Every professional photographer shoots in RAW and processes his/her pictures using a software for complete freedom and artistic flavor. This is called post-processing and it is an unavoidable part of professional photography nowadays. Because of that, choosing the right software tool for you to post-process is key. One of such tools is Adobe Photoshop. But Photoshop it is not intended strictly for photographers. For photographers only, Adobe has developed a different piece of software called Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Why I highly believe Lightroom is a great choice for aspiring photographers nowadays
But first what is a RAW File?
RAW image file is also known as digital negative with embedded information gathered directly from the camera’s sensor without any sort of digital adjustment (unlike jpegs).
RAW isn’t an actual file extension, so there are no *.raw files. Different manufacturers use different file extensions. Nikon has *.nef, Canon uses *.cr2, Fujifilm has *.raf and Adobe has the widely popular *.dng format. DNG is universal and can “store” any other file format inside it.
But RAW files are not images, they are descriptions (feel confused; I felt the same during the first days of my career). RAW files need to be decoded by specific software to be viewed as actual photographs. Why so complex? Why not a simple JPEG image file? Because RAW files carry a lot more information inside them and are more flexible than JPEG images. More information means a little bit more resolution and lots more dynamic range (color information and detail hidden in dark and light portions of an image). Instead of allowing your camera to choose how much sharpening, noise reduction, contrast, saturation, etc., to apply to a photograph you just captured, you make those decisions yourself. It’s simple – just tweak those flat-looking RAW files exactly how you want and convert them to JPEG images.
Now we need a RAW file converter and this is the first Lightroom strength.
Lightroom as a converter allows you to tweak the RAW file, manipulate all the information stored within it and save it as a simple graphical image file, such as JPEG.
A RAW file has a JPEG preview stored inside the camera viewfinder so that you can view it quickly on the back of your camera. When you import your files using Lightroom catalog you will say: "but they look flat! I remember them more vivid and so on and so forth..."
In addition to providing basic functionality of a basic RAW converter, Adobe has built Lightroom to be the only post-processing application many photographers will need nine times out of ten. With each new version, Lightroom gains more and more new features. These features allow photographers to use it from start to finish. So if you plan to make a photo album, Lightroom has that functionality. With all its tools and no-nonsense user interface, Lightroom lets one organize, post-process, print and share photographs, all in one easy environment build specially for photographers shooting 1 or thousands of images in a session. Lightroom focus on speed when working with multiple images (think hundreds or even thousands). This is made easier by the simple process of copying and pasting all of the available adjustments. Another neat feature is none-destructive editing. It helps make sure original files remain intact and allows you to tweak, set or cancel any adjustments at any time.
Who is Lightroom for? Well, if you’re the kind of person who takes a lot of images, particularly, but not exclusively, in RAW format, Lightroom may just be right for you. It’s very good for photographers with professional aspirations. It’s also good if you just want better control over the look of your images. Doesn’t even matter if you only photograph your family and friends as long as you keep in mind that Lightroom is a professional tool for photographers. That means there’s quite a steep learning curve. It is very much worth it in the end, mind you. Also, Lightroom is not good for any sort of graphical work as you will not find any brushes or pencils here.
I personally think Photoshop is too complicated and cumbersome for regular post-processing. It’s not great for working with multiple images simultaneously, either. What’s more, Photoshop lacks organizing features that Lightroom offers.