As I stated in my Best of 2017 post, I didn’t get to take many photos this year – which also multiple times throughout the year made me think: why am I paying so much money for Lightroom for how little I use it. Disclaimer up front: I totally understand why Adobe went subscription based and in general I am not opposed to paying a monthly or yearly fee to use software or services that I use. But Lightroom just didn’t hit that mark for me. I took some images in January, March and April – then nothing until September and then December. That is a lot of months without taking a single photo that would make its way into Lightroom (I never imported my iPhone photos into Lightroom on iOS because my upload speed at home is atrocious). In general, when I am not taking new photos I am not opening Lightroom because I don’t do much with my old images currently (for viewing purposes the best make its way into the Photos app and on my phone).
Getting rid of Lightroom
So during a “let’s be more frugal” phase in the summer I decided to cancel Lightroom – until I found out that while I paid for it monthly, it is a yearly contract and if you want to cancel sooner you will have to pay half the sum the rest of that year would cost you. So I decided to keep Lightroom around till that year ended, which it did in November. This, coincidentally, was just after they announced the changes to Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic – which is another change I understand from their perspective but that doesn’t make sense for me personally (I feel like the writing is on the wall for it to be all cloud based and I cannot justify the costs of keeping my 2 TB library in the cloud).
As a side note: I am focusing on Lightroom here because it is very seldom I do extensive enough editing that Photoshop comes into the equation at all.
I prepared for the cancellation by exporting all of my edited photos to JPG files and saving all the meta-data I had added to sidecar files for the RAW images and saved them to the jpgs for those files. This way, hopefully, when I find a new home for my photo library I won’t have to re-do everything again. Hopefully this time it will work smoother than when I had do abandon Aperture in 2015.
Life after Lightroom
Shortly before my subscription ran out, a blog post appeared on Lightroom Killer Tips about what happens if you cancel your Lightroom CC subscription and turns out: it leaves the Library Module completely functional! It just disables the Develop module and all of the other modules. Which is interesting to me and gives me an out if I don’t find any app I truly like for library management (my hope, really, is the Library module being teased for Luminar in 2018).
Since the stars were truly all aligning for this switch, also around the same time Thomas Fitzgerald added a blog post on his blog about the current state of Lightroom alternatives. This blog post was of interest to me since a) as we have established, I’ve wanted to jump ship and b) he is also shooting Fuji which is an issue with some RAW converters. He lists all apps by which part of the Lightroom workflow they can cover and gives recommendations on which he prefers.
For me it was clear that I would try out different apps once I actually took some photos again. This happened over the Christmas break when I went to the local botanical garden to see their winter lights. So off I went to download Irident Developer, Capture One Pro, and One1 RAW – in addition I already own Affinity Photo, RAWPower and Luminar. I didn’t consider the Photos app by Apple for this because the reasons I didn’t switch to it when Aperture was abandoned still stand – it just isn’t made for a library this large.
The test image comparison
For a short first, let’s see what they can do, I used one image of the ones I had taken to see and compare the results of a very quick, no more than five minutes, edit. I know that the image isn’t super sharp but I felt it was a good extreme case image with the powerful violett light and the steel and glass structure over it. So this is why I chose this image. All images were exported from their app and then I re-sized them using Preview on the Mac to be an even 1,200px wide.
I’ve only opened them up so far and taken a first look at how they behave with one image so take these observations as very early first impressions:
- Affinity Photos RAW Engine and that image didn’t really want to work together. The colors got all mushed up. But Affinity to me is more of a Photoshop alternative so it gets a pass here.
- RAWPower is pretty awesome but is only for processing the files and doesn’t have any library functionality at all
- Luminar did okay but it didn’t blow me away for this.
- Irident Developer has made a name for itself with Fuji-Shooters because their RAW support is really good. The app isn’t very good looking but gets the job done, what it is missing though is true library management (you can open a folder of images at once though and sort it)
- Capture One is not a good looking app but it worked pretty well for me in my quick tests. Like any app of its calibre there is a steep learning curve to get to know all buttons and options
- One1 Raw felt a bit more user friendly to me – though I don’t like the result I got as much as I did the Capture one version.
My current plan is to test both Capture One and One1 Raw further to see which one I like better and which fits my workflow better and then probably buy one or the other. If both don’t make the cut, I’ll go with Irident Developer because it can be a good go in between until hopefully better library management options emerge.