My Love for Lightroom Is Fading Quickly

My Love for Lightroom Is Fading Quickly

Adobe's Lightroom is a divisive piece of software. Proponents love the consistency and close compatibility with Photoshop, while others argue it is inefficient with resources and has inferior processing compared to competitors. I want to take a look at a much simpler, fundamental issue with Lightroom.

Over the last few months, I've had the opportunity work with some other programs, including Capture One, and I found something odd. I could produce similar finished files with each of the tools and considering my limited experience, I can't say whether I could get better results with one processor over the other. What I did notice, when I returned to Lightroom for a personal project, was how the interface felt so cumbersome. Even with the unneeded sidebars closed and the panels rearranged, it felt like the software got in the way.

The Lightroom interface hasn't changed much since introduction, for better or worse. With the software having been available for over 12 years, a number of display technologies have changed. New monitor aspect ratios and higher pixel densities are both commonly available, but can't be fully taken advantage of. Notably, high-pixel densities can even degrade the effective speed of Lightroom when compared to lower density displays.

The panels are locked to the right side of the image and require scrolling regardless of screen resolution. The keyboard shortcuts are unable to be changed natively and do not lineup with defaults for Photoshop. The interface for presets is dated, requiring you to mouse over each one, while checking a small, slow loading preview. The overall interface is laggy. Even with fast machines, brush performance suffers on complex settings or images.

The single biggest fix Lightroom could receive would be the introduction of interface customization, in line with Photoshop's capabilities. Photoshop can already float panels, allowing for easy optimization of the workspace. Photoshop allows for customizable keyboard shortcuts. With Lightroom, photographers are locked into the rigid default arrangements. Second monitor support is weak, forcing users into a few predefined setups. The small boon of rearrangeable panels, courtesy of a recent update, is the only substantial improvement to the interface in recent years.

Clearly, Adobe has members capable of coding the necessary UI to support these features, as evidenced by Photoshop. Unfortunately, it seems that this issue may be intrinsic to Lightroom's fundamental code, based on the delay in implementing it. I'm not qualified to speak on the software engineering side, but as a user, it's clear Lightroom isn't the most optimized program.

Since Adobe pivoted to the subscription model for Lightroom, I've been relatively content with their updates. Small features here and there, all at a reasonable price. Given the need for Photoshop, Lightroom has just been a given, as I'm already paying for it under the umbrella of the Photography Plan. Despite that, I've grown increasingly unhappy with the performance and interface.

The most recent update offers no useful features, in my opinion. The Enhance Details tool is only a Band-Aid for their mistakes with X-Trans demosaicing, while the HDR panorama merge is just a combination of two pre-existing buttons. Given the emphasis on Lightroom CC, I'm not expecting big fixes and improvements anytime soon.

While no piece of software is perfect, I'm starting to notice more of the flaws in Lightroom. I'm not sure if I'm ready to make the jump to another processor just yet, as I've got catalogs with tens of thousands of photos and hundreds of hours experience in Lightroom. With that said, the love is fading fast. Have you jumped ship to a new raw processor? What was the final straw for you?

Lead Image courtesy of Nathan Anderson

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Rob Davis's picture

I’ve heard that for X-Trans, but I’ve seen comparisons for conventional CMOS sensors between all of the alternatives and while Capture One does seem to be best, it’s not amazingly better. Certainly nothing the average person or Instagram viewer would notice.

Capture One is better overall..

Same here, I have never liked the idea of Lightroom cataloging. Bridge --> CameraRaw --> Photoshop are my working process and yes, the processing in CameraRaw can be slow on complex editing. I want to jump ship to something else but I still need Photoshop at the end.

Sam David's picture

Absolutely agree. Every time Adobe throws up that question "what would it take for you to rate Photoshop higher" my answer is "kill off Lightroom." ACR and Bridge are a perfect combo. I can think of a few tweaks to ACR -- like making it easier to create presets and moving the "close" button on the Profile Browser to the left, but I find the update to it always useful and easy to learn.

Ian Oliver's picture

I went down the C1+Affinity route for a bit. I like both but my editing skills are extremely limited and the much greater wealth of assistance resources for LR+PS moved me to very reluctantly upgrade from my old licenses to subscription a couple of months ago. I'll continue to use C1 for tethering and will continue to do some editing in it and hopefully one day I'll become comfortable enough with both to move on from Adobe.

Studio 403's picture

Been using PS for 10 years. Never used Lightroom. Not saying I should not. The level of my work is does not reach the relearning Lightroom. I got a free Capure One when I bought my new Fujifilm camera about 2 weeks ago. Been playing with capure one. But really not seeing it for my skill sets

I always felt Lightroom was meh. It did neat things but felt weird, and slow.

