Lightroom vs Photoshop Elements

After my “Photoshop vs Photoshop Elements” article, many of our readers suggested a comparison between Photoshop Elements (PSE) and Lightroom would be more useful. I must admit, I found such requests to be a little strange, because I believe both of these programs to be very different. The difference lies in both targeted user base as well as complexity and overall functionality. On the other hand, some features are shared between Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as between Lightroom and PSE. In this article, I will describe similarities and differences between these two popular post-processing applications by Adobe to see whether one can serve as a replacement or an alternative for the other.

Photoshop Elements 11

Photoshop, PSE and Lightroom Differences

The three most popular image post-processing programs among photographers by Adobe – Lightroom, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements – all target different user bases. While each can be used as a substitute for another in many situations, it usually results in a compromise. Let me give you a short user-base description for each product.

  • Adobe Photoshop - Photoshop is an extremely powerful piece of software with virtually unlimited capabilities when it comes to any sort of graphical editing. In fact, photographers probably make up only a fraction of the whole professional user base that choose to use Photoshop either for their business or personal projects. It’s true photographers have used Photoshop for many years now (mainly because there wasn’t a better option at the time), but the software itself was never meant strictly for photographic tasks – far from it. In fact, the version many professionals first started using was Photoshop 5.5, and that was released in 1999 – before digital photography gained its momentum. It’s also enough to look at the set of tools Adobe offers, many of which are not directly related to photography, such as brushes. The truth is, many of its functions will remain untouched by photographers, it’s such a powerful and thorough piece of software with a very broad appeal. Even so, Photoshop is there for any sort of post-processing you may want to do.

    Photoshop CS5 User Interface

    With all this capability comes Photoshop’s compromise, a sort of a weakness – it’s not the best software for small, quick adjustments, especially if you’re working with a few hundred RAW images from a recent wedding. It’s too heavy on resources and too complicated with all those tools and filters. Photoshop is best when used professionally for extensive retouching and editing, but there are far more suitable programs for quick, strictly photographic post-processing. Before I started using Lightroom, Photoshop CS5 was my main program for editing numerous RAW images and I must say, it took me ages to finish a wedding. With Lightroom, I can do it in a few hours and with fewer mistakes because of the non-destructive processing and Catalog system.

    Of course, price reflects the potential – at $640 for a retail box, and now part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription-license, it is certainly far from being cheap (and as you may already know, we are not fans of Adobe CC).

  • Photoshop Elements - many see PSE as a lighter version of Photoshop, which they are right about, to an extent. Photoshop Elements does indeed look much like a simplified version of Photoshop and it is also suitable for a reasonably broad user base, but loses most of the advanced functionality in favor of a user-friendly interface. By doing so, it effectively targets a slightly different user group – beginners and amateurs instead of professionals. But the actual application of the software remains roughly similar – you can edit images, as well as do some light RAW processing (though it’s much more suitable for working with JPEGs), and also draw a smiley face or write text on an illustration if so desired. The key point of PSE is its broad appeal for editing family pictures through a user friendly user interface. Sharing some of the technology with Photoshop means that it is still a powerful program, although obviously not as flexible.

    PSE shifts more attention towards photography than Photoshop, and in that way is similar to Lightroom. However, unlike Lightroom, it’s not for advanced photography post-processing, nor is it suitable for editing a large number of RAW files quickly and simultaneously. So, in terms of targeted user base, it sits somewhere in the middle between Photoshop, which has a very broad user base, and Lightroom, which is meant for (professional, in many cases) photography only. As far as photographic post-processing capability goes, it’s not as sophisticated as Lightroom and Photoshop, both of which are quite a bit more complex and capable in that area. On the other hand, PSE offers some basic Catalog and Organizer functions, and in that way it is again similar to Lightroom.

    If you must relate the three programs, PSE can be thought of a stripped down version of Photoshop, merged with a stripped down version of Lightroom. Think of it as a bridge between the two. It’s not as powerful as either one, but shares the functionality of both. Also, because it is marketed as a tool for beginners and amateurs, PSE will probably never be a part of Creative Cloud.

    Photoshop Elements 11

    Photoshop Elements is much less complicated than Photoshop and thus quicker to use with fewer tools and fast operation. However, it’s still just as inconvenient when working with a large number of images, especially RAW, simultaneously. It doesn’t offer nearly as much capability as both its bigger brothers do. And that’s where PSE’s compromise lies – if you want a piece of software for quick JPEG adjustments, some minor retouching and basic image managing and organizing without the complexity of either feature-packed Photoshop or pro-photographer targeted Lightroom, it can be a great choice. But Photoshop is still better for extensive professional retouching, excellent plugin system for third party applications, manipulation and graphical work, while Lightroom is much better for RAW files and processing large number of images quickly. Luckily, PSE is cheaper than both (and much cheaper than Photoshop) at around $80.

