more than 5 years now. All my invaluable digital memories are safe and secure. This is the best solution especially if you have a large quantity of media files.
Use a reliable & affordable external hard drive for backing up everything on your computer. It is absolutely essential for keeping all your memories backed up and safe.
Start organizing now using detailed, step-by-step instructions and videos:
Personal Coaching (closed) Independent Course Private Lessons
Reference book Basics book Picasa book
Now that Picasa is discontinued, should we still use it?
JRW…you can still use it as long as you do not uninstall it. All the features that integrate with Google don’t work well though. Should you use it? It is up to you. Some people keep using it because it is free and they are used with it. Some people have moved to a paid product like the ones I recommended at the end of the article. I personally use Lightroom most of the times.
Yeah and Google stopped downloads of Picasa…..so guess which one is the only one to use now??
As long as you hide your RAW files (by extension) from Picasa, and only organise the JPEGs with it, it’s a great tool. Easy for quick proofing as well, when you shoot RAW+JPEG.
Good point Johan…didn’t think about hiding raw files…easy to do in Picasa.
I have used Lightroom since version 3 and am very Happy with it. Currently using Lightroom 5 and will soon be upgrading to Lightroom 6. Your article was very good in that it told me that I may as well export my DNG’s as JPG’s as that’s what Picasa does with them anyway. It seems that I pretty well should use Picasa as a conduit to Picasa Web Albums to Google+ using the Jeffery Freidl designed Plug in. The only problem I have is when I try to install Picasa it starts cataloging all my 10.000 pictures. This is very counter productive so is there any way to stop it, or in the words of Monty Python should I be doing something completely different??
Kevin…you can limit the number of folders Picasa is scanning by configuring Folder Manager under the tools menu. On the other hand it doesn’t hurt anything when Picasa scans your photos…it doesn’t move them or change them it just needs to know where they are.
This is a nice article, but it would be nice to know when it was written either by date (or version of the product). Though the major differences are the core of each product’s design, both products might evolve over 1-2 yrs to support deficits noted here.
Peter…I am working on adding the date of last update in my articles. This article was last updated earlier in 2018 and covers the latest versions of Picasa and Lightroom.
Earlier this year? Which year! Why we all don’t consider that internet lives for ever! Common mistakes we all do!
Good point…I updated my comment to say earlier in 2018…that’s what I meant.