GIMP vs Lightroom: Which One Do I Need?

Many of the cameras we use to capture images, regardless of their quality and build – have some flaws. The best way to compensate and “fix” these flaws is by using photo editing software. You can achieve anything. Cropping, contrast changes, white balance configurations, shadow enhancements and so on. These are very few of the many options possible, so let’s take a look at two such software solutions.


GIMP

The name GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program” and does exactly what it says. It offers ample opportunities for editing and manipulating captured images. The free software gives access to many basic and advanced features but it’s more difficult to master than other software choices. It’s a favorite mainly for users that delve in image editing and scripting, RAW processing and CMYK editing.

gimp

The standard interface of the GIMP is quite typical in design, not differing greatly as a layout from programs such as Adobe Photoshop. We have the workspace in the middle, thumbnails and separate windows for different settings and editing tools and a menu on top to help configure the workspace to our needs.

With GIMP you can access editing tools such as exposure controls, levels and curves, filters, hue/saturation, color replacement and the basic paintbrush, eraser, election tools and bucket fill. The list is obviously a bit too long to mention. The advanced editing features reside within the ability to add layer masks and because of channel manipulations. The program has been vastly improved over the past few years. Notably also, it supports scripting languages such as Scheme and Python. Very useful for creating macros instead of manually going over the same process with hundreds of different photos.
Pros
  • Supports most popular file formats (GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, FLC, Targaetc)
  • It’s free and open-source
  • Useful basic and advanced tools
  • Standardized interface
  • Scripting support
Cons
  • Doesn’t support many third-party plugins
  • Does not offer much guidance, the help menu is weak
  • Difficult to apprehend
  • Not very intuitive

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is program designed for professional photographers and it’s filled with features to satisfy the needs of every consumer, although its main target remains the advanced user. It has a price of $140 or $10 if you want to go for a monthly subscription instead.

Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom can be characterized through its updates, Adobe makes an effort to improve every new version with more and more features and aims to be create a smooth and practical interface. The new 6 version also brings camera and lens support for the enthusiasts.

The interface is booming with professional tools and tabs to help guide every user to get the maximum possible out of every feature. The workspace contains a library for organizing your photos, a ‘develop’ zone for the image-processing part, the ‘map’ for geottaging and modules for slideshows, web output and book printing. It’s customizable to the point that it allows you to even mark the upper left corner of the workspace with your very own brand design through a custom graphic. The importing of photos is done through the aforementioned library and the files can be taken directly from your PC folder, camera or any other device connected to your MAC or Windows system. The auto-rename feature allows quick assignment of roles for each of your imports and quick organization in order to ignore duplicates.

The Smart Preview features allow the creation of a photo catalog which you can export to your other devices for quick viewing and sharing.

The rating system further improves the categorization power of the software by adding a star features to grade your work based on what you think is best in terms of quality. By creating collections using the Smart Collection feature, you can attach to them keywords for sorting out for example images captured in nature, or portraits and so on.

Built as a RAW file converter, it does have access to many file formats and can open up most popular ones such as TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PNG and all the likes.

The global editing parameters of Lightroom allows detail editing of shadows, color, light and more through the access of efficient tools. The brushes within the toolset such as healing brush can help the user rid photos of imperfections from the photographs such as unwanted elements from the backgrounds.

The edits such as exposure, crops, spot removals and color adjustments can be subsequently transferred and applied to a series of photos. Whichever the outcome of your edits, they can later be exported to Photoshop for further editing and retouching.
Within the ‘develop’ module you’ll be able to enhance your photos with improved tools such as the Radial Gradient tool for outfitting vignettes and focal points.

With the help of Lightroom and its output modules, you can create and share books, slideshows and prints for promotional purpose or a professional portfolio. However these features are not as well adorned on purpose – they want you to use Adobe’s InDesign software for that purpose.

The slideshow module allows exporting of your work in video formats or PDF files.

One of the best features for web designers is the ability to create HTML of Flash web pages within the Web module. This way you can focus on the photos and the software generates the code by itself for later use on your pages.

Pros
  • Supports most popular file formats (GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, FLC, Targaetc)
  • It’s free and open-source
  • Useful basic and advanced tools
  • Standardized interface
  • Scripting support
Cons
  • Software for advanced users, it has a complex and difficult learning scale.
  • It has an expensive price tag
  •  Some of the features which could have been included are deliberately left out in order to motivate users to buy other Adobe products

Which one do we choose?

Firstly you have to assess your intended purpose and the actual need for which you want to use a photo editing software. And secondly, definitely consider the budget available.

If you are a professional photographer and your career does depend on the quality of adjustments and perfect photos, investing some money into Adobe’s Lightroom is a good idea.

If you simply don’t have the money to spare or your editing needs simply require small retouches and pixel-by-pixel editing, the precarious and free GIMP will do just fine.

In some cases you might end up combining and using them both.

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