Musings on Photography

Giving Up on Adobe Lightroom

Posted in Adobe Lightroom, photoshop by Paul Butzi on May 23, 2007


I really, really wanted to like Adobe Lightroom.  After taking it for a  pretty solid spin around the block, though, I’ve finally given up.

The primary reasons for giving up are:

  • It has silly limitations (like the 10k pixel limit) that prevent me from using Lightroom for all my images.
  • It’s just too slow.  My main machine is reasonably fast (2.2 GHz dual processor, 3GB of ram) and Lightroom is often frustratingly slow there.  On my laptop, it’s a slug.
  • The image editing toolset is so limited that I’m still forced to use Photoshop for all but a very few photos.  This reduces Lightroom to a bigger, more powerful browser with excellent keywording, grouping, etc. and with features (like the slideshow stuff and printing stuff) that I never, ever use.  Lightroom is even inadequate for generating the jpgs I use for web display.
  • Lightroom has strong ideas about what files go where, and it’s pretty stubborn about it.  I like to have the base level raw files in one place, the photoshop files that are descended from them in another, and so on.  I like my way of arranging things, because it integrates with my backup strategy, etc.
  • The one feature I really, really like a lot is the much improved Camera Raw, with highlight and shadow recovery, etc.  But I will get this in the future just by upgrading Photoshop, which I’ll do anyway.  I get the one really compelling feature even if I ditch Lightroom.

I’m hoping that future versions of Lightroom will address these problems.  For now, though, by take is that it’s a not quite ready for prime time piece of software.

19 Responses

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  1. Trevor Carpenter said, on May 23, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    So, Paul, what will be your workflow now?

    I’d love to have a different app for each step.
    1. Import/file management
    2. RAW processing
    3. Additional Processing/Retouching

  2. chuck kimmerle said, on May 23, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    I, too, gave up and sold my discounted version to a friend who procrastinated until the price went up. The only things it had over Bridge, at least as far as my workflow, were quicker thumbnail displays and the ability to print (I occasionally print small previews).

    Maybe the 2.0 will be more my style.

  3. Paul Butzi said, on May 23, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Right now, my workflow looks like this:

    1. Files are read off of CF card using Windows file explorer.
    2. Files are immediately renamed using batch rename in Adobe Bridge
    3. Files are duplicated across several disks on several different computers.
    4. CF card is reformatted.
    5. Image selection, tagging, etc. done in Bridge.
    6. Each image that’s good gets converted from raw using Adobe Camera Raw, and imported to Photoshop.
    7. All refinement is done in photoshop. Noise reduction when needed is done with Noise Ninja.
    8. Prints are made on an Epson 9600.

  4. […] Read More… […]

  5. seeingthedetail said, on May 24, 2007 at 1:58 am

    I was starting to get a little worried that I was missing something about lightroom, when a lot of my friends have all but stopped using photoshop and rave about it’s power and simplicity – even to the extent that they suggested I should use lightroom for the raw conversion and photoshop for tweaking. But as you say, the ACR in CS3 has the recovery and fill sliders so I’m not sure where the advantage lies – especially since I find the whole work area/menus/tools to be quite cumbersome. If I could just get bridge to work at more than a snail’s pace, I would be content, knowing I’m not missing out on anything…

  6. Andy Forrester said, on May 24, 2007 at 2:26 am

    Version 1.1 is coming but not sure if it will address all your concerns

  7. Frank Armstrong said, on May 24, 2007 at 5:09 am

    Just attended a Lightroom seminar, and Kelby received lots of ouuuuu’s and ahhhhhh’s as he whipped through LR demo’s. I, too, was hoping to love LR, but being a former RAW Shooter Premium user, am hold a grudge against Adobe for taking that best of all RAW converters off the market. My workflow is similar to yours, and I really don’t need LR telling me how to run my life, uh, digital photographic life.


  8. Paul McEvoy said, on May 24, 2007 at 5:22 am

    Hi Paul,

    My experience so far is that Adobe Camera Raw convertors (at least in CS2) are very inferior to Capture One or Digital Photo Professional. I haven’t seen a lot of talk of this online though. My tiffs from Camera Raw tend to be very soft and have a frustrating lack of color definition (I don’t know that I could define color definition but I’ll just say they look milky).

    Anyway, do you have any perspective on that? I’m open to the idea that I wasn’t using it the right way but I can say that I’m much more pleased with my results from DPP and Capture One. I’m interested to hear if you’ve tried either of those.

    All the best

  9. rygood said, on May 24, 2007 at 7:56 am

    Very interesting perspectives on lightroom. I can definitely see how it could be annoying if you already have a workflow you are comfortable with. I started using lightroom in its early beta, when my photography processing workflow had not been nailed down yet. I had been experimenting with many different processes to see what worked best for me, but eventually I setted on lightroom, becasue of the speed and ease I found in getting my shots where I wanted them to be quickly. I also work under the thoughts that its still a 1.0 product and it has a long way to go, and often I need to tweak in photoshop, but kowing adobe, each mini-release will vastly improve the products usability, and they will hear peole complaining and make lightroom easier to put into peoples existing workflow.

