Camera Raw versus Lightroom


Today’s Question: On several occasions I’ve seen you refer to Adobe Camera Raw alongside the Develop module in Lightroom Classic, as if the two were related. Aren’t these two completely different tools for editing photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Lightroom Classic are indeed separate software tools, but they are related by virtue of sharing the same engine for processing photos.

More Detail: One of the key things to understand about Adobe Camera Raw and the Develop module in Lightroom Classic is that the two provide the same set of adjustment tools for processing photos. In other words, you could achieve the exact same results for a give photo with either of these tools.

However, there is also an important difference between Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom Classic, at least insofar as the workflow involved.

In short, if you are using Lightroom Classic to manage your workflow, you should never use Adobe Camera Raw to process a raw capture. Rather, your raw captures should be processed in the Develop module within Lightroom Classic. If you then want to use the powerful tools within Photoshop to further refine a photo, you should send that photo to Photoshop from within Lightroom Classic.

Of course, once you send a photo to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic, you can still make use of many of the features of Adobe Camera Raw by using the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop, found on the Filter menu.

If you are a Photoshop user who is not using Lightroom Classic to manage your photos, you’ll use Adobe Camera Raw to process your raw captures before opening the resulting image in Photoshop proper. With Camera Raw you are getting all of the editing power of the Develop module in Lightroom Classic. In other words, you aren’t missing out on any photo-optimization features by not using Lightroom Classic. You are, however, missing out on what I consider to be a more powerful workflow for organizing photos in Lightroom Classic, assuming you’re using Adobe Bridge to manage your photos in the context of a workflow that revolves around Photoshop.