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When to Leave Lightroom and Edit in Photoshop

Discussion in 'Workflow Discussion' started by Bill Sprague, Feb 20, 2017.

  1. Bill Sprague

    Bill Sprague New Member

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    There are Lightroom books, online classes and YouTube tutorials. Same for Photoshop. Somewhere near none include how to gain the advantage of using them together.

    I'm trying to develop a better instinct for when to make the "Edit in Photoshop...." choice.

    Please post any suggestions to facilitate a better understanding of when Photoshop is the better choice.

    Thanks.

    Bill
     
  2. Tony Jay

    Tony Jay Lightroom Guru Staff Member Lightroom Guru

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    Hi Bill - you ask a very good question!

    The answer is very simple - in concept!
    Do not do anything in Photoshop that cannot be done in Lightroom.
    If a task really cannot be done in Lightroom then that is the time to migrate that image to Photoshop.

    The main reason to try and stay within Lightroom, where possible, is the simplicity of the parametric editing process compared to the necessity, usually, for multiple layers and large files, and sometimes multiples of files when different end-points for the same image are needed.

    What has confused the answer, the detailed one anyway, is that the goalposts have continually changed. Compared to 5-8 years ago there is a whole heap that one can now achieve in Lightroom, usually rather easily and predictably, that was not possible back then. Occasionally, however, I find a complicated panoramic stitch that the algorithms in Lightroom simply cannot give a meaningful result that the process in Photoshop can achieve without drama.

    Also, a lot of output on the web dealing with the Lightroom versus Photoshop debate is generated by the worst kind of fanboiyism (a disgusting spelling of a disgusting phenomenon) rather than a simple pragmatic approach. Just today, I was reading some camera reviews on a couple of very well known sites. In the sections on image quality the subject of noise reduction as applied to raw images was discussed - in every case Photoshop was highlighted as the go-to application with no mention of the role of Lightroom (or any other software application capable of raw conversion and noise reduction), and this in 2017!
    To those worthy gentlemen there is nothing else apart from Photoshop!

    The best summary that I can give as to where a transition point between Lightroom and Photoshop may lie is to know the Develop module capabilities of Lightroom with no exceptions. Given this level of knowledge the judgement between what can be easily achieved in Lightroom, or whether a particular job is possible at all, will be easier to make.
    It used to be that if an image required regional editing then a situation like this constituted an obligatory use-case for Photoshop, but this is no longer true. The majority of editing scenarios requiring Photoshop just a very few years ago can now be simply accomplished in Lightroom.

    However, it is also not true that just because a particular sort of task could be accomplished in one image that the same task would automatically be achievable in another image within Lightroom. I have certainly had this situation on a number of occasions. Sometimes layers and masks, etc are the only alternative.
    Complicating matters is that Photoshop is not really a viable alternative if one is not also very familiar and capable in that application too. Frankly, if the editing one is doing in Photoshop is easy then either one is an absolute maven in Photoshop or it could probably be done almost(!) as easily in Lightroom.

    Currently, I round-trip about 1% of image edits via Photoshop at one point or another. Seven or eight years ago it was 25%.
    I am certain that other photographers mileage may differ from mine. I can easily see how someone specialising in portrait photography may need to do a lot more retouching in Photoshop than I do (my areas are predominantly outdoor, landscape, wildlife and bird photography). However, I am also reasonably confident that their Photoshop usage will have reduced over the last few years - if they are using Lightroom, Capture One, or some similar application, to its limits of course!

    So, a pragmatic approach is the way to go - if it cannot be done (easily or practically) in Lightroom, Photoshop then might provide the solution!

    Tony Jay
     
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  3. Conrad Chavez

    Conrad Chavez Active Member

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    Ultimately what's needed to make the decision is familiarity with the feature sets of both applications. For beginners, that's a challenge because it takes study and experience to know what both applications could do in a given situation.

