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Adobe’s Lightroom vs Adobe’s Photoshop - Which Is Best For Photo Editing?

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Photographers have a plethora of image editing tools to choose from. But when it comes to choosing between Adobe’s two of the most popular photo editing tools ie. Lightroom & Photoshop, you may often wonder, “ Which is the best tool between Lightroom & Photoshop?” “What is the difference?” Right? Well, you are not the only one. Many budding photographers don’t know the difference between Lightroom & Photoshop and face a dilemma in choosing which one to get first.

Though both the programs share some similarities and are popularly used by the photographic community, they serve a unique purpose & quite different in many ways.  In this article, we will show you the main difference between these two from Adobe that will help you make an informed decision while selecting the right software for your requirements.

What is Adobe’s Photoshop?

Want to edit an image? Just go for Photoshop!! No doubt the software which was originally created as a simple image editing tool is now synonymous with photo editing. Today, it is the most popular, powerful & recognized image editing software among photographers, designers, architects, publishers, etc. The tool is enjoying its enormous presence on both Windows and Mac, now also on iPads to fulfill a variety of purposes like 3D design, animation, and graphic design.

It is a pixel-level editor, meaning that users can keep an eye on the tiny details of the pictures. Recently, there has been an update on its capability to convert raster to the vector which is beneficial for illustrators. Think of it as an image editing tool with unlimited potential that can be better with updates and special plugins ie.“Filters” from Adobe and third-party software companies. 

What is Adobe’s Lightroom?

The full name is “Adobe Photoshop Lightroom” which can confuse budding editors due to the word “Photoshop” in it but it makes sense. Adobe’s Lightroom can be considered a subset of Photoshop with some special functionalities that Photoshop doesn’t have. The software was introduced by Adobe in 2006 as a non-destructive image editing tool ie. you can make changes without having to worry about damaging the original image data.

In fact, it has no “Save” button as all the edits can be safely stored in your Lightroom catalog - a database of your edits & history. Plus, it allows you to organize, import, manage and find images in case of large numbers of images included, making it an image editing & image managing tool under a single roof with batch-processing, and excellent editing abilities.

In short, it is a database-driven image management software that can read your image metadata such as camera make and model, white balance, etc, and write information about each image in a new database known as “Catalog”. This makes it easier for the editors to sort through thousands of images and pick the best one, edit them and then export them directly to websites like Facebook, etc. This type of management isn’t available in Photoshop. 

Lightroom Image Editing Features

Lightroom has an amazing set of features that makes it easy to edit & handle images. Here is a list of tools available in Lightroom software. Take a look at them:

  • Histogram, Spot Removal, Red Eye Correction, Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, etc.
  • Sub Module effects - style, amount, midpoint, roundness, feather, highlights
  • HSL / Color / B&W Sub-Module: Hue, Saturation, Luminance.
  • Enable lens profile correction, Remove Chromatic Aberration, Manual: Distortion, Defringe, and Vignetting, etc.
  • Auto transform, Vertical, Horizontal, Rotate, Aspect, Scale transform. 
  • Particular changes can be saved as Presets and applied to a group of images. 

In addition to the image editing capabilities of Lightroom, the software also has some built-in modules for slideshows, printing images, exporting image galleries for the web, etc. Moreover, as Adobe develops new versions of Lightroom, you can access sub-modules and other module-specific features. 

Photoshop Image Editing Features

Since Lightroom is considered a subset of Photoshop, all of the above Lightroom image capabilities are automatically included in Adobe’s Photoshop. To sum it up, everything that you can do in Lightroom can be done in Photoshop. For example, photographs use Adobe Bridge with Photoshop.

Though Bridge has some of the Lightroom functionality, it doesn’t have a database or catalog system as mentioned above. 

Sorting and choosing an image requires going through all files which can be time-taking while a similar task can be done within seconds in Lightroom as its database is optimized for sorting & organizing files. 

When To Use Lightroom & Photoshop?

While Lightroom and Photoshop are both digital photography image editing tools with lots of amazing functions, they both are designed to meet different needs and achieve different goals. On one hand, Lightroom is the best photo editing tool to manage and manipulate thousands of photos, while Photoshop is a pixel-level editing tool that allows you to get more flawless images. 

When To Use Lightroom?

