Lightroom Tips

If You Use Lightroom, Do You Need Photoshop CS6?

I’m in sunny (sorry, cloudy and maybe rainy) LA today teaching my Lightroom seminar, but I wanted to do a quick post about some questions I got the other day in my Minneapolis seminar. I had a few people ask me what was new for Photographers in Photoshop CS6 and was it worth it or not to upgrade since they use Lightroom mostly. So, I thought I’d compile a quick list of what I thought was important (as a photographer in CS6) and some honest commentary about whether or not you really “need” the feature. By the way… if you want to see videos on any of this stuff NAPP’s did a full Photoshop CS6 Launch Site and it has all of the features covered.

1. Camera Raw: Camera Raw is now up to par with Lightroom 4 so they’re basically the same thing (comparing to the Develop module of course). Sure, I use Lightroom most of the time, but I still use ACR too. When some one hands me a file to work on, I don’t import it into my Lightroom library and all that. I usually just open it up in ACR. If you find yourself editing random photos here and there, then you’ll want to consider upgrading.

2. Content Aware Improvements: To me, this is a must have. There’s a new Content Aware Move tool that let’s you move part of one photo to another and attempts to fill in the gap that you leave behind. With the right image, it works great. Wrong image… eh… But throw that in with the content-aware option added to the Patch tool and I think it’ makes a pretty compelling feature to consider for retouching.

3. New Adaptive Wide Angle Filter: This one is pretty cool. Lightroom has the Lens Correction panel which works great. But I have to admit, I’ve been jumping to Photoshop to use the new Wide Angle filter more often now if I’m trying to fix perspective problems from wide angle shots.

4. Background and Auto-Save: If you’re working with large images (especially when you consider the file size of images from, say, a camera like the new Nikon D800), you wind up spending a lot of time saving your images and waiting. With Background Save, you can continue to work while it saves in the background. It’s the kinda thing that you have to experience. If you’re not working with really large files, it’s probably not an issue. But if you are, you’ll probably upgrade in a heartbeat once you see this in action.

5. Blur Filters: The new blur filters are a little more gimmicky in my opinion. It’s not a huge selling point for me personally, but if you’re creative and like to mess around with pseudo-blur techniques, then it’s something you’ll at least want to check out.

6. Crop Tool: For Lightroom users, this one isn’t too overwhelming. We’ve had great cropping since Lightroom 1 so now Photoshop is catching up. Still, I crop in Photoshop a lot too, so it’s nice to have a similar experience now 🙂

7. The Dark Interface: It’s definitely not a huge selling point, but it does sweeten the pot. Especially for Lightroom users. Face it – our photos just look better against a dark interface right? 🙂

8. Video: If you’re shooting a lot of DSLR video, I think you’ll find that Photoshop may just be the tool that actually gets you editing video. My co-Photoshop Guy RC Concepcion said it best, when he explained that now we can edit video in a program that we’re used to working in, rather than learning an entirely new program to do it. I still haven’t caught the video “bug” yet, but I do have to say the upgrades Adobe has done with video have been catching the eye of even the video pros that are out there.

9. Skin-Tone Selection: If you’re adjusting skin tones, then the new feature in the Select > Color Range dialog can come in handy. For example, if you’re trying to remove the red from some one’s face, you can quickly select their skin tone and use Hue/Saturation to reduce the red (rather than manually brushing and masking). This one is a hard call for me. I totally think it’s a cool feature, it’s just not something I’ve used much yet so the jury is still out. I guess you have to think to yourself how many times you try to select some one’s skin. If that’s a lot, then you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this feature.

10. Overall speed improvements: Speed is always a tough sell. Once you use something that’s faster for about a day or two, it becomes second nature and it doesn’t “feel” faster anymore. So, to me at least, speed didn’t seem like anything great. But after using CS6 for a few weeks and going back to CS5 to do some videos a while back, I can say that the speed improvements are the real deal. I mean, I use Liquify all the time for retouching and that tool alone is 1000% faster than it ever was. Overall though, the whole program just feels zippier (I can’t believe my spellcheck didn’t come up on zippier!) 🙂

10.5. Some old tools return: They also added Lighting Effects and Contact Sheet back in. I guess you can call them features for photographers “technically”. Lighting Effects is definitely cool if you’re looking to add some mood to your photos. And if you’re creating Contact Sheets (which is back in CS6) that’s not a bad tool either, but if you’re a Lightroom user then we can just do contact sheets in the Print module.