    Once you have a working understanding of both applications' features, then I think it's mostly what Tony said. I switch to Photoshop if the answer is "yes" to either of these questions:
    Is this something Lightroom can't do?
    Is this something Lightroom can do, but Photoshop does it better for this image?

    The first question's obvious (given knowledge of both feature sets), but the second is trickier. For example, while I usually stitch panoramas in Lightroom because I like having the panorama in DNG raw format, sometimes the Lens Corrections in Lightroom don't go far enough to reduce the amount of fisheye distortion in the panorama. I will then bring the panorama over to Photoshop to remove the distortion more effectively with the Adaptive Wide Angle filter. In that case it isn't about using either Lightroom or Photoshop, but both.

    There are other things Lightroom can do but not as well as Photoshop. For example, if I need to heal dust spots and scratches out of a TIFF film scan, Lightroom can become very slow if a large number of corrections are applied to one image. This is a case where I don't mind making all of those edits permanent in Photoshop (instead of nondestructively in Lightroom). The retouch features in Photoshop are much better, they'll go much faster there, and because there hopefully won't be any reason to redo all that spotting, there isn't much advantage to those edits being nondestructive. So I'll do all that dust/scratch removal in Photoshop, even though technically, Lightroom could do it. Then I'll use the cleaned-up TIFF as the original in Lightroom.

    In general, though, I try not to jump to Photoshop unless there's a major benefit to it, because converting out of raw always makes a much larger copy and complicates file management.
     
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  4. PhilBurton

    PhilBurton Active Member

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    Tony,

    Assuming that someone has the latest CC or perpetual subscription version of LR, what kinds of editing still require Photoshop?
     
  5. Bill Sprague

    Bill Sprague New Member

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    Thank you to both Tony and Conrad. Your answers were thorough. You put some thought and work into the typing!

    You both have encouraged me to continue pursuing an understanding of Photoshop and build some personal favorite tools and processes.
     
  6. johnbeardy

    johnbeardy Senior Member Staff Member Moderator Lightroom Guru

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    Phil, there are millions of possible cases, but let's just say we're talking about what Lightroom-like tasks one might want to do in PS. "Corrections" rather than cheating...

    So for example, imagine a panorama done in Lr - but which has gaps in the corners or in the sky. You could crop it in Lr, which might destroy the image's proportions, or you might use Photoshop's content aware fill to add clouds in those gaps.

    Imagine a telephone wire. OK, you could use a series of dust spot heals in Lr, or use Shift click to make one long heal. But the messier the background, the more this is something that you could do quickly in Photoshop - if the image feels worth it.

    Think of faces. Good photo, but someone's closed their eye or it's not quite at the right angle. Photoshop's Liquify can often fix that - it's got face awareness built in. Narrow the nose, twist that eye round a bit, it's very smart.

    Black and white gives another perspective. Occasionally one gets images that need different conversions for different parts of the scene. I had one portrait where +100 red slider worked well on the face but made the costume patterns indistinguishable - they needed blue -100 which made the face look horrible. Solution - two masked B&W adjustments in PS.

    And so on. Often it's down to local pixel-based work, such as cloning or stretching, but sometimes it's for the extra "headroom", the knowledge that whatever you want to do is achievable.

    John
     
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  7. Bill Sprague

    Bill Sprague New Member

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    John,

    (I'm the OP) Thank you for the explanation and the examples. As a beginner in Photoshop, they help identify what to look for in the endless forest of Photoshop tools and techniques.
    In other words, it appears that as a photographer, one has to search for, find and master specific techniques that appeal personally and ignore huge parts of what Photoshop may apply to everyone else with different graphic processing goals.

    I wish there was a book, on-line course or set of tutorials that focus on this. The overwhelming majority focus on one or the other, not when to use both.

    Bill
     
  8. Roelof Moorlag

    Roelof Moorlag Active Member

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    I don't like the books of Scot Kelby in particular but he published a book 'Photoshop for Lightroom users' that covers this area i believe. Maybe someone else knows if it's good.
     
