Several days ago I spent an afternoon talking about digital workflow with a few fellow professional photographers here in Santa Fe: Nevada Wier and Jamey Stillings. Both are incredible, world-class photographers. During the course of our workflow discussion I started to think about the Photoshop & Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) versus Lightroom question. Nevada tends to shoot thousands of images while on assignment in remote corners of the globe - just as I do. On the other hand, Jamey has different workflows depending on the assignment. For some assignments he shoots a large number of images. For others, mostly advertising shoots, the number of frames captured is relatively low. So for him it made sense that he has two different workflows, one for each type of assignment.
After talking with Nevada and Jamey last week I thought I’d blog about a Photoshop/ACR workflow versus a Lightroom workflow. Both are valid workflows. What it comes down to is what makes more sense for the type of shooting that you do. Below are some pros and cons for both workflows (and I am sure I have missed lots of pros and cons - feel free to let me know any I’ve missed):
• Super Fast Image Editing
• Spectacular User Interface
• Logical workflow progression
• Ability to Print and create Web Galleries directly from RAW image files
• Quick Metadata and Keyword Insertion
• Much faster editing and processing of a large number of images
• Have to Import images to work on them
• Slows down with over 10,000 images in the catalog
• For processing just one or two images this is a slower workflow
• ACR has the same RAW processing controls as Lightroom
• ACR Histogram is specialized to the chosen color space (Lightroom is locked into ProPhoto RGB color space with an sRGB tone curve)
• Don’t have to Import images to open in Bridge or ACR
• Ability to customize processing of RAW images with Photoshop Actions
• Slower, less precise editing features in Bridge
• Processing lots of images requires actions and can be slower than exporting images from Lightroom
• Much slower with editing and processing a large number of images
In the end I think it really comes down to the number of images you need to edit because Lightroom, at least in my experience, is many times faster in the editing phase of a workflow than a Bridge, ACR and Photoshop workflow. In my work, shooting adventure sports, I shoot many images even on quick stock shoots. I am almost always shooting at 5 frames per second or more so Lightroom makes more sense because it allows me to compare very similar images easily and mow through images quickly to find the real gems.
In contrast, as in Jamey Stilling’s case when he is shooting an ad campaign and fires off less than a hundred images the faster editing advantage of Lightroom isn’t such a big deal. The reality is that only one image is needed. And the odds are good that image is obvious even before the photo shoot is over because an assistant and the art director are reviewing images as they are being shot - so in this case working up that RAW image in ACR 4.1 which has all the same features and power of Lightroom makes a lot more sense. It doesn’t make sense to waste time importing images if all you need to process is one or two images.
If you are on the fence as to whether or not Lightroom is worth the extra $299 then maybe this will help. But for me, I’d say if I have to edit more than 100 images at any one time then Lightroom is the way I’d go for sure. Even in some cases where I only shot 50 images for an assignment, I have used Lightroom because I knew that I wanted to make virtual copies for black and white conversions.
The good news is that with the XMP sidecar files being written to your images (if you turn on that feature in the Lightroom and Bridge preferences) then Lightroom and Photoshop are totally compatible. So it is a win - win either way you go.
That’s it for this session. Hopefully you can get away from your computer and go have a few adventures. Now, please, for your own sanity, step away from the computer! It’s ok. It will still be there later. It won’t miss you too much…
Adios, Michael Clark
If you’d like to check out Nevada or Jamey’s work here are their websites: