Sunday, February 28, 2010

My oh my Adobe, which editing program is best for me?

I get emails all of the time asking "what editing program should I buy?". The three main editing programs out there that I discuss here on my blog are Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 , Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 . PSE8 is the cheapest, then comes LightRoom2, and finally Photoshop CS4.

So here is what I would suggest as someone who owns all three and used them for years. :-)
1. If you are short on money and are not a professional photographer editing thousands of shots, but want incredible creative editing control and the ability to use textures and storyboards out there, buy Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 . PSE8 is a great program that will provide 100% of your needs for 98% of hobby photographers (and even professional photographers who work part-time). These percentages are not scientific. ;-) It even has ACR so you can batch process RAWs. There is no reason to upgrade to CS4 for most hobby photographers, unless you want to write actions.

2. If you want to have a quick and easy way to batch edit more easier but don't need to use textures and actions, buy Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 . I love LightRoom and honestly can't imagine editing without it. It also has ACR for RAWs and it is so easy to process many photos at at once, but the best part is you can go back at any time and see exactly how you processed your images and even make changes. This program makes you actually love sorting through your images.

There are also so many free LightRoom presets out there and it is really easy to write your own. You just need to be able to use sliders. LightRoom is more expensive than PSE8, but worth it if you want to quickly process your photos and be able to easily make changes. You can also create storyboards.

However, if I could only buy one editing program I would buy PSE8 because I like to use actions, textures, brushes, patterns, etc.

3. If you have some extra money and want to edit quickly AND have the ability to do "arty" techniques, buy PSE8 and LR2. You will be 100% happy. This is a power combo and priced together they are less than half the price of CS4 alone. This is a perfect combination for professional photographers (many who just use LR2) or serious hobby photographers.

4. If you are a nerd (like me) and/or want to write your own actions (like me), then invest in Adobe Photoshop CS4. I had to buy this so I could write my actions for this blog. It is a great program, but almost everything you can do in CS4 you can find a way to do it in PSE8 (if you play around some). But if you are a serious editor or professional photographer and have the extra money, buy CS4. It does have some bells and whistles that you can't find in PSE8. But I think many people who buy CS4 don't use most of these extra features and would be satisfied with PSE8.

5. If you are a full-time professional photographer and have to process many images and want complete creative control OR money isn't an issue OR you love playing with editing programs, buy Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.

I hope this helps. I honestly believe most photographers would be completely content with PSE8 (less than $60) or LR2. And if you can afford PSE8 and LR2 you will be an editing diva. I would rather have LR2 and PSE8 then only have CS4.

BTW, I would not upgrade to PSE8 unless you have PSE5 or lower. I have PSE6 and my sister has PSE8 and honestly, I don't see a reason to spend the money on an upgrade.

None of these programs comes with a manual. There are so many free tutorials out here on the net to help you out, but sometimes it is nice to have one book to refer to. The only editing books I buy are Scott Kelby's. They are affordable and cut to the chase, and can be read in one evening. They are great starting points if you are a new user to any of Adobe's programs and they might even impress you if you are a "seasoned"user.


  1. I bought PSE8 about 2 months ago. I am a part-time photographer who charges minimally so that the average person can have creative photography. The cost of PSE8 helps me to keep my prices down and it offers everything I need at this point in the game. Rita--Your site, actions, textures....are AWSOME!!

  2. I swear, you have the most helpful information. You are very appreciated in my little world!

  3. I also meant to say that I linked your blog on my blog--I want all my readers to check you out!! Thanks Rita!!

  4. I want to know how you get drop down menu buttons like this blog:
    and you click on every page and she has a different picture on top. How do you do that?

  5. I'm so glad you said that it isn't worth upgrading. I've been considering it (I have PSE 6) but you have changed my mind. More money in my pocket!

    The only thing that bothers me about Elements is not being able to crate my own actions -but I can't justify buying CS4 just for that feature.

    Can I make an action suggestion? I take a ton of photos but only a small fraction of them will ever be printed. Many snapshots, if I ever did print, would only be printed as 4x6 prints. So, to save space I've gotten into the habit of resizing the image to a resolution and size that can be printed as a quality 4x6 if I ever choose to do so. Usually, 300 PPI, with the shortest side being 1200 pixels.

    I'm still trying to wrap my brain around resizing/resolutions but I believe that a 4x6 image at 300 PPI must be at least 1200 pixels wide? (300 pixels x 4 inches)...

    I wonder if anyone else does this? Or do most people keep all their snapshots as giant files?

  6. i think you are spot on! i did upgrade from pse4 to pse7 but i don't see anything about 8 that makes me want to spend more.....
    i am a semi-pro, trying to make this a full time gig and at this point, pse works perfect for me!
    thanks for all you do!

  7. This is excellent does get confusing to determine where the money is best spent. I have pse 6 and the only reason I want to upgrade to cs4 is because I'm an action junkie and want to add a few actions to my palette that aren't compatible with pse. ...but...if you keep making all your fabulous actions then I probably won't need them!

  8. This is a great post! I use PSE 8 and I love it. I've been told that to be a 'pro' I must have CS4 but I haven't invested in it for the precise reason you stated---I don't think I'll use all those extra bells and whistles. Maybe eventually but not now.

  9. I love Light Room and PSE6 together and my clients love my work so I am a happy girl!!

  10. I have CS4 and Aperture. I was holding on to Aperture for the non destructive edits, and localized edits (brushed based.) I recently discovered that those benefits are in ACR. I am planning to abandon APerture for either bridge/ACR or LR. I want to make one clean break and manage over 100,000 files... what are the editing differences/advantages/disadvantages of using ACR vs getting LR? And if LR is the winner- buy LR2 or wait for LR3 to come out?

  11. okay, you said you can make a storyboard in lightroom? i use the first version of lightroom, is it possible to do so in that one? or do i have to upgrade?
    thanks for the tips!

  12. Wow! Excellent analysis of the three programs. I switched to PSE from Photoshop after I retired and have found that PSE does 95% of what I want to do. I've kept my old version of CS2 for creating actions, but rarely use it anymore. Now you've got me interested in exploring Lightroom more... Thank you.

  13. I just found your blog, I can't wait until I have a chance to pour over every post.

    I love learning how to use photoshop! I am still a newbie. Thanks for teaching us all!

  14. Thank you so much for writing this post! I have PS8 and had been wondering about Lightroom and if I should get it.

    I'll probably never get CS4, even if I do become a professional photographer. I feel like PSE gives me the results I need at a much better price.

  15. Thanks so much for all the info on your blog! I just recently found you and have been enjoying looking though all you have posted. After reading this particular post I did go out and get PSE8 (I had been playing with the idea of getting it or just continuing to struggle and get frustrated with trying to figure out how to convert all the cool Photoshop stuff to gimp or I'm working at re-learning how to edit photos and get them looking as best as I can and your blog has been such an inspiration! I'm excited (though still somewhat intimidated) to start learning how to use actions/layer masks/photoshop!