John Frinking posted an article to his blog giving three reasons why he refuses to use Lightroom. While he’s certainly entitled to his opinion, I thought I’d spend a moment to clear the air and address some of his concerns. First, what is FUD? FUD (rhymes with ‘thud’) is a techno babble acronym for “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt”. Generally it refers to misconceptions or inaccurate statements about how something works and why you should stay away. See Wikipedia (what else?) for more.In Brian’s article, his first point is his main concern – but his fear is based on FUD!
I’ve been hit with database issues in the past… I like to keep things organized on a hard drive. What happens if you upgrade hard drives? …use different software? Yes, it is true that Lightroom uses a database.
However, it’s also true that Lightroom stores all of your images in folders on the hard drive and it can Keep *all* of the adjustments you make to your photos in the sidecar/XMP files (or within the metadata of DNG images).Lightroom uses its database to quickly and efficiently manage the data associated with your image library – the location & ratings of photos, thumbnails, metadata, keywords, collections, adjustment history, etc.
That’s a lot of stuff to be sure, but note that it’s entirely independent of your image files and adjustments! Your files live on the file system; the adjustments live in the metadata (so long as you set the “write changes to XMP” option).Disaster Strikes!So what happens if you were to lose your Lightroom Database? Well, it wouldn’t be the best day ever, but not the end of the world either.
Do you have a backup? You should – Lightroom automatically backs up your database once per week. Just roll back to that (it should go without saying that your Backup Workflow should extend to separate drives, online storage, etc.).Didn’t have a backup? Well, first, go to the store and buy a removable drive. Seriously, they’re cheap – especially compared to camera gear.
THEN, once you’re back up and running with your computer, you can just re-import everything into a fresh Lightroom… you haven’t lost much, since all of your files contain their own metadata & the photos themselves are already sorted on your hard drive.On Importing, Sorting, and DNG.
The Lightroom Import Module Is Great
You can have it done a wide variety of steps for you including. Pull files off of your memory card (duh) Store in folders based on your spec (I prefer: YYYY/YYYYMMDD_SHOOT_NAME) Rename files in a variety of ways (I prefer: rrd_YYYYMMDD_TXT_####.dng)Apply shoot-level keywords to each image. Simultaneously copy to a backup drive. Apply default RAW adjustments. Convert the RAW files to DNGPlus, once you have it the way you like Lightroom remembers your settings so all you do is change keywords & shoot-specific text.
Importing is now one step – you’re from card-to-hard [drive] almost automatically with everything in your preferred structure.Conversion to DNG is, of course, optional but I recommend it highly. I could go on for days about the benefit of storing data in a published spec, but that’s too far off topic. Instead, I’ll suggest it purely for the next-best feature: no more XMP Sidecar files!! The DNG spec can store both the RAW data and all of the associated adjustments & metadata in a single file – that in itself is a huge plus. Other hard drives, upgrades, etc.. So long as your storage system is somewhat sane, Lightroom handles storage on multiple drives with ease.
In fact, you can perform many operations on the files currently offline! Say you’re remote on your laptop and you want to find an image in your library – you can do pretty much everything you need short of exporting a full-res image without even connecting the USB drive that the image happens to be stored on.There are a variety of ways to work with multiple libraries, offline drives, etc.
A Huge Library
Within Lightroom – I’d hazard a guess that it’s a lot more capable in this area than you might think. So you see, the fact that Lightroom uses a database is wholly positive and is only used for features that require a database. With a huge library it’d be difficult (or at least painful) to search, sort, etc. across a traditional file system.
Lightroom handles all of this efficiently through its database and is smart enough to know what should be left in the file system. 2. REDUNDANT WITH BRIDGE/ACR …I’ve already paid for Photoshop… Lightroom is just Bridge+ACR… is it worth the additional cost? Brian is correct here: Lightroom uses the exact same RAW converter that Photoshop does via its Camera RAW module (ACR).
However, it is quite a bit more than just a combination of Bridge and ACR.Browsing through your photographs and making adjustments in Lightroom is a very fluid process. This is not my experience with Bridge + ACR! What is missing is the database back-end that Lightroom leverages make browsing quick and efficient. While Bridge can only provide views of the file system, LR is able to combine images, folders, etc. in almost any way you can think of – creating organic collections of files is a non-issue and even automatically… Want a view that shows you all of the files you’ve taken with the 24-70mm lens in 2008 on the 5d with the keyword ‘Tree’ (but not those with the keyword ‘apple’) and are rated 5 stars? Not a problem; it’ll even update itself as you import new photos.
Build A Collection Of Images
Want to build a collection of images that you’ve displayed at a particular gallery show? Just make a collection out of them and this view is always available to you – without requiring extra storage since the collection is just the info in the database. You can’t do that in Bridge! Also nice is that Lightroom treats all image files – not just RAWs – with the exact same interface.
When you do hop into Photoshop for some comping, etc., your PSD file can live right alongside (or even stacked with) your RAW file. Cropping, printing, adjusting, etc. is all the same from there. Better Have a Fast PC. One caveat to all of this is that to use Lightroom effectively you really must have a fast, modern system. I’m running on a quad-core system with 6GB of RAM…
You don’t need to go to that extreme, but if your computer is more than a couple of years old you’ll want to consider an upgrade.The Investment Decision: The comments here only apply if this is a business for you, obviously. If you’re doing this purely for fun then none of this rationale applies!! First off, the fact that you’ve spent money on your current solution isn’t relevant to the Lightroom decision.
While your significant other may will disagree, the decision should be based on whether you’ll realize net value through the purchase of LR – you can’t change the fact that you’ve already spent money on Photoshop. Plus, you still need CS3 for more in-depth edits. Lightroom has greatly reduced the time I spend in Photoshop, but you still need CS3 when it comes to hardcore edits. Plus, now that LR 2.0
Ships with localized edits I find that I can deliver a large percentage of images without ever entering into CS3… That’s a huge time & space saver: non-destructive dodging & burning (light painting) is an amazing thing. Having the organization and advanced editing capabilities right at your fingertips in a single app can save enormous amounts of time.3. MOB MENTALITY …LR has a cult following …I base decisions on my own needs I hear you’ brother! Lightroom is definitely mainstream, but it’s for good reason (see above).
You need to make your own decisions about the tools you use in your workflow and remember that it’s about making great images – not the tools you’re using to get there. That said, there’s something to be said for choosing the right tool for the job and I must say that I feel far more productive using Lightroom than I did with my previous Bridge+ACR workflow. Good luck and be sure to let us know when you’ve switched to Lightroom.