If I had to choose, I’d say that Content Aware enhancements, the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter, Background and Auto-save, and the Camera Raw enhancements make the upgrade worth it for photographers. Throw in the speed improvements and I think any Lightroom user who uses Photoshop would be happy with their $169 (after NAPP member discount) upgrade cost. Hope this helps a little.



  1. Yucel 8 May, 2012 at 15:08 Reply

    I was with you… till you mentioned the NAPP membership discount…

    Then I got foggy… was thinking of joining the PPA… Now I have to investigate the NAPP too…


  2. RogerT 4 May, 2012 at 12:46 Reply

    You mentioned in the article that the upgrade price is $169 (after NAPP member discount). I’m a NAPP member and cannot seem to find a straight answer on this question. I purchased CS2 years ago and have upgraded to CS3, CS4 and CS5. Can I still get the upgrade from CS2 to CS6 for only $169? Some are telling me I need to buy CS5.5 first (full version) then upgrade to CS6. I’m genuinely confused about all of this. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Dave Kosiur 2 May, 2012 at 12:00 Reply

    To all –

    I now stand corrected. With the release of ACR 6.7 (on the Internet May 2, 2012), even PhotoShop CS5 maintains compatibility with Lightroom 4 through the new Process 2012 engine. The sliders for exposure, contrast, etc. are now the same and should be completely compatible with both programs.

    To me, that now means that upgrading to CS6 depends now whether or not I’m interested in the new features in CS6, and if I want to maintain my upgrade options when Adobe switches to a subscription-only upgrade policy (which I understand will be available to CS6 owners only).

    • Cheryl 3 May, 2012 at 09:48 Reply

      I upgraded ACR to 6.7, but when I open my Lightroom 4 files in ACR, I get a message saying, “The selected image uses Process 2012. Convert to Process 2010 to adjust settings. If I want to work in ACR 6.7 I have to choose Convert to Process 2010. Do you know a work around for this? I made sure my Lightroom 4.0 version was up to date.

  4. GeorgeP 30 April, 2012 at 21:07 Reply

    For those whom photography is a hobby and not a profession, the decision is less complex. Keeping up with upgrades to Lightroom is relatively simple – the data base attributes and “darkroom” tools make this product useful. However, keeping up with updates to Lightroom and PS is a different question. Now, the funds involved directly compete with disposable income that could be used for a new lens, flash, tripod, or light modifiers. I stay at PS6 because I can’t justify the expense of the leap to PS CS??. That $$$$ for the latest and greatest version of PS is close to a new macro lens! It also makes me think twice before I press the shutter . Maybe that is the real value of not having all the available tools of the “electronic darkroom.

  5. Gary Hess 29 April, 2012 at 13:30 Reply

    Great post.. as I am on the fence with PS6 upgrade. Long time user.. PS since version 3 and LR since version 1… loving LR4 and using it along side CS5.5 now… but the one thing you did not mention was the impact of Nik and One One plugins that do some (not all) things I used to go to PS for…. So, my question is, will those plugins work the same or be more capable with PS6?

  6. RON 29 April, 2012 at 06:09 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Hope you had a great weekend.

    I really enjoyed all the CS6 stuff last week.
    But I have a question that I’m not sure many have noticed yet that PS cs6 is available for XP sp3 but LR4 is not. I recall in the LR4 launch, Tom said something to the effect that XP sp3 was an out dated OS. I just don’t understand why we can still get PS cs6 for our XP systems but not LR4?


    System requirements

    Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor
    Microsoft® Windows® XP* with Service Pack 3 or Windows 7 with Service Pack 1
    1GB of RAM
    1GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on removable flash storage devices)
    1024×768 display (1280×800 recommended) with 16-bit color and 512MB of VRAM
    OpenGL 2.0–capable system
    DVD-ROM drive
    This software will not operate without activation. Broadband Internet connection and registration are required for software activation, validation of subscriptions, and access to online services.† Phone activation is not available.