  • Photoshop Lightroom - finally, we get to Lightroom. On one hand, it seems similar to PSE in that both emphasize photography post-processing as their main task (Elements a bit less so, perhaps). Both include some file management capabilities for your images with separate catalog systems. On the other hand, if PSE puts user-friendliness as a priority over advanced functionality, Lightroom makes no such claims – it’s a tool for those who know how to use it, with plenty of terms and settings that may be difficult to understand for someone who’s not seriously into photography. The main purpose of Lightroom is to help you manage, sort and post-process huge numbers of photographs as quickly as possible. Many professional photographers – be it wedding, fashion, landscape or others, use it as their main post-processing program, or use its rivals, such as Capture One Pro and Aperture. For these photographers, Lightroom is often all they need, with the ability to Geotag, sort, manage, edit, retouch, print images as well as create online galleries and design albums.

    Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book

    I have to say that I am a big fan of Lightroom. I find it intuitive and simple to use and, with the exception of panorama stitching, frankly, there’s hardly been a task I couldn’t do with Lightroom. But there are two caveats. First, it’s good for my type of photography and my style of post-processing, which may not necessarily suit everyone else (those more into creative editing will strongly prefer Photoshop). It’s a flexible, professional tool, make no mistake. But it’s not one for extreme manipulation and tweaking. Lightroom has been getting better, but it still lacks some core functionality of Photoshop for things like advanced cloning, layers, etc., and there’s a good chance these features will never reach Lightroom. Second, while I find it simple and intuitive, it’s because my work includes daily use of the software – it’s what I do. So, someone new to photography might find it to be complex and not that user-friendly. For this reason, I would struggle to suggest it as a solution to someone who just wants good-looking family pictures quick and easy.

    How is Lightroom positioned price-wise? Well, it’s not even close to being as flexible as Photoshop and is much more specialized. On the other hand, within its limitations, it’s still a very capable, pro targeted piece of software. So, for me, it makes perfect sense that it’s much cheaper than Photoshop, but also somewhat more expensive than PSE at around $150.

Lightroom vs Photoshop Elements – Which One Should You Choose?

After spending a little bit more time with PSE and exploring its capabilities, I got a better understanding of its features and functionality – things that help it hold its own against its sibling. It’s true that Lightroom is targeted at professionals, while Elements is better suited for beginners and amateurs who don’t make a living out of photography. But here’s a surprise: PSE also has a basic organizer with tools for printing, creating albums, galleries, calendars, slide shows, etc. It’s very simple and quick to use. You can access Photo Book, Photo Calendar, Slide Show and the rest of the tools either from PSE Photo Editor environment or the Organizer. When using the Organizer, you also get a number of social sharing options such as Facebook, Flickr, Youtube and Vimeo.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 Organizer

To use one of the available tools, simply click on the Create menu at the top-right corner of either PSE Photo Editor or Organizer, choose what you want to do and follow the steps. In most cases, you will have a number of templates to work with and create some simple, fun photo albums or slide shows which all of your family will be able to enjoy.

PSE Tools

The way these two programs – Lightroom and Photoshop Elements – are positioned against each other is quite interesting. They have much more in common than I thought at first: they share the same main functions, being designed mainly for photographers (with PSE giving a bit more room to play for amateurs) and have, overall, a similar feature set with organizing capabilities, catalog systems as well as tools for printing and showcasing work. At the same time, Photoshop Elements also has some similarities with Photoshop in that they both offer advanced editing of images using layers, brush, pencil, erase, text and other tools that you could use for non-photographic work. So, which one is for you?

Well, if you’re the kind of person who takes a lot of images, particularly, but not exclusively, in RAW format, and is into photography big time with professional aspirations, Lightroom is the way to go. It’s a professional and very capable piece of software designed to help you go through the process of organizing, post-processing, printing and exhibiting your work online through social networks or stand-alone galleries. Lightroom offers you a way to quickly work with a large number of photographs at a time with an advanced user interface and straightforward, precise, capable set of tools and full control over the end result. With Lightroom, you have the option of going back as many steps as needed at any given time and rework your images from ground-up without the danger of overwriting the original files thanks to its catalog-based image managing system. It is used most of all by serious, aspiring amateurs and professionals, and this is the user group I would feel most comfortable recommending Lightroom to.

As for Photoshop Elements, I would like to mention once more how powerful it is in its own right. It has a lot of similar capabilities that Lightroom has and even has an organizer for basic file management. With PSE, you can also showcase your work online quickly and create photo books, slide shows or other content from your images. Not to mention Photoshop-borrowed layers, which, alone, bring a vast number of post-processing possibilities. It would seem, then, that PSE is a no-brainer for near half the price of Lightroom, but do note – it’s not meant for professional use. Once you start working with many files, you will realize that you might need more serious image management and sorting capabilities, which you will not find in Photoshop Elements. I’m not saying you can’t work with it professionally – obviously, you can. It’s not the best choice, however, as it includes a lot of features a professional photographer might call gimmicky – like effects and photo album templates that may be a bit too fun for weddings or other paid jobs. You should see Photoshop Elements as a family photographer’s best friend – it is simple, cheap, gives great results and doesn’t demand a high level of expertise from the user. That is why I would suggest it to anyone who works with a limited number of images and just wants to do some basic editing. PSE might also be a great stepping stone for an aspiring novice, as it offers a lot of bang for your buck. Just like entry-level DSLR or mirrorless cameras, it makes achieving great results easy, yet packs great potential for more experienced photographers as well. As such, it is likely to remain extremely useful for quite some time.

