Lightroom Vs Photoshop | The Best Choice In 2019

If you process your own images, you will have no doubt encountered editing programs Lightroom and Photoshop. But in the battle between Lightroom vs Photoshop, which one actually wins?

These two programs are the powerhouses of the photo editing world and are both produced by Adobe. It’s worth investing your money in at least one of them, but which one?

By the end of this article, you should know where best to invest your money and time. Let’s start by outlining what the two programs are, and who uses them.

What Is Lightroom?

A landscape edit being edited in Adobe Lightroom's edit module.
Lightroom is image management & editing software specifically created for photographers

Lightroom is a powerful photo editing and image organizing tool specifically created for photographers.

The program can be run on tablets, computers, and smartphones. It allows users to categorize, tag and sort their photos, as well as save metadata and location info.

It contains powerful editing tools from basic to intermediate level. Users can make adjustments to their photos and easily export images to other Adobe programs.

What Is Photoshop?

A screenshot of an image being edited in photoshop
Photoshop is an advanced image manipulation software that is not only for photographers.

Photoshop is the standard industry program for all levels of image manipulation.

The program can also be run across multiple platforms like tablets and computers but requires greater computing power for more advanced edits.

Users can use a vast array of tools to isolate and selectively edit parts of individual images. You can also edit video and create a range of other types of images including gifs and animations. It is a powerful and complex tool.

When to Use Lightroom?

If you regularly take a large number of images, you should use Lightroom. Without it, organizing and categorizing images becomes incredibly difficult.

Most professionals use Lightroom as part of their editing process. This ranges from event photographers to wedding photographers, sports photographers, and street photographers.

An image of a laptop sat on a desk with Lightroom open on the screen
Most professional photographers use Lightroom as part of their workflow. Photo by Lalmch.

What Do People Use Lightroom For?

Lightroom is an important part of a photographer’s workflow. A workflow is the process of taking your images from your camera, editing them and preparing the final images.

Users can easily import RAW images from their camera to their computer. During the import process, you can choose to build smart previews (smaller preview images), edit metadata, and apply small edits (such as camera profile corrections) for all your imports. Most importantly, you can save these import settings as an import preset–saving you a ton of time for future imports.

Once imported you can cull images by applying a rating or a flag. This is invaluable since it lets you quickly pick the images that you want to post-process.

Once the images are imported and culled, you can start the editing process. Lightroom provides a host of image editing tools from exposure adjustments to gradient filters.

Lightroom is a program specifically designed to help photographers organize and edit their images. For many photographers, Lightroom is the only photo editing software they need.

Related Article: Free Lightroom Tutorials

A landscape image being edited in lightroom
From importing to advanced edits, LIghtroom provides a complete workflow for photographers.

Advantages of Lightroom

Lightroom is Photoshop’s younger brother: it was built and designed by Adobe after the success of Photoshop. This has some benefits, as they took what they learned from building Photoshop to create Lightroom.

Lightroom is a program specifically built for photographers and is more slimmed down than Photoshop. Adobe has done away with a lot of the more technical and complex features of Photoshop, making the program more accessible and easier to use.

1. Easy to Understand Modules

Lightroom is built entirely around a photographer’s workflow. It follows a logical order with modules that are easy to understand.

Start in module one by importing images, and move through the modules until you’re ready to export the finished shots.

A screenshot showing modules in Lightroom
Lightroom was built around a photographer’s workflow and works in modules.

2. Lightroom Is the Best Way to Manage All Your Photos

You can categorize and organize your images in the library (module 1). You can rank them, move them into folders, mark specific images, or label with colors. There’s even a smart folder tool so you can move images with similar tags and metadata into the same folders.

A screenshot of the library module in Lightroom.
The library in Lightroom is where you can manage all your images.

3. Powerful Edit Options for Photographers

You can make your edits in the develop module. Lightroom contains a comprehensive array of tools including some specific adjustments, such as smoothing out blemishes or adding gradients.

The editing tools within Lightroom are comprehensive without being complicated and should provide all of the resources most photographers need. This gives it a big advantage in the Lightroom vs Photoshop debate.

A screenshot of Lightroom showing the Develop module
The develop module saves every edit made, so you can run back through them if necessary.

Lightroom also saves every adjustment, so you can easily run back through your edits at any time. Best of all, all edits are non-destructive. Which means that your original photo will not be altered no matter how many edits you apply to it.

Moreover, can also import third-party brushes and presets, to enhance & speed up your editing workflow further. Plus, once you’ve found an editing style that you like, you can save it as a preset and apply it to other images.

4. Great for Dealing with Large Batches of Images

Lightroom is arguably the world’s best image management software created for photographers. Once you understand how it works, it is easy to create preset conditions for managing every aspect of your workflow: imports, categorization, and edits.

It automatically creates organized folders on your computer outside of the program, meaning you can easily locate images within the program and also on your computer.

A screenshot of a lightroom batch edit feature.
Do you have multiple photos in similar lighting conditions? Lightroom makes it a breeze to batch edit them!

