Why Lightroom Users Should Seriously Consider Adding Photoshop Elements To Their Workflow

Most Lightroom users find themselves occasionally needing to step outside of its non-destructive workflow and use a “pixel pushing” (i.e. destructive) editor to finish processing a photo.  The obvious choice for that task is Photoshop.  But do you really need all that power if 99% of your work has already been done in Lightroom?

Unless you are a full time photographer the answer is likely no.  I’m an amateur photographer and find that Photoshop’s cutdown version – Photoshop Elements – meets all of my needs and there is no compelling reason to move to the full version.  But there is one compelling reason to choose Photoshop Elements over Photoshop.  The price.

Its large enough in the US, but internationally the price difference between Photoshop Elements and Photoshop is remarkable. At the Adobe Store Photoshop CS4 costs* $699 USD or $1415 AUD ($1180 USD) and Photoshop CS4 Extended $999 USD or $2019 AUD ($1690 USD). Photoshop Elements costs $99.99 USD or $165 AUD ($140 USD).  This means Photoshop Elements costs Australian consumers a little more than 1/10th of the price of the most basic Photoshop CS4 version. Its no wondering the Photoshop Elements community is growing so quickly outside of the US!

Photoshop vs Photoshop Elements

A recent post at Lightroom Secrets compared the features of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements to help users understand the incremental benefit of buying the full version.  The essence of that comparison (and my own research) is Photoshop provides:

The importance of many of these features diminishes when you are using Lightroom as your primary editor and only dipping into Photoshop every now and then.  Other features (e.g. Content Aware Scaling) would be nice to have, but as an amateur photographer I don’t think they are worth the additional $1250 AUD I’d have to spend to “upsize” from Photoshop Elements 7 to Photoshop CS4.

Bottom line?  Most photographers using Lightroom won’t miss the features they lose by choosing Photoshop Elements over Photoshop.  But the money they save could go a long way towards a new lens or flash that could make a significant difference to their photography.

Improved Photoshop Elements Integration With Lightroom

Another benefit of Photoshop is the level of integration it enjoys with Lightroom.  Photoshop Elements is added as an external editor, while Photoshop has a number of menu items dedicated to improving workflow when it is combined with Lightroom.  To close this functionality gap I’ve created an Elemental plugin for Lightroom which provides Photoshop Elements users roughly the same level of integration Photoshop users get "out of the box".

Elemental Lightroom Plugin Menu Extras

The Elemental plugin adds 5 new menu items to the File –> Plug-in Extras and Library –> Plug-In Extras menus, emulating the integration available to Photoshop users.  This includes letting the user select photos and launch them directly into the Photomerge dialog, or open them as Smart Objects (a feature Adobe doesn’t advertise as available in Photoshop Elements).  It even adds some new options for good measure, namely Remove Lens Distortion and the ability to directly Open in PSE.  And it does this all while avoiding the Camera Raw dialog which should be redundant as Lightroom’s Develop module contains a superset of the options available in PSE’s version of Camera Raw.  The only feature that can’t be reproduced is Merge to HDR in Photoshop because Photoshop Elements does not include this feature.  As many Photoshop users utilise an external HDR tool rather than the one supplied with Photoshop this hopefully won’t prove too much of an issue.

Where Do I Sign?

If you are ready to take the plunge and add Photoshop Elements to your workflow, Adobe sells the products online and may have specials running so please try the Special Offers page before using one of the direct purchase links has a number of specials running at any given time that can (North America only) specials running till August 10.  Links are included below for your convenience and by purchasing through these you will be helping support the ongoing development of my Elemental plugin.

Find all current special offers on Adobe products. Adobe
Photoshop Elements 7. Extraordinary photos. Amazing stories. Photoshop Elements 7
Photoshop Elements 7 + Premiere Elements 7 – Complete photo and video editing made easy. Photoshop Elements 7 + Premiere Elements 7
Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Macs


UK readers can use the following links to support my plugin development while purchasing the products but unfortunately no discounts or coupons are currently available: Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 & Adobe Premiere Elements 7 – Full, Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 – Full and Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Macintosh – Full.


If you aren’t quite convinced why not download a trial copy of either the Windows or Mac version and find out firsthand whether it suits your workflow?  I’m sure you’ll find, like me, that Photoshop Elements covers all of your main “pixel pushing” requirements without doing too much damage to your bank account!


* Note: All prices were converted using Google’s current exchange rates on August 3, 2009.

Posted on August 4, 2009 at 12:54 am by Matt · Permalink
In: Review, Software, Tip · Tagged with: , , , , , ,