Lightroom vs Photoshop: Which Should You Use?

lightroom vs photoshop

When it comes to editing photos, photographers have plenty of tools to choose from.

Two of the most popular are designed by Abode, and these are Lightroom and Photoshop. If you are new to photography and photo editing, you may be wondering which of these post-processing tools are better.

Our Lightroom vs Photoshop guide is here to help. Adobe photo editing software has dominated the industry for years. But when it comes to image editing, it’s important to know which of the two tools is more beneficial for your images and skillset.

Understanding the differences between Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop is a great place to start.

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are both photo editing software, but each offers a different purpose. Lightroom is generally a lighter and simpler tool to use, which is easy to use and get the hang of.

Photoshop, on the other hand, is a heavy-duty image editor that many professional photographers use.

Ready to learn the differences between the two tools so you can get started on your image editing? Here’s our Lightroom vs Photoshop guide.

What Is Lightroom?

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was introduced in 2006. It was part of the creative selection of tools from Adobe.

Although Photoshop features in its name, Lightroom isn’t as powerful a photo editing tool and focuses more on workflow.

Photoshop can only open one photo at a time, but Lightroom has databases of images, making it easier to navigate between them. Lightroom also automatically holds more descriptive information from your camera, which helps streamline the method of bulk image editing.

What Is Photoshop?

Photoshop first started as a simple image editor. But now, Photoshop is the most famous and powerful image editing software on the market.

Photographers don’t just use Photoshop. All kinds of creatives use the tool in media, including animation, marketers, graphic design, and 3D design.

Photoshop is a pixel-level editor. Users have plenty of control over the style and look of their images, but the editing process takes longer as each photo must be closely edited individually.

As there’s so much to learn in Photoshop, the size of the software can be overwhelming, especially to new editors.

Benefits of Lightroom

Both Lightroom and Photoshop have various uses for photographers. Understanding each one’s strengths and weaknesses is helpful before deciding on a tool.

One of the main benefits of Lightroom is that it’s easier to learn than Photoshop. Lightroom has a much more basic interface compared to Photoshop. Users who already have some experience with editing platforms may be able to get used to Lightroom a lot quicker.

Lightroom also has more opportunities for automation. Lightroom users can apply preset edits across any photos they like at the same time. Lightroom presets are available through Adobe or third-party designers, and they can save photo editors vast amounts of time if the same edits can be applied to a whole collection of images.

Lightroom presets are very easy to use. They’ve become popular for sharing beautiful, crisp, and professional-looking images on social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook. 

Photographers who take photos using the suggested RAW format can upload their images straight to Lightroom to begin editing. This isn’t possible when using Photoshop on its own.

Lightroom also has a neat and tidy interface. Lightroom allows users to create databases of their photos and star, flag, or highlight specific images. This helps create a streamlined workflow.

Lightroom also automatically collects metadata on each photo, helping you identify each image with precision.

Lightroom offers powerful editing capabilities, which may be sufficient for some photographers to edit images with. There are various tools to adjust photos with, and you can adjust contrast, exposure, saturation, clarity, warmth, and more directly in Lightroom.

Likewise, Lightroom creates a new file every time you adjust an image. That means original photos are never lost. The editor also records any edits made so that any adjustments can be easily reversed.

Benefits of Photoshop

Photoshop is the leading photo editing software on the market and is very popular among professional photographers. Most photographers will use and get to grips with the software at some point in their careers.

Photoshop’s capabilities go far beyond the limitations of Lightroom when it comes to editing.

Photoshop offers editing perfection – there’s a reason it’s the most popular editing software in the world. Photoshop is a pixel-level editor, and the user has control over every tiny detail of every image to create beautiful photos.

As a multimedia software, there’s a more extensive selection of tools in Photoshop than in Lightroom. That means users can get more adventurous and experimental and creatively use the tools to edit their images.

Compositing, which means replacing specific parts of an image with similar areas of other images, is one of Photoshop’s most powerful features. This tool means perfect photos don’t have to be compromised by smaller elements that can be easily replaced.

Plugins and actions are automated tools created by Adobe or other editors, so more general adjustments can be made easily in Photoshop. Editors can also design actions so that lengthy procedures used often take less time. Have a browse online for roundups of the best Photoshop plugins to see what takes your fancy.

Another tool Photoshop offers is layer editing. This allows for layers of adjustments to change different areas of the image, giving the user more control of the photo’s complete look.

Likewise, Photoshop’s healing tools are handy. That’s whether you want to remove entire items or edit a single skin blemish.

Some professional photographers may be content with using Lightroom’s easy-to-use tools for retouching, but Photoshop is a lot more powerful for clean and detailed edits.

Importing and Organizing Images

For many photographers, the first thing they want to do after shooting is import their photos and edit them on their computer.

