What does this forum think of lightroom?

I have almost no experience with lightroom/ACR, but I like the look people get out of it. What do people on this forum think of it, and how it compares with Rawtherapee/Darktable. How does lightroom handle things such as highlight reconstruction and difficult colours (blue), as compared to Rawtherapee/Darktable.

Any interesting comparisons?

I think what we are missing most from LR is really good cataloging inside our editors. And LR baked-in edge case workflow features, we don’t have those features.

As far as the editor goes, its basically enhanced jpeg editing, they tie you to your manufacturer’s look too much. They have done a nice job making some complicated things into single slider solutions that mostly work.

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Adobe products are good at what they are intended do but when it comes customer relations, bug fixing and feature fulfillment we are down the gutter. (And don’t forget about the subscription service and constant phoning home. When you stop paying, you are locked out of your edits unless you export them.)

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Speaking as someone who makes software, I try not to think of Lightroom at all; I want to have no preconceived notions about the way things should be when designing the user interface or tools.

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I think that Lightroom produces the best results for the least amount of time. No other raw processing software can compare with Lightroom in that regard. Lightroom is the king atm.

One hope is Darktable moving to vkdt and improvements in some key features. But at the current speed by the time that’s ready Lightroom will be improved further and probably use ML in it’s features so then it will escape the reach of FOSS software for good 10-15 years.

But it’s a good thing to keep Darktable close, develop your skills in it. You never know how things might pick up for it and maybe it becomes the go to software for raw development. It’s close but not yet there tho.

Lightroom is basically the industry standard for raw development, if there is such a thing. That’s basically because of marketing, but also because it produces very good results in a very short space of time and doesn’t require much knowledge of raw development. Because so many influencers use it, it is regarded as the “default” software when learning digital photography.

Arguably, it is also very good value if you get the Photography package with Photoshop included and you are a professional. But, and it’s a big but, the extra cost is that you are then locked into a subscription and beholden to a commercial enterprise that can suddenly decide to retire the product at any point, which is what is happening to Lightroom Classic. Increasingly, they are pushing their agenda of the cloud + AI and too bad if you don’t want to go that route!

It is an excellent all-in-one solution for digital asset management and photo development, but it is quite limited for the latter compared to something like RT and darktable. You don’t really learn that much from using it, especially if you use their auto functions. I personally feel like it was good beginner software for me. RT, ART and darktable can be rough around the edges, but they are powerful and more “enthusiast” products in a way.

Do you mind giving some examples of what you mean here?

There are lots of file management functions we have requests for “because they’re in lightroom”. And indeed darktable is light on DAM features… Moving files around, archiving catalogs, multiple catalogs, panorama stitching…

Thanks! Interestingly, I don’t miss many of these features. Sure, it would be nice to right-click a photo and have a context menu with some options, but I can easily live without lots of these. I’m more interested in the darkroom module functionality: getting amazing image quality with powerful tools, which is the direction darktable seems to be going with the scene-referred workflow.

Yes, on the editor side, as far as I’ve seen, we aren’t missing much. Perhaps highlight reconstruction, but we have a robust toolset with darktable.

I really liked LR when I got back into photography. Realizing the potential of editing raw files was incredible and I liked the results on my .nef files. I also really liked the Library mode. But then the subscription model came in, and it became almost $200 CDN annually. Also right about the same time I moved over into Fuji cameras. To me, LR has never been able to demosaic fuji x-trans correctly, and even the “enhanced details” didn’t really work. Playing with RT and dt made me realize the potential of better demosaicing on my fuji raws.

So I quit LR - but ran into a killer deal on C1. V20 was good then V21 came out right when I found a bug in V20 that was fixed in V21. I complained and got a free upgrade to C1. It produces very good results although the DAM is not its strong point.

I still play with dt and really would like to move over permanently, but I still find dt hard to use well. Its extremely powerful and extremely complex, and I appreciate the more user controls it has, but it also takes more investment of time. I edit once a week, not nearly enough to become proficient in dt and understand what is going on. My job keeps me way too busy to find this time.

So I will continue to run C1 80% and dt 20% for a few more years yet until I retire - then I will plunge face first into dt.

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It doesn’t cross my mind much these days TBH. I haven’t used it many years. It could print solid gold $100 bills now for all I know, so take my ramblings with that in mind.

