Quantcast

Lightroom has limitations. Good.

By Scott Umstattd


Lightroom has limitations. Good.Lightroom offers advanced ways to manipulate basic editing techniques.

I use Lightroom because it has limitations that Photoshop doesn’t. Lightroom helps me ensure that my photographs are more closely related to my concept of photography.

Photoshop has too many temptations and, quite frankly, Photoshop offers too many ways to make my photograph into something else other than photography. Maybe I feel that Lightroom limits me in a way that suits my needs.

How did I become someone that seems to thrive within limitations? It goes back to an art assignment.

My final art assignment in college was said to be the most challenging. So said my professor giving the assignment.

It was Friday and we were told to enjoy the weekend because on Monday we were going to become enlightened artists or we were not going to become enlightened as artists. Either way, it didn’t look like we were going to skip out of our final assignments with a complimentary easy A.

Lightroom has limitations. Good.Without limits, a mind can easily wander.

We, as students, pondered what we would have to do. Would we have to blow glass? Paint? Make a vase from wet clay? Make a piece of jewelry? Take a picture? Make a film? Do an installation piece?

We wondered how the upcoming assignment could implement all that we had learned. Maybe it would be an installation piece where we blew glass as we simultaneously created pottery from a potter’s wheel, created a statue from the extra clay, painted a painting while we photographed it and filmed it. The varied ways in which this final assignment could come together were staggering. So, we enjoyed the weekend.

Monday came and we were handed the assignment. “Do whatever you want.”

That not being at all clear, we asked questions.

Does it have to be a painting? Does it have to be 3-D? How big should it be? Are we to use only tertiary paint colors? Can we use photography? Do you want us to use copper or silver? Can I make a film about the life of a dirty shoe?  

Every answer to every question was the same. “Do whatever you want.”

Lightroom has limitations. Good.With limitations removed we were free. And that caused a panic.

The box had been removed and we were being allowed to roam freely in creativity and in our imagination.

Without the walls created by a traditional assignment we were lost in possibilities. Which was the whole point of the assignment. We had to create our own walls and work from there.

I learned something about myself from this assignment. I learned that without walls I have a hard time making a decision. Without something to bounce off of or reflect from my thoughts simply wander into a meandering  forest of seas to never find an anchor or breadcrumb from which to find a return. How was I supposed to know if my idea was right if I still had questions?

To this day having unlimited options is limiting for me. I can spend two hours desperately searching Netflix only to give up and not watch a movie. I can more readily accept what movie is on TV and say to myself, “This will do. It’s all that’s on.”

Lightroom has limits. Good.While more limited than Photoshop, Lightroom offers many ways to think outside of the box.

Lightroom and other limitations

I use Lightroom because it creates a walled in world for me. I am limited by Lightroom’s limitations. And I like that.

I think the same is true for me and taking pictures. I am limited by what my camera and lens can do. And I happily work within those limitations trying to create photographs that are as real as they are exciting.

I don’t’ use Photoshop because it (at least in my mind) can do anything. Anything. And "anything" is way too much to think about.

This creates a panic feeling that I don’t like. Should I put a moon in this picture? Should I change her face with his face? Do I want to have battling spaceships with zombies pouring out? There are too many options and that makes it hard to make a move. For me, at least.

Plus, I like the idea of Photography.  The idea that a photograph is a real (and trustworthy) reflection of the photographer's perception of what he saw and not a fantasy of wishes added afterwards.

Lightroom has limits. Good.Keeping it real in Lightroom.

Lightroom is powerful and I can kind of add and remove things. But I can’t really add spaceships and zombies in Lightroom. Which, in my view, forces me to take better pictures.  And I've always loved the challenge of taking better pictures.

I’ve chosen to use the original photograph as a point of departure and a point of return. In the end, what I present needs to be a photograph. Adding spaceships and other wishes turns the photo something other than a photograph.

Lightroom introduced me to the second part of photography. The editing part. There are two parts in photography. One, taking the picture. Two, editing the picture. (And probably a third as well: Showing the picture.)

I’ve only been using Lightroom for a few years. Before that all I used was Picasa and Picmonkey. Both of which are great for editing JPEG images. But I shoot raw now and have been for a few years. Lightroom and raw images are made for each other.

My imagination needs something to reflect from. I have chosen photography because I can use the camera to reflect what I see in front of me.  My journey into photography has been ongoing for 30 years. My journey into Lightroom has just begun. I look forward to seeing how these limitations allow my creativity to soar.

Lightroom has limits. Good.The fun part is finding the picture.

In the end, we are all limited by whatever tools we choose to use. Choose your tools wisely and then propel yourself skyward.


Do you work exclusively within one editing program or do you use multiple programs to complete your work? Let us know below.


Hi there! I'm Scott. I love photography. It's a constant challenge and there is always something to learn - if you want to learn.  For those that do want to learn, I created Picture Power. In time, Picture Power will unite the superhero photographers of the world. Once we are all united, I will give further instructions. In the meantime,  Picture Power serves as a resource for you to sharpen your photography skills. If you don't find the answer you're looking for just let me know and together we'll find a way to ignite that inner superhero photography genius. 

more from picture power

Celebrating light at night.
Lenses and other gear.
Tips for tasty pictures.
What is High Dynamic Range?

Additional resources

Photoshop vs Lightroom - Photography Concentrate

Photoshop and Lightroom - Adobe

Creative Thinking - Sparring Mind


New! Comments

Let me know your thoughts about this site or what you've just read. Leave a comment in the box below.