In summary, here is how I would describe all three:

  1. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom – advanced workflow management software with tools for non-destructive mass image editing, publishing and printing. Mainly targeted at professional photographers.
  2. Adobe Photoshop – complex image and graphics editing software package designed for editing one file at a time. Mainly targeted at graphic artists.
  3. Adobe Photoshop Elements – a bridge between Lightroom and Photoshop, with limited functionality from both. Basic workflow/file management, along with some editing tools from Photoshop. Targeted at beginner and amateur photographers and graphic artists.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Prabhakar SVRK
    June 12, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks for this article. Over the years PSE has become a money mine for Adobe luring unsuspecting amateur customers believing that they are owning a part of PS and LR which is not the case in actuality. It doesnt handle any features of LR and PS anywhere near to their implementation in LR and PS.

    After lot of reading on internet blogs to get out of my dilemma of which one I should buy, I went ahead and purchased both LR4 and PSE10. It was because I was not sure what was my ultimate use would be down the line. After having used them for more than 6 months, I realized that LR4 can handle most of the amateur to professional needs of a photographer as long as layers and masking related work is not needed. Now, PSE sits on my machine redundant. So, it is absolutely necessary that people download PSE first and use it for the trial period before spending the money on it. There is very high chance that you would find LR4 more than sufficient over PSE. Now that LR5 has come with superior spot removal, I think PSE is made even more redundant. Just few thoughts….of course, keep in view large deciding factors in your purchase: PSE for layers and masking and LR for non-destructive editing with superior catalog management and professional work flow (which I found even necessary for a home use like mine).

    • 3
      ) Winston Cooper
      June 13, 2013 at 6:46 am

      I have had exactly the opposite experience as Prabhakar. I am a hobbyist shooting mostly studio but some landscape and wildlife. I probably only shoot 100 images a week on average. After a little pressure from some photo-friends I bought LR and found it annoyingly complicated and way to geared toward organization and cataloging and not so good at editing. At my low level of shooting I find for the last several years that Windows file and folder system more then adequate for organization. Out of 100 shots I usually bring less then 10 in for editing. I have used PSE since 2, now on 11, and it does everything and more that I need it to do. LR 4 is now unused and soaks up space on my hard drive. I wont be popping for the LR 5 upgrade. I think the summery to this article is correct, what ever your level if your shooting less then a few hundred images a month LR is not worth the price. There is a caveat..RAW shooters will find LR’s ACR capabilities way more capable then PSE but for me I have never found the complications of RAW worth the simplicity of JPEG.

      • 5
        ) Allan
        June 13, 2013 at 3:50 pm

        I beg to differ. What is so complicated about RAW? I photograph in RAW all the time. I suspect my cameras have forgotten what jpg is. My workflow from dowload, through LR, development, if needed then PSCS6, then output is easy.

        • 6
          ) Winston Cooper
          June 13, 2013 at 4:36 pm

          Allan, this is my second attempt to respond to your post. It’s as hard for me to noodle around this new system as figuring out Raw. Bottom line..I have tried RAW and will probably go back to it sometime but for now JPEG is safe and fine for me. I shoot mostly studio where I control all the elements and my D800 plus a few FX lenses give me all the resolution I need. I actually don’t do a lot of editing and print all my own stuff. I appreciate your comment and meaning and yep I should stretch a bit and try new things…Thanks.

          • 32
            ) Bob O.
            November 3, 2013 at 7:28 am

            Why not shoot both? Most cameras that support RAW and JPEG allow you shoot a picture and have both formats stored. That way, you have what you’re used to getting, but the chance to play around with RAW images. I bought LR5 and have since ended up doing RAW only so that I can have more control over my images (I also tend to take about 100 pics at a time). I shot RAW and JPEG for a bit because I wanted to make sure that if I got overwhelmed or just straight out messed up shots, I could have a fall back. I’ve since gone full RAW now that I’m much more used to LR5. YMMV but shooting both makes a great stop gap to learning the software.

  2. 2
    ) Screenwes
    June 12, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Regarding your article comparing Lightroom and Elements: You describe yourself as a student. Please, take a class in composition and read, memorize, and apply the lessons in Strunk’s “The Elements of Style.” After sorting out your writing I believe you have something to say, but you need to say it clearly.

