Today’s Question: I’ve heard people reference Lightroom Classic for years but genuinely don’t know why one would use it if only editing one photo at a time. It would be a lot of work to learn Lightroom Classic and I don’t know what it would give me the Photoshop doesn’t already. Can you explain what Lightroom Classic offers by comparison and if there’s really any reason for me to learn it?
Tim’s Quick Answer: In my mind the key advantages of Lightroom Classic are a streamlined workflow for organizing, optimizing, and sharing photos, as well as the benefit of being able to quickly search among a potentially very large catalog of photos. If you simply need to optimize a relatively low volume of images, then Lightroom Classic likely doesn’t provide any significant benefit for you beyond Photoshop.
More Detail: While I find Lightroom Classic tremendously helpful for organizing, optimizing, and sharing my catalog of around 400,000 photos, I certainly don’t think every Photoshop user should add Lightroom Classic to their workflow.
To me the biggest benefit of Lightroom Classic is that it employs a central catalog for managing a large library of photos. Among other things the catalog makes it possible to quickly search for photos across the entire catalog based on a wide variety of metadata and image attributes. I can instantly, for example, view only the 5-star rated photos out of my entire catalog, or filter based on a single keyword or just about any other metadata values.
Another benefit of Lightroom Classic that I appreciate is that it provides a streamlined workflow for managing photos. I can organize my photos using the Library and Map modules, optimize in the Develop module, and share photos in a variety of ways including by exporting photos, producing print layouts, and more.
For those who are managing a relatively small number of photos or who have somewhat simple organizational needs, the image-management benefits of Lightroom Classic may not be especially helpful. The Develop module in Lightroom Classic provides the exact same editing features as Camera Raw does in Photoshop. And of course, with Photoshop you can most certainly prepare photos for sharing in a variety of ways, though perhaps not as efficiently as is possible in Lightroom Classic.
There’s no question that learning Lightroom Classic requires an investment of time, and that not learning to use Lightroom Classic properly can lead to significant problems in your workflow. After all, my video course “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom Classic” (https://timgrey.me/mess) remains my most popular offering. So, if you don’t feel the advantages of Lightroom Classic suit your needs and you’re not interested in taking the time to truly learn Lightroom Classic, I think it is best to stick with a Photoshop-based workflow.