  9. Bill Sprague

    Bill Sprague New Member

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    I'm laughing a little because I'm not fond of Kelby either. But, I will look for the book! Thanks.
     
  10. johnbeardy

    johnbeardy Senior Member Staff Member Moderator Lightroom Guru

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    What I would avoid, Bill, is ever trying to identify "those huge parts of Photoshop [which] may apply to everyone else with different graphic processing goals". Photoshop has endured a decade-or-so of being labelled as for graphic artists, not photographers, and of course there is some truth in that - until the moment that you have a problem and remember some weirdly-named tool....

    My suggestion would be to focus on things you just can't quite get right in Lightroom, just like those I mentioned. Once you have an objective, learning how to achieve something is much easier and you'll notice interesting stuff on the way. I'd suggest watching as much of Julieanne Kost's videos as you can, and going back to them. They're sensible, not gee-whizz. Also, she tends to focus on new methods. That's important because one of Photoshop's problems is that there are 25 years' of techniques. Many of them are old and now only have very-specialist uses, yet how do you recognise those you should ignore? For example, I know of 20 ways to do B&W, but I would only recommend one (the B&W panel). Julieanne highlights new methods, and they are there because they are indeed better than those they replaced - usually in terms of flexibility, if not quality too.

    Just don't be tempted to wall off any part of Photoshop! You never know when you'll have a lightbulb moment.

    John


    PS For an example, photographers quickly see the scope for doing cloning work on another layer in Photoshop, keeping the image untouched. But then there's something called the layer "blending mode" which may seem like one for the graphic artist. But a blending mode is just like adding pixels together in different ways, so you might choose one mode to affect image colour without darkening or lightening, or select another to make the picture darker without changing the underlying colour etc.

    So I had a car rally photo taken in falling snow, but I didn't get enough snowflakes to convey the feel of the event. I could copy some of the snowflakes onto another layer, but they came with some darker background (imagine selecting only a snowflake in the wind) and it wasn't so simple. While I could change the size of the snowflake layer, twist it a bit, and maybe flip it horizontally and avoid making them loo obvious copies of the real ones, these background pixels meant I couldn't hide my handiwork. But one blending mode is called "Lighten" - only add those pixels that will lighten the image. So it made the layer add only my lighter new snowflakes to the picture, ignoring the darker background pixels. Now I could add as many snowflakes as I wanted. The real achievement though was getting the photo in the first place - the rally was on a mountain top, windy, freezing, raining when it wasn't snowing, and dark!
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
  11. Conrad Chavez

    Conrad Chavez Active Member

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    Photoshop is like digging under an Egyptian pyramid: The more you dig, the more you'll eventually find another undiscovered room full of valuable items.

    There's a popular portrait retouching technique called "frequency separation" that's effective in enhancing skin. Lightroom doesn't have the features needed to do it: Layers, blending modes, and the Apply Image command.

    There's a color correction genius named Dan Margulis, it's mind-blowing what he can get out of an image. Key features he often uses in his techniques are blending modes, channel operations, Apply Image, and alternate color modes (Lab, CMYK). None of those features are in Lightroom.

    Photoshop has more options and more control over healing, sharpening, blurring, selecting, masking, painting adjustments... And those are just the features photographers can use on a single image, without even going into compositing, or the entire areas devoted to other interests like graphic design.

    If Photoshop is so powerful, why do we spend more time in Lightroom? Photoshop is big, complicated, and sprawling; sometimes it's hard to find the right features and do them in the right order. Lightroom is a lot more focused on refining a photographic image, so there's a much higher chance that the feature you need is already in front of you on the single Develop module screen.

    It goes both ways, though. Some areas of Lightroom, like the Masking slider in Sharpening, benefited from lessons learned in Photoshop. To restrict sharpening to edges in Photoshop you have to build an edge mask which takes around 20 steps. In Lightroom that's all built into the Masking slider, you just drag it to adjust the amount. So I rarely do that in Photoshop anymore.
     
