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Adobe Photoshop vs Lightroom (Part 1)

Which to use, when, how and why.

This is the first part of an extended look into the benefits of both Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Connect on social media to follow this detailed breakdown and comparison.

Adobe Photoshop vs Lightroom. Which should I use?

At some point every photographer will ask themselves how they can best edit and manage their images, unfortunately the answer is not always as simple as it first appears.

Everyone has, at some point, heard of Photoshop. It has become synonymous with digital photo manipulation and editing, and rightly so. Adobe initially created Photoshop to be a simple digital photo editing tool, however it quickly developed into much more. With gradual updates and additional features it became the go-to name in photo editing.

So if Photoshop is so great, what is Lightroom and why do I need to use it?

Two words, non-destructive. Every change you make to an image in Photoshop is permanent once you click Save. You lose the history of changes made meaning you cannot undo any accidental tweaks you want to revert.

Lightroom can undo any changes you make to an image, that is because you aren’t actually changing the image at all. Any alterations you make are shown to you in your image preview but are stored in a catalogue, and as there is no save function you won’t lose any progress should the software or hardware stop responding. This is especially useful on a desktop where a power cut can cost you hours of work.

With all the functions you are likely to need, including some from Photoshop, Lightroom is a valuable tool. You should be able to edit the majority of your images in Lightroom alone, which is also an excellent file manager, making the organisation of files quick and simple, meaning no more searching through Explorer or Finder for an elusive photo.

Excellent and simple to use controls mean you can drastically increase your workflow and photo turnaround speed, which is always a good thing.

Do I still need Photoshop then?

In short, yes.

Photoshop is a pixel level editor, allowing you to edit the individual dots that make up your digital image. Where Lightroom excels in performing alterations to a complete image, Photoshop gives you more control over the smaller details.

There are some areas which Photoshop dominates, such as making a person taller, or using multiple images and exposures to create a HDR image. Whilst Lightroom can do some of these things it offers nowhere near the control that Photoshop can.

You can make the majority of changes to your images in Lightroom, and then send the image directly to Photoshop.

Two is better than one, is that what you’re saying?

Absolutely. You can achieve far more using both Lightroom and Photoshop together than alone. The two programs are packaged together in the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan for a reason, they work best when used together.

Next we will begin comparing similar features in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, starting with an extended look into sharpening.