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I currently use Aperture 3.1 for tweaks and library management and I'm happy with it for that purpose, but I am considering buying Photoshop CS5 for more extreme editing. I was wondering if there was any advantage in migrating to Lightroom at the same time?

Does using PS+LR as a team enable features that PS+other can't support?

For example,

  • Are adjustments made in LR preserved as non-destructive edits (adjustment layers?) when a photo is exported to PS?

  • Does working with PS+LR require fewer intermediate files than PS+other?

  • Does Aperture support .PSD files, or do I have to convert to TIFF before I can archive my files in Aperture? Does that mean losing editing flexibility?

NB: I'm not asking if LR is better than Aperture, only whether it integrates better with PS.

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From a functional standpoint, as you probably know, LR and Aperture are very comparable. They both do the same job, and they both do it will. A key functional difference is their primary workflow. LR is modular, while Aperture is non-linear (you can do any action at any time without having to choose a specific module.) If you are used to the Aperture workflow, you might need to get used to LR's modular workflow. Modules do make it easier to do certain groups of tasks, but switching between modules can be a bit of a pain sometimes.

From a compatibility and integration with Photoshop standpoint, Lightroom does indeed have one advantage that Aperture does not. Photoshop and Lightroom use the same RAW processing engine. This may seem like a subtle difference, however the way RAW files are processed can have a significant impact on your workflow. Different RAW processing engines can (and usually do) process the original sensor data in different ways, apply different base tone curves, etc. When moving between Aperture and Photoshop when using RAW files, you may notice some slight (and sometimes not so slight) differences in how your photos appear. As you stack up edits, these differences in RAW processing engines may have a more noticeable impact.

As Adobe's RAW processing engine has very recently been updated with some pretty advanced algorithms that do a SUPERB job processing raw images, this might be a key factor to take into account regarding your cross-program workflow.

  • I just tried the Photoshop RAW engine. Wow. Really, just wow. Where did all the noise go? I think that could be the deciding factor. – Scott Carroll Dec 14 '10 at 14:19
  • Yeah, Adobe's raw processing is second to none these days. :) – jrista Dec 14 '10 at 17:28
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You certainly get better multi-image integration btw LR and PS, HDR/Panos/Layers/Smart Objects can be sent to photoshop with one click by selecting multiple images and picking 'Edit In PS->'

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Are adjustments made in LR preserved as non-destructive edits (adjustment layers?) when a photo is exported to PS?

Yes, and this is also true in Aperture. Both products support basic Photoshop integration; LR gives you the additional ability to Merge to Panorama, Merge to HDR, and Open as Smart Object.

There's a nice article on O'Reilly that explains how Aperture integrates with Photoshop.

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