Lightroom vs. Photoshop’s Camera Raw

 Sep 27, 2016

You may have heard a lot of discussion around working with raw images in either Lightroom or in Photoshop with the Camera Raw plugin.

In today’s post, we will explore the differences between these two apps, and which one you should use when working on raw images.

Firstly, it’s important to understand what raw images are. A raw image is a type of file like jpeg, but is a non-processed image created from the sensors of digital cameras, scanners, or any type of digital capturing device. If your camera captures images in the jpeg format, this will result in loss of information in images due to the format's compression settings. However, if your camera captures raw images, this means you will have high resolution images that will allow you to process in both non-destructive and destructive ways whilst retaining high quality. Hence, we should aim to capture raw data, and this is where Lightroom or Photoshop’s Camera Raw comes in.

Lightroom, which is a standalone product from Adobe, is used to process raw images in non-destructive ways. Similarly, Photoshop’s Camera Raw is a free plugin that allows you to process raw images. After capturing raw images, this is where we would take these photographs to the darkroom to process, which is where these apps come into play.

Now let's explore the differences. As mentioned, Lightroom is a separate Adobe product and with Lightroom alone it could be more than sufficient to get the results you’re aiming for in your photographs. Nondestructive editing such as white balancing, vibrance and saturation, cropping and straightening, exposure adjustments, and noise reductions can be done with ease in Lightroom. Furthermore, Lightroom has a great user-friendly way of managing images too. Because Lightroom is a database oriented application, users can manage their images in a collective approach whilst also perform editing across a collection. This creates a workflow management over a collection of images.

On the other-hand, Photoshop’s Camera Raw does similar non-destructive editing over images such as white balancing. However, when managing images this may be an entire different story. Camera Raw, which can be accessed within Adobe Bridge, depends on this browser application to manage images, and since the Bridge is a file oriented app as opposed to Lightroom’s database, it will be less efficient when managing and searching through a big collection. To elaborate on this, the Bridge requires sidecars to store image’s metadata whilst Lightroom contains that information in its central catalog and through its index system, which results in locating images more easily. Finally, when finishing all editing in Camera Raw, you will have to open the image in Photoshop to finalise it.

This leaves the question of which of these apps is best to use. While both offer similar non- destructive editing (and Camera Raw is also a free plugin), when it comes to editing, managing and searching through a big collection of images in a more workflow approach, Lightroom is quite simply the better app to use.

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About the Author:

Keith Ching  

At New Horizons Keith delivers Microsoft Office, Sharepoint and Adobe/ Graphic Design training to corporate Australians. Because of his proven ability to build rapport with Clients, Keith has been engaged on training projects that have required expertise outside of the traditional instructing role.Keith also enjoys sharing his knowledge with others, in particular in educating students who contribute to our local ICT industry and economy. In doing so Keith has delivered high quality training to over 4000 students at an average of 92%.In a competitive industry which constantly changes, Keith has a unique skill set which is up-to-date with the latest technology combined with being able to communicate this technical knowledge in a way that students relate to in an engaging, clear and concise manner.His passion in IT and Art and Design has resulted in several recognised qualifications which are a reflection of his creditability by peers and industry.

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