Tips & Tricks

5 Major Differences Between Editing Software Adobe Lightroom vs Photoshop

If you’re just starting to work with image editing, you may have noticed there are two editing tools in the Adobe Creative Suite. When comparing the two editing software, Adobe Lightroom vs Photoshop, which is better?

Well, unfortunately, the answer is, it depends.

Adobe Photoshop is the most recognized editing software in the world and is considered the gold standard by professionals. This massive heavy-duty editing tool is used in many creative media industries including graphic design, animation, photography, architecture, and 3D design.

Lightroom is an image management tool that focuses more on workflow but includes some editing capability. It is a more lightweight and simpler tool that many find easier to learn.

Continue reading to learn the major differences between these two editing software systems and see which is the better option for you.

Photo Editing in Photoshop vs Lightroom

The first thing you want to consider when deciding between Photoshop vs Lightroom is what type of editing do you need to do?

Lightroom includes basic content manipulation tools that let you edit contrast, exposure, clarity, saturation, and warmth. You can adjust perspective with the transform and spot remover tools. The Basic merge tools allow you to create HDR images and panoramas.

Photoshop is a “pixel-level” editing program and excels at advanced photo editing. A photographer literally has control over every single detail in the image.

You can do much more with image manipulation in Photoshop. The compositing tool allows you to replace selected parts of a photo with sections from other images. The Liquify tool lets you alter facial features. There is a collection of filters for various effects. Its clone stamp and healing brush are faster and more precise than Lightroom’s, letting you remove everything from simple skin blemishes to large buildings in an image.

Lightroom is a non-destructive editor, meaning every time you edit a picture you create a new file. The original is never permanently changed and any edits can be easily reversed.

Photoshop is a destructive editor—once you make a change the image is permanently altered. Unless you use separate layers for your edits, Photoshop does not maintain a record of changes and cannot revert back to the original.

In Lightroom, you can apply reset edits across a group of photos at once, saving editors a great deal of time. With Photoshop you can only edit one image at a time. While this gives you much more control over the look of your image it takes significantly more time.

Photoshop offers many plugins and automated operations for easier editing. A photographer can save time by creating sequences for processes they use repeatedly.

Image Organization

Lightroom is, essentially, a cataloging system for importing, organizing, and exporting photos. It’s also a database management software that makes it easy to navigate between your photos.

It uses image metadata to simplify bulk editing. Lightroom reads and stores information into the image such as:

  • camera make and model
  • aperture
  • shutter speed
  • ISO
  • white balance
  • capture date and time

In addition, with Lightroom, you can tag images with keywords, add flags, or give star ratings. These all make it easier to sort through images, edit them in batches, or export them to various websites.

Workflow Process in Lightroom vs Photoshop

One of the strongest attributes of Lightroom is its workflow process capability letting you import, organize, edit, and export your images easily all in one program. However it a bit of a memory hog and uses a lot of the resources on your computer.

While Photoshop is by far the stronger editing system, it requires the use of additional programs like Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw to create a workflow similar to Lightroom. While it is cumbersome to need three separate programs to edit your photos, surprisingly it uses less memory than Lightroom does.

RAW Photo Editing

Photographers who take their pictures in the recommended RAW format can upload their collections straight to Lightroom and begin editing. This isn’t possible with Photoshop alone, it needs to be used in conjunction with Adobe Camera RAW.

One of the biggest differences between using RAW photos in Lightroom versus Photoshop with Adobe Camera RAW is first, how you view and organize the photos. In Lightroom, you have the catalog organization system but there is no such system in Camera RAW.

Another thing to remember is that with Lightroom you utilize non-destructive editing, so you never overwrite your original RAW image. Photoshop with Camera RAW uses a destructive editing system, so you need to always use layers or you will lose your original image.

Ease of Use and The Learning Curve

Photoshop is a complex and large software with a steep learning curve. It can be daunting to someone who hasn’t worked with photo editing software before and take a longer time to learn.

Lightroom’s simpler interface is far more intuitive and less intimidating. Unlike Photoshop which needs to be used in conjunction with other programs in the Adobe Creative Suite, Lightroom is just one single program to learn.

Should You Use One or the Other or Both?

When deciding between Lightroom vs Photoshop it really depends on what you need the program to do.

You can start with Lightroom for its simplicity and all-in-one approach. Then, once you have learned how to use its editing functionality, graduate up to Photoshop’s more intricate system for more precise detailed image editing.

Or, get the best of both worlds!

The two programs are quite complementary and you may want to consider utilizing them both together. You can reap the benefits of Lightrooms organization and workflow with Photoshop’s stronger editing tools.

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