photoshop vs lightroom

Photoshop vs Lightroom: When to Use Each Program?

Which program is better, Photoshop or Lightroom? The answer is not simple, and it is difficult to lean towards one or the other. It is best to analyze the advantages and problems of each one and then decide on the final verdict. Photoshop vs Lightroom – figure showing both icons of the greatest programs you can use as a photographer

If you have a digital reflex or mirrorless camera, or even a high-end mobile phone, you want to make the most of your photos. For this, Adobe programs are the most advanced for them. However, we can edit photos in both Photoshop and Lightroom. Which one should you choose and Why?

Which is better Photoshop or Lightroom?

Each one has a different purpose. Lightroom has a friendlier interface and allows you to edit photos more directly in terms of settings such as color, exposure, lens distortion, and more. This makes it ideal for revealing photographs that we have made in RAW, either with an SLR or with a mobile.

Adobe Lightroom vs Photoshop Interface
Adobe Lightroom Interface

Moreover, if you have to touch up hundreds of them, Lightroom wins. It is because through the Sync tab, we can synchronize adjustments in the number of photos we want to touch up in series. Then, we can make small changes in each one. We can also make adjustments to any photo that we import. Those adjustments such as lens correction (there is a profile for the vast majority of Canon, Nikon or Sony lenses, among others), or that the chromatic aberration is corrected.

Besides, all the adjustments we make to the photos are saved separately. We can save each one of them in case we want to return to a specific point. We can also copy and paste settings from other photos and paste them as is in another. Finally, we can organize catalogs, rate them, and even make collages.

Photoshop, on the other hand, is a much more complex tool, but also more complete in other aspects. Its use is not as intuitive as Lightroom for settings such as brightness and color. However, it allows you to do much more. 

Adobe Photoshop vs Lightroom Interface
Adobe Photoshop Interface

Each adjustment we make is stored in layers and allows our editions to be more complicated. When we import a photo in RAW to Photoshop, it enables us to modify in broad strokes the vast majority of things that Lightroom also allows us (although not all). This is comfortable for a photo, but as soon as we have to edit a lot, it will be cumbersome.

How to edit photos in Photoshop and Lightroom

Luckily, we can always take an image of Lightroom to Photoshop, even with the settings we have already made in the first one. Thanks to this, we can do things like correct distortion, exposure, color and aberration in Lightroom. In Photoshop, it is much more comfortable for us to do advanced editing such as eliminating a person from the photo.

Photoshop is the best for montages; Lightroom is the best for revealing photos. Therefore, what many professional photographers do is to import their images to Lightroom, reveal them there. Then, they take them to Photoshop to make more advanced retouching (if necessary). 

Lightroom is also more limited in other factors, such as not allowing assemblies or not allowing texts to be added, but it will enable to create presets (predefined settings) and apply them directly to an image (although in Photoshop we can also use LUTS). 

Photoshop is useful to fine-tune a single photo, create montages, add or remove elements, use advanced retouching techniques, or apply effects or filters that require the use of layers (for example, using the high pass to give more clarity to a Photo).

Lightroom, on the other hand, is more intuitive for those who are starting , and allows you to reveal photographs in series , in addition to being able to try all kinds of settings and return to the point you want thanks to no destructive editing (Photoshop can record the parameters that You have modified the original photo, so be careful). 

It is an excellent springboard to learn how to use Photoshop later. The use of both tools is one of the most optimal ways we have to edit photographs to create an efficient workflow.

Advantages of Lightroom vs Photoshop for beginners

For many photographers, having Photoshop is a guarantee of having all the possibilities open. However, it also has significant drawbacks when compared to a tool such as Lightroom.

Photoshop is a pixel editing program that since its launch in 1990, has evolved into a giant that is used by photographers, designers, animator illustrators, and even architects.

Lightroom for a more straightforward way of doing things, Photoshop is too big and complicated to have an efficient workflow and presents a long and steep learning curve.

Let’s see what advantages Lightroom brings to Photoshop when it comes to processing our photos and in what aspects of the photographer’s work we should turn to the latter.

1. Lightroom is much easier to learn

Lightroom is much easier to use, with very few clicks we can apply adjustments that in Photoshop involve the use of several tools. 

2. Lightroom makes 90% of what a photographer needs

The Lightroom editing tools allow covering 90% of the photographer’s needs and all this with a much higher management simplicity. You may need Photoshop for advanced retouching, cloning, montages, and tasks that require sophisticated layering. If this is not your case you can do without the big brother and do all your work within Lightroom.

The latest versions of the program have incorporated features previously only available in Photoshop. This is the retouching brush or the capabilities of panoramic and HDR from Lightroom 6 / CC or the  Lightroom Classic range mask functionalities that allow doing something very similar to the luminosity masks of Photoshop.

3. Lightroom helps to create an efficient workflow

Lightroom is designed to have an efficient workflow. It helps you to organize the work steps by turning everything around the catalog.

