lightroom vs photoshop

Lightroom vs Photoshop: Which One Should You Use?

In Post Processing by Stefano Caioni Leave a Comment

Looking to post-process your photos? Wondering if you should choose Lightroom vs Photoshop?

Choosing between Lightroom and Photoshop is a common quandary for beginners. Both applications are extremely popular. And each has its rightful place in the post-production and post-processing of photography. In this article, we will explore the differences between the two, and analytically arrive at a conclusion about which one might be ideal for you! If you’re wondering who comes up on top in Lightroom vs Photoshop, this is the right article for you!

Lightroom and Photoshop are both widely used by professional photographers. Each of these photo editing tools has its strengths and weaknesses. If you want to better understand where each tool shines, read on to delve into the most important differences.

Lightroom vs Photoshop: The Winner

If you want to edit photos like a professional photographer, Lightroom is the program to use. Lightroom is well known for its ability to catalog images as well as for the powerful editing tools. Lightroom adopts a non-destructive approach to photo editing, which means you can easily go back and restore your image to its initial state. Also, professional photographers choose Lightroom vs Photoshop because it allows editing of RAW files.

What is Lightroom?

Lightroom vs Photoshop

Lightroom, or more specifically, Adobe Lightroom, is tailored to the needs of the modern photographer. It has nearly all the tools a photographer can need for all sorts of image editing and manipulation. Having said that, Lightroom is so much more than just an image editing software. It also lets you manage, organize, find, and import your images. You can think of it as software that combines photo editing and photo management features into one massive bundle. 

Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom does not require you to save your work. It is a non-destructive tool, and all your edits are stored in the Lightroom history. This feature alone can be very important to photographers who are just starting out with photo editing. Another bonus? There’s an app.

Lightroom vs Photoshop

What is Photoshop?

Created in 1990, Photoshop started as a tool built for basic image editing. Over the years it has vastly evolved. Today, Photoshop has become one of the most powerful photo editing tools on the market. It is loaded with a host of features and capabilities. 

editing a seascape

Photoshop is not only used by photographers. It is also utilized by people in all sorts of professions, such as animation, graphic design, architecture, publishing, and 3D art. And with every software update, the application only keeps getting more powerful. The potential of Photoshop has become nearly limitless. This is primarily due to countless plugins you can now add from Adobe itself or 3rd party developers.

Photoshop software is a pixel-based editor, and it allows a host of prodigious manipulative operations. It can combine multiple images, craft panoramas, and remove blemishes on the skin. It can even edit the physical structure of people to appear shorter, taller, fatter, or thinner. 

The ubiquitous Photoshop brand name has now become synonymous with photo editing. This is like using the brand name Kleenex interchangeably with the word “tissue.”

You can get Photoshop here.

When To Use Lightroom vs Photoshop

With both of these tools available for use, how should you decide which one to use?

Where Lightroom Wins

Typically, if you shoot photographs in RAW, you should bring them into Lightroom first. This application is ideal for managing your images. It will also allow you to organize your photographs as you import them. 

Lightroom is the ideal tool for basic photo editing. Here is a list of operations you can perform in Lightroom:

Basic Image Editing– Basic editing tools, such as adjusting exposure, saturation, vibrance, or white balance, cropping images, tweaking the histogram, manipulating tonal curves, noise reduction, local adjustments, red-eye corrections, and others are easier on Lightroom.

More Advanced Tools– Black and white conversion, noise reduction, gradients, image sharpening, and even lens profile correction, are superior on Lightroom.

Exporting Images- The final step of any workflow is exporting the photo so you can either print it or post it online. One of the biggest advantages of Lightroom is setting up export presets. You can use these presets to control the size, sharpen images, and so on.

Organizing and Importing Images- Lightroom’s cataloging system is superior to that of Photoshop. Lightroom allows you to import all your images at the same time. This can be so useful when you have hundreds or even thousands of images on your SD card. You can then move and organize the various photos to access them quickly later on.

