All Roads Lead to Photoshop

I own Photoshop and use it occasionally, but only when I have no choice. I survive it when I can’t find any other way to accomplish what I need to do. So the question I’ve been asking about my two main tools: Is Nikon CaptureNX2 or Adobe Lightroom a suitable replacement for Photoshop?

Above - After Photoshop Transform: D7000 1/40th f5 iso1250 32mm (Nikon 24-70)
Above – After Photoshop Transform: D7000 1/40th f5 iso1250 32mm (Nikon 24-70)
Above - Before Photoshop Transform: D7000 1/40th f5 iso1250 32mm (Nikon 24-70)
Above – Before Photoshop Transform: D7000 1/40th f5 iso1250 32mm (Nikon 24-70)

I really really wanted the answer to be yes. I really wanted to master Lightroom and NX2 and come out doing what you can do in Photoshop. Unfortunately the answer is NO, Lightroom and Capture NX2 are not tools that can totally replace Photoshop. Photoshop is “the product”. As my photography skills improve, my digital darkroom requirements grow. I’m more picky, and I know I want more. I want my photos to look even better and now I’m finding the limitations in my digital darkroom.

Fresh from a recent shoot I went though my work and started processing my photos in Adobe Lightroom. I really love the product because it leaves your originals alone, you can process tons of photos and the results are fairly good. For most things its enough and a great product. Better than CaptureNX2 in terms of workflow, but it still can’t do everything I need it to do. In the end I went back and looked at the photos from the shoot and asked myself how could I make them even better? What could I do in Lightroom or Capture NX2 to improve them even more? Did I need more education on how to use either of those products? Would that help substantially?

I’m sure more experience with those two products would help, but I still wouldn’t achieve the high end quality I’m looking for. There are just too many limitations. Skin blemishes, retouching and removing even simple things like a long strand of hair or a long wrinkle, lightening and darkening backgrounds, free transformations (see example above) all of these things await me in Photoshop. Lightroom and Capture NX2 products are not up to the task of “full” photo editing IMHO. Don’t get me wrong, they are great products and I’m going to keep Lightroom as part my workflow, but I need more. For me all roads lead to Photoshop. I need to master it if I want my quality to move up another notch.

Lightroom is great for organizing and doing minor edits and its also better suited for large shoots where you have lots of photos to process and the touchups are not as major (ie a school portrait session with 200 kids). Photoshop is for those times when you want to work on a few photos and make them really spectacular – ie a glamor or a single portrait shot. Its also for those times when you have a really tough problem to solve.

What really pushed me over the edge was this YouTube video on skin retouching by Sara Kiesling.

It wasn’t so much the photo she had, it was the ah-ha moment that I had. As a master, she made it look so easy, but yet it was so difficult for me to duplicate what she was doing. I realized I need to go back and actually learn Photoshop. Its one of those tools thats hard to fake your way through. Once I have those skills under my belt I can improve my photography even more. So I’m attacking my photography from all angles now. Getting out there shooting as much as I have time for, doing workshops and classes with SOPHA and and of course working in the digital darkroom and learning Photoshop for real.

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