When Adobe moved to the cloud subscription thing I tried cc, and classic again. And then went out and tried everything else I could.

What I liked most at the time was Dx0 OpticsPro and then upgraded to PhotoLab a year ago .

It's still slowish though, more like high latency. And I don't care for how it auto-fixes images so I have to revert and then edit photos I got basically right in camera.

I think I've tried every free and paid editor. I'm now using capture one as well. It's super fast, so I can stack changes and make basically a to b comparisons. It's exactly what 16 logical cores, an SSD , 32gb of ram and a good cuda GPU should feel like.

If I could get dxo's prime noise as a plug-in it would be perfect. I don't think anyone can beat dxo's noise handling.

All this said, I prefer pretty minimal post processing. Someone who likes to "boomify" and cook images would probably have very different opinions...

Edward Hudgeons's picture

To Austin French: I just used a small app called Noiseless (McPhun) and was astounded by the results. I happen to like the Prime in DXO, but it only works on RAW files. LR does not xfer RAW, but it will convert to DNG, but I have had problems using that extension. There is also another great little app in the NIK collection called Dfine2 that is darned good, but you have to get the entire package. DXO has that package. But, I agree with you on the Prime filter.

Very cool! I'll have to try it sometime.

I had the same experience with PS and DNG. It " works" but depending on what your next step is, it might not actually work.

Elio Rivero's picture

I got a Capture One Pro Fujifilm license less than two weeks ago and couldn't be happier. The interface is fast, photos load very fast, and the color tools are amazing. Sharpening of Fujifilm X-Trans files is fantastic.

Maybe the features I like the most from C1P are the Color Balance and the Color Editor. I know that editing softwares like Affinity Photo have a Color Balance panel, it's just that the implementation in C1P is very flexible, and empowers you to quickly experiment with different color schemes. I just wish it had LAB color mode in the Curves panel.

Layers and masks in C1P are very useful, specially with the new Luma range. You can even do the corrective dodge & burn technique for portraits!

For some more convoluted retouching like frequency separation or extensive healing, I use Affinity Photo, another blazing fast app with all the tools you need and none of the bloat. Sometimes my process starts in Affinity Photo first, merging an HDR. I develop a flat looking TIFF which I then edit in Capture One Pro. With these two apps, I have all my editing needs covered.

Moved to on1 love the 2019 version a lot. They offered a migration path from lightroom.

Nathan Chilton's picture

The only reason I still have Windows installed is to run Lightroom, but now that I don't do photography professionally anymore I'm very much inclined to give Dark Table a chance, so I can stay in my preferred OS. If it turns out to be "good enough", I'll be likely to cancel my CC subscription.

David Love's picture

"We're sorry you've had this problem, please buy a new computer, cables, mouse, monitor and maybe a new desk. It won't help but we're hoping it delays you long enough until we get off our asses and learn that some times a rebuild is better than jamming new code on top of ancient code. If this still doesn't work, we'll try and find a shiny new thing to add to it to keep your mind off the sluggish shite that we've been handing out now that we don't have to be good to get paid. If none of that helps, please spend a few hours using Premiere to edit videos. Then you will just love the speed and usability of Heavyroom, uh Lightroom. As always, we don't really care since you're paying us monthly regardless of what we do.

Yours until someone comes along and buries us,
The Adobe Stockholders"

Joe Healey's picture

Fkn classic! LOL

And don't forget to turn Use Graphics Processor off. What, it's already off? Well, turn it back on then.

did you try right-clicking on the develop settings and choose "solo mode" to eliminate almost all scrolling? smh

user-164303's picture

Why change something for the sake of changing it. As a long time user of LR I am happy with it. I know how to find my way around the menu system etc. a massive revision would mean a steep learning curve for all current users and probably little would be gained from it.

Alex Coleman's picture

I feel the option to enhance the menu/panel system should be available. If you are happy with the status quo, there'd be no reason you couldn't keep it with my proposed changes. If you want to take advantage of a second monitor or refine keyboard shortcuts or float panels for better utilization, you could.

Jim Bolen's picture

But with the latest upgrade, you can now customize the order of the panels. Made it way better.

Bill Gosma's picture

Basically agree. Been using it for years, coming from film work the learning curve was pretty shallow compared to Photoshop. It's not the quickest program, can do EVERYTHING but has some competent and useful features given it's database driven format.
If there was a somewhat similar program to which I could readily port all my files I'd go there and give it at try - to best of my knowledge there is no product out there, but maybe I've not looked deeply enough?

