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Adobe editing software has long been considered the leading editing software in the world and over 90% of creatives make use of Photoshop professionally. But as the Adobe Suite of tools continues to grow larger, many beginner photographers are asking the question, which is better, Lightroom or Photoshop and what are the differences?

Both programmes come with a number of pros and cons that will largely come from the type of photography you do and what you require the software to actually do. The two programmes also have their differences which can make it a struggle for a beginner photographer to understand which software they should use.

Thankfully the London Institute of Photography, known as LIoP, has written this handy guide on the differences between Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and which is best for a beginner to use. 

What is Adobe Photoshop?

Both Photoshop and Lightroom are image editing tools but Adobe Photoshop is far more heavy-duty and is capable of making detailed edits to individual images using a range of tools and techniques. Photoshop has a very steep learning curve but is also the most powerful and commonly used image editing software in the world. 

Photoshop is not only used by photographers but also animators, graphic designers and other media industries. Photoshop benefits from being a pixel-level editor which means it provides significantly more control over the image but means the images must be carefully edited individually, taking much longer. 

Photoshop open on MacBook Pro | Photo: Philipp Mandler via Unsplash

Photoshop open on MacBook Pro | Photo: Philipp Mandler via Unsplash

What is Adobe Lightroom?

Lightroom’s full name is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and was introduced in 2006 as part of Adobe’s creative suite of tools. Compared to Photoshop, Lightroom is a much simpler editing tool and is more focused on workflow management. Lightroom includes databases of photos which makes it much easier to navigate through your images via search functions and categorisation. 

Lightroom also pulls a lot of data from your camera such as the date and time of photography, making it much easier to bulk edit images. These features aren’t available on Photoshop, but Lightroom’s editing ability is much more limited than its more powerful cousin. 

Lightroom open on black iPad | Photo: Jye B via Unsplash

Lightroom open on black iPad | Photo: Jye B via Unsplash

What are the advantages of Photoshop?

Whilst Lightroom may have a more accommodating learning curve for beginners, Photoshop is a vital tool in the professional creative’s hands. The majority, if not all, of photographers, will need to get to grips with Photoshop eventually and start to enjoy the many advantages of Photoshop. 

  • Detailed edits: Photoshop is the most-used editing software in the world and is the go-to tool to use for anything more than just simple edits.  
  • Compositing: Photoshop has the ability to combine elements from different images you have taken, which means you can replace individual pixels from other photos to fix any imperfections like blinking etc.
  • Plugins: Adobe makes use of a range of plugins that automate part of the process to speed up the editing process, helping busy professionals meet deadlines.   
  • Layer editing: Photoshop allows you to layer any adjustments you make to photos, creating much sharper edits and a more professional look.
  • Operation variety: Photoshop has a wide variety of tools at its disposal compared to Lightroom and is useful to a range of media professionals.    
  • Content-Aware Fill: One of Photoshop’s most popular feature is the ability to remove entire objects from images and maintain a clean and natural-looking photo.

What are the advantages of Lightroom?

Both Photoshop and Lightroom see extensive use by professional creatives, but there are a number of benefits to Lightroom that make it a useful tool for photographers. 

  • Easier learning curve: Lightroom has a much simpler interface than Photoshop which allows beginners to use the editing software much easier and faster.
  • RAW Editor: Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom lets you upload photos that have been taken in RAW format immediately and edit them.
  • Editing software: Lightroom’s editing capability isn’t as strong as Photoshop. However, it’s still able to make edits with a range of tools which can chance contrast, exposure, clarity and warmth.
  • Non-destructive: Lightroom generates a new file with each edit of a photo, meaning the originals aren’t lost during the editing process. Lightroom also keeps a note of all of your changes, letting you reverse them easily.
  • Automated presents: Lightroom lets you edit a group of photos all at once with presets, saving photographers a significant amount of time.
  • Organisation: Lightroom’s strongest advantage over Photoshop is its detailed organisation which allows you to navigate through images, flag them and sort through collections quickly and easily.

Which one is best and when should you use each?

While Photoshop is a much stronger editing tool than Lightroom, Lightroom has many advantages to photo organisations and mass edits. Lightroom is much easier to use, however, it isn’t as detailed or varied as Photoshop. 

As such, the aspiring photographer or media professional might want to consider using and learning both tools for the best results in the industry. There are full photography courses that cover how to use both Lightroom and Photoshop. 

Person editing photo on Adobe Lightroom on desktop | Photo: Danoel Korpai via Unsplash

Person editing photo on Adobe Lightroom on desktop | Photo: Daniel Korpai via Unsplash

Using them together

Ultimately, Lightroom and Photoshop complement each other incredibly well. Lightroom focuses on workflow and allows you to manage, organise and make group edits to your photos, Photoshop allows editors to make detailed and intricate to individual pictures. Making use of both tools to support each other gives you all the benefits of both without any of the disadvantages. 

Pricing and subscriptions

To further the impression that the two pieces of software should be used together, Adobe offers them both as part of their subscription service, known as the photography basics plan. The two tools are available to purchase together, providing a saving of nearly £20 per month. 

Though organising and streamlining the working process can be a challenge for new professional photographers to overcome, taking advantage of the benefits of both tools can make life much easier in the long run.

Now that you are aware of the differences between Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, why not invest in the right memory to store more photos on whilst editing?

Author Bio: This article was written by Holger Pooten from the London Institute of Photography. LIoP offers specialised training in Lightroom and Photoshop for photographers.

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