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Lightroom is (finally) all I need for photo editing

Lightroom is (finally) all I need for photo editing


Recent updates and new AI-powered features like a smarter heal tool are making Adobe’s photography app hard to beat

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A GIF demonstrating the new content-aware heal tool in Adobe Lightroom being used on a distracting trailer behind a woman on a swing.
GIF: Adobe

I’ve never been a Photoshop person. Some of my Verge colleagues — particularly on our excellent photo and art team — have often used Photoshop in combination with Lightroom when working on images for the site. But I’ve always done my best to stick with Lightroom all by itself among Adobe’s apps. Other software has become essential to my workflow as part of this effort to avoid the all-powerful Photoshop.

There are a few reasons for this. For one, Photoshop can feel like overkill when all I’m really ever doing is touching up review shots or concert photos. But Lightroom is also cleaner. It’s available directly from the Mac App Store and an easy install that comes without extra cruft. And it’s just as simple to remove if I want to. (The same is true for Windows.) On the other hand, using Photoshop requires installing Adobe’s overarching Creative Cloud desktop software for license validation, app updates, and so on. Creative Cloud doesn’t really use up all that much disk space or crunch resources, but there’s just something about its all-encompassing nature that I prefer to keep off my Mac. So Lightroom it is.

My Photoshop aversion has led me to embrace other tools like Pixelmator Photo, an app that’s become indispensable because of several features. At the top of that list is the Repair tool, which has been a joy to use across both my Mac and iPad Pro when trying to remove specs of dust or other imperfections from the images I shoot for my reviews. I just pick the right brush size, tap on whatever I want to disappear, and poof it goes. This actually got to be what I’d consider fun when using the Apple Pencil. Pixelmator Photo’s one-click automatic tweaks for exposure, color balance, and other image adjustments are also impressive and made better thanks to machine learning algorithms.

A screenshot of the previous heal tool in Adobe Lightroom being demonstrated on a scene with sheep and a dog in the background.
Lightroom’s previous heal tool did the job but could get tedious.
Image: Adobe

Lightroom’s Healing Brush has always felt more tedious by comparison, making me select a section of the image to heal and then find another area of the photo to blend into that spot. This does the job most times, but it’s slower and can get challenging if I’m working along a gadget’s edges or curves. Pixelmator has proved far easier and faster at this task, so I’ve gotten into the one-two punch combo of making exposure and other slider adjustments in Lightroom and then doing a run of repair fixes in Pixelmator Photo.

But this week, Adobe brought some of Photoshop’s best AI-driven tricks to Lightroom. The one I was immediately most excited about is the content-aware heal tool. Now, it works the same way as in Pixelmator. It’s just a single click or brush stroke to eliminate dust, hair, and other distracting elements from a shot. I don’t have to hunt for the perfect match elsewhere in an image. And most important of all, I don’t think I’ll need to hop back and forth between apps anymore.

A GIF demonstration of Lightroom’s new content-aware heal tool.
Now, it’s just a matter of selecting a distraction and away it goes.
GIF: Adobe

The October update also includes quicker AI-powered masking capabilities. The “Select People” option seems like a big win for those who work in portrait photography. Adobe says it “uses artificial intelligence to automatically select people in your photos, as well as allowing you to easily target edits to individual parts of a person such as skin, eyes, hair, and more.” The app has already offered convenient (and often accurate) methods for highlighting the subject of a shot, but this takes things up another level.

So all of a sudden, Lightroom has basically everything I need. Are my days of using Pixelmator’s apps over? Doubtful. They’re still great, powerful tools that I’ll find other ways of benefitting from. Plus, I like to support smaller developers. I have little doubt that Lightroom’s recent wave of advancements is because of increased competition from Photoshop alternatives like Pixelmator Photo, Gimp, and others.

If you haven’t given Lightroom a try in some time, it’s worth another shot. Adobe is also constantly working on making it faster and more efficient. This latest update makes further optimizations to memory utilization and export speeds. But most of all, I’m just happy that I can use Lightroom by its lonesome and not feel like I’m missing out on Photoshop’s best capabilities. The ones I care about are all included now.