When I did use LR it was a solid tool but I’ve come to prefer libre software ideals It’s really a matter of priorities for me. I can do my work in a combo of LR and Kdenlive with a little bit of RawTherapee sprinkled in there. I’d rather support projects and people that aren’t looking looking to do the whole vendor lock in thing.

I do wonder if LR really is that good these days or how much of it is inertia. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into “well, Lightroom does X this way and since Darktable does X that way that must mean it’s wrong and/or garbage” logic when talking to people about it. Does Lightroom rule the market because it’s the best tool or is it the best tool because it rules the market? Most courses only teach Lightroom, if you’re learning from another photographer in an apprenticeship situation you’re probably learning Lightroom, etc. I jumped ship in the early Fuji X-system days partially because ACR did a poor job on the RAWs I thought. It’s far from perfect or even correct in many places IMO. I don’t think Lightroom is some gold paradigm of photo development, it’s just the 800lb gorilla in the room right now. Reminds me of Internet Explorer in the 90s or even Chrome today.

Adobe as a company on the other hand, well grandma always said if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all. [silence]

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I haven’t used Lightroom extensively. But I have access to a “free” version through my employer, and have on occasion spent time with it.

These days, my photographic work is mostly done in Capture One (for its quick workflow) and Darktable (for detailed edits).

The striking thing about Lightroom, to me, is its opinionated user interface. Darktable and Capture One and RawTherapee and ON1 and Silkypix and Luminar and ACDSee have sliders. You move them, you see a result. Lightroom has sliders, too, but sometimes they behave differently when you hold down a modifier key (ALT on masking-related sliders shows masks). The ranges on some of these sliders is very strange, with behavior changes at the half point of the highlights slider, for example.

And then there are these plain weird design decisions. It has brushed masks, but only as part of (in addition to) a radial mask. All its masks are drawn by click-and-drag from masked to unmasked. Except the radial mask, which draws from unmasked to masked. When cropping and rotating in Lightroom, dragging the mouse does not move the crop overlay, but the image underneath, which is deeply unsettling every time I do it.

Other weird things are the default interface of the tone curve, which uses the same black/shadows/highlights/white sliders as in the main group, but this time applies them to the tone curve instead. But there’s a teensy, tiny toggle in the corner of the tool that switches it to a full point curve. And let’s not even get started on Luma masking.

Many things are on the verge between “strange” and “broken”. Fuji demosaicing comes to mind, or the strong tendency to haloing on the highlights slider. Or the fact that only a very small subset of sliders can be applied to masks (in LR, you apply tools to a mask, not the other way around, as in DT), and they behave slightly differently to the “main” tools of the same names.

All of these things seem to hint at a long history and an unwillingness to part with old algorithms even if they are slightly broken. Probably something about backwards compatibility, and “what the customer wants”.

Despite this, many of Lightroom’s algorithms are quite good. Reconstruction of overexposed highlights is very robust. Edits are applied almost instantly, which feels fluid and smooth (even though other UI animations frequently struggle and glitch). There seem to be frequent image-adaptive behaviors that work well most of the time.

In summary, I find Lightroom significantly harder to learn than other programs, because many of its tools are so strange, and much of its functionality is hidden behind modifier keys and inconspicuous toggle switches. I also find the UI terminally ugly. But the algorithms mostly seem sound, the editing experience is smooth and streamlined, and the wealth of YouTube content and tutorials out there is staggering.

LR is like a stew (or sludge — take your pick) with so many ingredients that it is disjointed yet coherent given enough time with it. The reason for the mess is that it is a Frankenstein monster that are parts of everything that Adobe has made. So, to those saying that it saves time, no it doesn’t. It requires just as much to master, the difference being that it uses a different part of the brain and type of hand-eye coordination; and is non-FLOSS.

I don’t know about that…

While watching Germany’s Next Top Model with my S.O. (it’s entertaining from all sorts of different viewpoints: it’s heavy into photography, the models dress up in visually wild costumes, and there’s tons of dramady), I like to look at what the photographers do and what they use. (She basically watches it for the normal entertainment value, not the photo nerd side.)

Anyway, the photographers shoot with all sorts of cameras (a good bit of medium format and full frame — but even some APS-C cameras… from Hasselblad, Leica, Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc.). However, they’re not using Lightroom. They’re basically almost all using Capture One when showing the behind the scenes reviewing, often tethered wirelessly (but sometimes still with a cable).

