Photo Editing Showdown
Polarr vs Lightroom
If you are on this site, you should know that I am all about finding deals and things that work for you for the lowest price. Having said that, I need to let you know that I have bought Lightroom. However, I will be comparing Lightroom with another software that I use quite often: Polarr.
This is the go to, bees knees, end all photo editors for photographers out there today. Go to any site that has a review and it will be glowing with recommendation for you to buy it. For good reason too, it is a great piece of software. It is powerful, has good tools, and runs (fairly) smoothly on a good system. If you have a large number of photos to edit, this is the software for you. It uses links (like other Adobe software) to your images, so you are never editing the actual photo, just a “copy” of it. This requires you to backup your edits every once and a while just in case. I have found this really helpful as I have gone back to old photos and re-edited them with a new perspective. Honestly, there is so much that I could get into about this program, but there are better and more in depth reviews out there, I just want to give you MY opinion.
Adobe has great programs, and this one is no exception. If you are looking at getting this, there are two ways for you to buy. One, is the subscription based one (the CC one) which is about 10 bucks a month. That can be useful if you want to try it to see how it works for you. The other is to buy it outright. Adobe still has this feature for only this program for some reason but it is NOT the most current version of Lightroom. I personally don’t like the CC subscription they have now. Its just another thing to add to my monthly bill…. They have a “Buy” option on their website for an upfront total of 150 I think. There are some retailers that also sell the cd if you want a physical copy. I know bestbuy and office max have them in stock typically. Buying a program is just as big as a new lens, so I think so it is important to know what you are looking for and what you want.
Lightroom is great and all but there are a few things that steam my clams. The big one for me is the UI (user interface). It just feels outdated. Now, this is something they might fix in the future but until then, this is the biggest complaint that I have. It just feels clunky and tends to lag a bit when I scroll through the settings (that could just be my pc though). The other big one is the file organizer. Again, this is more of a UI thing, but it needs to be better if you are going to handle lots of photos.
If you are getting serious with your photography (doing paid shoots and the like) I would recommend picking up a copy or subscription to Adobe CC.
Lightroom is great, but because of the above listed issues I have with it, its not my favorite. Its great, just not my favorite. Also, I should mention that the reason I know about Polarr is because I have a Chromebook as my laptop. I am a huge proponent of Chromebooks. They are light, fast, and have great battery life. Again, I was looking for a cheep solution for my needs (I’ll have a post on why I use a Chromebook to edit photos soon). We don’t need $2000 laptops for light photo editing and web surfing. Honestly, my dad just got a new Lenovo laptop that is about as powerful as my desktop and all he does is check email and use excel. Besides, 99% of our daily tasks are online these days so having an OS that uses chrome is just so fluid.
Because I use this Chromebook, I was looking for a good photo editor for when I’m on the road camping or what not. I tried all of the chrome OS ones that I could find. Polarr was the only one that was able to edit RAW NEF files from a Nikon. AND its an app not a web app, so it runs within the chrome OS on its separate window. I bought it from the google play store for $20 and once you link an account to it, you can just download it on any computer (chrome OS, mac, PC, Android, iPhone) log in, and you have the full version. An awesome thing if you forget your laptop or it dies.
In stark contrast to Lightroom, the UI in Polarr is so fluid, elegant and straight forward. It was made for touch screens so the sliders are big and easy to adjust. My Chromebook is really old (going on 4 years now), has no touchscreen, and only has 2 gigs of ram, but it runs Polarr like a champ.
Now, this is both a pro and a con: Polarr is more of a photo editor for a single photo rather than a batch edit like you would do in Lightroom. For me, my Chromebook isn’t powerful enough to handle exporting more than 3 photos at once anyway, but they way it approaches editing is more focused on a single photo. Its a pro because it forces you to look through your images and pick the best few, verses editing them all and having 50 images that all look alike. To me, having one or two of your best photos is always more impactful than 50 so so images.
The biggest con that I was able to see with Polarr was its handling of the photos. I did a side by side comparison of the same image edited in Polarr and Lightroom using the (almost) same adjustments. The Lightroom one was clearly better. Polarr has a hard time smoothing out mid range colors into an even transition (my photo was a setting sun photo with bright horizon and dark top). It produces a blocky effect that just doesn’t look good. Other than that though, I have had several occasions where I felt better adjusting a photo in Polarr than in Lightroom due to its ease of use.
In conclusion, these are both really good programs with their own pros and cons. It really is based on how much you want to spend on the software. In my opinion, Lightroom is the clear winner if you are looking for quality exports and edits, but Polarr is a great secondary and a really good choice if you are just getting into editing. Its $20 vs $160 so there is little risk if you ask me using Polarr to start.