I recently attended a presentation by a photographer on the topic of taking great photos with your smartphone. Most non-photographers likely take more photos with smartphones than with cameras, so helping people do a better job of it is worthwhile. What struck me was his strong preference for editing photos in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), rather than Lr (Lightroom). The editing capabilities of each are essentially the same. So here I’d like to offer a case for using Lr instead, bearing in mind that if you have invested in an Adobe “Photographers Package”, you already have Lr, Ps (Photoshop), and ACR.
- By avoiding Lr you sacrifice DAM (Digital Asset Management). Your image files are your digital assets. Lr creates a database of your files, remembers where they are, and lets you process them without changing the original file. This is the heart of non-destructive editing. All edits are stored in the Lr database, and in .xmp ‘sidecar’ files. To create image files, with your edits, you export them, this will make a new image file, your original remains untouched. And this barely scratches the surface.
- You don’t need to know where the files exist on your drive(s). I don’t recommend this, it’s best to keep everything in one master folder to make backup simpler. But you could have image files on several drives, internal, or external.
- Importing files into Lr is not really a difficult concept. Some disagree, but that is most likely because they already have a workflow that suits them and are comfortable setting up a directory structure. With Lr you don’t need to be concerned about doing that, it will set up the structure the way you specify, or it will default to saving things in one master folder organized by date.
- Lr lets you organize your files without moving them. You can find your photos based on keywords you assign, by date, camera, f-stop, focal length, pretty much anything. Don’t remember where last June's vacation pictures are? No problem, have Lr search for pictures taken last year in June, they’ll be there.
- Need to take an image into Ps for more extensive editing? You can ‘round trip' it from Lr, and make further edits after it’s back in Lr.
- To me Lr is easier to use than ACR, and you are not sacrificing quality. Lr uses the same algorithms as ACR. There are few things that can be done in ACR that Lr cannot do, but you'd be hard pressed to find one that matters, in normal operation.
- There is so much that Lr can do that ACR cannot, why wouldn’t you want to use it? If you have current versions of ACR and Ps you’re already paying for Lr.
- If I sound like a Lr fanboy, I’ll cop to it. Lr has it’s problems, all software does, unless you’re out on the bleeding edge, you probably won’t notice.
As a last thought: The presenter advocated shooting in RAW mode, which, if you are at all serious, you should be doing already. But you’ll probably be using a camera to do so, because unless you are using the very latest model smartphone, shooting RAW will not be an option.
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