Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I recently purchased a Sony Alpha a33 and was told Lightroom was the only way to go for photo editing. My photography right now is purely of our brand new baby right now, so I won't be profiting from any of the shoots as of now so any money I invest will not have a return. With a brand new baby, we are trying to find was to do things for less. Is there any tolerable alternative to Lightroom or an option for purchasing it for less than a whopping $300 + tax? (Even the lowered price for Lightroom 4 may be too much for some people.)

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

It's worth noting, I've looked into Picasa, BlueMarine, and LightZone, but none of them really seem to compare. Also, I found a couple of sites that have it for download for a much lower price (here, for example) but not sure if it's reliable.

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If you are a student, or have a close friend/relative who is, you can get it cheaper. –  BBischof Nov 7 '10 at 5:22
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The link you gave (activedownsite) is definitely a pirate site. Look at the bottom of the page where they say 'Copyright © 2010 Microsoft', which is ludicrous. Apart from ethical concerns, there is a good chance that software from this site is infected with trojans. –  labnut Nov 7 '10 at 7:04
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Lightroom is often available for much less than $300. I bought it a few months ago for $149 from B&H, and it was briefly available from Amazon for $99 on Black Friday. If you're interested in buying it, but not on a deadline, keep an eye on pricing from Adobe, B&H, Adorama, and Amazon, and you should find a decent price before too long. (Note that the LR4 beta has been released; expect that upgrading from LR3.x will cost $100. That may, however, make sales on LR3.x more common.) –  coneslayer Jan 12 '12 at 13:46
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If people tell you something is "the only way to go", they are usually lying or have no clue. –  ThiefMaster Jan 14 '12 at 22:12
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Stick $5 a day in a glass jar and buy it 2 months from now. $300 on the spot is tricky, but for anyone in a developed country raising $300 in less than a year should be painless if you plan even a little bit... –  Andrew Heath Apr 11 '12 at 21:40

9 Answers 9

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Short Answer

  • Invest now, reap rewards later
  • Don't have a short term financial plan, but have a long term requirements plan
  • Cheap can mean more expensive over a long period
  • This is a lifetime investment and one day you may want to see a photo of your child at x months old
  • Learn to research and budget so that you can aquire the resources as you grow

My minimum requirements that should be attained to get the best possible returns from your investments:

  • Good catalog/basic photo editing package (eg: lightroom 3)
  • Good lens beyond kit lense (eg: 18-200 range to cover all possibilities)
  • Good flash that can be manipulated so light bounces of walls or ceilings
  • External storage with mirror capabilities (eg: WD mirror edition or dedicated NAS)

Long Detailed Answer

Lets be honest here. I have a two year old. My wife wanted top quality photos and we got charged over $1,000 for 12 photos on a burnt CD. This was a commercial company and the photos were good but we wanted something better.

So after some research I invested in a Nikon D90 with standard kit lens. After a thousand photo's later it become clear that I needed somewhere of organising the photos taken on the DSLR and the point & shoot that my wife uses.

I invested in lightroom 3 as we are talking about a long term strategy and the investments that I make now should be reaped a few years into the future.

Then I invested in 2 lenses to improve photo quality: 18-200mm lens for all situations and a 85mm f/1.8 prime for specific portraiture work.

Next up is around $2,000 to by a NAS that has native ZFS support so that I don't have to worry about bit rot during long term storage.

With these investments, hopefully, when my daughter is 30, I will have all the requirements about getting the photos we need from our infrastructure.

My only concern would be the long term support of lightroom, but because I now use DNG, all my edits are stored in the DNG file so I can move to any other solution that has native DNG support.

I don't know if this exactly answers your questions but may give you some food for thought from somebody who has been in your shoes and made the decision to think about the future and not now.

If we cannot afford something right now we either budget for the purchase, or use the credit card and pay it off over a period of time.

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I have a D90 and find that my 35-70mm 2.8 is the best lens so far for portraits - I also have the 50mm 1.4 and the 105 2.8. –  Zoe Bailey Nov 7 '10 at 12:15
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Credit cards have insane interest and shouldn't be used for routine loans, only emergencies. –  Reid Nov 7 '10 at 16:10
    
You seriously suggest anyone to get an 18-200 lens? –  ThiefMaster Jan 14 '12 at 22:12
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@ThiefMaster - When you want a generic lens to cover all ranges so you can identify what ranges you use the most. This empowers you to make a better decision on a dedicated lens. There is nothing wrong with the 18-200 as a first lens. Rather than just commenting, why not make some educated responses into WHY the 18-200 is bad for entry into photography beyond the kit lens (which the 18-200 is far superior to) –  Wayne Jan 15 '12 at 5:15

You should be aware that the newly released Lightroom V4 is only half the price of previous versions!

