Adobe Lightroom vs Photoshop

Written by Matic Broz @matic_broz
(Updated on July 27, 2021)

Lightroom vs. Photoshop Thumbnail

Adobe Lightroom vs Photoshop

So you want to figure out whether you should choose Lightroom vs Photoshop? That’s great, let’s do this!

In this comparison of Adobe Lightroom vs Photoshop, you will find the head-to-head comparison of both. I will also discuss when to use Lightroom and when to use Photoshop, and finally, I’ll talk about the pricing and recommend the best plan for you. In the end, I’ll answer all your questions.

Lightroom photography plan 1TB iconLightroom (1TB)
  • 1TB Cloud Storage
  • Lightroom on Desktop + Mobile
  • Adobe Spark & Portfolio
Photoshop plan 100GB iconPhotoshop (100GB)
  • 100GB Cloud Storage
  • Photoshop on Desktop + iPad
  • Adobe Fresco, Portfolio, Fonts & Spark
Photography plan 20GB iconPhotography plan (20GB)
  • 20GB Cloud Storage
  • Lightroom on Desktop + Mobile
  • Photoshop on Desktop + iPad
  • Adobe Spark & Portfolio

Let me know in the comment, whether I did a good job or if you’d like to hear more about it.

Lightroom vs Photoshop comparison

Lightroom and Photoshop are both powerful digital photography post-processing (photo editing) programs that share a lot of features and tools but differ in the way these are used or applied.

In general, Lightroom is widely used by photographers to help them manage their huge libraries of thousands of photos and edit these photos either one-by-one or in bulk. Lightroom is what the majority of professional photographers use, but it’s not complex.

Therefore, Lightroom is a viable option for photographers with all levels of experience. What is more, I even recommend Lightroom to all beginners, so that you can develop good habits early on.

In contrast, Photoshop is better suitable for photo manipulation of a single project; thus, making it better for more advanced edits.

The key difference between Lightroom and Photoshop is that Photoshop doesn’t have have a library of all your projects. You can save them and re-open them later, but you won’t find all of them in one place, like you do in Lightroom.

On the other hand, Photoshop has almost all the tools that Lightroom has, plus, a lot more.

When to use Lightroom?

Lightroom is (almost) every photographer’s number one choice in very aspect of photo editing. Unlike Photoshop, it is designed to mainstream the photographer’s workflow – from importing the image, to editing, and all they way until the export.

For this reason, Lightroom is my personal favourite and the most widely used photo editing tool amongst professional photographer.

Photo management

Photo management is at the core of Lightroom – you could say that Lightroom is built around it. Because it excels at keeping all your photos well-organized, many photographers use Lightroom as a sort of personal photo library.

There, you can conveniently organize photos already at the import process by using import presets that add metadata.

Lightroom File Handling Panel on Import
Lightroom File Handling Panel on Import

The image below isn’t here to frighten you, but to show you what Lightroom is capable of. For example, you can create new import presets and add an impressive amount of metadata within seconds.

Lightroom New Metadata Preset
Lightroom New Metadata Preset

For me, and I bet that the same goes for a lot of other photographers, the rating system is the best part of Lightroom’s photo management system.

You can sets flags to photos (flagged, unflagged, rejected), give them ratings (0 to 5), and colour labels. If you’ve never used these before, they might not seem like much, but these ratings are super-important for photo culling and easier file management.

Lightroom Ratings overview
Lightroom Ratings overview

For example, I mainly use the rating system to determine what to do with my photos, as such:

  • 0 – rejected photo
  • 1 – not yet reviewed
  • 2 – maybe
  • 3 – edited
  • 4 – almost done
  • 5 – exported/finished

This way, I can quickly navigate across my projects and never get lost – and believe me, when you’re dealing with thousands of photos, you do get lost.

Editing

Beside photo management, photo editing is another aspect in which Lightroom shines. While several programs come close, such as Luminar AI or On1, none can compete with Lightroom’s mix of simplicity, performance, and features.

Lightroom All Editing Tools Panel
Lightroom All Editing Tools Panel

With smart and careful use of these tools, you can restore and improve your photographs. Lightroom invites you to enhance the light tones and colour tones, correct lens imperfections and chromatic aberration, sharpen, and add vignettes.

To mainstream the whole process of photo editing and speed up your workflow, you can create your own presets or download them from several legitimate sources – but more on that a bit later.

Overall, Lightroom is a non-destructive photo editor, meaning that you can make any number of changes to your photos without permanently altering the source file. This is extremely important if you want to reset all your edits and start from scratch.

