I've been updating my e-book, Photography For Real Estate recently so I've been thinking about how post processing has evolved over the last few years and what specific tools to recommend to beginning real estate photographers.
My conclusion is: Lightroom 5 is the only post processing software real estate photographers need.
- Lightroom 5 is now best in class for everything that real estate photographers need to do. Aperture and the other similar options aren't even in the running anymore.
- You can get to the same place with just Photoshop CC or some of the older versions of Photoshop, but Photoshop CC in the long run is way more expensive and just not essential for real estate photography.
- You can also get to the same place with Photoshop Elements but, Photoshop Elements is a toy compared to Lightroom 5. The interface in Elements is just too awkward and slow for professional use.
I know what you are thinking...
- What about layers for window masking and sky replacement? Lightroom 5 doesn't have layers but we are much closer to living without layers as several readers have pointed out to me in comments and e-mail responding to my post a few days ago about window masking. The Highlights and Shadows sliders are very powerful on RAW files and reduce the number of situations where you need layering. However, as Aaron points out below to get that convincing windows you need to use flash or layers in Photoshop.
- What about cloning out objects? Watch the above tutorial by Laura Shoe It shows that the cloning/healing features in Lightroom 5 are quite good. Granted, they are not as good as content aware fill in Photoshop CC but I think they are good enough for real estate work. Besides, you need to restrain yourself from massive modification of real estate images.
- What about HDR/EF post processing software? You need that don't you? HDR, Exposure Fusion and blending are being obsoleted by the rapid advance in the quality of RAW images from modern sensors and the improvements in software that processes RAW images. This development started in Lightroom 4 and Adobe Camera RAW version 7.0 and continues in Lightroom 5. Scott Hargis has a great six page example of this at the end of his new Post-Processing chapter in the second edition of Lighting Interiors and it doesn't involve using any flash at all. If you have Lighting Interiors, it starts on page 211.
Yeah, there are a handful of things you may not be able to do with Lightroom 5 but they are small and insignificant in the overall scheme of real estate photography. Many of us do things in Photoshop just because that's the way we've always done them and there may still be a handful of real estate photography things you can't do in Lightroom 5 but they are not significant and not essential. If you are starting out in real estate photography go with Lightroom 5!