Photoshop VS. Lightroom: What should I be using?

“What program should I be using to edit my photos with- Photoshop or Lightroom?”  The truth is, there is no clear cut answer- it depends on the project you're working on. To help you with your upcoming project, I have pieced together a handy little guide comparing both programs. Then, I will explain why you can (and sometimes should) use both.

What is Photoshop?

Originally designed by Adobe for simple digital photo editing, Photoshop has transformed into an unbelievably powerful program that allows you to create anything you could ever imagine. 

Photoshop is a pixel based editor, which essentially means that you can get up close and personal with each individual pixel, giving you total control over the photo. 

While Lightroom is the standard for basic photo editing, Photoshop outperforms Lightroom in a number of advanced features.

  • Image Retouching: If you need to remove blemishes, whiten teeth, reduce bags under eyes, or fix stray hairs, Photoshop should be your go-to.
  • Layers: Photoshop uses a layering system so that you can create various layers of adjustments, giving you complete control of the look and feel of your image.
  • Content Aware Fill: This is a magical and very useful tool that can be used in a number of ways. You can remove distracting objects in the background of images, or fill in content (such as a missing patch of hair or a stain on someone's shirt).
  • Actions: Photoshop Actions allow you to record a sequence of steps so that all you need to do is press the play button and your actions will automatically be carried out. This can be a huge time saver with actions that have a great deal of steps involved.
  • Advanced Healing: While you can edit small blemishes in Lightroom, the capabilities of the program simply don't compare to Photoshop's content aware healing brushes and patch tools. If you have a small amount of photos that need advanced healing, I would recommend using Photoshop (I will include a step by step tutorial on Photoshop retouching and healing in an upcoming blog post). However, I do not recommend trying to retouch a large volume of photos this way.

What is Lightroom?

Adobe Lightroom is a powerful program that integrates a subset of Photoshop's image manipulation features that are specifically catered towards photographers. If you are shooting in the RAW format (which you definitely should be!), then you'll need to process your images in Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw) before bringing them into Photoshop.

Much more than an digital photo editor, Lightroom allows for an efficient workflow, as you can import, organize, manage and find your images easily. The program is a non-destructive image editor (Photoshop is not), and all of your edits are automatically stored in your Lightroom catalog. No saving necessary!

When it comes to basic photo editing, Lightroom is a much more convenient choice than Photoshop. You can handle all of your cropping, white balance, exposure, tonal curves, highlights, vibrance, saturation, sharpening, noice reduction and lens profile corrections within the program easily.

You can also apply Lightroom Presets to photos much more efficiently than carrying out Actions in Photoshop. As long as you are shooting in manual (implying that your settings should be relatively consistent among your photos), this should make editing a breeze once you have a decent collection of Lightroom Presets saved in your catalog. You can simply click on one of your saved Presets, and make minor tweaks and adjustments based on the photo.

For photographers working with large quantities of images, Lightroom will save you a great deal of time in your editing process.

Can I use both Photoshop and Lightroom?

Absolutely! These programs integrate well together. Personally, I like to start with Lightroom for basic image editing and organization purposes. The interface is designed to enhance your workflow, as it is much more straightforward. Then, for smaller details and more advanced edits such as the spot healing brush and content aware fill, I move over to Photoshop. 

Lightroom and Photoshop are two immensely different programs that both offer a great deal of value to photographers. Lightroom boosts your efficiency and workflow, especially if you are shooting in RAW format. Photoshop, however, is the popular choice when it comes to advanced image manipulation. There is no true winner or clear answer for your next project- just two extremely powerful imagine editing programs that are equally well-suited for different tasks!

I hope that you found this guide useful. Comment below and let me know what your go-to image editing program is and which of it's features really stand out to you!


*Disclosure; Yes, some of the links above are affiliate links. However, I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't use them and find them helpful myself.