Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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I am a passionate not a professional, I shoot most of the time in jpg because:

  1. I usually don't have the time to process raw
  2. raw takes a lot more space (and I feel my D700 jpgs are huge already!)
  3. and I'm not sure I'd be better in processing the raw that the in-camera settings

I currently use Picasa for organizing my files (that I store under a flat structure in DATE-Subject folders) and apply very simple contrast/color optimization.

I have a good and recent Windows 7 laptop.

I've tried PhotoDirector 2011, and I might not have given it enough time but I don't feel like I'm getting huge improvements wrt simpler Picasa presets for my pics... and skills.

I'm wondering if it would make sense to invest in Lightroom, or Capture NX 2 (or something else, but I'm under the impression there's not much else worth it), knowing that:

  1. I'd rather have a single-stop software or at most a well integrated catalog+edit couple
  2. It will still be JPG most of the time, but a few RAWs when I really feel enthusiastic or I take important pics for friends

The question is not much about /which/ software (though hints are welcome!), rather if Lightroom or a similar software would be a worthwhile step up from Picasa, or just overkill for JPGs...

Related

While there are a few questions about somehow similar topics, most of the time I hear answers related specifically to RAW... which just isn't my target right now.

Otherwise, these are the closest questions I could find:

share|improve this question
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You can try Lightroom out for free for (I think) 30 days. You might get more useful information by trying it yourself than by asking us. For what it is worth, I used to shoot RAW+JPG and use a mixture of Picasa and GIMP. But these days I shoot RAW only and use Lightroom. –  James Youngman May 9 '12 at 22:42
    
Thanks @JamesYoungman, I am planning on trying, indeed I've been planning to do so for at least one year :) , but I do know myself and the 30 days will be gone before I have get good enough at it to know if it's worth it :) . Reading your valuable comment I feel you started were I was, tasted LR, and enjoyed well enough to change your workflow! This might happen to me too, but I'd like to understand if, in the meanwhile :), LR with JPGs makes sense or not at all... –  Stefano May 9 '12 at 22:52
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I got someone else to show me what was useful about it and I was sold in a couple of minutes. Try watching some videos online about LR. –  James Youngman May 10 '12 at 0:25
    
@JamesYoungman then you are one more making it sound like it's really worth it! thanks! –  Stefano May 10 '12 at 8:23
    
@mattdm you are right about the Q title, even though I'm not asking only about LR it does make the question more clear, thanks! –  Stefano May 10 '12 at 8:30

4 Answers 4

Not at all. Lightroom is a great tool with many well-integrated features. Version 4 which is roughly half the price of previous one adds maps, book publishing, soft-proofing to the already useful organization and processing tool.

The organization tools are probably worth the price alone and the export feature is the best one I've seen. So what if I don't use processing other than crop? Can I ask for a $10 discount from Adobe? The rest saves my time finding and preparing photos for print. I calibrate my cameras to do the processing which suits my style of photography and shoot JPEG as well. Like you I would rather spend more time shooting than processing.

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thanks that's very useful feedback - in particular knowing that you too stick mostly to JPGs! –  Stefano May 10 '12 at 8:28
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The updated exposure tools in v4 are also very, very nice. –  rfusca May 10 '12 at 14:12

This is a matter of personal preference. People say they'd rather spend more time shooting then processing. I look at it differently but I am no pro just an amateur with a demanding job and 3 small children at home so my time with photography has to be optimized; I spend half my time thinking where, what, when and how to shoot and then the remaining time is probably equally spent on shooting and processing. I enjoy both equally as much.

Back to Picasa and Lighroom;

I think you might find Lightroom to be an overkill for your purposes. Picassa is fast and simple to use and has almost no learning curve. If you are using Picasa online albums or frequently email batches of photos to people from picasa then then you might end up using both Picasa and Lightroom whereas now you are only using one. Besides, if need be, Picasa lets you work with RAW files too and all editing is non-destructive. To utilize Lightroom to its full potential you will need to take a tutorial or a course or read a comprehansive manual and then keep practicing. It's not as complicated as Photoshop but if you have never done any "serious" image editing there will be a steep learning curve. This is unlike Picasa which is designed to be used by anyone who likes to snap a lot of pictures.

Lightroom is certainly more powerful and feature-rich and personally it is where I do bulk of my editing but in terms of quickly navigating through thousands of photos from last several years I still prefer Picasa. (I have one Lighroom library per batch of photos within a dated folder and the root of this structure is also mu watched folder in Picasa. However, I don't ever use Picasa for processing.)

In terms of processing, everything in Lightroom is better then it is in Picasa allowing you to have more artistic control over the final look. Colour, Noise removal, sharpenning, effects, etc. Lightroom is superior to Picasa BUT NOT top notch. In order to get the best noise removal, best sharpenning and best effects many still use specialized software dedicated to those particular tasks each one costing as much or more then Lightroom itself.

So Lightroom is definitely a big step-up from Picasa in terms of features and the quality of the final rendering but I am not convinced you would find it a better organizer for your photos. The structure you describe is very much Picasa friendly and you don't do any processing that would warrant the more complicated and more epxpensive Lightroom.

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thanks that's a very good pragmatic feedback! The only think that I would add is that I'd like to start adding a bit more processing to my pics. While I do a lot of silly family snaps, I also from time to time do weddings pics or more artistic pics, and I do need to find a friendly but powerful enough software to make it better. Picasa ain't it for sure, as you say! But it's good to know I can keep it to organize the bulk of my pics, and I do agree that I will have to invest some time in learning out to do photo-processing... –  Stefano May 11 '12 at 10:37
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Another key point (bias: I really like LR4): there is a bit of a learning curve, but the Adobe TV series does a great job of explaining how to use it. Once you learn it, you can use it for either a JPG or a RAW workflow. Lightroom handles the conversion automatically for you, there are no extra steps. So its easy to use RAW, just tell your camera to record RAW+JPG when you think you might want to use RAW. –  Pat Farrell Oct 1 '12 at 18:03

You can buy a small editing program that you can evoke from Picasa instead of buying Lightroom. I use Snapheal and Pixelmator for any editing that is missing in Picasa.

Having tried Lightroom in every stage, I still find it too confusing with importing/exporting/databases and moving between computers; Picasa is clean and safe, saves your work and keeps the originals, so far better for big collections on limited harddisk space and when you want to use photos outside the programs (directly from finder/explorer).

The main thing missing in Picasa is some kind of fast rating. Starring is halfway there, although being able to mark keepers&rejected as well as good ones would be great.

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Gimp is definetly worth a try, at least for kind of basic things like level, curves, color modifications. I am not a big fan of Lightroom, since it is very powerful, but rather clumsy and slow on my machine, making an overkill choice for amatuers. I prefer Camera raw + photoshop by far, which is much more powerful and more responsive.

Beside that it depends if you have 100 photos and want to spend 30 seconds each (in that case maybe picasa is perfectly fine) or if you prefer to spend 1h on a single photo, in that case Gimp or Photoshop would be better imoh.

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Thanks Paolo. I know it comes down to personal preferences too, but I don't like the Gimp at all - I'd rather pay for a better (ergonomy) interface - and in my personal experience it's not very stable on windows. And for my needs on the average I'd rather have a Picasa on steroids, I almost never need the power of a Photoshop-like tool! –  Stefano Oct 5 '12 at 13:08

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