This will take awhile to get to the point so if you’re interested, buckle in for a winding, drawn out reason about why I’m not switching to Pixelmator Photo as much as I want to.
I’m an avid Lightroom CC user. I have never used Photoshop, not because I don’t want to but because I’m too stupid.
In the past I was an Aperture user and it never clicked. The catalogue was too confusing to me. Again, stupid. When it was discontinued I switched to Lightroom and have done well with it since. Adobe later released Lightroom Mobile (now the cross-platform Lightroom CC) during the time I had adopted a heavy iPhone/iPad travel workflow and I grew up with the program. Lightroom was straightforward and essentially offers the simple tools that I used in the darkroom- dodging and burning, with digital exposure and color edits. Plus a little more.
I have had a strange fascination with Pixelmator for years. Many times since 2012 I’ve tried to use Pixelmator which is a layers based graphics editor. The price was right and they were an Apple only product that worked to make the most of the Apple hardware. They even released a mobile app with some of the core features. But again it’s a layers based editor and if I couldn’t figure out Photoshop this wasn’t going to help me. I looked often for tutorials to learn the software but they weren’t available like they are for Adobe products.
When Pixelmator Pro for the Mac was being released last year I was fully ready to make an attempt at using it and abandoning Lightroom.
Why would I leave Adobe? I don’t like that I’m boxed into one system. I pay 20 dollars a month for the photography Creative Cloud account with 2 TB of data. I have to be very careful with that catalogue as I go because 2TB isn’t a lot for a full and active catalogue over years, even with mindful archiving. And I’m managing two different photography catalogues- Lightroom and Apple Photos. Finally, the way you import photographs into Lightroom on the iPad or iPhone is plain silly, but that’s really on Apple and we’re not going to get into file management on iOS because that’s a dead horse for now (until some future iOS iteration).
But the big reason was: “minimalism”.
Over 2018 I started doing a deep dive into my life again. A significant breakup, several moves, and a job change made me evaluate everything. I adopted minimalism around 2009 when I started paring down my belongings and moved into a small loft apartment. When I moved to Rhode Island in 2011 I sold almost everything I owned then put an add on Craigslist to come get the rest for free and people swooped in en masse. I kept things lightweight as possible but things creep back in. My digital files were a mess. Papers kept following me around the country. When I lived on the Rez it was like Little House On The Prairie and I bought enough supplies and things to fix anything and felt I needed a lot of comforts. “Things” piled up. Tools, paint, gardening tools, furniture, home gym equipment, entertainment. By late 2016 I was maintaining 3 addresses over 3 states with homes and ‘stuff’ in all of them, a lot of it duplicated. Then I had to pack up all of the places and put them into storage and nothing makes you realize how crazy your life is than rampant disorganization, poor sleep, and putting your hands on every single thing you own. I literally started having recurring dreams about boxes of papers.
While I was traveling I couldn’t manage my physical things but I could manage my finances and digital assets. I was shocked by how many apps and pieces of software I owned or had a subscription to. I made the spreadsheet that showed monthly recurring charges and a lot showed up and were pared down. And this drew my eye to the Adobe subscription. It has jumped up from 9.99 a month to 19.99. 240 dollars a year every year. I can afford it and I use it aggressively but did I need it at that price?
iOS has become my main platform for doing everything. The iPhone alone can do most things you need and when you need the luxury of a bigger screen go to an iPad. When I watch or read reviews of any iPad people talk about how it can’t replace a computer and it makes me nuts. What does anyone do on a computer besides browse the web, shop, message your friends, watch YouTube and Netflix, and check email, and write (in that order)? iOS is fine for 99.99 percent of people except working graphics and video professionals, engineers, architects, and medical professionals (because medical software is the worst on earth and just can’t function on anything except a 12 year old Windows PC). I find working on an iPad is far more efficient than working on a Mac both digitally and physically. The ergonomics of touch with a Smart Keyboard are just better than keyboard and mouse (there is a reason the keyboard is so short- it’s so you can reach the screen easily). I edit photos with a pencil. I manipulate windows and screens like Minority Report. When I want to read something my ‘computer’ turns into a book/magazine/comic book/magical future tablet. I believe that my next Mac upgrade will likely be the last traditional computer I ever buy.
