October 23rd 2012 by Andrew S Gibson
You have reached the archive of articles posted on my personal blog. This blog is no longer updated, but you can read my latest articles at my new website The Creative Photographer and find my photography ebooks at my new store.
Thanks for reading! Andrew.
One of the questions that Digital Photo Professional (DPP) users may have is what are the benefits of moving to a more advanced Raw processor like Adobe Lightroom 4?
Why Lightroom 4, as opposed to other software? I’ve noticed that there is a lot of material being published about Lightroom, and not much about other software, which suggests Lightroom is popular. The Wikipedia entry on Lightroom has this to say about market share:
According to 2009 statistics from research company InfoTrends, released by Adobe Systems product manager John Nack, of the 1,045 North American professional photographers who were interviewed, 37.0% used Lightroom and 6.3% used Aperture while 57.9% used the Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in. Of the Mac users, 44.4% used Lightroom and 12.5% used Aperture.
It’s only a small sample but it seems that most photographers (professionals at least) that are not using Lightroom are using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop. This is the same processing engine in a different guise.
Here are more reasons for choosing Lightroom over Photoshop CS or another Raw converter:
- It’s a lot cheaper than Photoshop CS.
- Lightroom combined with Photoshop Elements gives you a relatively inexpensive but powerful image editing set-up. You can use Lightroom for 16 bit Raw processing, then Photoshop Elements for stuff you can’t do in Lightroom such as using layers.
- You can extend Lightroom by buying plug-ins.
- Lightroom integrates well with Photoshop CS, if you have both pieces of software.
Who is DPP for?
DPP will appeal to you if:
- You want a Raw processor that is easy to use. DPP is simple to learn. The controls in DPP are similar to those on your camera, making it an easy piece of software to get to grips with, especially if you are new to Raw processing and using computers in general.
- You want to download extra Picture Styles that you can use in-camera or with DPP. Or you use Canon’s Picture Style Editor to make your own Picture Styles.
- You don’t want to spend money on more software and the subsequent updates (DPP updates are free). One possible set-up for those on a budget is to use DPP to process Raw files then edit the resulting TIFFs or JPEGs in Photoshop Elements.
- You want to learn how to process Raw files with simple software then move on to more advanced software when you are ready. This is how I learnt. I started with DPP, then moved on to Photoshop CS then finally to Lightroom.
Who is Lightroom for?
Lightroom 4 will appeal if:
- You want a more advanced Raw processor than DPP. While there is nothing wrong with the quality of the files that DPP gives you, Lightroom gives you more options when it comes to processing Raw files (I’ll touch on some of those in a bit). The only downside is that it takes longer to learn than DPP and it may be a bit intimidating if you are new to Raw processing.
- You want a more advanced catalogue system and workflow than DPP provides.
- You are looking for an advanced Raw processor but don’t want to pay for the rather expensive Photoshop CS.
Comparing DPP with Lightroom 4
Now it’s time to look at some examples that show the difference between DPP and Lightroom 4. Let’s take a closer look at the two images from the top of the article. They are both created from the same Raw file.
I processed the first with DPP (above). As you can see, DPP has done a good a job. I selected the portrait Picture Style, increased the white balance to warm up the image, increased exposure a little and darkened the background with the shadows slider. The result is a very nice interpretation of the image that only took a few seconds to achieve.
This screenshot shows the difference the adjustments made to the original Raw file.
Now here is the same image processed with Lightroom 4. These are the key differences:
- The background has a blue cast. I achieved this by setting a cool global white balance, then creating a mask around my model and applying a warm local white balance setting to the area covered by the mask. See the screenshot below to see how that works.
- I used a vignette to darken the edges of the image.
- I used the graduated filter tool to darken the edge of the wall to the right of my model.
- I used lens blur to create a subtle tilt-shift effect which leaves the model’s eyes in focus and the rest of the image slightly out of focus. You may need to look at the close-up comparison below to see the difference.
- I retouched the model’s face by lightening and softening the area under her eyes. I also darkened her cheeks to slim her face a little. Again, you can see the difference more clearly in the comparisons below.
This screenshot shows the difference between the edited file and the original, unedited Raw file.
Not all of these adjustments are necessary. You may even prefer the version of the image processed in DPP – it has a very nice feel all of its own. You could also achieve these effects by processing the Raw file in DPP and then editing the result in Photoshop Elements or Photoshop CS. The advantage of Lightroom 4 is that you can do it all in one program. It’s also much easier to batch process and organise your photos in Lightroom 4 than DPP or Photoshop CS/Adobe Bridge.
Here are some comparisons that make it easier to see the difference between the images.
This shows some of the beauty retouching. I lightened and softened the area under my model’s eyes, and darkened her cheeks. There is a big difference between what you can achieve in DPP and Lightroom.
This comparison shows the mask (red area) that I created for the split white balance effect. The area underneath the red mask has a warmer white balance than the rest of the image.
Lightroom 4 has several tools that help you make local adjustments. A local adjustment affects part of the image. In DPP you can only make global adjustments. A global adjustment affects the entire image.
The final comparion shows the gentle tilt-shift effect created by adding lens blur. See how the shirt goes out of focus just below the shoulders.
Other advantages of Lightroom 4
Here are just a few of the reasons that Lightroom 4 is a better Raw processor than DPP. If you’re a DPP user and you’re happy with the results that you’re getting, then these probably won’t matter to you. But they may if you want more control over the final result:
- More control over dark and light tones.
- More control over colour, including the capability to adjust the brightness and saturation of individual colours.
- More advanced black and white conversion.
- More black and white toning options.
- Better noise reduction.
- Better lens distortion, chromatic aberration, colour fringing and vignetting controls.
- Local as well as global control over exposure, white balance, contrast and more.
- Dodging and burning tools.
Lightroom 4 is also more advanced when it comes to cataloguing, workflow and exporting photos. None of this is a criticism of DPP. Digital Photo Professional is designed to do one thing and do it extremely well – process Raw files from an EOS camera. It’s just that Lightroom 4 does it better, as one would expect from a software package that costs £100.
This tutorial just gives you a taste of some of the advantages of Lightroom 4 compared to DPP. If you’d like to learn more about using Lightroom 4, then I recommend Essential Development by Sean McCormack. This Craft & Vision ebook is the perfect introduction to Lightroom 4 for beginners. The lens blur, white balance and beauty retouching techniques I used to process the photo in this article are all covered in this ebook.
If you want to learn more about DPP then I recommend my ebook Understanding DPP. It explains everything you need to know in order to process your Raw files in Digital Photo Professional. Click on the link to learn more.