Photoshop vs Lightroom - Which One To Use? - Digital Darkroom Academy

Photoshop vs Lightroom – Which One To Use?

Photoshop vs. Lightroom

Whether you’re a photographer who’s just starting out or one who has been in the field for a while, if you have heard of Lightroom then you must also have wondered who stands superior in the Photoshop vs Lightroom battle of photo editing. In order to make a decision, you first need to understand both software and their usage, and then decide which one you should be spending more time with. So let’s discuss both:

What is Photoshop?

Photoshop is a software that is all about photo editing but it is also used by communication designers, architects, photographers, artists, basically all kinds of people. Its main purpose is to allow you to edit and manipulate your images down to the pixel. It does not matter whether you want to work on a portrait to make the person’s face look thinner and eyebrows look thicker, or you want to work on a landscape to make the sky look brighter and the grass greener, Photoshop can do all that and so much more.

photoshop vs lightroom - photoshop



1. Layers & Opacity

In Photoshop, you can work with layers of images and adjustments all stacked on top of each other with opacities that you can adjust according to your will. Layers are basically like transparent sheets which allow you to have a lot of control on each area of your image as well as the overall look. Moreover, you can decide which layer you want to work on and accordingly modify, hide or enhance.

2. Compositing & Blending

Photoshop allows you to do all kinds of image manipulation, this means cutting up parts of other photos and combining it with your current photo. You feel the sky is too dull in your current photo? Well, take a better looking sky and place it on your landscape! The possibilities are endless when you are compositing (combining elements from multiple images) and along with that you can use the different blending modes to blend the images seamlessly and get different styles of photographs just by changing how the colors of one layer blend into the other.

3. Retouching

From hiding a few blemishes on the face to making a pole disappear from your photo, Photoshop can do all kinds of advanced retouching that other softwares simply don’t allow. The Stamp tool, the Healing Brush, Content-Aware Fill, Patch tool; these are just a few ways you can retouch the photos and if you are unable to achieve your desired result with one tool, you are sure to get it done with another.

4. Actions

What if you had to apply the exact same adjustments to multiple photos, resize them and then save them to a specific location? You will have to manually apply the effects, resize and save each photo individually, right? Wrong! With Photoshop, you can just work on one of your photos, save the steps, and apply the exact same steps to another photo, all with the help of a feature called Actions. Actions let you to record a series of steps in Photoshop which you can then apply multiple times, thereby applying a whole editing process with just the click of a button. This saves you the time it would have taken to apply the same steps manually to each one of your photos.

5. Huge Set of Tools

Whether you want to stitch together a panorama, add grain or reduce camera shake effects, Photoshop not only has a tool for every task, it has multiple. With its variety of tools, you can manipulate, edit or solve problems in your photos in many different ways according to your ease.

6. Text & Graphics

As mentioned above, Photoshop is not just used by photographers. It’s also a great tool for graphic designers to create creative artwork for various purposes. As a photographer, if you want to add any kind of typography or any other graphics to your photos, Photoshop would be the software for that. In Lightroom, you may be able to work your way around in the Print module to add some text to your photos, but it’s a job much easier done in Photoshop.


1. Potentially Destructive

If you are not taking any deliberate steps to keep your original photo untouched, there is a high chance that you will work over it (and lose it) by clicking a button or two. You can take some precautions to work non-destructively, but generally speaking, Photoshop’s workflow is not inherently non-destructive.

2. No Image Management

Photoshop is an extremely powerful software for editing and manipulating photos but it doesn’t have any tools for organizing and managing photos, which doesn’t make your overall workflow any easier. You can work your way around it and make use of some of its features like batch import or export, or Actions as discussed above, but overall, you really can’t manage,organize or arrange your photos by using just Photoshop.

3. No Built-in RAW Editing

Photoshop does not support RAW image editing. So, if you want to edit your RAW photos, you will either have to use Adobe Camera RAW, or edit them in Adobe Lightroom first and then bring them into Photoshop.

4. Steep Learning Curve

Since Photoshop is a very detailed software with a lot of technicalities and countless number of tools, it often gets overwhelming for new users and it might take some time to get used to it.

What is Lightroom?

Adobe Lightroom is primarily a software to manage and organize a large number of photos. From which photos to select, what adjustments to apply, where to save them and how to arrange the folders, Lightroom helps you with each step of your workflow. While it can not do heavy duty manipulation and retouching of your photographs, it can make all the other steps of your post-processing workflow feel like a breeze.

photoshop vs lightroom - lightroom


1. Image Management

One of the biggest strengths of Lightroom is its image management capabilities. From the time you first open Lightroom, it will ask to import your photos whether by copying from a memory card or moving from one location on your computer to the other. In Lightroom, you can decide how your photos are arranged into folders on your computer, which one of them are your favourite, what kind of photos they are and even search for any photo while staying inside Lightroom in 5 seconds or less!

2. Built-in RAW Editing

Lightroom allows you to edit RAW photos without switching to another software so most of your work is done by staying within Lightroom. If you don’t have any complex retouching, your whole post-processing workflow can be taken care of by just one software: Adobe Lightroom!