As we have already mentioned that Lightroom is more than just a photo editing software, it is a solid photo management system also. These two important elements of digital photography, plus the non-destructive nature of the Lightroom tool make it a popular choice among photographers especially for budding photographers if they are shooting in raw. 

Raw images are those which require to be processed to bring out the best of them. Here Lightroom provides you with a better file format to use than JPEG. In short, Lightroom is a great way to manage & edit pictures for beginners and professional photographers. You can use Lightroom

1. To Manage Thousands of Images 

One of Lightroom's most promising features is Image Management. This is the reason many photographers begin their editing process with this software as it can handle a larger amount of images, that too quickly. In fact, all the edits can be stored in a database called Catalog. You can efficiently import, find, manage & organize multiple images in its database. Also, image sorting can be done easily to find out the best images. In fact, the software has some keywords and search options to find the photo you are looking for. 

2. To Easy & Quicker Editing

Speedy editing is the thing every photographer looks for while editing images. Whether it is removing distractions from the background or enhancing skin tone by disappearing blemishes, you don’t want to spend hours doing it. Here, Lightroom helps you with:

  • Quicker sorting & selecting the required images
  • Processing hundreds of photos at a time
  • Exporting finely-edited images 

After you have imported files to the software, move them to the Develop module to enhance & edit images. Here you can manipulate every aspect of an image through Lightroom presets such as - enhancing the light & color, correcting perspective, or sharpening them with added creative effects. Presets genuinely save time by applying the same setting to one or countless images, known as Batch Processing. Not only this, you can customize your presets or download a wide variety of presets via the Discovery Interactive Edits Feature. These presets will help you whiten teeth, reduce red eye and use a healing brush to remove blemishes or other impurities from an image. 

3. To Keep Original File Unharmed

Not only this, Lightroom is a non-destructive editing tool which means you can make changes to an image without worrying about damaging its original data. Whether it is raw images or JPEG files. This is the massive advantage of Lightroom that the catalog of edits is separate from the original photos. The tool records the editing history so that you can go back to any edit and start over. Or you can just hit reset and start from scratch again. Amazing, right??

4. To Maintain Quality For Social Media

Have you ever felt that Facebook or Instagram has spoiled your images and it looks actually far better when you clicked it? After all the time you spent capturing a perfect shot, it is heartbreaking seeing your images getting messed up by social media platforms. Here, Lightroom to the rescue!! How? You can create customized export presets and size every image to match different social media platforms. So you can have the same quality. These export presets save time as you don’t have to re-enter the setting every time you export an image.

5. To Capture Professional-Looking Images

Lightroom is a helpful tool to create professional-looking images ie. well-balanced tones, soothing colors & sharp edits. Not only this, but you can also make money from Lightroom. All you need to publish directly to adobe stock from within Lightroom and complete with keywords already embedded. Once your Adobe Stock account is set up, there you go. 

When To Use Photoshop

On one hand, where Lightroom is focused on image editing & organizing, Photoshop delves into image manipulation, creation, and enhancement. It is the best choice for those who want pixel-level attention on their edits throughout the picture. You can use Photoshop in a variety of ways such as:

1. Graphic Designing

The editing features of Photoshop give you a much better degree than Lightroom when it comes to altering the looks and content of a photo. Adobe’s Photoshop allows you to create designs, flyers, book covers, brochures, etc. Graphic designers can remove distractions or combine multiple images with text and vector graphics. It also helps in designing logos, or other marketing material for business. You can draw maps or even small icons.

2. Photo Editing

Photoshop is a powerful image editing tool that allows you to edit the color, exposure, and contrast in your image. Apart from this, it also helps in removing the background or objects from an image with the help of a magic eraser tool. Plus, with the help of layer-based editing & layer masks, you can create difficult adjustments. Choose from a variety of options in the Adjustment panel, apply them and edit an adjustment to enhance your image. 

3. Photo Manipulations

Besides regular photo editing, Photoshop stands apart from the crowd of other photo editing tools by allowing you to manipulate images. Unlike photo editing, photo manipulation is about combining different elements from multiple images and creating something completely different. Since the tool has a variety of tools to cut, resize and change colors, manipulation is an easier job.

4. Web Designing 

If you need to create website mockups such as a home page or a landing page for your email list, you can use Photoshop. It allows you to create different design assets so that you can have control of every pixel in the design. It makes it easier to move objects or tweak things in Photoshop. Instead, if you are working with HTML, the coding part is tough and one single change can ruin your entire work.