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  12. Bill Sprague

    Bill Sprague New Member

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    It was Julieanne that got me started with an excellent series on Lightroom 4. More recently I completed her VERY thorough course on Lynda.com. I've spent enough time with Ms Kost that it should give my wife reason to wonder about the attraction.

    It was, in fact, Julieannes thorough course on Lynda that got me started on the quest to find greater understanding of when to leave Lightroom for Photoshop.

    Again, thanks for the coaching! I agree that part of the fun is the never ending quest for new ideas and methods. My photography will never be famous but I still have a lot of satisfaction from it.

    Bill
     
  13. Bill Sprague

    Bill Sprague New Member

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    Conrad, again thanks for the help! It is a marvelous pyramid!
     
  14. sunhotmoon

    sunhotmoon New Member

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    I'm also pondering this issue. I'm a long time Photoshop user, but as I've become more familiar with Lightroom I use PS less. Lately I'm becoming frustrated with LR's limitations.
    I'm realizing that there are things LR just cannot do as well as PS, or at all.

    In general, make global adjustments to exposure, contrast, clarity, saturation, color balance in LR. Especially if you work in RAW, because there's more flexibility in the data in a RAW image than in an image that has been converted to pixels. (Once you open in PS, you have converted to pixels.) So LR is my RAW converter. PS has a "Camera Raw filter", but it works on pixels, not data. So there is not as much room for it to make adjustments before your image is degraded.

    But as for local adjustments, bringing up particular highlights or shadows in a small area, making any changes to a small part of an image, nothing beats Quickmask mode in PS.
    Layers in PS also gives the flexibility to blend or soften adjustments, with blending modes or by making an adjusted layer more transparent the one underneath shows through. LR has tried to incorporate the rudiments of some of these tools, but they're very crude by comparison. I've also found the gradient tools in PS much more intuitive and easy to use.

    If you're removing spots from a dirty sensor, or dust and scratches, your work will go much more quickly in PS because of memory issues. Two hundred individual little brush strokes will begin to bog LR down.

    If you are doing serious printing and need to see whether your blacks are truly black, the histogram is only theoretical. The Info panel in PS uses an eyedropper to give you a % reading on a black area. Many times the histogram will read black, but the eyedropper only shows 92%. Makes a difference in your print.

    All retouching work can be done in Layers in PS. Using layers becomes a history of all your changes, and you can switch any of them off and on at will to see the various effects. LR has an infinite text history of your changes, but there's nothing like the magic of working in Layers in PS. You can go back years later and see a visual history of your entire file, all in the Layers panel.

    This is just a smattering of what PS will do. They both have a valuable role. With LR, act globally. With PS, act locally and sometimes to much greater effect.
     
  15. JohanElzenga

    JohanElzenga Lightroom Guru Staff Member Lightroom Guru

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    Opening an image in Photoshop does not necessarily change it to RGB pixels. You can open a raw file as a smart object. That will keep all the raw properties intact. This does not work for all edits (you can't clone in a smart object, for example), but it works fine for things like adding adustment layers.
     
  16. tspear

    tspear Senior Member

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    Never is the right answer. :D
    Go retake the picture that you do not have to edit it that much.

    Tim (could not resist the cheeky reply)
     
  17. sunhotmoon

    sunhotmoon New Member

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    Johan, thanks for the reminder of this feature, which I don't even think to use! Dope slap. You have sent me reading about how to integrate this with LR, and it makes so much sense to do it this way. I'm assuming the Smart Object will save back to LR just like a regular .psd.
    The only thing I have to remember is to not do any further LR edits after that, but to keep all ACR changes in PS so my layers aren't flattened when I reopen in PS.

    Tim, I've been waiting for that picture since I was 8. I won't tell you how long that's been, but I still have my original little Brownie box camera.
     
