There are programs that are advertised as raw image editors such as Corel Aftershot Pro and there are programs advertised as image editors such as Corel Paintshop pro. If I understood well, people first do some editing on their raw images (using Aftershot or adobe raw) and then import them into another program for further processing such as Photoshop or Paintshop.

Why is the workflow like this? Why don't people directly process their raw images in Paintshop pro for example? To me it seems their are software specifically designed for raw image editing and other software for further processing. Is it just the marketing strategy of companies to divide their software into pieces to make more profit? or Are there some limitation about what someone can do with raw images before converting/importing them into another software?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is really a subjective thing, what software you use will be down to the user and with so many options it's hard to really comment. For myself I use Lightroom and Photoshop - I generally stick with LR as my edits aren't extremely big, just bringing up whites or making a picture warmer - If I want to remove something from a picture or do more editing I'll move to Photoshop which is more powerful but far more effort. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthew
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 13:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you do whatever you do with your raw file in Lightroom in Photoshop too? I do not know, but I have the impression that Photoshop is more limited than Lightroom in editing raw files. If this is the case, then why is it like this? Is it decision of Adobe to make more profit or are there limitations on how much edit can be done on a raw image? \$\endgroup\$
    – MOON
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Why do we even need RAW-specific editing software? \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Adobe charges 9.99/month for LR + PS. They charge 19.99/month for a single application. Your premise that using two programs is more expensive than one appears to be incorrect. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 16:12

2 Answers 2


Dedicated applications to process RAW files exist because some things are best done from RAW (like noise reduction) before conversion to an RGB format (because RAW are not RGB formats) and because there are many specialist algorithms that can be applied to RAW to reduce artifacts from demosaicing in special situations.

In particular noise is "spread out" by demosaicing from RAW formats (which all images start from even if the camera does not explicitly support RAW files). Once this is done you cannot undo the effect. So noise reduction needs (ideally) to be done as a first step in RAW development.

As you cannot undo RAW conversion to an RGB format, you cannot undo the effects of noise and artifacts in images as well as you can from RAW.

Now for most people this is unnecessary as they'll frankly manage fine with the JPEG straight from camera. But for some people who want to squeeze every last detail from an image the extra detail of dedicated RAW developer applications is worth it.

Note that something like the Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop is essentially an application that sits between Photoshop and the RAW file.

In general there is a software philosophy at work which tries to make separate units or applications to handle specific tasks. This lets developer isolate tasks and optimize them without complicating the software development process in undesirable ways.

Is it just the marketing strategy of companies to divide their software into pieces to make more profit?

Blame your camera companies.

The camera makers seem to feel that changing RAW file formats with every new model makes some kind of sense and, not only do they not make the formats public (making it very hard for software developers) but they've even been known to encrypt parts of RAW files. They could use a common format that would make software development easier for all concerned, but they don't.

As software development costs money and as the makers of software have to at least break even, it's not surprising that commercial software that reads RAW files costs more money for new versions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. The only thing I would add is that it actually helps workflow efficiency to have two programs. If you only care about 1 or 2 shots at a time, you don't notice. When you have 100+ wedding shots to get ready for print, it helps a ton to focus your work in stages with whatever software is designed for the stage you're on at any given time. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've wanted to understand this myself - I understand the principles of using RAW (and I do), I shoot in RAW and then bring that into LR as a DNG. Would it make any difference to import with Camera Raw first? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 16:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dazzathedrummer - here's a pretty decent workflow comparison: earthboundlight.com/phototips/… \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The camera makers seem to feel that changing RAW file formats with every new model makes some kind of sense" Different sensor designs require different demosaicing algorithms, even if the raw data is in the same type of raw format. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 14:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Every sensor has its own characteristics that must be taken into account when demosaicing the raw data collected by it. Ignoring those "parameters" as you call them would lead to inaccurate conversion. That is why early adopters of new cameras usually have to wait a few weeks before third party programs such as ACR can handle raw files from the new camera model. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 14:42

Most programs such as Photoshop or Paintshop Pro are set up to handle a single image at a time.

Most raw converters such as Lightroom (which also uses Adobe Camera Raw under the hood, just like Photoshop does when dealing with a raw image file) are set up to handle large numbers of images and apply the same processing to many of them at once.

In addition to raw conversion, many raw processing programs, including Lightroom, also offer organization and tagging of large numbers of images as well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point. Another use case for batch mode is if you're working on an underpowered computer. You can queue up processing of a bunch of images and go make lunch while the actual processing happens. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 12:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JosephRogers Isn't that what "... and apply the same processing to many of them at once" means? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 12:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ not entirely, that reads as "I took a bunch of shots in similar conditions on similar settings so I know they all need + half a stop and this profile". I'm talking about setting up a bunch of individual shots with potentially very different settings, but delaying the actual processing until you don't need your computer for half an hour. My old laptop (core duo, 2GB RAM) would grind to a halt processing DSLR images but was quite happy to run RawTherapee with the processing turned off to make a queue, then process over dinner time. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ to be clear your use case is completely valid too and probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of batch mode, I'm just suggesting another related use which is similar but not quite the same \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JosephRogers You're not actually applying anything until you do the batch processing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 14:13

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