Lightroom is known by professional and amateur photographers throughout the world as a powerful photo editor and photo enhancement software. It’s a more basic alternative to Adobe Photoshop yet still offers a variety of Photoshop features and tools.
In this article, we’re going to breakdown the basics of Lightroom’s software as well as discuss some Lightroom alternatives and Photoshop alternatives (including a few free and open source softwares).
What is Lightroom and How is it Used?
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a post-processing software used by amateur and professional photographers alike to enhance their images. In addition to being a popular photo editor, it’s also a system built to manage your photos through importing and organization.
It’s known as a non-destructive photo editing software that keeps all of your edits and history in your Lightroom catalog. Users’ original files remain intact and give the user freedom to adjust the images at any time.
It has a simple and clean interface with plenty of tools that bring together post-processing, printing and sharing in one place.
Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a professional photographer, Lightroom is a professional tool that will yield professional results.
With Lightroom, users can create collections and slideshows, print books, and share directly to social channels. Basic editing tools include cropping, white balance, exposure, histogram adjustments, tonal curves, black and white conversion, spot removal, red eye corrections, gradients, local adjustments, sharpening, noise reduction, lens profile corrections, vibrance, saturation and more.
Popular Tools in Lightroom
- Red Eye Correction
- Graduated Filter
- Targeted Adjustment
- White Balance Selector
- Split Toning Panel
- Spot Removal Tool
The Pros and Cons
Lightroom focuses on adjusting the image as a whole rather than controlling the pixels (like in Photoshop). It’s said to be less complex and easier to learn with a more user-friendly interface.
The workflow and environment of Lightroom makes it possible to import your images, select them, tag them, organize them, and share them directly to social channels in a straightforward and easy-to-manage way.
The Non-Destructive Workflow
Lightroom doesn’t edit your original files — instead, your changes are stored in the Lightroom catalog file. You can feel free to experiment and get creative, while being assured that you won’t lose your original file.
The RAW Files
Process RAW files and easily make adjustments to certain settings like exposure and contrast. Work on noise reduction, add split toning, vignettes and more.
Lightroom presets are similar to those found in Photoshop. You can make individual adjustments and fine-tune until you achieve the look that you desire. Apply the presets to a batch of images simultaneously or work on images individually.
Lightroom doesn’t offer as much fine-tuning or control on the users end as a program like Photoshop — and if you’re looking to do extensive edits, it most likely is not the software for you.
The Image Manipulation
With Lightroom, you won’t be able to complete heavy amounts of image manipulation like you may in other programs. Again, it’s more basic (which is a plus — and also, a downside).
Lightroom costs about $299 — it’s cheaper than its Photoshop counterpart, but still pricey compared to other (often free) editors.
Alternatives to Lightroom
Luminar comes from the only photography developer recognized Best of the Year by Apple, 5 years in a row.
It’s more advanced than Lightroom and offers a wide variety of tools, filters and presets without the learning curve of Photoshop. While it provides professional looking photos, it can be used by both pro and amateur photographers alike.
It offers an easy-to-use and customizable interface that adapts to the user’s own individual style. From foliage enhancer to blend modes to the new Accent AI filter, Luminar allows users to fill their toolbox with uncomplicated and creative features.
It’s an intuitive image enhancement software that offers fast and easy presets for the beginner — and a range of complex layers for the more advanced editor.
It’s less expensive than Lightroom yet offers the same easy-to-use clean workspace (with the option of a wide array of powerful tools).
In essence, Luminar gives the Photoshop feel without the learning curve.
Photoshop offers the control for significant changes in your photos using a variety of tools. While some photographers may use Lightroom or a comparable software for most images, they may head to Photoshop for edits that require more complex approaches.
With Photoshop, the sky is the limit. And if you have the skills and the vision, you can most likely bring your idea to life (despite how crazy and out-of-this-world it may be).
Photoshop was originally created by Adobe for simple photo editing, but has since expanded to be used by everyone from publishers to architects to photographers. It’s a pixel level editor, which means you can get radically close to the dots of color that combine together to create your image or scene.
There seem to be a few areas where most professional photographers agree that Photoshop greatly outshines Lightroom. Photoshop offers Advanced Retouching, Advanced Healing and makes Composites possible, allowing the user to take pieces of different images and combine them into something new and incredible.
Overall — Photoshop, though it requires more involvement and complex learning from the individual user — allows the freedom of advanced image enhancement and edits.
Pixlr Editor is a webapp that offers various features for editing photos. In it, users will find adjustments, filters, and layers and basic features like cropping, resizing and more.
It offers a similar sort of basic approach to photo editing as Lightroom, yet it’s free and runs in your browser.
It gives you control over your images, including layers and effects — and ensures that no matter where you are, you can get your edits done. It offers intuitive image editing with a range of filters and effects.
Though it doesn’t have the full range of features and tools seen in some of the other editors, it’s a simple program that gives users the necessary components needed to get beautiful end results.
Work with over 2 million combinations of free effects, overlays, and filters and when you’re all finished — upload directly to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social channels.
GIMP is a powerful and popular cross-platform image editing software available on GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and more operating systems. Like Pixlr, it’s entirely free, yet it comes packed with an incredible amount of features. You can also change its source code and distribute your changes.
It offers a customizable interface as well as utilities and tools that make retouching simple. It offers high quality image manipulation from retouching to restoring to creative composites.
Like Photoshop, GIMP can be used for producing icons, graphic design and art for user interface and mockups.
It offers color management features for high-fidelity color reproduction across both print and digital medias.
Overall, for a free software — it offers flexibility and creative components with a good level of customization.
Lightroom is an amazing software with a devout following and fanbase of both professional and beginning photographers.
It’s basic while still offering the necessary tools needed to create an amazing end result.
However, what Lightroom lacks in certain areas — these alternative photo editors make up for.
Whichever editor (or editors) you choose, our hope is that they give you that perfect end result you’ve been dreaming of.