    • 11
      ) Francois
      August 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      I had no difficulty comprehending the article and find your critique of his writing style condescending. I agree that truly lousy writing is annoying and obstructs the message, but this young man is nowhere near that. Nit-picking him is presumptuous and says more about you than his writing skills. Your tone (or is the proper term ‘voice’?) gives the impression that ‘anal retentive’ in the DSM may benefit from a nice picture of yourself to augment the diagnostic criteria. How does it feel? This has no place in this discussion but your presumptuous snobbery inspired this. He is doing us a great service by sharing his considerable knowledge of photography and software, not peddling a book, or his writing skills. So his style doesn’t suit you. And? So? If his style disturbs you so, leave the site and read elsewhere. You have Choices. Are you so critical of style in everything you can’t perceive the meat of the piece? Your proselytizing tone sounds like a rigid fundamentalist with his Bible or Koran. If your photography knowledge is just 10% of this fellow, perhaps you will venture a constructive and lucid contribution to the subject. Hopefully, common courtesy will keep some self-appointed editor from posting unsolicited opinions on your writing style. Maybe you’d like this, but nobody else cares. If I’m wrong, I apologize. So please-steer us to the unique insights you have posted and published to Photography and its allied disciplines. Meanwhile, if you post similar criticisms, consider how your hyper-critical personality may affect those in your real-life circle. I’m sure you’re a decent person, but you come off like your intellect has eclipsed your Heart.

      • 14
        ) WTT
        September 8, 2013 at 2:38 pm

        If you are going to do something, you should do it well – this includes writing your ideas. The previous poster had a valid point, condescending as he was: this article was a jumbled mess of ideas and hard to read. Ex: the author would mention one program, and then spend the rest of the paragraph talking about a different program.

        If something can be said, it can be said clearly; if it can not, it should not be said.

        • September 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm

          It is not my best article, far from it. Yet I do not regret writing it. I’m glad those who had no trouble reading it got some use out of it, for the rest, there will be others. Thank you, Francois, and thank you to everyone else – all the suggestions to improve have been duly noted.

          Can we, perhaps, simply leave it at that? There is no need to get offensive whatsoever, nor discuss the point further on. It is, after all, just an article and no one is obliged to read it if they do not want to. :)

          • 19
            ) Deanna
            September 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm

            Who cares about your overall grammar?! This is a review of photo editing software, not a grammar class. And yes I have an M.S., so I am well aware of proper grammar. Please people, keep things relevant.

            • September 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm

              Deanna, I appreciate this, but don’t worry too much about what people say. :) Photography Life has a very friendly community overall. This much I can easily take and it does not bother me if some people fail to remain grateful and polite every now and then. It is everyone’s choice to be or not to be a jerk, I say let them make that choice.

              I think it is not grammar that people were concerned with, but the overall structure of the article. Some may have found it hard to follow, although why is not immediately apparent to me, personally. Then again, I do not claim to be a professional, merely a student with a few tips to share. In any case, more often than not advice our readers tend to give are well judged, even if not well put. Others just tend to, well, be jerks for no reason. It is my job to take up the advise of the polite type and ignore the jerks. Luckily, few such people tend to bother commenting under our articles. :)

              Have a good day!

            • 22
              ) Deanna
              September 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm

              I understand, but people who are critical just for the sake of being critical annoy me, and as an amateur photographer I fully appreciate any advice in regards to navigating the entire Adobe line of photo editing. Thank you for your thorough and honest review of their products :).

            • September 14, 2013 at 3:13 am

              You are most welcome, Deanna!

            • 39
              ) JR
              January 14, 2014 at 5:57 pm

              Roman,

              You did an admirable job of contrasting the three applications; a VERY DIFFICULT task.

              As I read through it I, too, felt that you jumped around a bit and that the flow was somewhat jarring. However, after all of the information settled in, it hit me that you were writing in a ‘stream’ and you were learning as you went along. That shows an immense amount of humility; like when you admitted that PSE perhaps can produce professional results, even though it wasn’t designed for pros.

              Frankly, I thought that your ‘stream’ served a somewhat ironic conclusion: you didn’t realize that PSE was that capable! That, in an of itself, made the writing style all the more interesting and effective.

              Good job! Keep at it and don’t look back(nor read the negative comments).

            • January 15, 2014 at 6:36 am

              JR,

              once again, thank you. It was quite difficult to compare three pieces of software that are so different, yet also target photographers to a larger or lesser extent. And you are quite right, I did learn quite a lot about PSE as I worked on the article. Spent a lot of time exploring its possibilities, which also surprised me in a very positive way – it is in fact a very powerful program, but at the same time so much simpler than PS or LR. I am truly glad you understood my writing so well even though, as you said, it was not easy.

              As for the comments, a listen to both. The problem lies not in criticism – constructive criticism is a very, very good thing and I always welcome it. The problem is in how people choose to express themselves. Some prefer to bash me for any grammatical errors I might have made, others choose to point them out for me via email (there is one person who does that regularly and to whom I am extremely grateful).

              Cheers!

    • 51
      ) Walter Zelman
      July 10, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      You are just plain rude and appear to have your head where no one cares to see it! Go away.

