Lightroom Vs Photoshop – Which is Right For You?

At some point in your digital image editing life you’re going to face the question: Lightroom or Photoshop? It’s not always an easy answer though as it depends on what it is you want to achieve. Both are heavyweights in the photographer’s toolbox, but which is right for you?

It’s not always an easy choice but there are vast differences between Lightroom and Photoshop that can help make your mind up. These differences depend on the situation and what you intend to do with the finished product. Let’s break down a few strengths of each.

Lightroom Classic CC Strengths

Photoshop Strengths

Lightroom can manipulate and edit Raw files directly from your camera, without the need to install or use another plugin. Photoshop is a pixel-level editor. Where Lightroom allows you to adjust pixels in an image, Photoshop lets you move them and manipulate them in a way that’s nothing short of magical.
Workflow and image management is one of Lightroom’s main draws. You can easily import, organise, edit and manage each of your images without too much in-depth knowledge of advanced design techniques. Photoshop allows multiple layers to be applied to an image. You can keep images and edits on separate layers, and modify them accordingly and independently. This is the basis of non-destructive editing.
There are less features than with Photoshop, which lessens its learning curve and thanks to a well-planned user interface, it’s relatively easy to adapt to if you’re already familiar with other photo editing tools. It’s huge. Mind-bogglingly huge. The toolbox alone is the stuff of legend and contains just about everything the professional designer and photographer would ever need from a piece of software.
Lightroom has an impressive number of presets available to the user. Exposure levels, contrast, toning, colour presets, video presets, effects and many more are readily available via the Navigator. You can record specific actions within Photoshop, allowing you to apply those actions to other images with a click of a button.
You can arrange the images you’ve imported by keyword, tags and metadata. You can easily publish finished work and there are many more under-the-hood tools and preferences to play around with. You’re able to blend many different layers together, masking areas of an image to protect it from being edited, even down to the pixel level.
You don’t have to dive into the program’s inner workings to see great results. Most of the common functions that provide you with a superb image are just a few clicks away, and available on the surface of the interface. Almost anything is possible in Photoshop. If you can imagine a scene, then you’re able to turn your wedding photos into a dramatic space battle or have a picture of the kids playing with a T-Rex. Remove objects, add objects, touch up skin tones, the list goes on and on.

Which Should You Choose?

In short, Lightroom is designed for photographers. It’s a powerful image management tool that you can use to quickly organise and edit your photo collection. Most photographers will utilise Lightroom’s features over that of Photoshop, but that’s not to say it’s the only tool they’ll use.


The beauty of both products is that where one reaches the limit of what it can do for a photographer’s workflow, the other can then step in and take up the baton to get the image to its finished state. Once you’ve used up Lightroom’s features and you want to do more with an image, then you can take it over to Photoshop for that intricate level of control and possibly image enhancement and manipulation.

It makes sense to do as much processing work in Lightroom as you can to get it as close to completion as possible. Photoshop can then let you do any layerbased editing on top of that. Both programs are an integral part of the design process and workflow, but for the sake of this book and photographers the world over, we’re opting to start your post-processing adventure with Lightroom.

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Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

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