You’ve heard of Photoshopping—as in, “that photo’s obviously Photoshopped”—but what about Lightrooming?

Photoshop has been demonized for the kind of power it has to alter “reality” in a photograph. I put reality in quotes because, when it comes to photography, there is no such thing—but that’s a subject for another editorial.

All the while, Lightroom (and other RAW editors) has been slowly getting more and more powerful… like the bad guy in a story that nobody pays attention to until he gets too powerful to beat.

Let me make my case with a simple photograph. While I was in Dubai covering the HIPA competition for 500px, I went rooftopping and captured this sunrise photo. This is the SOOC RAW:


Then I came home, opened up my trusty copy of Lightroom, and spent 30 minutes “tinkering.” I say tinkering because I’m anything but an expert. I don’t make YouTube videos or create magical worlds in post.

I mess with sliders, do my best to look up features I don’t understand, and attempt to recreate what I remember in my mind’s eye. This is what I came up with:

It turns out my mind’s eye is a pretty pink place… who would have thought!? Joking aside, what you see above and in the before-and-after slider below is what an amateur with less than 24 total hours spent in Lightroom EVER was able to create in 30 minutes.

In other words:

If you think Photoshop is the only program that can make a “real” photo “fake,” you should re-evaluate

The point of this isn’t to start a flame war or say that the only tools you’re allowed to touch are dodge and burn if you want to be a “real photographer.” This is just a call for honesty… and maybe a reality check.

Lately I’ve heard several photographers say (rather pompously) that they “only use Lightroom.” This is supposed to imply that their photography is better, more real, and truer to life than those dreaded Photoshopped photos.

That’s bull crap. Sure, your photos aren’t Photoshopped… but you bet your ass they’re Lightroomed. And these days, that ought to mean just as much.