3. Non-destructive

One of the most useful and unique features of Lightroom is that there is no “save” button. You have the ability to go back to any step of your work any time you want. Lightroom does not work on the original photo at all so it is always safe, making the editing process non-destructive. Moreover, you can undo any edits you have made to your photos or save snapshots of the image at various points in your editing process hence making it much easier to experiment with different editing styles without the fear of losing the original image.

4. Efficient Workflow

Lightroom is kind of an all-in-one software, which means that it allows you to import your files, back them up, edit them, arrange them into groups and folders, select which images to keep and which ones to discard, asssign keywords, export, print or showcase them; in short, it makes your workflow faster and much more effiecient!

4. Presets

Presets are like a magic spell that can apply the same edits to multiple photos with just a click of a button. You can make presets by saving the settings of a particular photo or even buy ones that let you achieve various kinds of editing styles on your photos. We also have a few preset packs available for sale, you can check them out here: Digital Darkroom Academy Presets

5. Batch Editing

Just like presets let you apply pre-defined adjustments to your photos, batch editing lets you edit multiple photos together as you go. You can select a bunch of photos with similar lighting and similar exposure problems in them together, or you can edit one photo in a specific style and sync them onto the rest of the photos saving you a lot of time and making the editing process much easier.

6. Easy to Learn

Lightroom has a simple interface and since it does not deal with complex, detailed image manipulations, it is much easier to learn. The tools are few and simple, and once you understand how Lightroom works, it is not at all difficult to start using it like a pro.




Learn how to use Lightroom to get organized, create amazing photos and cut your editing time in half.


1. No Advanced Editing

If you want to do advanced image manipulation, like put together some composites or combine elements of multiple images into one, Lightroom is not the software for you. This kind of editing can only be done in Photoshop while Lightroom only deals with basic to intermediate level editing.

2. Retouching

Lightroom does allow you to do some basic retouching like getting rid of a few blemishes or spots, but if you need detailed retouching like getting rid of unnecessary wires and poles, Photoshop is better suited for that job. You may be able to pull it off in Lightroom, but after very careful painting with the spot removal brush. The same thing could be achieved in a much easier way with the many retouching tools, like the Clone Stamp, Healing Brush & Content Aware Fill, that are available in Photoshop only.

3. Photos Only

Lightroom is an expert at image management and editing photos but if you also work with videos, you might want to combine the use of another software as Lightroom is a software designed for photographers and still photos. It has some functionality for videos but it is very limited.

Photoshop vs Lightroom – The Similarities

Both softwares allow you to edit your images; in Photoshop, you need a Camera RAW plugin to edit RAW photos whereas Lightroom has an in-built feature to edit RAW photos. You can also edit photos in a batch in both softwares. However, Photoshop has some limitations and is a bit more time consuming when it comes to batch editing when compared to Lightroom. Overall, both softwares can achieve most of the tasks that are required in your workflow as a lot of their features are similar but not all tasks can be achieved by one single software.

Use Photoshop When….

Your photographs require a lot of manipulation and retouching related work and you need control of each and every part of your image. If you’re specially looking to create composite images, and want to create visuals that manipulate your photos in a big way, then Photoshop is the way to go.

Use Lightroom When….

You deal with a large number of photos on a daily basis and it is necessary for you to not only keep them organized but also have your organizing and editing done very quickly. Lightroom lets you simplify your workflow and you can be done with most of your work by using just this one software.

Adobe Creative Cloud – The Photography Plan

Adobe Creative Cloud allows you to have a subscription to any of the Adobe apps. You can get a single app in $20.99/month. If you want access to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud suite along with the cloud storage, you can also get that for $52.99/month.

However, for photographers, price is not much of big problem anymore with the Photography Plan by Adobe, through which you can get access to both Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, the cloud-based Lightroom CC and 20GB of cloud storage for only $9.99/month. This means that you don’t have to worry too much about which one to spend money on since you are getting both together for a very low price!

The Final Verdict

Both Photoshop and Lightroom are powerful software with expertise in different things. The two software are actually meant to complement each other instead of being pit against each other. While Photoshop can do the heavy duty retouching and manipulation, Lightroom can arrange and sort your photos in a very organized manner and help you edit many photos at once. It is best that you start with Lightroom and organize your workflow with it, specially since it makes your work faster and is easier to use. If, after all the basic editing and organizing, you want to take your photos to the next step and work some more on them, or make composite images, you can jump to Photoshop and let it help you with your extensive advanced editing.

Shajee Aijazi

Shajee Aijazi is the founder of Digital Darkroom Academy. He helps people speed up their post-processing workflow and organize their photos in a way that they don't have to waste time managing it and they can focus on creating great looking images.

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1 comment

  • MY approach is to use LR to convert RAW images to TIF or JPG, deal with obvious problems with regard to exposure and color temperature, try a huge assortments of presets and file the results away for Photoshop. PS is best for the final tune-up, correcting flaws or bits to be discarded, minor manipulation of brightness/contrast and printing. The new CC versions are OK and do keep up to date but have some features that seem to get in the way. The major advantage for me is that I can contact an expert online if I get into trouble.

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