My Recapped Thoughts on “Lightroom Only” Month

Hi folks! Well the dust has settled and my week of traveling is over so I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and write the recap on Lightroom Only month. Overall, I enjoyed it. Because of my day job at KelbyOne.com, it was incredibly hard to keep up with the month (which is why I only did 4 out of 5 weekdays each week – I needed a day off). But I have to say that writing those posts, and reading your comments gave me lots of ideas going forward.

Oh, and before we get started, I wanted to let you know that I’ll put a new menu item at the top menu called “Lightroom Only Month” so you can quickly get back to any of the tutorials from last month. Ok, here we go…

A Look Back On My Predictions
Back in the original post, I had predicted I’d miss cloning/healing and most retouching tools in Photoshop. I also predicted I’d miss the use of Layers. And finally, I said that I’d become a big fan of onOne’s Perfect Effects 8 for contrast and details, and that I’d miss that too. Now, anyone that’s used Lightroom and Photoshop for a while knows that it didn’t take a rocket scientist to predict those, and in the end, I think they were all pretty right on. I will say this. I didn’t end up with the need to use layers as much as I thought. Maybe it was just my choice in photos for the month, but not having layers didn’t bother me too many times. That said, it’s those times where you do need layers, that you REALLY NEED them. Sometimes it’s not a “nice to have” feature – instead it’s a “gotta have” feature.

Next, Lightroom’s cloning/healing did the job as good as I’d want it to about 50% of the time. And I always wished I had the Dynamic Contrast filter in Perfect Effects to finish things off. There’s just something in it that Clarity in Lightroom doesn’t give me.

Anyway, here’s a quick recap of things I didn’t miss and things I did:

Things I Didn’t Miss As Much As I Thought

1) Cloning/Healing/Overall Retouching
While I did miss Photoshop’s retouching tools, I think Lightroom took care of most retouching needs for the photos I threw at it. I know it doesn’t include the “pro” level of retouching like Photoshop does. But I think the general population of people reading this probably doesn’t need that exact a level of retouching. Most people reading here aren’t fashion/beauty retouchers. From polls and overall “feel” of the audience on this blog, most of you are retouching people from weddings, events, and family portraits – not people that’ll end up on magazine covers. And for those images I think Lightroom is perfect.

By the way… I only scratched the surface of retouching with Lightroom. If you want to learn more about it, Scott Kelby has an absolute killer course on retouching in Lightroom 5 over on KelbyOne.com.

2) HDR & Panos
I don’t really combine exposures very much any more so I don’t use Photoshop’s HDR feature much. For the one HDR-like image I did last month, it didn’t bother me just using Lightroom. While I shoot most of my outdoor stuff bracketed, I only do it to be safe. I rarely merge HDRs anymore, so not having HDR was fine with me. I do stitch together panoramas every now and then. It didn’t come up last month because there’s really no substitute for it in Lightroom other than cropping the photo to “look” like a pano so I never bothered writing a post about comparing the two – it woulda been a short one :)

Things I Missed (sometimes)

1) Cloning/Healing
I know I said I didn’t miss cloning and healing above. But there were a few times I did miss cloning and healing in Photoshop. Mostly the Patch Tool. I love the patch tool for smoothing out areas that I fix, after I fix them. I can get close with cloning/healing but the Patch tool is a great way to retouch and remove distractions.

2) Layers
I definitely missed layers in Photoshop. For example, I use the focus stacking concept I talked about in Day 11 a lot, to help keep everything in focus. That’s one area that Lightroom can’t help so I’d need layers in Photoshop (or Elements or onOne’s Perfect Layers). In fact, I use layers on my long exposure photos sometimes to blend in still objects from a single exposure, with the rest of a long exposure photo (where something may be blurry because it was moving). Wasn’t much of an issue on Day 7′s Long Exposure edit, but it does come up in my long exposures fairly often.

3) Selections
I would have loved to use the selection tool to darken the background on Day 10′s wedding portrait (photo courtesy of Pete Collins). Instead I used the Radial Filter to put a spotlight on the couple, but I think making a selection of the background would have helped here instead. The same thing would have helped on Day 5 portrait edit too.

4) The Perfect Effects Plug-in from onOne
I love my Dynamic Contrast preset in onOne Perfect Effects 8. I would have loved it on Day 15′s HDR photo. Day 13′s Cloudy day photo. Day 7 & 8 longer exposure photos and especially Day 6′s contrasty black and white.

5) Dodging and Burning
This one was interesting. Before last month, I used to do my dodging and burning in Photoshop out of habit. I know Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush does something similar, but I always just felt more comfortable with Photoshop’s brushes and layers. During the month, I did find I could do a lot of my dodge/burn work in Lightroom. However, after reverting back to Photoshop for it, I still do feel more comfortable there. It’s definitely a “feel” thing. Being able to dodge/burn on separate layers, while making random quick selections of certain areas if I needed, and being able to control the opacity of those changes in a more refine way helps out. Would anyone really be able to tell in the final photo? Probably not. It’s definitely more of a personal “feel” kinda thing but I’m okay with that. If I’m trying to be quick, I’ll probably do my quick dodge and burn in Lightroom. If it’s a photo I’m going to print and put in my portfolio, then I’ll probably still jump over to Photoshop for it.

