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Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom Reflect Digital Photography's New Workflows

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Adobe Photoshop CS3, Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended, and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 offer the widest and deepest range of digital-imaging options ever produced by Adobe. How do you decide which of these applications should be on your upgrade list? Conrad Chavez sheds light on which combination is the best for your digital photography workflow.

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Starting From Zero

While many photographers are upgrading from Photoshop CS2, there are still those approaching the Adobe digital imaging product line for the first time, such as students, amateurs going pro, and advanced photographers currently using non-Adobe software. For years, the conventional wisdom has been that when you get serious about digital photography, the first thing you buy is Photoshop. I think that might be changing.

For photographers, it might now be a better idea to start out with Lightroom, take it to its limits, and then buy Photoshop later when you understand what Lightroom can’t do. Going first with Lightroom brings you a powerful yet simplified and cost-effective way to start processing, organizing, and creating prints and web sites from your images. If you later add Photoshop CS3, you can start to learn it by taking on just the areas where Lightroom falls short, and your experience with Lightroom will give you a good head start on the fundamental photo-processing features in Photoshop and ACR 4, such as Curves. Starting from zero with Photoshop is more challenging because the basics of image processing are spread out among so many more dialog boxes and panels, and you have to coordinate the full digital camera workflow across the Photo Downloader, Bridge CS3, ACR 4, and Photoshop CS3.

Even with the promise and simplicity of Lightroom, there are reasons why you might make Photoshop CS3 your top priority. If you already own a good processor/organizer such as Aperture or Bibble, Photoshop CS3 adds a universe of capabilities you don’t already have, without overlapping your existing software as much as Lightroom would. Some areas of photography, such as fashion or landscape photography, require Photoshop to achieve levels of retouching and refinement that are well beyond what Lightroom currently offers.

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