Even though Photoshop is so incredibly popular its name is a verb, it's not for the faint at heart. Now that Adobe offers both Photoshop and Lightroom (plus other nifty goodies) for $10/month via its Creative Cloud Photography Program, a dirty little secret is creeping out of the image editing bag: it's easier to edit images in Lightroom than in Photoshop. Brace yourself and consider the following major advantages.
Powerful database with nondestructive editing
Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom doesn't edit your original images. Instead, it creates a catalog (database) of the images you tell it about through the import process. The images aren't squirreled away into some mysterious package file either, like in iPhoto. They live wherever you want them to on your hard drive.
Each image gets its own database record in which Lightroom stores a running list of all the edits you ever make to that image. Edits are only applied when you export the image, which creates a separate file. You can also create virtual copies of a photo within the database, enabling you to experiment with different effects without duplicating the original.
Because of its database model, you can undo anything you've done anytime you want using Lightroom's History panel, even after you quit the program. In contrast, Photoshop gives you 20 undos (called history states), but they're available only while that document is open. Close the document and its history resets.
While you can increase Photoshop's history states to 1000, your hard drive space will vanish at warp speed — for each history state, Photoshop creates another copy of your document each time you change something.
Easy slider-based controls
Unlike Photoshop's vast variety of image controls, nearly everything in Lightroom is controlled by sliders. Want to change exposure or contrast? Use a slider. Want to lighten shadows or darken highlights? Sliders. How about sharpening, adding a color tint or edge vignette? You guessed it...sliders.
Even Lightroom's local adjustment tools, including the Adjustment Brush and Graduated and Radial Filters, use sliders to affect certain parts of the image instead of the whole things — the changes only occur to areas you mark by dragging atop the image. Those local tools make it easy to fix overexposed skies, create partial color effects, add digital makeup, smooth skin, lighten teeth and wrinkles, enhance eyes, darken hot spots, add extra sharpening to specific spots, etc. Until we can edit images telepathically, sliders are as simple as it gets. (While you can access the same sliders and local adjustment tools in the Camera Raw plug-in that comes with Photoshop, only savvy photographers do.)
Healing and cloning
Lightroom's Spot Removal brush can be set to either healing (blends surrounding pixels) or cloning (copies pixels with no blending) mode, meaning you can click, or click and drag, to remove blemishes, wrinkles, power lines, and more. You even get opacity control so you can dial back the strength of the change.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.