Final Thoughts
Final thoughts are that Lightroom is one kick-ass program. I know I’m preaching to the choir here because the fact that you’re on this website probably means you’re a LR fan. Are there tasks that Photoshop does better? In some cases, yes. But I think overall, Lightroom does about 80-90% of what most photographers want to do. And it seems that percentage just gets higher and higher in each version.

Thanks for stopping by today (and last month). I’m going to put the list of tutorials from last month up in a menu at the top called “Lightroom Only Month” so you can go back and read any of them without searching all over. See ya!

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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8 Comments

  1. Hey Matt,

    I agree with you 100% … after all you’ve taught me everything I know in LR and PS. :-) I couldn’t see what you were so hooked on about with onOne’s dynamic contract. I used it a couple of times, but it just made things look weird to me. Then I did my long exposures a week or so ago and thought … Matt really likes this Dynamic Contrast, I’ll try it one more time. Well, I finally got the feel of the plug-in and now I love it!!! I can see why you like it so much. I just didn’t mess around enough with the sliders and opacity settings. So, I’m hooked!

    This was a Great series to follow up on. Even though I watch your classes and read your books, the refresher was awesome for me! Thanks for taking the time to do this.

    Dennis

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  2. It was a great series for me because I DON’T usually use Photoshop, and it is good to know that I’m not missing much. I do use OnOne, though. What would be great would be a 3-Way competition… PS only vs LR only vs OnOne only… all on the same photo… not to get the same outcome but rather to exploit to the limit what each one does best, ie give us insight into where we may need to invest. I suspect that, for photographers, LR + OnOne have everything we’d normally need, but you’d know the truth better than any of us.

    Thanks for a great series, come to the UK soon.

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  3. I’m curious about your mention of the patch tool ‘after’ you make a fix. I find myself making “just ok” fixes in some images, only to find that I can see the fix. I’d like to hear/see more on what you do to smooth out your fixes!

    I liked the whole “LR ONLY” month, it definitely adds to ones skills and capabilities!

    Thanks for all the info!

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  4. What a great series, Matt. I really enjoyed it, and I learned a lot. Further, I am so never going to use Photoshop, if I can help it, because the program is so engineered for graphic artist thinkers——no, you don’t have to be a graphic artist to use it, but if you don’t even have a smidgen of how to make sense of a program like PS, which I do not, not even close, PS is then nothing but frustration after frustration.

    So seeing you work with LR only was not only a learning process but an encoragement, because for what I want to do, you proved it can all be done in LR; all that you did in LR was as far as I will probably ever want to go in post-production. (Yeah, now watch I end up falling into some trillion dollar photo shoot deal and find myself clammering for…for…PS! I’ll pass, thank you very much!)

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  5. Well done series Matt. For me it’s the content-aware fill tool. If LR had this ability then I would rarely go to PS.

    I’m also in love with the Dynamic Contrast presets in Perfect Effects. Like you said it’s hard to get that “crisp” finish within LR. I have tried a few of the other PE filter sets and they are great too. So happy to have downloaded it for free. Thanks OnOne and Matt!

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  6. Great Series Matt, I really learned a lot watching how you did your edits in Lightroom. I do have both LR and PS because of the awesome deal Adobe is doing for $9.99/m. But I find myself always trying to stay in LR as much as possible for two reasons. The first and biggest is I am not that fluent in PS and just use it for Content-aware/cloning. But even then I still try to do as much as I can in LR. The other reason I don’t like to go edit in PS is I don’t like making another copy of my photo and separating it from the edits I’ve done in LR. I have it built to make a .tif when editing in a plug-in but when it comes back to LR all the edit in the development module are zeroed out. I know the edit is there because of the way it works, but I think if I ever have to go back and change something I have to do it again in LR and then take that new edit back into PS and do my outside edits again. Plus then you have two photos you have to deal with, the RAW file with LR edits and the PS .tif, which then adds extra size to your hard drive. So I only take it into a plug-in unless I absolutely have to. I’m sure this is probably the wrong way to think about it but it just seems an easier work flow. But I’d love to hear arguments on why you’d want to take most of your photos out of LR and into a plugin/PS. Am I missing the boat somewhere with that philosophy :)

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  7. Completely agree, Matt. I have met a good number of photographers who have all the software and plug ins, and with all those choices, they can get confused on which to use that it becomes a hindrance to their creative process. My suggestion is to simplify, focus on their images and just use Lightroom. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. I do learned a lot from this tutorials. I came back from a trip to the Smoky Mountains and I been using your techniques and is incredible the results that I an getting. Thanks for sharing and keep your excellent work. I love to participate in one of your Landscapes workshop, so please keep me posted. Regards,

    Ed

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