While the software’s official name is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, in this article I’ll simply call it Lightroom or Lightroom 3.
Lightroom’s primary advantage over Photoshop is that Lightroom uses non-destructive editing. Processing the same 12MB raw file in Lightroom adds only a few additional kilobytes to my hard drive. You won’t have several separate image files representing different versions of your photos to keep track of. You can re-process the image – or instantly reset the image to remove all adjustments – at any time without any loss of quality.
If you’ve been using Photoshop’s companion program, Adobe Bridge, to import and organize your images, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Bridge was designed primarily as a media manager to allow different Adobe software to work together. Both Bridge and Lightroom allow you to do some common tasks such as importing images from your camera and adding color labels and star ratings. The primary difference between Lightroom and Bridge is that Bridge is a file browser while Lightroom is a database.
Lightroom stores image thumbnails and data about images – such as keywords and ratings – in its own database which is called a catalog. In Bridge, you must navigate to the folder you want to work on and wait while Bridge reads the image data and creates temporary thumbnails for you to view. In Lightroom, once the image has been imported, the data stays in the catalog and is read instantly when the image is displayed. The more images you have on your computer, the more you’ll appreciate this speed advantage.
With Lightroom, you can search its entire database including all of your external hard drives in almost no time. As an experiment, I searched my main hard drive for all of my images containing the word “California.” I have over 23,000 images of California, so I expected this to take a while. The image adjustments and processing that we photographers need to do every day can all be accomplished in Lightroom’s Develop module.
Add a gradient filter – similar to using a graduated filter on your lens but much more powerful. Local adjustments via the Adjustment Brush – manually apply seven different adjustments to small areas of your image including exposure, saturation and more. Color – adjust overall saturation and vibrance or saturation, luminance and hue of individual colors. Convert to black-and-white with full control over the color mix to alter dark and light areas. Correct lens distortions – Lightroom includes profiles for many different lenses so this can be done automatically.
Lightroom 3 includes dozens of presets allowing you to instantly create all sorts of color and black-and-white effects – or create and save your own presets. If you have a bunch of images that all need the same processing – say some images that were all captured using the wrong white balance setting – you can correct one and easily apply that same correction to every other image with a few mouse clicks. Slideshow – create a simple slideshow with music that can be viewed in Lightroom or saved as a video file. Print – use layout templates to print single images or picture packages with multiple images on one sheet or create your own layouts. Web – choose from a slew of web gallery templates (both HTML and Flash) to create sophisticated photo albums for your website and upload them directly from Lightroom.
Once you’ve completed your work in Photoshop, close the image and the changes are saved in Lightroom.
I think you’ll find that Lightroom is far superior to iPhoto or any other image browser.
It’s like an additional step, organizing pics this way, feels like a detour to me, no direct access to my pictures. Except for a few small catalogs made specifically for certain projects, I do keep all of my images in one big Lightroom catalog. Also, there is no reason you couldn’t use Bridge for some operations and Lightroom 3 for others. The trial version of Lightroom is unrestricted: anything you can do with the full version, you can do with the trial version.
Getting set up to print in Lightroom is a bit different than Photoshop, but once you get used to it, I think you’ll like it better. While Lightroom has become a necessary tool for my black and white art photography, at least for the small fraction of it that originates digitally.
The Folders sub-panel on the left side of your Lightroom 3 screen displays folders in the tree structure you mention.
If the Folders sub-panel does not match the structure you see in Windows Explorer, it’s probably because you have images on your hard drive which have never been imported into Lightroom. As long as your photos are organized on your hard drive the way you want them, the Lightroom catalog will be organized the same way as your current Elements catalog. To send images to Mpix or any other printing service, you simply use Lightroom’s EXPORT button.
Other print services may also have plugins available, but apparently Mpix is not one of them.
For the second part of your question, the best answer is to always use Lightroom to locate and work on images. Lightroom stores the original, unaltered photo on your hard-drive along with a separate, small file of instructions on how to render it based on the adjustments you’ve made in Lightroom to color, cropping, etc. If you were to view the image outside of Lightroom, you would only see the original, unaltered image. I haven’t used Elements much, but the gradient-filter tool in Lightroom 3 is very powerful.
The gradient can affect not only exposure, but also saturation, sharpness, contrast and a few other adjustments. For local adjustments of color, exposure, sharpening and such, Lightroom has a tool called the Adjustment Brush.