Interface Usage- Photoshop’s interface is overwhelming and not intuitive. This is because it is designed for many professions, not just photography. Lightroom carries many of the same features specific to photographers in easy-to-find panels. It is much more straightforward and simpler to use than Photoshop.

Workflow Ease- With Lightroom, you can easily create image collections, keyword images, and share images directly to social media.

Where Photoshop Wins

You may find that Lightroom does not quite offer what you need in all scenarios. In those cases, you may need to use Photoshop. Here are a few of the situations in which you might need to use Photoshop instead of Lightroom.

Advanced retouching features– Advanced features such as pixel-level retouching are excellent with Photoshop. For instance, if you want to make an arm thinner or a person taller, Photoshop is your best option.

HDR– Looking to pull out exposures and highlights from different exposures? Photoshop can help you out here.

Composite images– Photoshop is great at slicing multiple images to create a single one.

Advanced healing- With Photoshop, you can use the healing and patch tools for several purposes, with better results than with Lightroom.

Panorama creation- Stitching together several pictures to make a seamless Panorama is much easier.

Lightroom or Photoshop: Can You Use Both in Your Workflow?

Yes, you most certainly can use both! Most photographers find themselves using both software quite frequently. The best part is that both Lightroom and Photoshop are part of the Adobe Creative Cloud package. This means that there is seamless integration between the two.

mac menu

Lightroom and Photoshop were actually designed for tandem use. You can use the two applications together to do what is known as round-trip editing. With round-trip editing, you edit photos in Lightroom. You then send them to Photoshop to perform advanced editing functions, then return them to Lightroom to organize and catalog them.

To move a file from Lightroom to Photoshop could not be easier. Simply hit Ctrl+E (PC) or Cmd+E (Mac) and your image will load into your Photoshop application. If you remember the letter E as standing for “Edit,” you will never forget this easy keyboard shortcut!

export in lightroom

Consider that editing options will vary slightly, whether you are working with a JPEG or RAW file.  When working with JPEGs, a pop-up dialog box with three options will appear. You can choose between “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments, “Edit a Copy” or “Edit Original.” Choose “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments” if you want to preserve the original file while carrying over the adjustments you have made in Lightroom. 

But when importing a RAW file from Lightroom, the dialog box that allows you to choose how you want to open your file in Photoshop will not appear. RAW files will always default to the first option, as all adjustments come with the file. 

Remember that once you have completed your edits in Photoshop, choose “Save” to simply save your file. Avoid choosing the “Save As” option. Why? If you save the file as a new name, it will break the connection between the two applications and save it to a new location. Selecting “Save” ensures that Lightroom will automatically import your file back into the catalog you have been working in. The edited file will appear next to the original file with the same name unless you have changed your sort order.

export in photoshop

Your edited file will also have the default TIF file extension and the word “edit” appended to it. To change the TIF default setting, you can go to Lightroom > Preferences > External Editing > File Format.

Working this way is ideal. The two image files will stay linked between applications as long as both applications remain open. If you go back into Photoshop to make another edit, the Lightroom file will automatically adjust as well.

Working between these two software applications is truly a great experience. It will make your workflow extremely efficient. Both of these powerhouse tools are bound to encourage creativity when it comes to post-production and post-processing. Don’t get too caught up in deciding which one to use. Try to decide on a case-by-case basis.

Final Thoughts

Adobe Lightroom and photoshop are both incredible tools for photographers. You can use them individually or in conjunction to speed up your workflow and efficiency. In short, Lightroom is the way to go if you are only doing light editing. Photoshop can help with heavy lifting when necessary.

If you are new to photography, it is quite sufficient to use Lightroom by itself. Once you gain experience and master the fundamentals of Lightroom, you may choose to incorporate the advanced editing features of Photoshop into your workflow.

We hope this article has helped you understand the differences between these two amazing photo editing tools. We have given you a general overview of when to use each one. When you start to use both simultaneously, you can be sure you are an advanced ninja photographer!

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