Overall, Lightroom should be the go-to program for any photographer, as it’s logical, easy to use, and powerful.

When to Use Photoshop?

If you work mainly in the manipulation of still or moving images, Photoshop is the tool for you.

Photoshop is a complete package when it comes to editing images–the only limit is your imagination.

Animators, illustrators, graphic artists, digital artists, and photographers all use Photoshop to create or enhance their images.

What Do People Use Photoshop For?

Photoshop can be used for many different actions: from simulating dual exposure film photography to converting a picture of a woman to look like a slice of pizza.

A before and after effect of a girl sitting with a flower bokeh. Edited using Photoshop.
Before and after. Photoshop is the most advanced image manipulation software

Photoshop has been around for decades. Throughout the years the tools have become more powerful, and artists have created completely new uses for it. The number of tools available in the program is huge and they can be used in any number of different combinations to create different effects.

An image of the back of a girl's head with flowers double exposed her
Example of using layers in Photoshop to create dual exposures.

Advantages of Photoshop

If you are familiar with digital editing and are looking to progress to more significant and complex edits, Photoshop may be the tool for you.

If you love to spend hours adjusting individual images, you will never get bored with Photoshop–and you will never exhaust its potential. This is one advantage Photoshop has in the Lightroom vs Photoshop debate.

A black and white image of a motorbike riding across a beach with a trail of free, blue and red swirls behind it
You can add a lot more to your image with all kinds of effects in Photoshop.

The Problems with Photoshop

Photoshop is undoubtedly the most powerful photo manipulation tool available.

This program has been a byword for image manipulation since its development in 1987.

The reality is, however, that this program has grown far beyond the use of photographers, and is perhaps better suited to the design community.

For those looking to take their first steps into image manipulation, Photoshop is probably not the place to start.

1. The Program Has a Steep Learning Curve

The complexity and power of the program mean a steep learning curve comes with it. Even simple processes can be difficult to master at first.

Although the program can do just about anything, it contains a large number of features photographers will never need.

Furthermore, the program is based solely around single image editing, with no organizational tools included.

2. It’s Made More for Digital Artists Than Photographers

Photoshop can do anything you can dream of, but the reality is that most people don’t use it to its full potential.

Photoshop works by building layers on an image: you edit each layer, depending on what you wish to create.

As a graphic designer or digital artist, the ability to build layers and masks to create specific adjustments is invaluable. However, as a photographer, it’s often not necessary. Unless of course, you want to make complex composites from your photos.

before and after effect of a girl wearing a crown of flowers on her head. Edited using Photoshop.
You can add as layers to an image to create composites in Photoshop.

If you’re looking to create surreal or composite images, you will need Photoshop. If you only want to make subtle tonal adjustments to your images, Photoshop will feel clunky and potentially be difficult to understand.

Lightroom vs Photoshop Pricing

Since Adobe moved to a subscription-based model in 2013, you get both Photoshop and Lightroom with the basic monthly plan ($9.99 USD per month as of August 2019). So the question of Lightroom vs. Photoshop is not a one decided by the price but rather intended use.

Get both Lightroom and Photoshop for the price of one!
A screenshot of Adobe pricing for lightroom vs. photoshop
Adobe creative cloud plans for photographers now include by Lightroom and Photoshop

Lightroom vs Photoshop – the Verdict

So, we come to our final judgment, which is better: Lightroom or Photoshop?

The answer for most photographers is clear–Lightroom.

Lightroom is a program specifically designed for photographers. It may not be as well known, but Adobe built the program using the knowledge they learned from building Photoshop.

Lightroom’s organizational abilities are a lifesaver when sorting through large numbers of images. For example, Lightroom enables wedding photographers to quickly cull, sort, identify and edit thousands of images down to just a few hundred.

Lightroom is a huge time-saver for loads of photographers around the world. This is not always the case with Photoshop.

An image for a person climbing down a rocky coastline towards a beach
Get out and explore–take photos and edit them.

If, however, you want to look more into single image manipulation then, by all means, check out Photoshop. It’s an incredible tool and can be used to create incredible artwork.

So there you have it. The Lightroom vs Photoshop battle is over. Do you agree? Let us know your favorite and why, in the comments below.

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Resources

  1. Free Lightroom presets
  2. How to install Lightroom presets
  3. Best Lightroom tutorials
  4. How to install Adobe Photoshop brushes
  5. Free Photoshop tutorials
  6. Photoshop alternatives
  7. Free Photoshop Brushes
  8. Can’t afford Lightroom? Check out Lightroom alternatives

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About the author

Ramesh Yahathugoda

My love for photography started when I went on a hiking trip to Alberta's Banff national park. I have more than 10 years of experience shooting nature and landscape photography and I am a member of Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC).

My passion is to help others become better photographers. I share photography knowledge and review camera gear on PhotoBlog's official blog to achieve that goal. In my spare time, I love to read, run, and go on hikes! To see my latest adventures, visit my travel photography blog here on PhotoBlog.com

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