Since you need new software to process the raw files from your new Rebel camera, I’d suggest buying Lightroom 3. You’ll want to install the Lightroom software on the drive that holds all of your other software.
When it comes to creating your Lightroom catalogs and storing your photos, you do have choices.
Be careful about deleting photos or moving them from your laptop to the external hard drive. Your best bet is to move all the images to your external drive BEFORE creating your catalog.
Since the FZ100 is a relatively new camera, I doubt that Photoshop 7 will be able to process raw images from the FZ100.
Once the catalog is created, any moving of files from one folder to another or from one drive to another MUST be done in Lightroom. Alan, Thank you for summing up so many questions that I have spent weeks researching, you just cleared up in a great form. DxO FilmPack 4 also offers numerous original looks, filters, tonings, and visual effects, all of which can be infinitely combined and customized. Photographers who purchased a DxO FilmPack 3 license on or after March 1, 2013 are entitled to a free upgrade to version 4. This entry was posted in Photography and tagged adobe, dxo labs, lightroom, lightroom 5, photoshop, software, support. Subscribe to our daily newsletter and get the latest posts delivered straight to your inbox.
In a nutshell, when you process an image in Lightroom, the original image is never altered. Photoshop uses destructive editing, so working on the original risks altering it permanently.
Instead of storing a duplicate image, Lightroom stores only a small file of instructions which it uses to recreate your adjustments every time it displays the image.
It will show them on your screen as separate images and they can be organized individually if you’d like. Using Bridge, a file created in Illustrator, for example, can easily be located and incorporated into a Photoshop image or Dreamweaver website. This makes the job of editing the day’s photos or searching for images very quick compared to Bridge. If the image is located on an external drive that is not currently attached, Lightroom will still find it and display its stored thumbnail. Printing from Lightroom is a heck of a lot easier than Photoshop – and the colors are just as accurate. Group images located anywhere on your computer into a pseudo-folder without making another copy so that one click can display them all at once.
If you do need to make real copies of your images – as opposed to virtual copies – Lightroom includes several presets to create and save copies on the fly. If you like to add watermarks to your images before putting them on the web or when printing proofs for your clients, Lightroom’s sophisticated watermarking panel (available in the Slideshow, Print and Web modules) is right up your alley.
If you like to create composites, remove things from your photos (such as the dead tree trunk in the foreground that you didn’t notice until now), make painterly images, add text or create logos and other graphics for your website, you’ll need Photoshop.
This does create a second file, but there’s no avoiding it: that’s the way Photoshop works. As of July, 2011, the price for the full version of Lightroom 3 is hovering around $250at both Amazon and Adorama.  By comparison, the full version of Photoshop CS5 costs over $600 at both Adorama and Amazon.
The last Lightroom update from version 2 to version 3, cost $99 from Adobe and about $95 from Adorama. It costs only a few dollars more than ordering the boxed version from an online retailer, and you don’t have to wait for delivery. And you can set up Elements 8 as an external editor, so that you can send your images to Elements the same way that I described editing in Photoshop.
You’re right that searches (for keywords or anything else) can only be done in one catalog at a time. Mine runs 64-bit Windows 7 and has 8GB RAM, a 4-processor CPU and fast internal hard drives. If you find that Bridge searches more quickly for you, use it for that one purpose and use Lightroom for everything else that it does better.
All the printing settings are found in the Print Job subpanel which is at the bottom of the right-hand panel of the Print module.
I’m going to share this post with my dad, who is new to the world of digitsal phot editing. I nearly always find it difficult on an epic scale to find image files from within the software. Then you’ll be able to navigate through image folders in the Folders sub-panel, the same way you would with Windows Explorer. You can sort your folder-full of images by file name, capture date and several other criteria.
If you view your photos using Windows Explorer (or Mac Finder) without opening Elements, are the folders organized the way you want them? This will make a copy of your selected images and convert them to JPEG, or whatever other file type you need. So, when you look at a photo in Lightroom, it first reads the image file, then the instruction file.
When you export the image, then Lightroom makes a new file using all of your adjustments so that any other software can see the adjusted image. You can adjust the location and direction of the gradient and the size of the transition area. What I would do is to move all of my images to the external drive before I created my first Lightroom catalog. If you use the Mac Finder, for example, to move them, then Lightroom will not know where they are and you’ll have to manually tell Lightroom where to find the new folders. Photoshop will allow you to do more manipulation using layers, masking and such, but most photos don’t need that much processing.

