Lightroom or Photoshop Elements

Since we've been on a bit of an editing vibe this week I thought I'd stick with this and have a quick look at Photoshop Elements vs Lightroom. I've noticed a few people swaying between the two, so I thought I'd give you my humble opinion on what I think the main differences are, and what to think about when deciding what is the best program for you. Both are excellent programs, but each has it's own strengths, and by design, fills a separate niche.  For that reason, you may actually want to have both, and I'll go into that later, but for now let's look at them both and see each does. 

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6($145.00 for download version) is a photo editor and image organizer, as as such is fantastic as a photo database - the organizational features of Lightroom are far superior to those with PS/Elements. Lightroom is also non-destructive to your images, all it does is "write" a set of instructions about how your image should be viewed, with changes only taking place after you export the image. Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom was created purposefully for photography, so editing photos is much simpler and more intuitive - It is as simple to do your main edits just by tweaking some sliders.

 Why you would choose Lightroom:

- Fantastic file management system which allows you to easily organise images into galleries or collections. 

- You can create photo books directly from Lightroom

- Non destructive editing 

- Easy to "sync" edits across multiple images 

- It's much easier to learn than Photoshop 

- Adjustment brush, gradient, and radial adjustments

- If you take a lot of photos, and mainly want to do clean edits then Lightroom is king. 

Now let's move onto <Adobe Photoshop Elements 14($99 for download version) This is a slightly pared down version of Photoshop CC - think of it as Photoshop's little brother. (In fact I've heard that it has 90% of it's capabilities - not bad at all when you consider the price difference between the two) You do you lose out on is the more extensive tools, but with most there are workarounds. You can do the same type of edits with Elements as you can with Lightroom, there are just more "steps" to it, and probably a slightly steeper learning curve.

However, if you also use the free plug in "Camera Raw" which you get free with Elements, you get many of the same features and capabilities as Lightroom - so editing images can be exactly the same for the basic steps, moving sliders for exposure, contrast etc, just like you would in Lightroom. 

Remember, you can also create or buy "actions" which runs through an editing sequence for you, and you also have access to creative plug-ins like RadLab, that make editing your images creatively an absolute doddle.  

Why you would choose Photoshop Elements

-  More advanced editing options

- Better cloning tools so that you can remove objects much more easily

- Finer control over individual elements of your image by using blend modes, layer masks and opacity adjustments, so you can apply edits to just one part of your image, in a way you just can't do with Lightroom. 

- A must if you want to "change reality" by adding sky overlays, light "glows" , merging two exposures, adding textures, flipping parts of an image and so on

- Much better for design and creating collages, adding text to images etc 

- Want the option to both quick edits using just ACR, and have the option to do more extensive edits in ELements itself.

- You don't need or want a file management system. 

Last but not least is the big daddy of editing, Photoshop. It's no longer available as a boxed version as it is available only on cloud subscription. It can do anything.  Once you have learnt it, you will keep on learning because there is so much you can do with this program.  Some things that I like in Photoshop that you don't get in Elements is the Patch Tool (great for removing objects) the ability to create your own actions (elements can play actions but not make them) and the ability to batch process images in Image Processor, again speeding up workflow.  Oh, and I like the fact that I can use CMYK which is better for skin editing,  and the Curves tool is better in PS than Elements. There are probably more (I don't use Elements) but for the most part, you can do a great deal in Elements that you can do in PS, but Photoshop gives you the most control and options. 

Er, that's all great, but which one should I get?

You need to decide which features are more important to you, bearing in mind that you can do much of the same edits with either, especially when you use the free camera RAW plug in for Elements. Lightroom's big plus point is it's organisational capabilities, and how easy it is to edit your photos since everything is essentially in one place.  For people who take large numbers of photos and only do (relatively) light edits, it's definitely the winner. On the plus side of Elements, though, once you learn it you can literally do just about anything - replace the skies, clone out huge parts of the image, add in sun glows, flip or move parts of the image and so on and so on.  It also allows you to be much more precise with your edits by using layers and masks, and allowing you to change the opacity.  There's no organisational tool with it though.  Personally I see LR as tool to get me to where I would like it to be in camera, and for organising my photos, and PS for creative edits (Obviously they overlap, but that is just how I see it)

Therefore, for serious amateurs and professionals, I would actually say the answer is not one or the other, but rather both. (I know, I know, sorry)  I love both, and actually rather than one being a substitute for the other, they both complement one another perfectly. I think I will always have them together, rather than ditching one for the other.  That said, both of these programs are excellent - there is so much you can do with just one of them, that you really don't NEED both, it's just nice to have :)

Which leads me neatly onto what I would purchase (and actually I daresay what I will be purchasing once my husband has forgotten about my new lens) and that is Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan which gives you access to both Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC (the big one!) for $9.99 per month. As much as I don't want to pay each month for a service (I'd rather have a boxed version, and upgrade when I want) but if that is the only way it is available, I guess I will have to stomach it at some point! Please note that Both Lightroom 5 and Photoshop Elements are available as boxed versions, and apparently will continue to be so - it's only Photoshop that can only be purchsaed this way.

If you don't fancy forking out for software, there are lots of free programs available on the web - none will give you the capabilities of these, but its a good place to start. There are also other paid editing programs available, which I  have no experience of, but I think it would be fair to say that Adobe is king when it comes to editing software, so you will find the most free tutorials and help available with these. 

I hope that helped!