Lightroom vs Photoshop


If you’re a photographer who wants to edit images on your computer, this Lightroom vs Photoshop comparison could help you save some money.

Here in 2020, Adobe offers a ‘Photography Plan’ with online storage space, which includes both Lightroom and Photoshop.

Here’s the one that we use and recommend:

shk-fs-table__imageAdobe Photography Plan (1Tb)Includes both Lightroom and Photoshop. The best of both worlds for photographers of all standards.Get Price

The Creative Cloud online storage space means more security with automatic backups, as well as more options to work on your images using your phone or tablet, using the excellent Lightroom CC Mobile app and Photoshop for iPad.

Both Lightroom and Photoshop offer superb image editing options, but not everyone needs to actually use both…

Let’s have a closer look at what separates them, so you can save more time in your workflow.

What is Adobe Lightroom?

lightroom vs adobe bridge vs photoshop


Adobe Lightroom is an editing software for photographers that was originally meant to complement Photoshop.

It provides powerful image cataloguing and organization, Raw conversion, and the photo editing tools that photographers use most – see our Lightroom Review for a deeper dive, and our guide on how to buy Lightroom.

One of the biggest differences between Lightroom and Photoshop is Lightroom’s image management capabilities.

Lightroom’s catalog and organization system is one of the best in its class, with incredibly detailed options for importing, adding metadata, keywords, culling, creating collections, and image search.

The Lightroom batch editing and import options are also fantastic.

Unlike Photoshop, all of the image adjustment tools in Lightroom are specific to digital photography, and that makes it easier to learn.

So while Lightroom’s editing capabilities are nowhere near as comprehensive as Photoshop’s, it tends to have everything most photographers need for a standard editing workflow – especially when paired with the use of plugins.

Lightroom also has a huge array of export options, from just about any print variables you can think of to direct uploading to social media sites like Flickr and Facebook.

In short, Lightroom was designed for a photographer’s end-to-end post-processing workflow.

From importing images into your computer to standard adjustments to exporting, Lightroom covers all the bases in a way that creates the most efficient workflow.

Don’t already own Lightroom?

Get the most popular Adobe Lightroom + Photoshop 1TB plan that so many other photographers use – including everyone on the Shotkit team!

What is Adobe Photoshop?

photoshop vs lightroom images


Adobe Photoshop is the most powerful graphic editor available today.

Originally created as a simple photo editing tool, it has since expanded to cover the whole range of what can be done with graphics.

From pixel-level editing to 3D modeling and GIF creation, there’s little that Photoshop can’t do.

Photoshop gives you complete control over editing your photos. It’s a graphics editor’s dream… but not so great for photographers.

Photoshop isn’t set up for a photographer’s workflow. It doesn’t have much in the way of image management, nor does it have batch editing. Instead, it’s designed to allow you to get into the nitty-gritty of each image, making changes with high finesse.

This being the case, it should come as no surprise that it’s also a very complex program with a high learning curve.

Photoshop has so many nuanced tools that, depending on what you want to use it for, it can take over 100 hours of learning to become truly proficient in it.

Because of its power and functionality, Photoshop is used by everyone from graphic designers and publishers to architects and animators.

Photographers with advanced editing needs also use it, but rarely without Lightroom or Adobe Bridge as a way to access images.

Don’t already own Photoshop?

Don’t try and buy it on its own – it’s better value if you get the same Lightroom + Photoshop 1TB plan (mentioned above). Here’s the link again:

Photoshop vs Lightroom: Key Differences

images in photoshop vs lightroom

The little-known Lightroom Map module is useful for seeing where your images were taken.

The biggest differences between the two programs is what they are designed for.

Lightroom is made for a photographer’s workflow. Photoshop is made for exceptionally powerful image manipulation.

But how do these differences play out on a practical level?

  • Image Organization

Lightroom’s database and catalog system allows photographers to keep all their shoots organized. Photoshop has no such ability. Sure, you could use Adobe Bridge instead, but Lightroom is far superior.

