I’m still using Lightroom 6.14 (LR) on a MBP with a Mojave partition, and while I wasn’t smart enough to use the last year of isolation to migrate, new photos piling up from summertime activities this year is resurfacing the issue for me.
I’ve been keeping my eye on options for the past several years, and my needs don’t seem to exactly match the focus of many products these days, so I thought this community might have some valuable input or interest.
- Amateur, capturing photos of personal travel and events
- Capture in JPG/HEIF mostly using iPhone, GoPro, or compact camera like Canon Powershot series
- I use LR infrequently, probably only 6-8 times a year overall, when adding new photos
- I edit very few photos overall, and then often cropping or other minor common edits (redeye, brightness/contrast) for a specific purpose
- Make more use of DAM features (batch import, organizing, tagging, rating, searching)
- non-destructive editing - I’m not a big editor as noted, so I like to be able to get back to the original, since I often don’t know what will look better. Especially with capturing in JPG, and don’t want repetitive losses with each save
- metadata support - GPS, keywords, etc. Both modifying and removing depending on actions
- heirarchial keyword support
- strong search/filtering capabilities - keywords, dates, location
- local storage - Option for primary local offline storage, ideally with support for sometimes attached removable drives (but that’s not required). Cloud sync/backup option is also a bonus, but not required.
- flexible storage structure - I want to be able to store images as I want, allowing migration, easy backup, etc. Probably came from history with IPhoto/Photos randomly named folders inside the Library.
- Sharing/Export options - most commonly used is creating web albums, and ability to control styling/layout/theme is preferred
TL;DR summary: flexible, full-featured storage, organization, and searching, with simple, common editing features
Given my infrequent use, Adobe’s subscription model makes very little sense for me. Most months the software would go unused. I have considered purchasing LR Classic (desktop version) and renewing on the months I need it, and that is still an option.
Most of the LR alternatives that are mentioned are more focused on editing that DAM, and new releases often tout the improvements to correcting, retouching, filters, etc. This is the biggest mismatch from my needs vs what I see in discussed. For example, I have been watching Skylum Luminar since it was first released. They had improved DAM features on their roadmap, but every new release has been focused on editing features.
Currently, the top options seem to be:
Digikam - FOSS DAM focused. Seems to be one of the closest to LR’s DAM functionality, and is probably the one I’m currently most likely to try.
– as I understand it, non-destructive editing is not implemented the way many apps (Photos, LR) do with sidecar files, ie the actual edits saved as steps that can be reapplied. Instead a new version of the photo is saved for each edit. This means the program doens’t have to reapply edits each time, but with JPGs, this can result in repetitive loss during compression.
– An external editor can be used, but I have read that integration on macOS is not as strong.
- DarkTable - FOSS more of a full LR replacement. DAM not as strong as Digikam, but built-in editing is better. Currently 2nd in consideration.
Apple Photos - I haven’t reached the point where I’m willing to let go and have Apple organize all my files, though the complete integration and easy access across all devices is appealing. I feel I’m just outside the target market of “just take care of this for me”.
– I’ve found tagging to be more difficult than LR in the past, but haven’t throughly testing lately
– I am aware of the option to store files outside the Library, but then many of the iCloud features stop working.
- Lightroom Classic - renew on month to month basis as needed. Easiest, option of mobile integration, etc
Capture One, Luminar, On1 Photo Raw, and Raw Therapee all seemed to be more editing focused and have less DAM features, so while I have read about them, currently I don’t see them as contenders.
Anyone have experience with either Digikam or DarkTable, or have I missed another app that I should consider? I’m happy to share my experiences as I start testing and migrating to something.