Available direct from Adobe for USD 149, or GBP 103

http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop-lightroom.html

This doesn't appear to be a time-limited offer!

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I want to stress student discounts; Lightroom is a powerful tool and worth it with the discount (Wherever you/wife/etc went to school; walk in and talk to the IT department; they might be able to hand you a copy); I think I got it for ~90 from adobe direct with my wife's' student id.

If that's not an option; and all you want is basic editing; previous recommendations for Gimp are good; but you might want to consider Photoshop Elements also; <100usd without any discounts; and has nearly everything from Photoshop you would use for photography(Goes much farther than lightroom for editing). You could then use Picassa or similar to organize(More of a PITA; especially if shooting raw; but life is a compromise sometimes..)

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You might check out the software recently released by Corel called AfterShot.

It's definitely cheaper than Lightroom. I've not read any reviews however on it yet.

Price was $99 or $79 with upgrades.....

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Corel acquired Bibble Labs, and AfterShot is based on Bibble. –  coneslayer Jan 12 '12 at 15:42

If you own an Apple computer you can purchase Aperture 3 for $199, alternatively you can purchase an education version of Lightroom (or Aperture) at a discounted price if you know somebody who works in education or is going to college. The license is a little different though in case you're using it professionally.

Edit: After the AppStore was launched, the price has dropped to USD $79.99

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I am windows user, but I have see Aperture to work and have features that I can not find on windows programs. –  Aristos Nov 9 '10 at 13:34

If you look around, you can sometimes find Lightroom for cheaper. I managed to buy it on Black Friday for only $130 or so. Still, you can find it on Amazon for only $230 or so now.

Definitely get a student version if you qualify, it's the full version, just not licensed for commercial use. The exact quote from the Adobe Website as to who qualifies is:

* University and college students - students enrolled at a higher education institution defined as an accredited public or private university or college (including community, junior, or vocational college) that grants degrees requiring not less than the equivalent of two years of full-time study.
* Primary and secondary school students - students enrolled at an accredited public or private primary or secondary school providing full-time instruction.

If you don't qualify, go to your nearest community college, enroll in a photography class, and you'll probably still save money, not to mention learning more about photography;-)

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A cheaper option (free) is picasa for organization and gimp for editing.

It's a little clunky, as they don't fully integrate, but this is what I'm using until I can justify the cost of lightroom or aperture.

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Btw, if you use gimp, I'd suggest also getting the FX-foundry plugin pack: gimpfx-foundry.sourceforge.net –  chills42 Nov 7 '10 at 1:23
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I have long used Picasa and Gimp and can recommend them as an effective solution. –  labnut Nov 7 '10 at 7:08

Those who told you that were wrong.

Lightroom is great. It works both as a cataloging tool and a photo editor but as far as editing goes it is quite basic. What it does which is great in terms of editing is what is called 'non-destructive editing'. That means that it makes edits in a database rather than modify your files, so your originals can always remain intact.

For editing, the best value is quite possible Photoshop Elements. Depending on where you are it may cost about $100 USD. This is a photo editor and not an organizer.

If you are looking for an organizer, you can read this. It covers Lightroom and 4 other software, including Bibble Pro which is quite good (with exception to their support unfortunately, at least based on my experience).

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I think you and the OP may be giving different meanings to the term "photo editing" as used in the question. –  Reid Nov 7 '10 at 1:47
    
I can agree that compared to something like full Photoshop, Lightroom as an editor could be described as "basic". However, as a statement on it's own about Lightroom, I don't believe describing Lightroom as a "basic editor" does it justice. I believe a lot of photographers hardly ever feel the need to use something like Photoshop anymore, finding Lightroom's set of tools more than sufficient in a lot of cases (I know I do, although I'm only an enthusiastic amateur). I agree that the OP's original quote about being told that "LR is the only way to go" is a somewhat blinkered statement. –  Conor Boyd Nov 7 '10 at 20:13
    
@Conor - Don't worry, some of us like myself never edit passed crop and rotation. My wife on the other hand transforms images in ways that can't even be started in Lightroom. One of the beauties of Lightroom is that it is basic and therefore easy to learn. Photoshop can be quite daunting on the other hand but is extremely powerful. –  Itai Nov 8 '10 at 0:57

One possibility is Bibble. It's got some, er, quirks but it is fine and the Lite version is certainly cheaper ($100). Pro is $200 but I don't know how competitive it is with Lightroom. (I use Linux, where Bibble is really the only serious option; there's not Lightroom.)

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