Once in a while, they do not shoot tethered (usually when they’re at a beach or some other location where it’s not so practical), so there’s no way to know if it’s raw, jpeg, or what they’re using to process the photos. But more often than not, they have an on-set review area where Heidi Klum and others look at the photos while they’re being taken. This “live” reviewing adds another layer to the narrative. (Regardless, they nearly always quickly show the picked and polished-up photos during the sequences.)

Is Capture One what the photographers prefer? Is it mandated by the show? Is it a generally accepted de facto raw photo software used in the fashion industry? I don’t know. But I do know it isn’t Lightroom.

Here’s a screengrab from a somewhat recent photo shooting:


Source: https://youtu.be/HHD1WJhoEBs?t=567

Anyway, the point is: Not everyone uses Lightroom. It’s not an industry standard. (Many do use it, of course — especially hobbyists and small studios — but it’s not used everywhere.)

They are still probably using Adobe Photoshop even when using Capture One, though. (This is just a guess. GNTM never shows the retouching process, even when it’s obvious the picture has been doctored, like with wires removed, etc.)


But back to the topic of Lightroom:

Having used Lightroom for many years (and switching to darktable a few years ago): I fully agree with everything @bastibe said.

Lightroom is decently good by default, lets you do minor changes pretty easily, but starts to give wild results pretty quickly after that. Like any raw software editor, there’s a learning curve with Lightroom too. The difference is that the curve is a bit more subtle at first (compared to most other raw editors), but then drops off with functionality later. There’s a trade-off. For some people, especially hobbyists and semi-pros, that’s fine.

Perhaps pro-level model photographers know this and need additional retouching functionality without going into the realm of bizarro editing? And they usually choose Capture One as a result? Just a guess.

And, yes, Lightroom’s Fuji handling is not very good in so many ways. I’m especially thinking of the annoying “worms” due to the demosaicing process causing weird artifacts. There are so many blog posts and videos that mention this problem. It has gotten better over the years, but it’s still there. I’m glad that’s a thing of the past for me now, thanks to darktable.

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Nothing, nada, nichts. Never tried it, it doesn`t run on my operating system of choice and it is a commercial model I intensely dislike. I am aware of its existence, that really is all I can say.

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I never used it. I like to watch tutorials though since you can apply most of the stuff in RT or DT in some form. I like the interface I guess but there’s nothing in particular that I really miss in FOSS software. I use Digikam and RT, also Hugin and GIMP if I need to and that’s all I need, really. There are some Photoshop functions I’d love to have in GIMP, though…

My point was that it’s probably the closest we have to an industry standard. And of course that’s not the same thing at all as saying it “sets the standard”, which it doesn’t, or that most pros use it.

It seems to be the software that is used as a comparison for other software (Lightroom vs X) and general photography YT channels will often either use Lr or reference it whenever they are telling you how to edit, e.g. “This is how I do it in x, but if you use Lightroom, you can do a similar thing…”. As another commenter said, it’s the 800lb gorilla in the room, even though many pros may favour C1 or similar.

I don’t have access to current numbers, but I’d wager its user base is considerably larger than Capture One. An old Wikipedia page from 8 years ago claimed that 37% of pros used Lighroom, while 58% uses Adobe Camera Raw, which is essentially the same software. That’s a massive 95% of pros using Adobe’s software. Not sure how accurate those numbers would be today though, and that sample size was of just over 1000 pros in North America, so not empirical evidence.

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It’s worse than an industry standard, it’s a monoculture.

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And it is usually what is taught at universities. A crying shame, that, particularly for its idiosyncratic user interface (makes switching hard) and its subscription-only nature (encourages students to enroll as soon as they leave uni). But oh well, I guess the same argument could be leveled in almost every field, especially MS Office and Matlab, but probably countless other softwares in areas I don’t know as well.

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Sounds like a good plan. DT definitely rewards some time spent with it.

I’m a Fuji user too, but I knew DT before Capture 1, so when I got the free version of C1 with my Fuji camera, I had a play with it and actually couldn’t wait to get back to DT. It was simply familiarity, not so much anything to do with picture quality. I also wasn’t really impressed with the DAM features of C1 or the reliance on a catalogue. I like the sidecar files now that I’m used to them. But I was just using the Express version, maybe the pro version is a lot better.

But honestly, I’m happy with FOSS software. It’s just as good for the most part, sometimes better, and I much prefer the ethos behind it.

(P.S. @Bbawt, I also used to live in Victoria, BC. It’s lovely and I miss it sometimes.)

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