Using Lightroom: Is it worth it?

I started using Lightroom last year, as part of my exploration of blog photography through the Better Picture Project series. You can find all my old posts in the header at the top of my blog (or here), but after Carolyn did an update on her own blog photography, I though maybe it was time to revisit mine, too!

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I started the Better Pictures Project in the summer of 2015 because I was disappointed at how unpredictable my blog pics were: sometimes they came out great, sometimes they were bad, and I didn’t know why. I’m still using the same camera, tripod and remote, but I’m happy to report that I now get better pictures, with a lot less stress!

As I interviewed bloggers who have aspirational photos, it became clear that Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the gold standard for editing photos. Both Closet Case Files and What Katie Sews talked about how Lightroom allows powerful editing that isn’t too obvious. Have you ever edited a picture on free software and found that to fix one part of the photo, you had to wash out or oversaturate another part? With Lightroom, that doesn’t need to happen. On the other hand, Lightroom does cost money. Last year I cancelled Netflix, and got Lightroom instead! My subscription is $10CAD/month, though I think it’s $7USD.

Here’s how I edited photos for free before Lightroom… and here are my thoughts after trying a free Lightroom trial for a month. It’s been almost a year and half now, so let’s check in!

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Left: Before. Right: After. 

My goal is always to take photos that are good right out of the camera. Most of my Me-Made May photos are completely unedited, and if I get the lighting and background right, I might just tweak the temperature or exposure and call it done.

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Sometimes photos need more selective help. Here you can see the original was quite dim and blue-toned, so I’ve cranked up the exposure, temperature, vibrancy and saturation. I’ve also specifically brightened the highlights and shadows, but made sure the dark colours like the black in the jumpsuit don’t get totally washed out.

So far, I could have done all of this in a free tool, like PicMonkey, Snapseed or iPhoto. But wait, there’s more!

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This photo benefited from some more nuanced edits. I’ve lowered the exposure overall, made the picture warmer and pinker, and upped the clarity, vibrancy and saturation. My skin was still grey-green, so further down the tool bar I made the orange, red and pink tones more saturated. Then I used a slightly warm-tone mask tool to make the background a bit darker, and brightened up just my face. The end result, I hope, doesn’t look overly edited, but does make my outfit and I pop more against the background!

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An overexposed picture like this is the hardest to fix, because all the really light areas have limited data to work with and change. With free software, the whole thing would have turned out rather grey, as the bright whites were made darker. In Lightroom though, it was really easy to fix, and hopefully you’d never know this photo was more heavily edited than the rest in a post!

The changes are basically the same as with the previous pic: exposure dropped, and masks used to darken my skin and the background. Blues and pinks and increased in the temperature, and whites and highlights are darkened further. Vibrancy, clarity and saturation are bumped up! Basically, I’ve darkened the photo in at least 4 different ways (exposure, masks, highlights/whites, and saturation) but I haven’t lost the shading in my face or the detail in my lace top.

I’m self-taught on Lightroom, and obviously a more experienced person could get a lot more bang for their buck. I watched a few videos on YouTube, and from there I just played around.

So, is Lightroom worth it? If your photos cause you $10 of frustration or $10 of pleasure a month, then yes. For me, I’d rather pay for this than hosting, which would make my blog address look more professional but wouldn’t bring me as much satisfaction. I like being able to fix photos that haven’t worked well, rather than having to post mediocre pics or reshoot.

On the other hand, as I said in this post, hobby bloggers don’t need to feel pressure to go pro. If you take and edit pics on your phone, you don’t need Lightroom. If you blog once a month, it’s probably not worth it either!

How much photo-editing do you do? Would Lightroom be a waste of money for you, and a wise investment? 

 

 


34 thoughts on “Using Lightroom: Is it worth it?

  1. Wow, you can really see a big difference especially in that last photo with the black lace. It really retains all of your own personal coloring and the top looks natural and true to life. I’ve been exploring Adobe alternatives for a while. There’s part of me that hates the subscription idea (will it ever go up? Will I be attached to it forever? Are there different things that will produce similar results that are more cost effective? etc). I’m dipping my toe into video coming up later this week, so I’m testing out the photo program that came with my video editing software. So far I think it has some good potential.

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    1. I’d love to read a post as you experiment with doing video! I’d love to hear about what it’s like as you move along the learning curve!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. 🙂 I was thinking more of your own blog – but I would love to have you write for Sewcialists anytime! I’m trying to keep the Sewcialists quite focused on theme months this time around, because I really want to keep it sustainable and manegeable!

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  2. I have been a lightroom fan for a few years now. It just allows you to add a certain something to a photos with the bare minimum of changes. And you’re right … it’s ability to ‘fix’ an overexposed shot in an instant makes it irreplaceable.

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  3. Because my husband takes my photos with a phone and neither of us is a photography buff, I find it necessary to edit photos pretty frequently. I shoot in RAW and have an old version of Photoshop (CS3), which seems to offer a lot of the same adjustments as Lightroom. But after taking a Photoshop primer for work last week I’ve realized that Photoshop is honestly more robust than I need for blogging–I’m not masking and changing individual elements or making original digital artwork–and it seems like Lightroom is a better choice when you need to work through a batch of photos that need similar adjustments. Out of curiosity, how long does it typically take you to make a post’s worth of photos ready for the blog (or do you tend to edit multiple posts’ worth at once)?