Adobe Lightroom also provides everything you could ever need in terms of metadata, keywording and searching. Metadata is especially important in web design and SEO and being able to use presets to automatically add metadata is a huge time saver.

Winner: Lightroom
  • Raw File Processing

Photoshop doesn’t have its own Raw engine and needs to open a separate window with Adobe Camera Raw to work with Raw images. While Camera Raw works just fine, it adds a separate step to your workflow that isn’t really needed.

Lightroom automatically renders Raw files and offers lens corrections to boot. All the adjustment sliders found in Camera Raw can be found in Lightroom too, so you’re not missing anything if you don’t choose to use Photoshop.

Winner: Lightroom
  • Destructive vs Non-Destructive Editing

One of the more important features of Lightroom is that all of the changes you make to an image are non-destructive. Every adjustment you make to a photo is done to a separate copy with the original image remaining unchanged. You can always go back to the original image with ease.

With Photoshop it’s important to always make a backup image. Sure, you can undo actions using the history panel and use adjustment layers/Smart Objects, etc., but once you hit Save, that’s it. Every change you’ve made is final.

Winner: Lightroom
  • Layers and Composites

In the world of editing software, Photoshop is the master when it comes to image composites. Bringing multiple images together to compose a single piece of art is the place where Photoshop shines the brightest. Its selection and masking tools are unmatched and have long been the industry standard.

Sure, programs like Luminar and On1 also have layers, but they’re fairly primitive when it comes to detailed selection/mask work.

Lightroom has no layer abilities whatsoever. It works seamlessly with Photoshop, so it’s assumed that you’ll do your layer work there and then return to Lightroom when all is said and done (which is super easy, quick keys and all). There are masking and local adjustment options, but no compositing options.

Winner: Photoshop
  • Batch Editing

If you’re a photographer that works with hundreds of photos per shoot, batch editing can literally be a lifesaver. Lightroom makes it super easy both on import and in the develop module. It’s also easy to create and use presets in the batch process.

Wedding and event photographers in particular can seriously benefit from this, as hundreds of photos taken under similar lighting situations can be adjusted at the click of a button.

Photoshop has no batch editing options.

Winner: Lightroom
  • HDR and Panoramas

Both Photoshop and Lightroom have HDR and Panorama capabilities, but the results are quite different from one another.

Most photographers use plugins for HDR (i.e. Aurora HDR or Photomatix), but if you want complete manual control, Photoshop’s layer and masking options are far superior to the competition’s.

Photoshop also does some excellent stitching when it comes to panoramas. Lightroom can as well, but has a somewhat different effect and you have less control over it.

Winner: Photoshop
  • Presets vs Actions

Both Photoshop and Lightroom have a means of automating tasks. In Photoshop this is done via ‘Actions.’ In Lightroom one uses presets. Both can seriously speed up editing time.

That being said, Lightroom’s presets are easier to use. You can apply them with a single click and customize them easily.

Winner: Lightroom
  • Advanced Image Editing Tools

If you do graphic design, need to create GIFs, use the liquify tool, or want the option to do work in 3D, Photoshop has all of these features and much more.

Lightroom’s toolset is paired down to only have what photographers need. It’s more of a photo editor and image management system than a graphic design studio.

Winner: Photoshop
  • Learning Curve

As mentioned before, because Adobe Lightroom only has tools that relate to photography, it’s much easier to learn. Everything is set up in a logical, linear fashion and the sliders are often self-explanatory.

The tools in Photoshop, on the other hand, take a lot longer to learn and understand. They’re super powerful and have what seems like an infinite amount of options per tool. With Photoshop you get supreme control over your image editing, but the learning curve is high.

That being said, there are hundreds of tutorials for both Photoshop and Lightroom on the internet, as well as multi-hour classes (both commercial and free).

Winner: Lightroom

Lightroom vs. Photoshop: Do You Need Photoshop?

hard drive images or batch prcoessing photo editing programs with software packages

Photoshop is powerful but has a steep learning curve.

