Lightroom VS Photoshop

If you are a beginner photographer, you may have asked yourself whether you should be using Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom to edit your images.

In fact, this is one of the top questions I get asked from beginners. The honest answer is- it all just depends on the project you're working on. If you are completely new to photography, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are the two most popular image editing software programs used by professional photographers. 

Choosing between the two can seem daunting in the beginning. To help you with your decision, I have pieced together a handy little guide comparing both Adobe programs. Then, I will explain why you can (and sometimes should) use both. And while choosing an image editing software is entirely a personal choice, my hope is that this comparison guide will help you finally put the Lightroom Vs Photoshop dilemma to rest, and decide which program is best suited for your editing goals.


What is Adobe Photoshop ?

Initially designed by Adobe for simple digital image retouching, Photoshop has transformed into an incredibly powerful software which allows you to create almost anything you could possibly imagine. From basic image retouching and creative lighting effects to bokeh effects, sky overlays graphic design templates, logos, and other branding elements, Photoshop truly does it all & more. Photoshop is also a pixel based editing software, which essentially means that you can get up close and personal with each individual pixel, giving you complete control over the image.

While Adobe Lightroom is the standard for basic image adjustments such as light and color, Photoshop outperforms Lightroom in a number of advanced editing features.

  • Image Retouching: If you need basic image adjustments such as the ability to remove blemishes, whiten dull-looking teeth, reduce bags under sleepy eyes, or fix any stray hairs, Photoshop will do you just fine!

  • Layers, Groups & Overall Organization: Photoshop allows for a layering system so that you can create various layers of adjustments within a given project. You can also group each adjustment into as many different categories as your heart desires. This gives you complete control over the style of your project, while also allowing you to remain organized with your assets.

  • Content Aware Fill: This is an incredibly and very useful feature that can be used in a number of different ways. You can remove distractions or unwanted objects in the background of photos, or fill in content that was never in the photo to begin with (such as a stain on someone's shirt or even a bald spot!).

  • Photoshop Actions: Photoshop Actions give you the ability to record a sequence of steps so that all you need to do is press the play button and your actions will magically all be carried out in the correct order! This can be a massive time saver with Photoshop actions that have a large number of steps required.

  • Advanced Healing: While you can edit basic blemishes in Lightroom, the capabilities of the program simply don't compare to Photoshop's advanced features such as content aware healing brushes and patch tools. If you have a small batch of images that require advanced healing tools, I would recommend using Photoshop (I will include a more in-depth tutorial on Photoshop retouching and healing in a future article). With that being said, I do not suggest attempting to retouch a large number of images this way.

Main Photoshop Cons:

While Photoshop editing capabilities are virtually endless, the main drawback for the program lies in the amount of time required to make edits. Yes, you technically can save time by saving and duplicating your steps with a Photoshop action. However, Photoshop is better suited for you if your end-goal is to have a program that allows you to create virtually anything, even if that means the editing process may take you a bit longer. If your goal is to save time with your image edits, Lightroom may just be the better software choice.

What is Adobe Lightroom ?

Adobe Lightroom is an incredibly powerful image editing software that integrates a subset of Photoshop's image manipulation features that are specifically catered towards professional photographers. Lightroom is a great choice for photographers who simply want to edit their images quickly & efficiently, without much hassle. If you are shooting in RAW format (which you absolutely should be!), then you will need to process your images in Lightroom before bringing them into Photoshop, or almost anywhere for that matter.

Much more than a digital image editing software, Adobe Lightroom allows for an extremely efficient workflow, as you can import, organize, manage and locate all of your images without fuss or hassle. The program is a non-destructive image editing software (Photoshop is not!), and all of your photo edits are automatically stored in the Lightroom catalog.

When it comes to basic image editing and convenience, Lightroom is the obvious choice. You can handle all of your cropping, white balance, exposure, tone curves, highlights, vibrance, saturation, sharpening, noice reduction and lens profile corrections without ever leaving the program.

You can also import or create your own Lightroom editing presets, which is a much more simple process than carrying out Actions in Photoshop. As long as you are shooting in manual mode (implying that your camera settings should be relatively consistent among your images), your editing process should be breeze once you create a preset for the given image set. You can simply choose an image from the set, click on your saved editing preset, and make any necessary adjustments (every image is different and the preset will most likely need tweaking for at least one photo). This process of applying edits to multiple images allows you to edit images fairly quickly, while also ensuring that your entire image gallery is edited in a cohesive manner.

For photographers working with a large amount of images (such as wedding or event photographers), Adobe Lightroom will save you a great deal of time (and frustration!) in your editing process.

Photoshop and Lightroom:

If you’re wondering whether you can use both Photoshop and Lightroom, the answer is that you absolutely can! These image editing programs integrate extremely well together. Personally, I always begin with Lightroom for essential image edits, and overall convenience. The software interface is designed to enhance your workflow, as it is much more straightforward than Photoshop. Then, if I decide that I need more advanced editing features such as the spot healing brush and content aware fill tool, I will move over to Photoshop. 

Lightroom and Photoshop are two very different programs that both offer a great deal of value to professional photographers. Lightroom boosts your editing efficiency and workflow, particularly if you are shooting in RAW format as your image settings will all be cohesive. Photoshop, however, is the popular choice when it comes to advanced tools and image manipulation. 

These two powerful image editing programs are equally well-suited for different tasks. There is no clear answer for which Adobe program you should choose if you are just starting out. Both programs do require a learning curve to get started. Therefore, choosing the best program ultimately depends on the tools you need, and what your editing goals are.

I hope that you found this quick guide to be useful in your decision making process. Feel free to comment below and let me know what your go-to image editing program is, and which features really help you in your editing process!

*Disclosure; Yes, some of the links above are affiliate links. However, I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't use them and find them helpful myself.