A friend said something not so long ago that I had been trying to pin down for years. Lightroom and PhotoLab and others like them are “digital darkrooms”. Inevitably they begin breaching those walls over time, but they are none of them a replacement for the “digital knife” that is Photoshop or Affinity Photo or their like.
I’d no more use Microsoft Word as a “writing environment” than I would use Affinity Photo as a “darkroom”. Affinity Photo has a RAW developing feature but because it contains so much else, it’s not optimised for that task (and I would contend it’s simply not very good at it either).
I would say 98% of my photo post processing is dealing with light, not pixels. The amount of light, the colour of light, and the relative light between different areas. Add a crop and straighten and I’m done. Very occasionally I will use a healing tool as a digital knife to get rid of a distracting element, like the tip of a foreground fence post that I could not address satisfactorily with a crop, or a bird in the sky that just looks like a speck on the lens. Beyond that, I use PhotoLab’s built in watermarking because it is so convenient (even with its limitations) and its AI power to tame noise and lens issues.
I’ve never understood why people use PhotoShop for photos. To me, it’s what I would call a “graphics editor” — a tool I use to cut and paste and composite and bend and blend multiple components. For that kind of work I use and love Affinity Photo.
As for using Lightroom and PhotoLab together, I have found the workflow that meets my needs. The files are imported into Lightroom, where they are organised onto disk in date-based folders, then keyworded within an inch of their lives. I will then make an initial selection of which will be processed for publishing. Once selected (picked), I send these to PhotoLab via the DxO plugin.
Once in PhotoLab, I go through all my processing steps (as above) and export the (almost) final versions. The final step before uploading to Flickr is addressing the in-file keywords. PhotoLab doesn’t understand Lightroom’s hierarchy (indeed it cannot, as some aspects are only in LR’s dictionary), so I export small “proxy” JPEGs from Lightroom, which are picked up by a Hazel automation and the keywords from those are copied into the files exported from PhotoLab. Then these JPEGs are uploaded to Flickr.
The only other thing I do after this is label the actually published photos in Lightroom with the green colour, to denote this.