Photoshop comes in handy when you need editing options that aren’t in Lightroom.

Some photographers never need the deep editing abilities of Photoshop. Others will use it quite often.

To summarize, you need Adobe Photoshop if…

1. You do a lot of advanced retouching.

Maybe you want to make a waist slimmer or remove a double chin. Or you routinely remove people or objects out of an image. Or you need pixel-level control of your editing flow. If you do any of these regularly, better keep Photoshop.

2. You want to create composites.

If you want to combine two or more photos together, you’ll need the versatility of working with layers. Photoshop’s layer controls and selection tools are unmatched in the industry.

3. You like a hands-on approach to HDR photography and Panorama creation.

While there are a number of excellent plugins for both Lightroom and Photoshop, Photoshop provides a deeper level of hands-on editing that some advanced photographers really appreciate.

4. You appreciate the power of advanced healing:

While Lightroom allows you to do basic healing (i.e. spot removal, removing blemishes and small objects, etc.), the content-aware tools in Photoshop are truly unmatched.

When to Use Lightroom Exclusively

noise reduction, hdr images, skin blemishes, healing tools, image management software etc for your images

Lightroom is much simpler to use and features many useful photo management tools.

Most photographers can get away with using just Lightroom.

The photo adjustment tools do just about everything to your images that a photographer needs, and anything Lightroom’s native tools don’t cover can often be found with plugins.

Also, if you primarily store your images in the cloud and you don’t need the advanced tools found in Photoshop, you’ll save money by choosing Adobe’s ‘Lightroom Plan’ which gives you 1TB for the same price as the ‘Photography Plan’ – check here for the latest pricing.

If, however, you plan on doing occasional graphic design in addition to photography, it would be well worth your while to keep Photoshop in your subscription.

Want to become a full-fledged digital media creative? You’ll probably want to look into Adobe’s Creative Cloud All Apps plan, which includes all 20 apps as well as 100GB of cloud storage – check here for the latest pricing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is Lightroom different from Photoshop?

Lightroom is image editing software designed specifically for Photographers. Photoshop, on the other hand, has powerful tools that give you complete control over any kind image manipulation possible.

Is Lightroom good for beginners?

Lightroom is excellent for beginners and is a relatively easy editing tool to learn. It’s also a fantastic way to manage and print your images.

Is Lightroom included in Photoshop?

Adobe Lightroom is a separate program to Photoshop, but they are offered together in one subscription via Adobe’s Photography plan.

Final Advice

You can even build webpage galleries with Lightroom Classic.

In the world of digital photography, the reality is that most photographers will spend the bulk of their time using Lightroom.

Using Lightroom streamlines a photographer’s workflow while providing the majority of tools any photographer needs.

Those who use Photoshop tend to be graphic designers or those needing to achieve very specific effects.

It’s for those with more complex image editing needs and/or those who want complete creative control over their digital creations.

The final takeaway? Depending on your workflow, you may very well be able to do without Photoshop and use Lightroom for all your digital photography needs.

That being said, if you don’t use cloud storage and you occasionally do advanced image editing, it doesn’t hurt to keep Photoshop within close reach.

Things such as background removal, for example, are much easier with Photoshop’s suite of tools than with Lightroom’s.

And again, don’t forget about the Creative Cloud. If you really want to get into the world of digital media it’s still the industry leader.

Being able to work across all your devices (both home computer and mobile phone/tablet) really is great for workflow, not to mention a whole lot of fun.

Our recommendation: the 1Tb Adobe Photography Plan is the best of both worlds, since it includes both Lr and Ps, as well as all the cloud-syncing / mobile app advantages.

Check the latest pricing by clicking the button below, and leave us any questions in the comments.

shk-fs-table__imageAdobe Photography Plan (1Tb)Includes both Lightroom and Photoshop. The best of both worlds for photographers of all standards.Get Price

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.

Usnea Lebendig

Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.