An Alternative To Using Lightroom with Photoshop

Hey everyone. Yesterday, I wrote a post on my personal blog ( about how I think the new version of Photoshop Elements (version 11) is really the best version of Elements yet. From teaching the Lightroom seminars I teach, I’ve learned that most Lightroom users don’t really want to jump into Photoshop. And when they do, they have a very simple list of things they want to do. Maybe some more selective adjustments with Levels, Hue/Saturation, Layers, masks, etc… Or maybe they want to quickly remove a telephone wire or some portrait retouching. And maybe they even want to make selections of parts of their photos and adjust, move, composite or whatever.

Well, Elements let’s you do all of those things. These days, it’s hard for me to point most of those folks to the full version of Photoshop anymore. Elements has almost the same retouching tools that the full version of Photoshop has (it’s got most of the ones that I use at least). And it’s got many of the same adjustments. Plus, layers and masks are the same. And finally, Elements 11 added the same Refine Edge technology that Photoshop CS5/CS6 have. And best of all, you can jump in to Elements directly from Lightroom so you can still use the two together.

Now, there’s definitely more stuff for Camera Raw in Photoshop CS5/CS6. In fact, ACR in Photoshop CS6 is the same as the Develop module in Lightroom 4. Which is exactly why (if you were a Lightroom / Elements user) I wouldn’t worry about it. You already have all the Camera Raw stuff here, so you’re probably not doing the raw editing work in ACR anyway.

Some one on my blog wrote a comment that I thought was perfect. He called Lightroom and Elements the “$250 digital darkroom”. I couldn’t agree more. For $250 you can have everything you need to professionally edit your photos. Here’s the link to the Elements website. They have a 30-day trial so I’d suggest giving it a try if you’re looking for an inexpensive alternative to Photoshop. Have fun!



  1. Donald Noble 15 October, 2012 at 15:50 Reply

    Trying out PS Elements 11, which is a bit of a set up from PSE 6 that I am currently using, but I don’t see that may differences.

    Unless I am mistaken, it is still not possible to edit the ‘original’ DNG file without having the full version of Photoshop. If I’m wrong, I’d love to hear how to do this.

    Secondly, is it possible to get rid of teh feature bloat that is the Element’s Organiser? I am using Lightroom for that purpose, so have absolutely no need for this…

    Keep up the good blog and LR tips though – just downloaded your ‘fall’ presets, which should some in handy for photos I took at the weekend 🙂

    • Matt Kloskowski 15 October, 2012 at 17:28 Reply

      I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think PSE 11 is a big step up for photographers. Definitely a HUGE step up if you’re on PSE6. Well worth a $79 upgrade.
      As for the organizer, don’t know of any way to remove it. Just don’t open it and you’ll never have to see it 🙂

  2. sith1970 2 October, 2012 at 12:23 Reply

    Yes, i agreed with Wayne. Photoshop – excellent as it is – is too much for me. Too many features I never use. So I would feel like I´m wasting money on PS6 (and we all know is no cheap piece of software). Elements is much closer to my humble, aficionado needs and it seems like the perfect solution. However, PS works in 16 bits and Elements only in 8 bits and that´s an automatic turn off. Why the step down in quality in that particular area?

  3. Wayne 30 September, 2012 at 22:13 Reply

    The editing features of Elements is probably all I need, but it would be a lot more attractive if it worked with 16 bit files.

  4. Deena 30 September, 2012 at 16:13 Reply

    Matt, I can’t find anywhere to post a general question so I’m sorry to leave this as a comment here. But, do you have any coverage of using Lightroom for importing video from camcorders and miniDV tape? It seems that the only solution is to import video from tape into iMovie and then maybe export it to disk and then manage it with LR from there. I was wondering if there is an easier way to just bring it directly from miniDV (Sony HDR-HC3) into disk or Lightroom. Thanks.

  5. Golfzilla 27 September, 2012 at 23:35 Reply

    Instead of PS6 I went the Elements direction already. I have yet to jump to Elements to a/the final cleanup. Having said that, I am a nik believer.

    @christine: don’t mess around, get LR4 ASAP, you will not be disappointed.

  6. Mike F 27 September, 2012 at 19:37 Reply

    When you do this what is the best file type to open in? PSD or Tiff? If it is not something I am overly concerned with I tend to open in JPEG to save on the file size compared to Tiff but should I at least be opening in PSD?

  7. Irene S 27 September, 2012 at 17:38 Reply

    Great post Matt, this is why I love ur site and miss you.

    Would love to see a follow-up post on specifics as other comments might suggest.

    If I am critical of your not posting as frequently as you used to, It’s just I am jealous of your other lover – the Ski report.


  8. PdPhoto 27 September, 2012 at 15:59 Reply

    Wow…I was just wondering about this the other day when I saw the new version of Elements. Thanks for the writeup. I’m using the trial of Photoshop CS6 now and will try Elements after to see if I lose anything.

  9. Paul Scott 27 September, 2012 at 10:11 Reply

    Matt – Thanks so much for this information regarding Elements and its capabilities. The tools you identified are the exact ones that I use 99% of the time. I have a “copy” of PS CS3 which I want to quit using and purchase a “real” version to go with my “real” version of LR3, but $700US, yikes. Having just retired and doing photography as a hobby and not a business, $250 (or less with LR upgrade) to have a licensed version of each is perfect! Thanks again for the useful and practical information that you consistently provide on your blogs.

    • Mika 30 September, 2012 at 18:22 Reply

      Yes, there is a workaround. PSE 11 has a Actions panel and can additionally load actions saved in any CS version or downloaded from the internet. Albeit there is no way of recording or configuring actions in PSE. Those additionally loaded ones must use filters and plugins PSE owns, otherwise the action quits with an error message. PSE is capable of some cool actions I recorded once.

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