Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are both pro-level editing software rich with professional features and tools. Professional and hobby photographers alike rely on them to edit their photos. They’re powerful creative tools, but admittedly they can be a little overwhelming to new users. Also, it can be unclear which application you should use.

The answer to this question isn’t a straightforward yes or no. Photoshop and Lightroom both shine in different situations. Fortunately, we’re going to go over all the differences between the two applications. We’ll also discuss what their common uses are and help you determine which one you should use and when. Let’s get into it.

What is Lightroom?

Lightroom is a cloud-based photo editor that allows you to edit, organize, store and share your photos. It’s technically a subset of Photoshop, meaning it has similar features. For the most part, you can do the same basic photo editing as you can do in Photoshop. For instance, you can adjust things like white balance, exposure, hue and even basic touch-ups with its healing tool.

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One of the best qualities of Lightroom is its simplicity. You can make adjustments using the program’s sliders and presets. They’re easily accessible; you don’t have to search through the toolbar or know keyboard shortcuts to make adjustments. Another great feature is its cross-device connectivity. You can switch between mobile, web and desktop seamlessly with the Cloud. Also, whenever you edit your photo, it will update the file on every device. So, you can start editing on mobile during travel and finish up the edit on your home desktop.

Lightroom

Now, you can do a lot of the same editing in Photoshop that you can do in Lightroom. Where Lightroom differs is its organization and collaboration features. Lightroom features a filmstrip at the bottom of your image’s canvas. So, if you have multiple images open, you’ll be able to switch between them and make quick adjustments. You can copy and paste color adjustments from one photo to several in a matter of seconds. Additionally, Lightroom allows you to invite collaborators to view your images and make comments. When you’re working remotely or always on the go, this feature is helpful in remote collaboration.

When should you use Lightroom?

Lightroom isn’t an advanced photo editor like Photoshop. Whenever you need to do basic edits on many photos, Lightroom is a great option. Its filmstrip makes it quick and easy to make adjustments to an entire album of images. Also, its integrated Library makes it easier to use than Photoshop’s Library. With Adobe Sensei, you can find photos by inputting keywords describing the image you’re looking for. If you’re looking for the pictures you took of your cat, you’d just have to type in cat, and Lightroom will find every picture in your Library containing a cat.

While Lightroom might not be the most advanced photo editor, it’s a few steps up from the standard editor. It works well as a middle-of-the-road editor without extra bells and whistles. Use Lightroom if you want to do basic edits on a large album of photos.

What is Photoshop?

Photoshop is a very versatile photo editing and graphics software. While primarily supporting photographers, it is common for professional designers and art directors to use Photoshop for their jobs. It’s also a popular choice for amateur photographers and those new to the Creative Cloud. Photoshop, named initially “Image Pro,” pioneered the photography editing industry after launching in 1988. Since then, the software has grown into an industry-standard tool. It would be hard to find any person who hasn’t at least heard of it.

Photoshop’s tools

Photoshop is capable of doing everything Lightroom can like adjust exposures, hues and crop. It also does more. More specifically, Photoshop offers more tools for retouching and allows drastic adjustment and refinement thanks to its Layers function. Layers allow you to add as many elements above and below your image as you want. You can get pretty creative with it and greatly change the image. Also, if you’re going to make drastic changes to a photo (like remove people in the background), Photoshop can do that. Here are a few other things unique to Photoshop when compared to Lightroom:

HDR editing

For non-professional photographers, this might not be an essential feature, but for some, it’s vital. Lightroom can do some basic HDR editing with plugins. However, it doesn’t compare to what you can do in Photoshop. Photoshop can pull out highlights and shadows from several exposures and blend them, giving you the ability to drastically improve your images.

More advanced healing/retouching

While it’s possible to retouch small portions in Lightroom using its clone and healing brush, Photoshop’s toolkit lends itself to extensive retouching. For instance, if you want to remove a building in the background of a photo, Photoshop’s clone tool is more suitable for this job. With its healing brush and patch tools, you’ll end up with better results faster than you would when using Lightroom.

Collages/composites

Lightroom focuses on editing one photo at a time. With Photoshop, you can place multiple images into a single document. You can also merge images, move them above and below each other and layer portions of images over each other.

When should you use Photoshop?

Photoshop design

Photoshop has a lot of uses. While it works as a standard photo editor, it shines when you need major retouches. Additionally, if you’re doing any graphic work or image typography that requires multiple layers, Photoshop is a great option for you.

Photoshop vs Lightroom: which one should you use?

So, should you use Photoshop or Lightroom? Our answer is that frankly, you should use whatever’s suitable for the job. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A way to distinguish between the two is to consider Lightroom as a photo editor geared towards enhancing your photos and Photoshop as an editor meant to manipulate your images. Lightroom adjusts what you have, and Photoshop can create elements that don’t already exist in your photo.

It is worth learning and using both programs. Lightroom is a great starting point for beginners. It’s simple to use and doesn’t have unnecessary tools (if you’re looking to do just a simple edit). Also, if you have many photos that need basic edits, Lightroom is the better option. On the other hand, Photoshop comes with advanced editing tools that allow you to create everything and anything. A major difference between Lightroom and Photoshop is the latter’s inclusion of layers. Layers allow you to manipulate and drastically change your image in ways just not possible in Lightroom. Photoshop works well as an advanced photo editor — doing tasks like cutting out a large object out of a photo and modifying your photo further than the standard sliders offered in Lightroom.

The software you use will always depend on what the job is. Luckily, you don’t have to stick to one. Since Adobe’s programs are compatible with each other, you can start your project in Lightroom and then work on it in Photoshop. So, if you start working on a photo in Lightroom and decide you want to add more to it, you can export it to Photoshop, make the edits and send it back to Lightroom.

Both Photoshop and Lightroom are powerful tools. Use them when they are right for the job.