About Me

My photo
Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a blog about photography in New England.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lightroom to Photoshop, When to Jump?

I have just started my next Introduction to Lightroom class. With each major update, Adobe’s Lightroom keeps getting more powerful, and I love sitting around my dining room table demonstrating all the features of this remarkably capable and intuitive program.  

I have been a devoted Photoshop user for years, but for many,
Sugar Hill Lupines Remembered
Photoshop’s complexity has represented a daunting barrier to the discovery of the broad potential of the “Digital Darkroom”.   Since its initial release in 2007 Lightroom has progressed from image organization, to progressively more sophisticated editing  and outputting capabilities.  I initially came to Lightroom to help organize my 400k (now 500K) images in a more easily accessible database program, but, as I became familiar with the editing functions in the Develop Module, I stayed to do much of my global editing within the program.  I found that Lightroom’s workflow was more intuitive, it had the same functions as Photoshop’s Camera RAW and the sliders were easier to use.   So why move my images to Photoshop.

I routinely tell my students that, for many of them, and especially as they get started in image editing, Lightroom may be all they need for simple image adjustments. I probably do about 90% of my image editing in Lightroom, and the resulting images could often stand on their own, but I still routinely make the move to Photoshop before feeling that my work is truly done.  So why do I make the jump?

Complicated Selections

Lightroom allows simple localized adjustments with gradient, oval and brush tools, but Photoshop allows much more finely controlled selections which can be applied to layers affecting a full range of adjustments as well as to  image layers.  The ability to use layers is a key  strength of Photoshop and essential difference between it and Lightroom.
Focus Stack

Comparing Images

Compare Mode
Lightroom has several ways to view and compare images, most notably, the Survey and Compare options in the Library Module’s Tool Bar.  My biggest problem comes when I have several images to compare.  This most often happens when I want to find the sharpest image among a group of captures of the same scene or, when I want to select the best images from a focus stack.  The Compare Tool allows two images to be compared side-by side at varying magnifications, but it is tedious to step through a long series of similar images to find the best.  

Survey Mode, Keene Central Square
The Survey Tool allows several images to appear in an array on the work screen, but each can only be seen in full size.  This is helpful when prominent defects are apparent, but since the images can’t be zoomed together,  the survey is not useful to make precise comparisons of sharpeners and focus.  This is where Photoshop comes to the rescue.

Photoshop Arrange, Zoomed
In Photoshop several images can be arranged in various patterns, horizontally, vertically or in grids.  The images can then be zoomed together for detailed comparison.  The windows can be locked to allow synchronized movement around all the images.  Sometimes, early in the editing process,  I will move a group of images to Photoshop for this comparison and then, when I have identified the best capture, I can remove the Photoshop versions and go back to finish work on the chosen image in Lightroom.

Compositing and Text

There's always one that needs help
 Lightroom doesn’t allow the blending of different image layers.  I can’t move heads around in group portraits or add that dragon sitting on top of the lighthouse.  

I also need to jump to Photoshop to add text to my images.

Dragon on Portland Head Light

Cleaning Up

Harrisville Library Wires
Lightroom can be used to remove dust spots and other simple distractions, but, for more complex problems,  the spot removal tool does not offer the precision of Photoshops Cloning and Healing Brushes. Also the miracle of Content Aware Fill and Move, and the Puppet Move are only available in Photoshop.

Complex Cloning

Since I am teaching Lightroom, I enjoy pushing the limits of what can be done with the program’s limited tools.  It is remarkable how much can be accomplished, but at some point, for both ease and accuracy, I have to make the jump.  For now, when it comes to seriously “punishing the pixels” Photoshop is the only way to go


Tulip Path, Putney VT
It is important to understand that a file in Lightroom is not a finished image.  The price of nondestructive manipulations is that the image that you see in the Lightroom‘s working panel is not real.  It is still just the RAW file with a bunch of adjustments stored in the catalog, but not actually affecting the original image file.  That is why there is no “save” command in Lightroom.  To make the Lightroom image actually “real”, available for you to save, and others to see, it must be Exported into any of a number of standard formats.  Whether it is in a PSD, TIFF, JPG, PNG other other, more exotic, formats the Lightroom adjustments are burned in and the image is no longer RAW.  

Most of the time, I make this jump by moving the image for final touch-ups to Photoshop, but the Lightroom adjustment can also be applied as the file is exported to a specific image format.

Either way, before the jump, I ask myself if I have done all I can within Lightroom. When I make the move I want to know that I am leaving a pristine RAW file in my directory and a safely separate and nondestructive set of adjustments carefully archived in my Lightroom Catalog.


OK, this is an admission of my Lightroom ignorance.  I have never been able to get the best results when I try to print from Lightroom.  All the controls seem to be there, but I remain more comfortable applying my printer profiles and adjusting the resulting soft proof from within Photoshop.

I’m always embarrassed when I reach the point in my Introduction to Lightroom Class when I have to review the Print  Module.  The Module is powerful and intuitive.  I know I’ll get it eventually, but for me fine art printing is a whole different part of the process of image making and, for now, to get it right, I still make the jump to Photoshop.  

These are just a few of the reasons why I make the jump.  I am sure that there are many more.  Sometimes, when I’m happy with the image in Lightroom, and don’t have any obvious reason to move, I will still finish my work with a final examination in Photoshop. A fresh look in the context of the expanded tools of my old friend can often suggest subtle final adjustments that can make a significant difference.

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