    @Paul McEvoy,
    I noticed that sometimes in lightroom, sharpness and color for my 30D were off. After some tweaking of calibration settings with presets I found on, my color issue was satisfied. They also had tailored white balance setting for the 3D. As for sharpness, DPP does seem to be a bit sharper at 100%, though generally not too noticeably so in most cases. I someimes still use DPP for macro work, becasue of this issue. I hope that Adobe fixes this problem in an upcoming release of lightroom.

  10. Mike said, on May 25, 2007 at 3:39 am

    The “Photoshop Tax” posted by Mike Johnston in his blog addresses the main pain in having PS and other Adobe products. I’ve been quite pleased with Digital Light & Color’s Picture Window Pro 4 ( Those who take a look may be pleasantly surprised. Check the support posts ( to see that answers are quick in coming — there are also white papers covering a number of techniques as well as the electronic manual which comes with the product.

  11. Mike said, on May 25, 2007 at 3:40 am

    Sorry — forgot the link to Mike’s blog (

  12. S Simpson said, on May 26, 2007 at 7:21 am

    I’m very close to giving up on Lightroom as well. I had got it in the hopes it would help me in organizing and being able to find images alot faster. I do backup everything to DVD but I also keep copies on one of the several 1TB drives I have. I tend to be more comfortable moving images to folders manually. When i do this there doesn’t seem to be a way to have Lightroom pickup that there are more images in the folder physically than there is in the library file. I have to remember what I moved into the new folder and then import it.

    I certainly don’t think it is the holy grail that Scott Kelby makes it out to be. It is not a fit for everyone. Mind you, I think Adobe could put out junk and Kelby would rave about it.

  13. Mike said, on May 27, 2007 at 9:34 am

    I’ve used ACDSee since I first started scanning film and have found it quite adequate. The latest version, 8 Pro, is really up to snuff. Just make sure to backup the database in a timely manner! TEst drive free for a month. I can configure the editor to use Picture Window as default and so can go straight into the editor of choice from the broswer.

  14. Dave K said, on May 27, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    The one thing I do like about LR is its “virtual copy” feature. (Aperture has something similar, I believe.) It lets me play around with variations on a theme, as it were, for a particular image and keep the steps for each variation separate from others, without creating a new file.

    But most everything else can be done with Bridge and CS3.

  15. […] photos of the leaves of that particular Japanese Maple multiple times in the past – here, here, and here, as well as probably some others that I can’t find easily.  That particular tree stands […]

  16. sknop said, on November 16, 2007 at 6:16 am

    I feel pretty much the same about LR, I tried it every time there was a new version out, but it just kept frustrating me.

    The GUI looks nice but is slow and clumsy to use. Scrolling up an down to reach different adjustments is just silly. ACRs tabs are much friendlier. Same thing for zooming with sliders. The chore of importing and synchronizing your picture folders… I just need a tree view of my folders on the disk. It does not integrate well with Photoshop, and the interface/workflow design suggests that in fact you aren’t supposed to open your pictures in PS, which of course is nonsense considering the lack of editing capabilities in LR.
    And, like Bridge, LR has the shortcoming of using low-res and low quality previews when doing a slideshow. And like ACR from version 4.1 onwards, it uses the bought Raw-Shooter engine, which produces much better colors and contrast, but also has worse detail extraction and noise behavior than ACR 4.0 and earlier.
    To sum it up: While Bridge+ACR aren’t perfect either, I can work with them. As LR does worse for my needs and doesn’t offer a single feature _I_ think worth going for the decision is a nobrainer.

  17. […] I don’t use Lightroom. I’m unlikely to start using Lightroom, for a host of reasons which I’ve already articulated. […]

  18. Gordon McGregor said, on March 7, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    the weird thing is I read comments like this about lightroom and end up feeling like I must be using an entirely different product or something.

    I think I end up in photoshop maybe once a month now. Almost everything I work on goes through lightroom and that’s it. Import, selection, development and output. I find photoshop & bridge/ ACR slow, clunky and inefficient by comparison.

    Either that or I just have really low standards 😉 (quite possible) I struggled with LR for a few months before I settled in to not fighting its workflow. My files are where I always wanted them, I don’t buy into the whole lightroom gets to decide where the images go, or import into the database stuff. Other than that though it works well. I like the google maps integration for the GPS EXIF data too (my latest thing to play with)

    That’s the fun of all this digital stuff though, we get to work out what works for us. I’ve been on a kick to avoid doing any or very minimal post processing work on my images and LR works well in that respect. I’m trying to focus on the camera and less on the computer and lightroom works well for me along those lines too.

    Things I’m taking the time to print well go through Photoshop and get more care and attention, but probably 80%-90% of everything I do or provide to people who are getting images from me comes out of LR alone.

  19. prashant khapane said, on June 24, 2008 at 2:57 am

    I recently started using LR again (Beta2) and must say it is much improved. I never used my 1.x version due to different reasons, similar to yours. I used to be a big fan of C1P, until their recent version that is. I now prefer to use LR for 90% of the work and rest is for C1P or Capture NX which I got with my Nikon camera. You should really try the new version.

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