Photoshop Lightroom 1.0, Photoshop CS3, or Photoshop CS3 Extended

by George Mann

It is easy to see how both Photoshop old timers and new Photoshop users may be confused as to which of the new Photoshop products to buy, or to upgrade to at this time.

1. Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 - The slick new all-in-one RAW image management and editing program that arguably has only one competitor, Apple Aperture, in the new non-destructive image handling arena. As evidenced by this website and many others, Lightroom has quickly become the main image handling application for a large number of digital photographers, both professional and advanced amateurs, worldwide.

Mamiya has just started packaging Photoshop Lightroom 1.0, with their medium format digital cameras and digital camera backs. Admittedly this is a US $10,000 camera but it is probably an indicator of more high end digital camera plus Photoshop Lightroom packages to come.

2. Photoshop CS3 - This newest upgrade to Photoshop CS is the standard for pixel pushing photographers and has no equal in the retouching, working in layers and generally manipulating digital images to the highest standards department.

Interestingly enough the new Adobe Camera Raw upgrade (ACR4), which only works with Photoshop CS3 (CS2 users must upgrade to CS3 first) now includes almost all of the Lightroom 1.0 Develop Module tools and some of the newest (obviously developed for Lightroom components) that are not yet available to Lightroom users. Lightroom users have to wait for the next application upgrade before they can use them.

3. Photoshop CS3 Extended - I had figured that this version was not for me, since it is primarily aimed at scientists and medical professionals (and photographers who work in those fields), but I just discovered that it has better image stacking and High Dynamic Range (HDR) capabilities than the regular Photoshop CS3 version, so I guess I will have to change to the Extended version so I can continue my HDR experiments.

Conclusion - Most professional photographers who now use the Photoshop CS2 application will automatically upgrade to Photoshop CS3, mainly because they can't afford to be behind the curve. If they are interested in working with High Dynamic Range photography I recommend upgrading to the Extended version of Photoshop CS3.

For the same reason they will more than likely already have experimented with Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 and are either using it now or waiting for a newer version. It only makes sense to use a digital assets manager that is tightly integrated with your digital image editor.

New RAW image photographers who do not have either Photoshop CS or Photoshop Lightroom yet, should probably start with Photoshop Lightroom first and add Photoshop CS later when they find that they need the specialized pixel manipulating capabilities that can only be found in Photoshop CS.


Bruce McL
2007-06-08 11:42:33
Don't leave out JPEG photography when talking about Lightroom. To start with, using JPEG with Lightroom is a huge step up from Photoshop due to the nondestructive editing. It allows multiple editing passes through your work with no worries about degrading image quality. In addition, nearly all of the Lightroom controls work on both RAW and JPEG files.
2007-06-08 12:25:49
I have Lightroom AND Photoshop CS3. For me, Lightroom provides a nice, lightweight front-end to Photoshop and Photoshop provides the full-on editing capabilities when needed.
Chris R
2007-06-08 15:21:25
I hear that Lightroom is due for an upgrade soon. Would you advise prospective purchasers such as me to hold onto their money for the time being?

2007-06-08 21:37:40
how much to upgrade from CS3 to CS3 extended?
George Mann
2007-06-09 18:07:26
Sorry I can not comment on the price of software, there are just too many deals out there, best thing is to search Google or Amazon.

Chris, I would not wait for an upgrade of Lightroom before purchasing, you would be missing out on too much fun and the upgrade process should be fairly painless.

Kalei Campbell
2007-06-11 19:56:24
Please be more specific about how HDR is better in the Extended version vs. CS3.
George Mann
2007-06-11 20:48:10
The HDR tools themselves are apparently the same between the two versions, but if you are for instance planning to take multiple exposures for an HDR project, in a location with many moving objects, the "image stack analytical filters" in the Extended version could be very useful.

Read this John Nack Adobe blog entry -

Joe Cheng
2007-06-12 23:50:37
A lot of people seem to imply that Aperture and Lightroom are revolutionary for featuring nondestructive editing. Is everyone aware that Picasa has worked this way for years? And I'm pretty sure they were not the first either.

I use both Picasa and Lightroom--don't get me wrong, Picasa doesn't hold a candle to Lightroom when it comes to serious postprocessing work, but I'd still like to see credit given where it is due.