5. Video Editing

There is no surprise at all that this multifaceted software also allows you to edit videos. You can use its adjustment layers to edit the videos. Or you can also convert the color video into a black & white video as well as videos into GIFs. 

Lightroom or Photoshop? Key Differences

The key difference between Lightroom & Photoshop lies in their purpose for designing. Lightroom is an image editing & managing tool that brings efficient & quicker edits of multiple images. While Photoshop is designed for exceptionally solid image edits & manipulations. Both are powerful image editors but to understand which one is better for you, here we have brought the key differences. Take a look:

1. Image Organization

Lightroom’s most prominent feature makes it a favorable choice among photographers which is none other than Image Organization. Its database & catalog system allows you to store all the image edits in one place organized. So, now forget about keeping images in folders. Photoshop has no such abilities. However, you can use Adobe Bridge instead, but Lightroom is quite faster. 


2. Raw File Processing

Photoshop is probably not your choice when it comes to processing raw images. You need to open a separate window with Adobe camera raw to work with raw files. Though Raw Camera works fine with Raw format, it adds a separate step to the workflow. On the other hand, Lightroom is a photo editor that automatically renders raw images and provides better format options and lens corrections to improve.


3. Destructive vs Non-Destructive Editing

One of the most significant benefits of Lightroom is that all the edits can be done without harming the original image files. It is a non-destructive image editor tool. And all the edits can be kept in its database called “Catalog”. While with Photoshop, it is important to always keep a backup image on the hard drive. Though you can undo actions using the History panel or a tool called Adjustment layer, once you Save it, every change will become final.


4. Layers & Composites

When it comes to bringing multiple images together to compose a single image, Photoshop shines the brightest. While Lightroom has no such abilities. However there are masking & local adjustment options, but no compositing options.


5. Batch Processing

If you are a photographer who works with hundreds of images every shoot, the batch editing feature is a boon for you. Through Lightroom, you can easily import multiple files to the develop module and create/download presets to process the multiple images. Adobe Photoshop doesn’t have batch editing features. You can only edit one image at a time.


Advantages of Lightroom & Photoshop

Though both tools are being widely used by photographers, each software has its unique advantages over the other, depending on the user's requirement from their image software.

Advantages of Lightroom

Easy to Learn - Lightroom’s interface is less complex than Photoshop. So it is easier for budding photographers to edit images with Lightroom. Also, it is easy to operate on iPads and smartphones.

Automation Feature - Lightroom allows its users to process multiple images simultaneously, saving time & effort. You can synchronize the edits made to images as well as apply specific metadata across a range of photos such as keywords, ratings, or labels.

Masking - Selective editing tools such as adjustment brushes or radial filters use color and luminance ranges for enhanced masking.

RAW Editing - Photographers can upload their Raw image collections in Raw format direct to Lightroom and operate in the same layout as JPEGs or PNGs.

Organized Interface - Under Lightroom, you get the opportunity to create a database of your edited images and keep your workflow managed. It is easier to search, import & manage multiple images.

Non-destructive - With Lightroom, you are free to make edits without harming their actual quality. 

Advantages of Photoshop

Available for iPad - You can access Photoshop’s latest version for iPads which is the same as its desktop iteration. 

Enhanced Editing - The reason why Photoshop is a popular image editing tool is its pixel-level editing capabilities. It means users can control every minute detail of each image every time.

Neural Filters - Photoshop utilizes Artificial Intelligence in the form of neural filters to complete difficult processing.

Compositing - Compositing is another reason why use Photoshop ie. replacing selected parts of an image with similar sections of other images. 

Layer Editing - Unlike Lightroom, Photoshop allows you to apply layers to the images.

Remove Objects - Photoshop’s healing tools help remove unwanted objects from an image.

Which One Should We Start With? Photoshop Or Lightroom

Seeing the given advantages and richness of functionalities in both image editing tools, the answer lies in the goals of your creative projects and preferences. However, we would recommend using Lightroom due to multiple advantages such as :

  • Image Management, 
  • Non-destructive nature, 
  • Raw image handling &
  • Tidy interface with the database. 

There are many other benefits of using Lightroom but these are important ones. However, the great news is that you can use both Lightroom & photoshop together as they integrate quite well. Both are great software packages with the ability to bring out the best creativity. Just figure out your goals and choose the right one for your editing needs. 


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