PhotoLab vs Lightroom Classic for image organization is an interesting question. PhotoLab 6 offers better RAW processing and noise reduction than Lightroom Classic and more extensive local adjustment tools, but with the improvements to the PhotoLibrary in PhotoLab 6, can it also do the same job as an image cataloguing tool?
It depends on your approach to image organization. Lightroom Classic works with catalogs, or databases. You have to import images into the catalog, and while you can move, rename and edit images within Lightroom and it will keep track of them perfectly well, if you move, edit or rename images outside of Lightroom, it will lose the link to the image file(s) until you manually reconned them or synchronize your folders. Lightroom does not offer a constant ‘live’ view of the images stored in your folders.
DxO PhotoLab 6 does. At hearts its PhotoLibrary window is a simple file browser, albeit with additional search and filtering tools. This is more likely to suit users who are happy to organize their images in folders and know where to look when they need them. It shows exactly what’s in your folders at any one time.
But this has its limits. What you also need is some way to separate out collections of images for a portfolio, for example, a web gallery, a client or just for your own interest. That’s why image organizing programs offer ‘Albums’ or ‘Collections’ – effectively, these are ‘virtual containers’ for photos perhaps stored in many different locations.
DxO PhotoLab has long offered ‘Projects’ in its PhotoLibrary panel, which are effectively albums under another name. However, the have traditionally been displayed as a single, linear list, which has limited their usefulness.
But PhotoLab 6 brought the ability to nest projects in a hierarchy, a feature easily overlooked amongst all the other improvements and additions, but one which completely changes the value of Projects. Now, you can arrange your images in PhotoLab Projects with all the hierarchical organization you get with Lightroom Collections.
This changes everything. From being a file browser with extra tools, the DxO PhotoLibrary has now become a Lightroom alternative with the benefits of live file browsing.
DxO PhotoLab vs Lightroom Classic for organizing images
- Folders: The key difference here is that Lightroom does not show a ‘live’ view of folder contents. For people who like to use folders as their primary organizational tool, PhotoLab is better because it will update to show any changes made elsewhere.
- Albums/Projects: They are much the same. Both can organize images in a hierarchical system to produce any kind of organizational structure you like.
- Smart Albums: Lightroom Classic has this very useful tool, but PhotoLab 6 does not. It does have a quick drop-down ‘autofill’ search tool which is quick and effective, though it can’t display more than 1000 matches at a time, annoyingly.
- Searching/filtering: Lightroom Classic has the best tools if you really want to drill down into the details, but PhotoLab 6 has a quick and dirty search bar which can get you there just as effectively. The only issue is that there’s some vagueness over where PhotoLab is searching and which folders it has indexed in its internal database.
DxO PhotoLab vs Lightroom Classic: conclusions
Which one is best for editing is a separate argument. DxO’s RAW processing is better and its local adjustments are more precise; Lightroom has quick-access profiles and presets and AI subject masking.
For organizing images, it’s an interesting question. If your system is based mainly around folders but you also use albums/projects for specific, well, projects, then PhotoLab 6 may actually prove more effective for you than Lightroom Classic.
But if your organizational system is based around searches and filters and you don’t mind a ‘closed’ catalog system, then Lightroom Classic is rather more powerful.
Perhaps the point is, though, that PhotoLab 6’s image organizing tools are now good enough to offer a serious alternative to Lightroom’s. They are not as powerful, but they are quick and effective, and could be enough to tempt users into making the switch.
If you use PhotoLab 6 already, do take a proper look at the Project and Search tools. They didn’t start out very powerful, but they have come a long way.
If you haven’t tried PhotoLab 6 yet, use the link below to download a 30-day trial. That’s plenty of time to try out its features and make a decision.
- Cataloguing software explained
- Referenced vs managed files in cataloguing software: what’s the difference?
- DxO PhotoLab vs Lightroom vs Capture One – which is best for RAW files?
- Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic: same name, very different workflow
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