If you are familiar with Adobe’s software suite, then the likelihood is you will have at least heard of Lightroom. However, unless you are savvy with a digital camera, you may never have had any call to use Lightroom. This might leave you asking yourself, “what is Adobe Lightroom?”

Adobe Lightroom is an image-organizing and editing application. It is different to Adobe Photoshop for a number of reasons, although the two programs do share some features. If you’d like to know what Adobe Lightroom is used for, let’s take an in-depth look at what it’s all about.

Is Lightroom Just a Feature-Light Photoshop?

lightroom home screen

Actually, no. Many people look at the two applications and figure that Lightroom is just Photoshop but with fewer bells and whistles. This categorically isn’t true. Lightroom is a fantastic tool in its own right and is geared more toward photographers than Photoshop, despite the latter’s nomenclature.

If you are interested in digital photography, then Lightroom potentially presents a better option for you than Photoshop. You can do away with the more generalized image-editing tools that Photoshop contains and instead treat your photographs to a more photographer-friendly editing experience.

What Is Lightroom?

Lightroom could be viewed primarily as a RAW file conversion app (see our comparison of RAW vs. JPG for more detail). It takes the digital information fed into your camera lens (the RAW file) as data values and turns it into an image you can actually look at and manipulate. This RAW file is the image that your camera would see prior to any sort of processing.

So, at its heart, Adobe Lightroom is a file converter for RAW images that come straight from your camera, unprocessed. However, the program isn’t limited to just the conversion of files. It has a rich feature set that is perfect for photographers and is potentially all you would need for image editing.

Lightroom is an exceptionally quick application. It can deal with hundreds or even thousands of images at once. Anyone who takes photographs professionally will tell you this is a Godsend, as it can shave hours off the image converting, organizing, and editing process.

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more prominent Adobe Lightroom features, aside from converting RAW files.

Image Viewing

Lightroom image files

As mentioned earlier, Lightroom is capable of converting your RAW files into images you can see. These files can easily be batch-converted by Lightroom so that you can make easy work of a large tranche of photographs.

Once the RAW files have been converted to image files, you can view them! You don’t even have to skip into another app; you can view them right there in Lightroom. This is a great way to quickly see which images you want to keep and which you’d like to ditch.

Image Organizing

lightroom image file options menu

One of the most useful tools available in Lightroom is image organization. Ask any Lightroom user and they will tell you that properly organizing your files from the start will save you hours of heartache later down the line.

Lightroom allows you to manage your entire library of images. These can be arranged into Collections, which is a great way to organize your pictures as separate shoots. You can also create albums for your images.

You can use lightroom to move files to different locations on your hard drive, too. This has the advantage of Lightroom remembering the new location next time, so you won’t lose track of any images.

Image Editing

Adobe Lightroom lets you do so much in terms of touching up and modifying your images. Here are some of the best image editing features that give Lightroom an advantage over other apps.

Non-Destructive Editing

lightroom editing sidebar

A brilliant aspect of Lightroom is the non-destructive editing of images. This means that Lightroom won’t save over the original image with an edited image. This is great because you can create several separate edits of an image without damaging the original.

This means you can go back to the original image and apply a completely different set of edits whenever you like. Lightroom achieves this by creating a catalog copy of the original image and saves all of your edits to this file instead.

You can also batch edit your images. So, if you want to de-haze an entire set of images, for example, it is simply a matter of selecting the images from your library and applying the required edit. This can take time, but it will certainly be faster than editing images one-by-one.

Light and Color Control

light and color editing sliders

Whether you want to change the contrast in an image or alter the saturation, Lightroom allows you to do so with easy-to-use sliders. These not only make the job a lot quicker, but they also make the process smoother and easier to navigate.

There are more advanced options available, too, in terms of color and light control. You can alter image tone, for example, using tone curves, which give you several points of control. Light filters and color changes can also be applied using Lightroom.

Composition Control

Straighten image in Lightroom

Altering the composition of your photographs is also something Lightroom is capable of. You can easily crop images within the app, meaning you can remove any part of the image that isn’t of interest.

You can also straighten images, so horizons are perfectly aligned with the edges of the photo. Flipping images is also easily achieved with the click of an icon. This all helps to improve the quality of the photographs you have taken.

Detail Control

Lightroom gradient tool

The detail in your photographs is just as important as the overall picture. Because of this, Lightroom allows you to hone in on the finer points of your image and make it look a lot tidier.

You can use Lightroom to shift focus in your images by applying localized or global sharpen and blur effects. You can even make selective image edits; selecting an area of your image and intensifying the shadows around your subject for more impact, for example.

You Now Know What Adobe Lightroom Is

The features above are just the tip of the iceberg where Lightroom is concerned. There are plenty of more advanced photo-editing tools at your disposal if you dive deeper into the program.

If you’re not sure whether you want to take the financial plunge with a paid subscription to Lightroom, why not check out some of the best free RAW image processors for Mac first without bothering your credit card.


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