  18. tspear

    tspear Senior Member

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    Touche. But stop chasing big foot, or was it the Lock Ness Monster? :D
     
  19. JohanElzenga

    JohanElzenga Lightroom Guru Staff Member Lightroom Guru

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    Yes, the smart object will be a psd or tiff when it comes back in Lightroom. You can even do further edits in Lightroom, as long as you remember two things:
    1: if you want to change the 'base edits', open the image in Photoshop via 'Edit Original'.
    2. when you do make another edit in Photoshop, your new Lightroom edits aren't visible. They are still present when you return however, so keep that in mind while doing extra Photoshop work.
     
  20. Bill Sprague

    Bill Sprague New Member

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    I'm the OP.....

    Thanks for continuing the discussion! I keep learning. I will pursue "Quickmasks", "Smart Objects", "Blending Modes" and when to open PS with a copy or the original. (I've been sidetracked by a tile project in the kitchen!)

    The complexity, flexibility and capability is overwhelming to someone who learned in a wet darkroom!

    One "top 10 or 20" online Lightroom gurus is about to release a course dedicated to when, what and how to use Photoshop to enhance Lightroom work. Due respect to the Lightroom Queen, I think it would be unethical to post anything more specific. The teaser tutorials have been intriguing. I'll probably take the course if it is not overpriced.

    Bill
     
  21. tspear

    tspear Senior Member

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    Go ahead, and provide a link. There are a few threads on here dealing with evaluations of courses. For example, John Beardsworth on here conducts Lr training. Johan also has some Lr books....
     
  22. Bill Sprague

    Bill Sprague New Member

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    That's just not right to use one person's place to promote another's. Besides, the promotional emails I'm getting say it is not ready for a few more days. IOW, there is nothing to evaluate yet.
     
  23. sunhotmoon

    sunhotmoon New Member

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    Johan, that is also my understanding about which option to check when re-opening in PS. Thanks for confirming (solidifies the understanding), and again for reminding me about smart objects. I may have further questions about it once I do a trial run on an image.

    Bill, without going into a lot of detail, Quickmask is just LR brush adjustments on steroids. It's a toggle. Q to enter, Q to exit.You use brushes or pencil to paint your mask. (I often use a pencil and then put a blur on it, because I have more micro control of contrasty edges and small areas.) You have to have an existing selection going to enter QM however, and I usually just make a tiny marquee selection or something to get me going. Brackets [ ] enlarge and reduce the brush size, brush panel adjustments control the feathering, eraser tool can erase, X key reverses what the mask shows (to hide or reveal an area). Make your mask and then apply whatever adjustments you want to. You can put a blur on it, change saturation, change the "exposure" with Levels or curves, put any filter on it you want. It's an extraordinarily useful way to apply any changes to a selected area.

    I'm assuming that it works on smart objects - right Johan? Could I return to PS ACR on an area that I had created a mask on with QM? That would completely end-run the possible need to make any further ACR adjustments in LR.

    Thanks!!
     
  24. johnbeardy

    johnbeardy Senior Member Staff Member Moderator Lightroom Guru

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    Quickmask works on selections.

    What you might do is duplicate the smart object layer, and then do apply a layer mask. In creating it, you might use whatever quick mask techniques you want.

    However, I wouldn't elevate QuickMask to any great status. It's a way of displaying whatever is selected, but also of adjusting the selected area by blurring its edges. Layer Masks are far more important to master.

    John
     
  25. JohanElzenga

    JohanElzenga Lightroom Guru Staff Member Lightroom Guru

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    What you can do is the following: you make your initial edits in Lightroom, and then open the raw image as a smart object in Photoshop. Now comes the neat trick. Apply ACR as a filter on this smart object. It will automatically become a smart filter, with a mask. That enables you to apply any ACR adjustment locally, also the ones that are not available in Lightroom. So for example you can now 'paint an HSL adjustment' or apply it as a graduated filter (by painting a mask or using a gradient as mask).

    Everything will be non-destructive. If you ever want to change the initial Lightroom adjustments, you open the image again in Photoshop (open original) and double click the smart object itself. ACR will come up with those adjustments. If you want to edit the local HSL adjustment, just double click the smart filter.
     

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