That aside over when I evaluated my tools, a lot of software like Word and Ulysesss, Byword, Simplenote, Evernote and OneNote, were abandoned for free, excellent software that came with my devices. Notes and Pages took over drafting, writing, and note collection. iCloud Drive replaced Dropbox, Music replaced Spotify. It kept everything neat, my data and privacy were secure and organized in one place, and I took the time to master the software. Where I had limped along on Excel for decades, I buckled down and did the full Lynda.com Numbers course and for the first time spreadsheets stopped being mysterious things nerds used to optimize their lives and instead became easily accessible tools that helped me solved real problems. A lot of this was also pushed by many of the privacy concerns arising in digital ecosystems (Facebook, Google, apps sending data out that users are unaware of, etc.).
But besides managing my day to day life and writing what do I use my tech for?
Could I get rid of all of these photo editing apps? I adore shooting and editing on my iPhone and I seriously considered selling all of my cameras and becoming an iPhone only photographer. But different working opportunities continue to present themselves and so I kept using ‘real’ cameras and instead focused on addressing the software. Snapseed left. It’s a terrific app but I can do everything in Snapseed with Lightroom, but better. And I don’t trust Google anyway. All of the other silly one off apps disappeared too. They were niche cases and often all I needed was to dig into Lightroom to figure out how to replace them. But could I replace Lightroom with free Apple software?
Aperture was discontinued by Apple in 2015 (and it was definitely not free). The people who fully embraced it loved it, probably in the way people love Final Cut Pro. It was a different beast than their consumer product iPhoto which most people were familiar with and used without issue, mostly for collecting their images but also for doing basic editing. Apple replaced iPhoto with Photos (minimalism) with the emphasis on the iCloud Photos library and cataloguing. But on MacOS they were sneaking some Aperture features in on later releases like curves. It seemed like they were beefing up the Photos app for greater things and these features seemed to be mirrored onto the iOS versions of the app. With the release of the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil it seemed like any week Apple would release some brushes but they didn’t. Instead you were stuck with very basic global edits (and of course stupid filters) and didn’t even have access to the MacOS features like HSL.
But you could open photos in other apps. Like Pixelmator for iOS. And... it didn’t work. It was a garbage dream and ultimately nothing was able to replace the features I used all the time in Lightroom CC, specifically: editing metadata, the gradient and radial filters, and dehaze. Add to that geometric perspective correction and the fact that on the Mac Lightroom CC was adding in Photoshop/Lightroom Classic features like panoramic merge and more.
When Pixelmator announced they were releasing a photography (vs graphic design) focused app, and that it was for the iPad I was thrilled. I signed up for email updates and trolled the web periodically for information. When it arrived (at the phenomenal price of 4.99) I had already preordered it. I downloaded it and got to work straight away. I love that it uses either Photos or Files for the catalogue (easier to manage and takes out a step used in Lightroom). And that’s it for the good. It uses Machine Learning. They want you to know that. They’ve pushed the hardware in the iPad. I believe it. But their big focus is on automagic edits and cropping, filter presets, and global edits. Honestly I can get that from Photos.app.
There are no brushes, no focal dodging and burning, no radial or gradient filters. It’s 2019, the iPad has this amazing Pencil, and neither Apple nor Pixelmator are taking advantage of it. If I cannot dodge or burn specific areas of a photograph, I am doing worse than I was in the chemical darkroom in 1997.
Photos.app needs to also beef up for me to use Pixelmator, specifically adding brushes and filters and one or the other needs to add the ability to batch edit photos.
In addition they need to add an iPhone app because I often edit only on my phone.
We’ll see what Pixelmator adds in the future. I’m sure I’ll still be paying attention for some reason.
Originally, about 6 months ago, this article was going to be about how I was going to switch from the yearly subscription of Adobe to Pixelmator but every time I tried to move my workflow over with serious photography I stuck with Lightroom CC because the tools are so strong. Without those tools I’m not going to use another photo editor. And I know there are others like Affinity Photo. For some reason I’m not interested. I just had this weird obsession with Pixelmator.
So that leaves me with what this article is about. I started deleting the original version of Pixelmator off of my iOS devices and Mac because I just don’t use it. Pixelmator became the thing to remove. It became an exercise of giving up the goat and not worrying so much about digital minimalism as using a tool that works and I that lets me be an artist. When I’m working professionally I can’t imagine not using Lightroom. And I use Lightroom CC which is considered ‘light’ anyway (but that’s foolish and something I should address later if people want me to). They’ve also recently added the features I wanted like stitching panoramas so for me it’s feature complete. It’s just the duplication of catalogues, online space, and the monthly fee that drive me crazy.
I’ve been making attempts of various strength since 2012 to use versions of Pixelmator and I’m not sure why it has seemed so important to me. I don’t need to use an app that makes global edits to a photo when I need to brighten eyes or increase the contrast in select areas of landscapes. I just need to use Lightroom.