    System requirements

    Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor
    Microsoft® Windows Vista® with Service Pack 2 or Windows® 7 with Service Pack 1
    2GB of RAM
    1GB of available hard-disk space
    1024×768 display
    DVD-ROM drive
    Internet connection required for Internet-based services*

    • Matt Kloskowski 29 April, 2012 at 14:16 Reply

      Hi Ron. I’m not really sure of Adobe’s thinking on this. They don’t consult me for this stuff. All I can say is that XP is indeed an outdated OS. Perhaps Photoshop has underlying code since it’s so old that allows it to continue to be used on XP. The Lightroom team obviously wanted to do more with Lightroom 4, and because of what they wanted to do, they weren’t able to make it work with XP. In the end, I’m not really sure. But I can tell you this. Microsoft barely supports XP anymore so why should Adobe?

      • RON 30 April, 2012 at 23:12 Reply

        your right Mattt,

        I just found it strange. and if you also noticed they dumped vista off Photoshop cs6 as well. but we all know vista was …well you know.

        Thanks Matt 🙂

  7. Alan Lafo 28 April, 2012 at 13:51 Reply

    Fantastic LA seminar. Thanks for all the good info! Since we couldn’t ask questions (lol) I didn’t ask if you share that frame for photos that you showed in the Print session. After spending HOURS doing that in Photoshop I’d like the quick and easy one you have. I’ve downloaded the presets. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Gene Kimball 26 April, 2012 at 12:34 Reply

    I bought PS CS4 first after using PSP for years. It was a huge difference though the learning curve is quite steep. Then, I heard about LR and did not want to buy it because of ACR. So, I tried LR and fell in love with it. I am grateful that Adobe has trial periods else I might not have taken this step. Now, thanks in part to Kelby Training, I use BOTH programs and love it. PS kicks in where LR leaves off in the editing that I like to do. LR is a great organizer and primary editor. With PS, the sky is the limit because it is so robust. It has layers, layer masks, paths, channels, adjustment layers and so on. I guess it depends on how much editing you want to do or how much fun you think you can stand when you have both programs. Yes, like you, I use ACR for photos that are not mine and thus no wish to keep in a library. I have been doing some scanning of old family photos and find that PS is more of a benefit there than LR because there are so many problems asssociated with the original prints, negatives and slides. At any rate, I love both programs and have not regretted paying out the initial costs of either program. And both programs have so many third party filters that can make them more robust and time-efficient. These programs really are the de facto standards of photographic editing. To anyone wanting to check it out, I encourage using the trial period offered by Adobe and see whether or not it is what is needed in that person’s workflow.

    • NikonC 23 May, 2012 at 04:20 Reply

      Now THIS is the information I needed. Thank you very much for this post. I am a newbie at using LR 4 and wondering if I need PS. I think I do. Thanks again.

  9. John Wilson 26 April, 2012 at 11:11 Reply

    You are my #1 guy for analysis and comments on the combination of LR and PS. Your list looks complete but I’d only add that over time users innovate additional synergistic ways to integrate the two. Couple that with all of NAPP training and materials always use the latest PS version, making it a must-have upgrade.

    The speed improvements alone are worth the upgrade; the LR team should take notice and likewise respond.

  10. Dave Kosiur 26 April, 2012 at 11:10 Reply

    Wait a minute! You mention a lot of new features – many of which I have no need for – but fail to mention the deal-maker/breaker in Photoshop. That’s raw engine compatibility. CS5 does not recognize the new controls and options in Lightroom 4’s 2012 process engine, so you have NO CHOICE but to get CS6 if you plan to use Photoshop with Lightroom 4. Your item number 1 in the post fails to mention that.

    • RON 30 April, 2012 at 23:21 Reply


      hows that? I use lightroom to process my Raw files. And if they are done in 2010 or 2012 it doesn’t matter much after they are processed. I only use ACR in Photoshop for that one or 2 images that I want to make corrections to that Lightroom can’t do or that it doesn’t do as well as Photoshop.

      And if you want to edit in from lightroom to PS Lr makes a 300dpi Tiff and when your done you just save ( not save as ) and its re imported back in to LR and you can further tweek.

      • Dave 1 May, 2012 at 12:38 Reply

        Ron –

        If you do not have ACR 6.7 (which is only available for CS6), the new sliders and their settings in Lightroom 4’s 2012 process engine are not understood by Photoshop/ACR. That’s why you get a message in Lightroom 4 when sending a file to Photoshop 5 about the settings. (I forget the exact wording of the message, but if you click OK, any changes in the Process 2012 sliders are not sent to CS5.)

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