When it comes to importing and organization images, Lightroom and Photoshop are very different.

As mentioned, Adobe Photoshop is used to edit one image at a time. But Lightroom involves a cataloging system designed to import and organize photos.

Using Lightroom, users can import all the images from an SD card, keyword them, and rank the quality. Editors can even apply their preferred image adjustments automatically using presets. Users can move and organize images to make them easier to find later.

Photoshop is designed differently. A separate software called Adobe Bridge is in the Creative Cloud suite to manage this.

Adobe Bridge includes the cataloging, import, and export tools included in Lightroom. However, the editing software is limited compared with Lightroom.

Many editors who prefer Photoshop for editing appreciate Lightroom’s cataloging method.

When it comes to importing images from a camera, Photoshop has another limitation. As mentioned, Photoshop cannot open RAW files. To manage this issue, Adobe offers a tool called Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

This software allows Photoshop to open RAW files. Verdict: for easy importing and organization, Lightroom is preferred.

Basic Image Editing

It’s possible to make basic photo editing changes in both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. But, the user experience and interface are very different.

With Lightroom, editors can make basic image edits such as exposure and color easy.

Photoshop can also make basic image adjustments. The software wasn’t first designed with photographers in mind, so the workstation may not seem user-friendly.

Editors working in Photoshop often use ACR to make necessary edits. ACR’s interface is like Lightroom. Yet the interface is laid out differently. To navigate to ACT from inside Photoshop, head to Filter, then Camera Raw Filter. Opening a photo from Bridge will send the image to ACR.

It’s important to note that Photoshop is a ‘destructive’ editor too. Each adjustment made is baked into the photo.

As mentioned, Lightroom is non-destructive. Adjustments are saved in a sidecar file, and the original photo is always saved.

Editors using Photoshop often make new layers for each significant change. That way, they can revert to the original image if necessary. But this method usually increases the file size.

Lightroom is also suitable for batch editing images. This means you can apply adjustments from one image to a whole bunch of other photos.

Verdict: for basic photo editing, Lightroom is your go-to.

Advanced Image Editing

When we refer to advanced image editing, we mean changing the pixels in an image. This can involve anything from replacing the look of a dull sky to smoothing out the skin in an image.

Adobe Photoshop is king for advanced image edits. While Lightroom offers essential content manipulation tools, it in no way adds up to Photoshop’s capabilities.

These basic manipulation tools include some include a spot remover and a transform tool that allow you to change perspective. Newer versions of Lightroom also include basic merge tools. These tools allow editors to create HDR images and panoramas.

However, Photoshop offers more advanced editing options. Photoshops spot removing tools, including clone stamp and healing brush, is more precise.

Photoshop also had several content-aware fill tools. These use smart algorithms to shift or remove pixels. In Photoshop, many transform tools let you adjust perspective.

The Liquify tool is quite new to Photoshop. For portrait photographers, the tool is very valuable. Liquify allows editors to change facial features.

Photoshop also has filters for blurring or producing creative effects, such as mirrors or unique layering.

When it comes to image manipulation, Photoshop is a lot more powerful than Lightroom. Yet remember that with more advanced tools, there’s more learning.

While Photoshop offers a plethora of sharp tools, it can be challenging to learn how to use them. For example, if a photographer misses the focus a bit, the sharpening method can be applied in Photoshop to adjust this. But this isn’t a quick one-button fix; it’s a process that must be learned.

Lightroom lacks many of the advanced tools that photoshop offers. Verdict: for advanced photo editing, Photoshop is the tool to use.

Lightroom V Photoshop Pricing

It’s clear that both Lightroom and Photoshop are intended to be used together by Adobe. Both software are offered as part of Adobe’s subscription service photography plan.

The Adobe Lightroom and Standalone apps are also available separately via a monthly subscription. So, by choosing both tools together, you’ll save a hefty figure each month.

For those still unsure, Photoshop Elements is a simplified version of the whole tool. It offers many capabilities and can be bought with a one-off payment rather than a monthly subscription. While each tool has specific advantages, using them together means professional editors can enjoy the benefits of both without having to compromise.

Lightroom vs Photoshop: Which Will You Choose?

When it comes to Lightroom vs Photoshop, Lightroom can often be a better option for photographers, at least in the very beginning.

Using Lightroom, photography edits are easy, and you have a simple image management system. The more images you take, the more valuable this system can be.

Most of Lightroom’s features are included in Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw. But why would you use two programs if Lightroom covers it all?

If you need to change the pixels in an image, it’s worth using Photoshop to do this. If you subscribe to Creative Cloud, you can use both Lightroom and Photoshop. That means you don’t have to choose, and you can discover your perfect combination of editing using both tools. 

Want some more advice on photography? Here are seven common beginner photography mistakes and how to avoid them.

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