RAW Processing


Today’s Question: Is there any reason why you would choose to use Lightroom or Photoshop versus Canon’s Digital Photo Professional for RAW conversion? Everything I hear is that the raw converter is superior to Lightroom or Photoshop converters.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two key reasons I use Lightroom (and Photoshop) to process my RAW captures, rather than the software from the camera manufacturer (such as Digital Photo Professional in the case of Canon cameras). First, I am able to get excellent results with my images using Lightroom. Second, workflow efficiency is an important consideration to me.

More Detail: To be sure, when using RAW processing software created by the camera manufacturer, there are some potential advantages that may improve image quality. Put simply, the camera manufacturer understands the image sensor in your camera better than just about anyone else, and can use that knowledge to make their software better at processing RAW captures from a given sensor.

That said, there have been some rather dramatic improvements in RAW-processing software across the board over the years, to the extent that I consider the advantage of using the software provided by the manufacturer to be (in many cases) a relatively modest advantage.

I have tested a wide variety of software tools on many different images, and have found that in most cases the differences in results translate into simple differences, not dramatically different results in terms of image quality. I have also found that I prefer the workflow within Lightroom for organizing and optimizing my images, and don’t like the notion of using other software outside of this workflow for processing the initial RAW captures.

I certainly encourage photographers to evaluate different solutions based on their own specific needs. In the context of RAW processing, I highly recommend testing out various software solutions to see what works best for you in terms of both image quality and workflow efficiency. I’ve been impressed with many of the software tools that are currently available, but on balance I find that a Lightroom-based workflow best suits my specific needs.