  3. 4
    ) Alan
    June 13, 2013 at 7:06 am

    The comparison of Lightroom and PSE editing was interesting but I think too much emphasis is made on categorizing them according to which is best for beginners, amateurs, enthusiasts, or professionals. The main consideration should which program gets the job done most efficiently and with the desired results. I have used both PSE and Lightroom and in many ways I find Elements more powerful than Lightroom and I often have to go from Lightroom to Elements to achieve editing results not available in Lightroom. Probably the best example is the Cloning Tool which is absent in Lightroom 3 that I have. As a bird photographer there is often a need to remove a small stick that might be blocking part of the bird’s body and the Cloning Tool really comes in handy for this purpose. Also the Quick Selections Tool is much improved with PSE 11, and enables the user to select portions of an image with great accuracy and then apply various lightening and darkening functions to it with impressive results, which seems more intuitive and easier with PSE. The photomerge function for stitching panoramas works quite well, and Ramanas already mentioned the capabilities for using social networking possibilities with PSE. Anyway I like Elements much better than Lightroom for my needs as a photographer of wildlife, at least now, and would caution about selling it short.

  4. 7
    ) offtheback
    June 21, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Alan-Thanks for the clarification.I have been using PE 10 and wondering about switching to LR.Your comment on the better quick selection tool in 11 is tempting me to upgrade.I know as soon as I do PE 12 will magically show up.

  5. 8
    ) Matthew
    July 23, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Thanks for the quick and informed comparisons between the products, and thanks to other commenters.

    Looks like Elements for me, as I can see a need to use layers for some of my project ideas, with a move to Lightroom later if I start to take many more photos.

  6. 9
    ) Jorge Balarin
    August 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Unfortunately Lightroom doesn’t offer “Copy and Paste” and layers, so for me the best solution is to have both softwares. I would start my editing in lightroom, and the I would go to Elements when necessary.

  7. 10
    ) Craig
    August 24, 2013 at 11:15 am

    90% of the photos that take of of my kids playing sports. 70,000 images over their lifetimes. PSE is so convenient to import, drag a Tag or 3 (location, activity, subject) on to the latest imports. They the kids can check the Tag and just see the photo that pertain to what they want to look through.

    Lightroom is so excellent for taking a potentially good photo and enhancing it in to a superb one, especially one in RAW.

    It would be fantastic if Lightroom had the same easily accessible tags as PSE. Then I would be fully sold. (I know there are keywords, but really, how easy is PSE to use them?)

  8. 12
    ) Richard
    September 1, 2013 at 3:32 am

    One thing that may be worth considering, is that adobe sell yearly PSE updates only as standalone these days, whereas lightroom still has upgrade pricing. So if you tend to update, the longer term cost of lightroom is much closer to PSE

  9. 13
    ) Nelis
    September 2, 2013 at 6:52 am

    A really neat article. Thanks for taking the time to write it and the trouble to publish it.

  10. 16
    ) Szoo2
    September 12, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    I came to this website to determine which software I should purchase as a serious amateur bird and wildlife photgrapher. English is not my primary language, but I totally understood the review. There is another saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it”. Enough of the nit-picking!

    I have recently retired so I have time to shoot over a hundred frames per week. That puts me in the category of looking at if not editing a lot of photos. I have PS CS-5 and it is big and complicated. But I do shoot RAW as well as JPEG so I was looking for a simpler program that I can grow my skills and not drown in complexities. My tendency now is to buy LR-5 and PSE-11 as a backup if LR-5 does not satisfy me.

    • 17
      ) Craig
      September 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      SZ -
      I have now made my life more complicated and more fun. I now shoot in Raw plus Jpeg. I am dumping the RAW images onto an external drive through LR5. I then take the chip and dump the Jpegs through PSE. PSE allows me to categorize nicely and lets the kids scroll through on their own.

      • 18
        ) Szoo2
        September 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm

        I just sorted my last session of JPEG and RAW images by the tedious and careful use of Windows Explorer. Not much fun in that. Thanks for the tip.

        • 21
          ) Craig
          September 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

          Next time do a search on *.CR2. Then Ctrl+A. Then Right-Click and drag to an external drive, then choose move. Create a folder called RAW 1st on the external.

  11. 24
    ) Albert
    September 29, 2013 at 4:27 am

    I have two versions of Photoshop, Elements 10 and CS6. I use elements 10 and even though I am new at using Photoshop, I find Elements 10 very easy to use. The initial reason why I came to this website was to find out whether editing in Elements is destructive or non-destructive and I did not really got an answer both in the article or in the comments that followed. So, could any one please tell me whether editing in Elements is destructive to images or not? I know Lightroom is non-destructive.

    Regards – Albert

  12. 25
    ) Craig
    September 29, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Albert,
    After you finish working on your photo in PSE, you have the option to “save edited as a copy”. Then you will have 2 copies, one as the original and one as the fixed up one. But normally, it is destructive. With Lightroom, the original stays the same and the edits occur inside the program until you export.

    • 26
      ) Albert
      September 29, 2013 at 6:52 am

      Thanks Craig, much appreciated!

      Albert

  13. 27
    ) vas182
    October 4, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Thank you for this fantastic article. I have been trying to decide between LR and PSE and you made the decision easier for me.