Mr Drizz's picture

I can only echo what other have experienced. Only made the full switch to C1 and Affinity yesterday.

LR is just slow and tethering for Fuji was almost unusable. 10-11 seconds for a picture to appear on the screen where as C1 it's 3-4 seconds and because I have the Fujifilm version the tether just works out the box.

As for Affinity replacing PS. All I every used PS for was Stitching focus stacks and Panosonics with the occasional content aware fill. And Affinity fill that nicely.

"Clearly, Adobe has members capable of coding the necessary UI to support these features, as evidenced by Photoshop."

But Photoshop is not a an example of good UI. Many of us have invested a lot of effort into getting familiar with it, but the number of inconsistencies in the UI make finding and using a little used feature all but impossible. I genuinely can't think of an Adobe application that I would consider to have a good UI.

I originally used Aperture. By the end it wasn't as feature rich as LR, but I never felt I was working around the UI the same way that I still do in LR. And while I understand that not everyone is a fan of Apple, for me Aperture was a product that was designed by a company who understand UX. LR still isn't.

My problem is that having done a painful Aperture to LR migration, I'm not inclined to do it again.

Same. I would still be using Aperture today if Apple hadn't killed it off.

Alex Coleman's picture

The merits of Photoshop's approach to UI is a different argument. I'm saying a number of PS's UI features, like movable and dynamic sized panels, as well as editable keyboard shortcuts, should exist in LR.

vin weathermon's picture

I was just having this argument with myself: I am extremely dependent on LR classic; I have 25 years of images in nearly 6 TB of storage. I use lightroom for catalogue, keyword, and typical raw adjustments, and rarely do I need photoshop.

But in the past few updates I have noticed what was fairly quick bulk processing and preview generation has slowed to a crawl; unbelievably slow. I did the usual tricks (is my catalog on a fast drive, do I have enough space, is anything competing with processing, etc) and I cannot find a reason other than LR itself has turned to crap.

The investment in all those non-destructive adjustments, keywording, copyright metadata, etc. is BIG. So to even entertain the idea of moving to another platform to replace LR is out of the question unless there is something that works better, faster and can import existing catalogs with all adjustments, data intact.

And I tried LR CC and it was blazing fast even with 50 MP files. I just cannot rely on sync to cloud over bad internet (my store actually has cellular for internet, no fiber and DSL is like dialup.) If LR classic had the interface, speed of CC I'd be thrilled.

Stephen Lee's picture

This summarizes my experience perfectly. As I mentioned above, I'm frankly terrified of moving to a different piece of software and re-indexing and cataloging all of my libraries. Not to mention the extreme familiarity of LR in my workflow. I am rather stuck with it and whatever rental costs Adobe wants to charge. I feel vulnerable, but I don't see a viable alternative.

stevepellegrino's picture

Last year I moved to ACDSEE Photo Studio. Same functionality as Lightroom (except faster) and no subscription. $60 and you own it forever.

jean pierre (pete) guaron's picture

It still has some uses - but most of my post processing is no longer done on Lightroom, and a great deal less is still done these days in Photoshop.
Worse - I recently wanted to stitch a panorama - Adobe's panorama program simply failed, midway - it could join the frames either side of the half way mark, but the instant I tried to stitch all the frames, it simply collapsed and produced a totally bizarre image. Anyway, getting started in it (either in Photoshop or in Lightroom) is generally a lot worse than merely "clumsy".
So I tried a different program - and had my finished panorama in a matter of minutes, with no difficulties whatsoever.

Alex Coleman's picture

I definitely agree, the panorama stitching is not good. I love the idea of being able to stitch, then edit with the raws, but implementation falls far short.

Grant Beachy's picture

Judging by the comments, I'm in the minority, but I still like Lightroom. Capture One is getting there with each release, but for all the time I save in image previews, I lose it again with the inferior spot healing brush. The C1 layer system is more flexible, but more time consuming over a number of images. Perspective control is slower as well.
LR now allows you to customize your develop panel which helps workflow significantly. It's slower between photos, but not significantly, especially when I'm using Photo Mechanic for culling and rating.
Finally, there is a Lightroom look that Capture One simply doesn't do (for better or worse). Capture One is more clinical and accurate, but LR has a bit of a glow that translates to portraits and weddings well if you don't want the editorial look. It's just preference, but it's still different.
I know it's been hip for blogs to bag on LR for clicks, and I'm all about increased competition in the software world, but I think it's been overblown a bit. Glad everyone has choices though.

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