In Elements 9 for Windows, you go to the IMAGE menu, choose RESIZE and then choose IMAGE SIZE. The Essential version costs $49 (down from $79) and the Expert version is priced at $99 (down from $129). In addition, 65 renderings and stunning visual effects are available to allow photographers to give their images greater emotional impact and an even more unique style, whether in color or in black & white.
Other customers are entitled to a special discount on their upgrade directly from their client account, through June 30, 2013.
I’m upgrading from Photoshop Elements (or Apple’s iPhoto), should I buy Lightroom or Photoshop? If I process one of these in Photoshop, the duplicate image will also be about 12 MB for a total of 24MB. So, for example, you might process one copy for use on your website and another to make a print and you don’t need to be concerned that adjustments to one copy might affect the other.
Lightroom, on the other hand, was designed from the ground up as an image management tool for photographers.
You’d have to search each hard drive independently and, if you have 60,000 images, that search will take up a good part of your day. If you want to work on that image, it will even tell you the name of the hard drive to plug in. Searching non-indexed files takes a lot longer than searching those already in the index, but even then, it is slower and less elegant than Lightroom.
Remember when we shot slides and we’d cross reference them in a card catalog so that we could locate that slide by location or by subject matter?
Lightroom can communicate with SmugMug, Flickr, Facebook and other online photo sharing sites so that you can upload images directly from Lightroom and any changes made online are automatically added to your Lightroom catalog. I predict that in some future edition, Lightroom will offer at least simplified layer and selection tools and maybe some text features too.
Lightroom automatically creates a new Photoshop .psd file which is a copy of your original image, adds it to your Lightroom catalog and opens it in Photoshop.
No other image management software has this level of support from software developers large and small. It takes 3 minutes and 50 seconds, on average, for the text on all the folder names to turn from light gray to white.
So, download the trial and try printing your files to see if you like the color any better.
I am thinking about upgrading to Photoshop CS5, but when I heard about Lightroom 3 it caught my attention as well.
For that reason, and more, I believe Lightroom will become the standard imaging software for digital photographers. But unless Aperture is already deeply ingrained in your workflow, I’d suggest switching to Lightroom.
With the Lightroom software on yet another drive, that makes a total of three drives that I use to run Lightroom – not counting backup drives. Otherwise it will lose track of the images and you won’t be able to do much with them. However, do do consider it as good as PS plug-ins like Neat Image, Noise Ninja, Topaz, etc? If that still doesn’t work for you, then you might need to invest in additional noise reduction software.
The Mac version undoubtedly has the same feature, although it may be located in a different menu. That’s why it has so many tools that photographers never use: animation, 3D, typography tools and the like. If you keep images on a removable hard drive, you’ll have to make sure it’s attached to the computer before you can search it. So, if someone comments on your Flickr photo, the comment can be stored in Lightroom along with the photo.
If you must use an external drive, make sure it connects via a faster method such as e-SATA, Firewire or the new USB 3. My thought is though, that Lightroom 3 and Aperture 3 have many common features and I am not sure if I should make that purchase. Already, there are outside developers creating plugins for Lightroom to extend its capabilities – far more plugins than are available for Aperture.
If your images are on an external drive that is not plugged in, you can still view the images, but you won’t be able to process them until you plug the hard drive in.
This could be useful if some parts of your image need more noise reduction help than others. I made a preset to do just that which creates a JPEG at 100% quality, sets the color space to sRGB, resizes the image to no more than 1200 pixels wide, sharpens it for the screen, and saves it in my desired folder. Photo 7.0 as a VERY amateur photgrapher, looking forward to doing much more with Lightroom.
I’m shooting with a Panasonic FZ100 which has known issues with its sensor, so NR of RAW is of special interest to me. Also curious to know what has been your most reliable external drive to store such large libraries on?
The trial copy of Neat Image is pretty impressive but would be more than the price of LR3 (teacher edition).
Thanks again for not only your article but your willings to give of yourself and help so many others. You can also create Smart Collections which will automatically add images to the collection when they match certain rules that you’ve set such as those containing a certain keyword or star rating. Is there an option for a simple tree structure display of the hard drive in question available within Lightroom and I’m just missing it? Can Lightroom 3 and Elements 9 be used side by side or if I purchase either Lightroom 3 or CS5 should I delete Elements 9?

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