  14. 28
    ) SB
    October 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

    To echo the sentiments of many others before this comment: Thanks for the great article.
    I’ve been on the fence as to which way I should ‘dip my toe’ into the post-processing pond and this was just what I needed. Great job – well written – comprehensive and thoughtful.
    Question, please… I have a real attraction to B&W – do you think that Silver Efex is worth the $$ (at this point) or should I first get accustomed to what I can do with PSE and then make a decision? (And, btw, right now I’m shooting in both RAW and jpg).

    Best.
    SB

    • October 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      SB,

      thank you!

      Silver Efex Pro is a great plug-in I used to turn to very often. However, if you have the required skills, there is nothing you can’t do with regular processing. Silver Efex is just easier and quicker and has lots of looks that resemble real photographic film (not as accurately as VSCO), if that is important to you. If it is worth it or not depends on your personal needs – what would you use it for? Would it help you save time and is that important to you? Are you willing to try and learn B&W conversions yourself?

  15. 30
    ) Jim Bartleman
    October 31, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Excellent article; I have friends who are professional/near professional photographers who strongly recommend lightroom, However, I am an amateur photographer who is using PSE 9/Paintshop 5 and your article supports my conclusion that for my skill level PSE appears the better option.

    I have started shooting in RAW, would this effectchange your recommendation?

    Would you recommend upgrading to PSE 12?

    Best regards,

    Jim

  16. 31
    ) Jehu Chan
    November 1, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Thank you. A great article which reaffirm my decision to go ahead with Lightroom5.

  17. 33
    ) Valdas
    November 8, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Hi Roman, good to see you spending some time writing photography related articles :) I have just discovered this one when I was “googling” LR vs PSE… I must agree with most of your statements, but I want to share my own “film only” user experience.
    I bought myself LR4 some time ago, but then came back to the old PSE3 just because using LR4 takes more time for me. Like I said, I only use post processing software for film scans, therefore I don’t need all these “bulk processing” features of the LR, I like to spend some time working on each film frame… And the way I have to import/develop/export files in LR just sucks compared to open/post process/save as… And some small differences of post processing in LR vs PS/PSE are really annoying :) Example? Well, why can’t I resize files without exporting? :) Probably I will need to finally buy a digital camera to get the full benefits out of LR4 :) nah… just kidding…

  18. 34
    ) Peter
    November 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    To be honest I have moved almost exclusively to Corel PaintShop Pro X4.

    A few years ago while travelling interstate for a lenghty period my laptop crashed losing all my software. I was using PSE at that time but did not have the disk with me and needed a quick fix to my immediate problem of being unable to process images. Corel had a trial version available online so I downloaded it for free and rainstalled it, quickly realising that this software is more poweful in most respects than my version of Elements (which admittedly was a little old) and in particular had some photographer-centric tools that Elements did not.

    For example it has very simple to use but effective tools for perspective correction and for straightening images. There were others too. It had all the Photoshop tool “essentials” like layers, levels, curves, selections (some of which – like curves, PSE did not have or only had in cut down form at that time) and things like a healing tool that were better (then) than the one in PSE. Most of the tool commands and methods of using them were identical or extremely similar to Photoshop – all for a price that was between half and two thirds the cost of PSE. it also has inbuilt tools for black and whwite conversion, sharpening and noise reduction which used to require plugins for PSE. (not sure now if PSE bundles these)

    Since then I have stuck with it. it supports most Photoshop plugins – for example Nik tools and combined with a small selection of plugins like that I find to be near perfect for my needs. I have tried Lightroom and like it for RAW conversion but still find it to be lacking in some areas – the ability to use layers for example is important to me.

    There are some disadvantages. A few plugins dont seem to work properly. And if you are learning most of the tutorials on the i’net are for Photoshop not for Corel. This can make it harder to learn how to process images – but as its user friendly thats not such a big hurdle once you understand the principles behind things such as layers and blend modes, selections etc.

    There has been a lot of development of PSE since then and I am sure it has caught up in some areas but for now the advantages of using the Corel product outweigh any disadvantages and I am happy to keep using it. And I am happy to proselytize and recommend that others try it too. Surely there must be others like me who prefer to escape the Adobe hegemony. :^)

    • 42
      ) Denny
      January 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      I have been using Paintshop pro v. 7 for a few months. I have figured out how to copy areas (ctrl-c)and paste (ctrl-e) them to remove blemishes. it handles RAW and has meany edit tools to change the whole picture. Panoramic functionality is mostly manual and use hugin (free) for that. The scratch remover works great. Every time I use the other tools to remove objects or blend in areas, blur, burnish… It only shows a cross hatch over the areas and does not remove it.
      I am considering going to PSE to see if it does those things better. Possibly a video driver issue, but everything else works great. I have Win 7 64 bit.

      Thanks all for your suggestions and comments.

  19. 35
    ) Gail
    December 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you for that article. As an amateur genealogist,I just want to scan and “restore” old photos of my family. Sounds like PSE is the way to go for me. I am in the process of buying a new laptop and I’ve been confused because some of the companies seem to be pushing Lightroom. Thanks again.

  20. 36
    ) Jess Wunman
    December 28, 2013 at 11:18 am

    This is one of the most useful comparison threads that I have ever read. Thanks to all, especially Romanas, for taking time to compose your comments. (BTW… I find Romanas’ use of the English language to be VERY understandable.)

