Lightroom 2 vs Bridge CS4 / CS3

lr_vs_psIs there really any difference between Lightroom 2 and Bridge CS4?
Being a user of both Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 with Adobe Bridge, I often get asked what the differences are, if any, between the two programs and why one may be better than the other. If you are trying to make the decision between Lightroom 2 or Photoshop CS4, there are few differences between the actual capabilities of these suites, however, those differences may be a big factor in the decision on which software to go with.

Are You Editing RAW Files?
As far as RAW photo editing capabilities, both Bridge and Lightroom 2 offer the same controls in the “Develop” module when it comes to the various sliders for controlling exposure, hue, saturation, curves, etc… But the similarities for the most part, end here.

Lightroom 2 is really meant as a standalone application for the “busy” digital photographer. The organizational capabilities of Lightroom through the use of catalog databases and collections makes Lightroom much easier to work with and organize large volumes of photos QUICKLY. If you are the type of photographer who does not spend a whole lot of time post processing or doing digital artwork conversions, then Lightroom is the tool that will get the job done. Lightroom works best for photographers who shot several hundred (or even thousand) photos per shoot, and need to get the editing done quickly. As a standalone application, it is much more affordable than Photoshop CS4 and Bridge (which are bundled together), but of course, the editing and digital filtering capabilities that Photoshop offers are not present in Lightroom. You won’t be able to clone people out of an image with Lightroom or turn photos into painted works of art, but you will be able to do any adjustments to exposure, colour, saturation, contrast, sharpening, blemish removal, vignetting, and more (yes, you can still do these same things in Bridge, but at a much higher cost for the software).

Lightroom 2 also gives you the print, web, and slideshow modules making these tasks quite pain-free for the photographer who does not like to spend a whole lot of time on the post processing end of things. The slideshow module is excellent for giving presentations of your work to a prospective client, or even to show proofs to a client whom you’ve already shot for.

Photoshop Magic?
Photoshop on the other hand, has it’s place too. If you are the type of photographer or digital artist who needs full control and ability to make drastic and lengthy edits to an image, then there are few applications that can rival the editing capabilities of Photoshop. Photoshop does have a much steeper learning curve than Lightroom, and the ability to work on images with layers can be invaluable for certain types of editing and special effects work.

It’s a tough decision to make, but I would say that if you are a busy photographer who needs to quickly retouch and finalize large volumes of images, then Lightroom is a better choice. If you enjoy creating something in your images that was not there when the camera snapped the photo (and that includes things such as “smoother skin”), then Photoshop would be the way to go.

But hey, if you can affford it, then why debate the choice? Get the best of both worlds and you’ll sure to be happy!

About the author

Dave Seeram is the Editor of PhotographyBB Magazine, photographer, Canucks fan, Lostie,  fanboy, Dad, blogger, entrepreneur, and part-time superhero. Dave is the owner of this blog, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the PhotographyBB Magazine and CLARITY: PHOTOGRAPHY BEYOND THE CAMERA
7 Responses
  1. twzz

    Well i dont like lightroom because :
    1. bridge windows are just so much more physically flexible and make for bigger viewing areas, multiple custom workspaces, more intuitive usage with logical drag /drop cataloging, great image review modes and more readable font sizes.
    2. The continued development of acr/bridge integration makes multiple corrections very easy with 2 click actions on raw, dng , jpg & tff – i’m not sure i buy the argument that lightroom is good for working with 100s of files and bridge isnt. Bridge & ACR integration now easily deal with fast corrections on 100s if not 100s of images – just in a different way. Bridge & ACR = Lightroom library & develop modules.
    3. I find the lightroom interface very constricted. The ‘windows’ OS like features which favour unintuitive small fonts & GUI folder trees, lots of fiddly tick boxes and further hidden options – for me it’s the left brainer’s app – i’m much more right brain and Bridge is much more playful and manipulatable – much more what the mac os X interface is in relation to Windows interface.
    4. The one useful module in lightroom which currently is advanced further than in bridge is the output module. Bridge CS4 introduced web and pdf output but it could do with the kind of picture packages available in lightroom. So until then id personally go for a standalone picture package app or even just photshop’s output options rather than getting into the whole lightroom interface which forces you to some extent into dealing with knowledge of at least it’s library module in order to use the ouput module. That’s a bit like being forced to use the bridge module in order to access the photoshop output options.
    Conclusion – lightroom is for windows type people – bridge/acr is for mac type people. But i concede that acr (whose presets are usable with lightroom’s & visa versa btw) – could do with a bit of a GUI upgrade to make it more cool.

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