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    1. I’m still amazed that cellphones can shoot RAW now! Totally blows my mind for some reason. I just upgraded to a newer (but not top of the line) iphone, and I’m excited to see what it can do that my old one can’t.
      I think the best thing about Lightroom is definitely the batch-editing! I tend to take 50-100 photos each time (I use a remote so it’s really quick), so my first step is deleting the terrible ones… then I batch-edit the whole set. If just a few shots are over or under exposed, I’ll adjust one and then paste the setting onto the other similar shots. I tend to edit pics and blog in front of the tv, so I never really notice the time spent… but I guess I spend anywhere from 10-20 minutes in Lightroom? Then I export everything and make collages… then upload to flickr… then write the post… yikes! That sounds complicated, but I enjoy it all!

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  4. As always your post was insightful (I know a little punny but it just couldn’t be helped) – I use paint.net which I learned from a course on digital photography I took a couple of years ago at my local community centre (in Kitchener by the way from this fellow http://www.bitsbytes.ca/links.htm ) and he had recommended this free program. If anyone wants this program I HIGHLY recommend you download it off his web site because there are a S___LOAD of nasty, dirty copies on google that will bring all sorts of trouble with them if you even go to their sites. The real paint.net is produced at a university and is regularly updated by the students involved in the photography program. It’s a great little program especially for those who feel they can’t afford to pay the adobe rate.

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    1. I”m glad to hear Paint works well for you! I’m always nervous that free editing software will be slow and clunky, but I like the idea that it is updated regularly!

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  5. I absolutely love Lightroom, but I’m not sure I’d subscribe to it just for casual blogging. I got my version when it was still fixed price/single pay, when I was an active concert photographer and leader of the student photography club. For an ambitious blogger it is priceless for the workflow and collections alone.

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    1. Er…. shall I admit I don’t think I use the collections? Should I? What do they do? (Also, i wish I bought it before the monthly cost – it’s so annoying to pay forever!)

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  6. Timely topic… I just cancelled my Lightroom and switched to snapseed (doing a reverse of you and prioritising a music streaming subscription 😂) I found I didn’t really use lightroom enough as long as I’m tactical about simple backgrounds and fairly good lighting (which I’m lucky my neighbourhood supplies). I’m also lazy and not prepared to take the time to learn the cool stuff you demonstrated above.

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    1. I do like Snapseed a lot! It’s what I use when I edit pics on my phone… and now you can listen to music while you take and edit your pictures! 😉

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  7. The edits make such a difference! I probably wouldn’t get Lightroom myself at this point. For one thing, I’ve had Photoshop Elements for years, and haven’t figured out how to really use it to its full potential yet. Also, I just don’t get that much time on the computer these days!

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    1. Yeah, I imagine that the little-uns don’t allow time for much photo-editing! I don’t tell you often enough though how much i enjoy your daily IG photos from the prompts… nice to see different parts of your life! 😉

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      1. Thanks! I wonder sometimes if I overspam with kid pics. But I guess it’s better to err on the side of not regretting taking more pictures when they’re older, right? (Besides, I still do super basic scrapbooking as a crafty hobby, too, and writing stuff down in IG as it happens helps!)

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  8. Honestly, the reason I don’t blog more often is because I just hate every photo I take of myself – blah, do I really look like that?! Will Lightroom fix the wrinkles and sagging butt? I didn’t think so, oh poopypants!

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    1. Oh no!!!! I promise you, that’s not what anyone else is seeing when they look at your photos! But I know that it’s hard to get the photo-mojo going when you just aren’t feeling it… personally, I swear by taking a million photos and only choosing the ones I like!

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  9. Gillian, I really appreciate your insights! I have not used Lightroom or anything for my blog photos, which is why they aren’t that great. 😶 I should put more effort in.

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    1. No need to do anything to your photos unless you want to or enjoy it! 🙂 I realised last year that I really enjoy learning to take better pictures, so I look at photography and writing as hobbies alongside sewing.

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  10. I’ve been thinking of trying Lightroom or Photoshop! I just couldn’t decide which one. I shoot in RAW and edit with my camera’s software. I can mess around with contrast, brightness, white balance, etc. but it’s still limited. Sometimes, I’ll have a picture I like that needs editing but I just can’t get it right with the software (Canon). I use GIMP to add a watermark and do very basic, easy stuff (like remove a visible outlet in the wall). GIMP is free and sort of kind of similar to Photoshop. I don’t find it all that easy to work with though. Lightroom is feeling really attractive right now…

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    1. Good news: When you pay for Lightroom, you also get Photoshop! or vice versa, I’m sure. I think what sets Lightroom apart is that you can edit a bunch of photos at once, or copy and paste the edits from one photo to another. Makes things pretty quick!

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  11. So glad it’s working out for you! 🙂 I’ve used photoshop plenty but never used Lightroom. At home I’d generally use GIMP (which is free and similar features to photoshop, but not quite so slick.) but in practice I take all my photos on my iPhone these days and the built-in editor does as much as I’m usually willing to play with. Often my blog posts happen entirely on the phone. Not ideal, but workable for where I’m at right now. Your photos are definitely a cut above mine, though! 😂

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    1. Do you do your writing on the phone too? I’ve tried but I can’t handle all that typing! 🙂 Whatever you are doing, it works, cause I love your blog!

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      1. I do a lot of typing on my phone. It’s annoying as hell, but I am rarely on a real computer at home any more so I deal. Doing it on my phone lets me sneak it in in stolen moments. 😂 also awww shucks thank you!!!

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