  21. 37
    ) JR
    January 14, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for posting this article. I’ve recently given up on full-blown PS and have, I suppose, ‘stepped down’ to PSE. I got tired of upgrading PS and paying SO MUCH extra money for tools I’d never use. I’ve never used Lightroom, so I can’t comment on it.

    In your comparison of PS, PSE and LR you delineate the differences between each product and make ample use of the terms “amateur” and “professional” by applying each to one of the products. I was a bit surprised by your initial assessment that PSE is not a professional tool, but am glad that you changed your mind toward then end, when you said the following:

    [PSE] ” it’s not meant for professional use”…but….”I’m not saying you can’t work with it professionally – obviously, you can.” – Nasim

    That’s a more accurate way to describe PSE; specially versions 11 and 12, which include layer masks, a feature that was only available in PS and one that opens the door to MANY creative opportunities. For my needs – landscapes, portraiture and architecture – I can’t find a single thing that I was able to do in PS that I cannot do in PSE 12.

    Ultimately, the issue may very well come down to defining what “professional” means. Perhaps for someone on the NFL’s sidelines, shooting in excess of 1K images per game, PSE may not be the tool of choice. If you’re shooting hundreds of images for a wedding, across 2-3 camera bodies, and require near immediate feedback to the wedding party, then PSE may not be the tool. I’m saying this because I have not used Lightroom and am taking what you say as being true, namely, that Lightroom is better than PSE for batch processing a very large number of images.

    That said, it must be highlighted that PSE does allow for batch processing, to include RAW files(search the web for how to do that) and does so very efficiently; to the point that I’ve not missed PS’s batch processing at all. I honestly can’t see why most photographers shouldn’t be able to use PSE as their only tool; including professionals and specially with the release of PSE 12. Of course, if those professionals are producing highly detailed and intricate composites with much graphic manipulation, then full-blown PS would be the ticket. Although with each release PSE is sloooowly catching up in most of the basic tools for composite work.

    I would encourage anyone, even those with ‘pro’ aspirations, to consider PSE 12 as a viable alternative to PS at a MUCH LOWER price. It comes with a camera RAW plugin that allows batch processing, and with layer masks there is little that most photographers will not be able to do. Worst case, you throw down about $90 USD for PSE 12 and if you find you need more, then break the bank and get the ‘professional’ PS.

    • 38
      ) JR
      January 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Sorry, Roman! You wrote this article and not Nasim. Great job!!!

      • January 15, 2014 at 6:31 am

        JR,

        thank you and don’t worry, it is not the first or, indeed, the last time someone mistakes me for Nasim. I take that as a compliment, he has written much more articles than I have and is quite a bit better at it :)

  22. 43
    ) Byron
    February 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Hi Romanas,
    Thank you for your analysis. I’m still wrestling with choosing the best software for organizing my photos.

    I have 10′s of thousands of photographs – either taken digitally or scanned from photos and slides. Up to now I have attempted to organize them in Windows folders by date. I also have PSE 10 and have been (somewhat) using it since version 6. I have also tried to use other software including Roxio and Picasa.

    The editing capabilities are sufficient in all of these for my needs but organizing is a challenge.

    First, setting date_taken and organizing on that attribute is difficult. Ideally, I could see the thumbnails and that attribute and be able to change it. Additionally, I should be able to set that attribute for many files at one time. I use EXIF Tools now but it’s not user friendly. Date_taken, Date_Acquired, Date_Created, Date_modified and Date_Accessed seem to be treated differently by many different pieces of software and modified incoherently.

    Like wise, setting tags by photo or en mass is highly desirable. Facial recognition and geolocation are helpful.

    Also, if I share my photos with family I really want to have the organizer automatically synchronize the shared photos with my archive. I don’t want my entire archive public, just selected photos. And of course, I want to minimize the amount I have to spend on cloud storage. Photos (RAW and JPG) of 2MB each take up a lot of space. Ideally, my archive would have the larger files and the ones online would be reduced quality.

    And finally, I keep my photo archive on an external drive so having a program that can make it easy to see all photos, regardless of location, and move them around between folders, would be wonderful. PSE10 wants to scan all external file locations every time I fire it up. That can take 30 minutes or more.

    Currently I use Windows Explorer, EXIF Tools, and PSE10 to accomplish all this and it isn’t seamless by any stretch of the imagination.

    Do you or any of your readers have any suggestions?

    Thanks

  23. April 13, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Thank you for this insightful article. I’ve been using PSE+ (alas, impossible to find after ver 8) and subsequequent versions of PSE (up to ver 11) for quite a few years. I was wondering whether, for my new requirements (real estate photography), I needed Lightroom. After reading your article, I’ve decided to stick with PSE for some time longer.

    marie, the EpicureanPiranha

  24. 45
    ) Richard
    May 8, 2014 at 5:08 am

    Many thanks for this article!
    I have been using PSE11 for some time now, and I consider myself as a beginner regarding photo editing.