The way to work with Lightroom avoids the dispersion of photos on discs and folders, no longer have to open and save each picture, once you adjust an image in Lightroom all you touch is collected automatically, and you can move on to the next photo with touching a key.

Importing photos into the catalog makes it easy to centralize photos in a scalable and simple folder system. If you use Lightroom as if the Library module did not exist, you are losing most of the power of the program. If you have a few tens of thousands of photos in your file, you need something to help you organize it, and that does not have Photoshop.

4. Non-destructive Edition

Photoshop is a pixel editing tool. This implies that it works destructively, irreversibly modifying the image. Lightroom works. Differently, it applies what is known as editing by parameters, this is that the adjustments made are stored as numerical values in the catalog, and at no time the image is modified, it only shows us how it will be if we export it and create a file derived as a JPG or a TIFF.

This is very important if you work with photos in JPG and to avoid the generation of derived files that you then pass to Photoshop to work in layers or make other necessary adjustments.

5. Saving disk space

Lightroom when working by parameters allows you to create different versions of the same image. They are virtual copies. These allow you to have a camera original on the hard disk and in your Lightroom catalog several views of that image with different revelations without the need to duplicate the image. All this will save you disk space and avoid having to generate several derivative files in TIFF or PSD to apply to each one a different development.

6. Lightroom is a complete image organization tool

The Lightroom catalog allows you to centralize all your photographs in a single point. You can view, discard and organize your photos compellingly and straightforwardly. If you compare the capabilities with Adobe Bridge, the Photoshop image viewer, with Lightroom, you will see that it is nothing more than a simple image viewer without the search and organization capabilities provided by the database at the heart of a catalog of Lightroom.

7. Development Presets

Working by parameters allows you to create and save settings that you can then apply with a click; they are Presets or preset adjustments. Lightroom has a few installed, and besides being able to create them, there are hundreds of them available on the Internet.

These adjustments will help you work faster and get finishes and looks with a single click.

8. Work with mass photos

Any adjustments made to an image can be copied, synchronized and applied to multiple images. If you reveal a picture and this is part of a sequence that requires the same development you can sync the settings with all the photos, this is very useful in sequences or when you are going to mount a panorama composed of several images.

9. Seamless integration with Photoshop

From Lightroom, it is possible to pass an image to Photoshop with a single click. The idea of Adobe is that Photoshop is another step in the workflow and that we launch this from Lightroom to carry out the editing tasks that we can not do in Photoshop.

10. Lightroom vs Photoshop Pricing

Until the arrival of Photoshop CC, the program license was sold in Spain above € 1,000, currently with the new model of subscription licenses is a necessary monthly payment. With the Creative Cloud photography offer, you can have Photoshop and Lightroom for a fee of € 12.09 per month or € 144 per year, in the Lightroom case you can buy the perpetual license, outside the subscription model is € 125.84.

Final Verdict

The two programs serve to work with our photographs, but they are not able to do the same, or at least in the same way. They are two different designs with the same base. Lightroom has a much more modern and friendly interface. it’s a mini version of Photoshop. 

Both programs share the same development engine, so editing a photo in Adobe Camera RAW or the Reveal module of Lightroom will get precisely the same results. There are even tools that appeared first in Lightroom and then integrated into Camera RAW. There is no difference between both programs.

Adobe Bridge and the Library module are also very similar. Many people do not know that the same things can be done with both programs. Lightroom did not invent anything. He simply presented more excellently all the things that the bridge program of the complete suite was already doing. The whole theme of keywords, smart collections and so on was already possible in Bridge, but very few people used it.

If we are artists of Photoshop, we can do everything Lightroom does, although things will be much more complicated. We can lay out the book, make the video with the latest versions, even print with any of the modes that Lightroom incorporates with a little effort.

After all the things I have said, here is my conclusion. Both are excellent programs, and the only thing I can say is that the ideal would be to work with both of them.

Lightroom is just like a mini Photoshop and other programs in the Adobe suite. It allows us to do everything we can imagine at a basic level. However, for the appropriate adjustments, we have no choice but to go with Photoshop.

Most photographers can suffice with Lightroom, but those who want to go deeper into the image or go to dirty tricks, have no choice but to get hold of a copy of Photoshop. Of course, it is much more complicated to handle and with thousands of options focused outside photography.

Because this is the key to differentiate one program from another, Lightroom is a 100% photographic program, while Photoshop is a design program that does a great job with photo files.

Moreover, it is true that Photoshop does everything Lightroom does, absolutely everything, except for the dispensable Map module. Furthermore, it is no less accurate that Lightroom lacks many things to be complete, but that makes everything easier. 

The best thing is to work with both at the same time. I download the photos, I classify them and reveal them in Lightroom. If I need advanced adjustment, I go through Photoshop. Have you used both programs at once? Let us know in the comment below!


If you would like to learn about photo editing software check our article about Best photo editing software in 2019.