    I have found that PSE11 is all I need to edit my photos. Maybe some filters and other ways to sharpen and reduce noice is missing.

    But since I started with RAW, I find the version of Camera RAW included in PSE11 to be very basic and lacks a lot of functions. So for that reason only, I’m considering to buy Lightroom to do my RAW processing och basic editing. But what I understand Lightroom don’t use layers and blend modes (?), which is something I have found very useful i PSE11.

    I will then be processing my RAW files in Lightroom and do my basic editing there, but if I need layers and blend modes, I will then as the next step open the picture in PSE11 and do the tasks that needs layers and blend modes.

    The price for Lightroom and PSE11 is much lesser than going for the full Photoshop CC.

    Comments to this anyone? Am I missing something by doing it this way?

    Another option is of course to use a completely different product, such as OnOne Perfect Photo Suite.
    Priced as Lightroom and PSE11 together.

  25. 46
    ) Tony
    May 15, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    I wish I had read this article last week.

    I may have made a mistake in that I purchased both PSE and Lightroom. The positive was that I was able to get academic pricing and that PSE came bundled with Premiere Elements (although I was quite happy with iMovie). Since I have them both, I’ll probably bounce between them and see which suits me for particular tasks.

    Thanks for the information.

  26. 47
    ) Paul
    June 5, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Recently I did start shooting in RAW as the quality of the photos is higher than in jpeg.
    LR is a very good and fast tool to do the most processing of the photos (cropping, WB and colour adjustments,…).
    To make greeting cards, invitations and so of the photos, I have to go to PSE (or PS)
    Both programs are targetted to do different tasks although there is an overlap of there capabilities
    So bying the both is not a bad idea or a waist of money.

  27. 48
    ) Mark
    June 29, 2014 at 7:27 am

    I am using a trial version of photoshop elements 12 at the moment. I have found it very easy to use. Unfortunately, It will not open the RAW files from my canon g16. To me this is a major downer. I have down loaded Digital Photo Professional which is a canon program and it will work with the raw files it also deals with HDR. However it is not as easy to use as the elements. I may find that as I get to know Digital Photo Professional it will be all I need. Am I right in thinking that lightshop is a monthly pay as you go?

  28. 49
    ) Jason
    June 30, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    While we are being all condescending (a while ago), I would like to state very objectively that Romanas has done a splendid job of putting across useful info. He’s not obliged to do it, and it is hilarious that people actually believe they have the right to talk about his work in any way other than expressing gratitude. If anything, I think its weak brains and comprehension capabilities that cause people problems in understanding this article.
    Romanas, you are awesome. I needed to make a decision and your article alone has helped me decide.
    Cheers!

  29. Avatar of Don Schreiber
    50
    ) Don Schreiber
    July 7, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    This is a good article. As somebody still a rookie with digital (Lots of film experience), I think Elements is adequate for me. However, is there much to be gained, upgrading to vers. 12? Other than a much more pleasant screen. The black background of all screens in vers. 10 can be…irritating.

    As I mentioned, I’m new to digital. I intend to bore you folks with questions until either you ban me from the site…or my computer gives out.

    Thanks!

  30. 52
    ) Ladytasha
    July 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    I have pse 12. It does raw and JPEG quite well, and as I am just learning the programme and DSLR cameras, find it more than adequate for my needs. My pro friends want me to get Lightroom , that is what they use, but I am not a pro, just a very good amateur ! And I try not to do much post processing at this point, perhaps that will change in the future!

    I also found this to be a very good article, thanks

  31. 53
    ) Dan Mayworm
    July 24, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I looked for this article because there is one tool in Photoshop I used a lot that is not in PSE, that’s the darken/lighten brush. I used Photoshop a lot on a PC but when I switched to a Mac I got a free copy of PSE and Photoshop had gone to the monthly price which I was not interested in doing.

    I like to be able to lighten a face or dress without lightening the entire image. I like to darken the foreground and/or sky without darkening the entire image. Can’t do that in PSE, or at least I haven’t been able to figure out how to do that.

    Can you do that in Lightroom? I don’t do a lot of post processing multitudes of images so that feature of Lightroom has no interest for me.

  32. 55
    ) Dan
    July 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    You must mean I can do it in Lightroom. Only brushes in PSA are Enhance, Draw and a whiten teeth brush.

    I will go to a “Try it” version of Lightroom to see if the adjustment brush is there and will do what I want to do.

    Thanks.

  33. 56
    ) Dan
    July 25, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I meant PSE, not PSA, Sorry

  34. 57
    ) Charlie
    July 26, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Thanks for doing the comparo.
    The criticism of the article is unwarranted.

  35. 58
    ) John Weygandt
    July 30, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Thank you; this article is very very helpful and informative.
    I really appreciate how well this is written.
    Thanks for taking the time to carefully compare these 3 applications.

  36. 59
    ) Mark
    August 1, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Great article found it very useful. In the end I was faced with no choice. I downloaded the 30 day lightroom free trial. I found that my computer cannot run it without upgrading to windows 7. I am happy with my computer as is and cannot justify upgrading to windows 7 or 8 just for lightroom.

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