Lightroom Editing sliders
Lightroom Editing sliders

Like any other good photo editing program, Lightroom not only allows but also promotes using raw files. Raw images give you even more flexibility and options to recover the detail in comparison to JPEGs.

Last, but definitely not least, you can use several 3rd party programs to use them as plugins to Lightroom. This functionality improves your creativity but also makes sending files between several programs easier. I use and recommend Photoshop, Luminar AI and Luminar 4, and On1.

Presets

I have already mentioned presets, but let’s give them some more attention.

What are presets? Imagine you finished editing a photo and you’re really happy with the result and overall look (colours, tones, mood, etc.) you’ve achieved. Now, you’d like to give this same edit to another photo. You can do so in three different ways.

First, you can redo the whole process of editing once again on another photo. Second, you can sync the photos to share the edits. Third, you can save all the edits, give them a name, and re-use them at any time in the future. These are Presets in a nutshell.

Lightroom Presets Example
Lightroom Presets Example

Ease-of-use

In comparison to Photoshop, Lightroom’s interface is a lot cleaner, and therefore easier to understand for beginners and quicker to navigate.

There’s no one reason why Lightroom is so intuitive to use.

For me, the most important features are descriptive tool names, several shortcuts that improve quality-of-life, and optimized performance that results in smooth photo editing.

Additionally. there’s virtually no learning curve for beginners – you can pick it up within minutes.

When to use Photoshop?

While Lightroom serves as a library for all your photos, Photoshop is focused on single projects that are stored in external files and need to be loaded every time you want to continue working on them.

In regards to photo editing capabilities, it has all the tools that Lightroom has, plus, a lot more. Therefore, Photoshop is a lot more difficult to use than Lightroom and takes a lot longer to master.

For example, I’ve been using Photoshop daily for years, and I still find new features and new combinations of tools that give unique results. Lightroom, on the other hand, I learnt to use within a couple of months.

Photo manipulation

As I have already pointed out, Photoshop has all the editing tools that Lightroom has. You can find them in Filter > Camera Raw Filter or by choosing to import a raw photo into Photoshop.

Besides these tools, Photoshop hosts hundreds of other tools that can be used to create graphics, precisely tweak photos, manipulate images by adding new objects or transforming them, and even create 3D objects and websites.

Photoshop Example of the number of tools
Photoshop example of the number of tools – every tab has dozens of subtabs

Just to give you a quick taste of what Photoshop can do, I’ll list a few key tools:

  • Filters (blur, sharpen, pixelate, distort, etc.)
  • Add text – Photoshop already comes with hundreds of fonts, but it’s easy to add more
  • Add shapes
  • Healing brushes and content-aware tools
  • Blending options – you can add shadows, overlays, outlines, inner shadows, etc.
  • Liquify

For me, Photoshop is the most versatile graphic tool, but it takes quite some time to learn. If you’re willing to invest your time into it, you won’t be sorry.

Layers

Arguably the best part of Photoshop are layers. Simply said, layers are all the edits your performed; however, every edit has its own layer that can be turned on and off, adjusted, or deleted.

Photoshop Example of layers
Photoshop example of layers

Additionally, you can also group the layers, add masks, and a lot more. With the right combination of dozens of tools provided by Photoshop, you can create just about anything. You’re only limited with your imagination.

Multi-purpose

If you’re looking for a one-stop solution for all your design projects and problems – you don’t need to look any further.

I don’t want to sound like I’m overselling Photoshop, but I honestly use it for almost everything.

Here are a few examples of my Photoshop use:

  • Every photo/graphic on Photutorial.com – every photo goes through Photoshop, where I at least crop it, at least. Occasionally, I add arrows, text, blur, and other elements to better illustrate my posts.
  • Fine-tuning my photographs – some photos need more work done than others. I use Photoshop to remove hydro poles, remove sun flares, and fine-tune shadows and highlights.
  • Create social media posts – everything I post on Pinterest and Instagram goes through Photoshop.

Summa summarum, I use Photoshop as both, an addendum to other photo editors and for all my design needs. Alternatively, you could use Canva – which is a great design platform, but too restricted for my needs.

Lightroom vs Photoshop price

While Lightroom and Photoshop used to be available as a one-off purchase, this changed a couple of years ago. Now, both programs are available under a Creative Cloud subscription, starting at $9.99/month.

There are several plans from which you can choose that differ in price, program package, and cloud storage space.

I’ll list all the plans, but you can also check my post on How to buy Lightroom – and save money <- it’s fully applicable to Photoshop, as well.

If you ever run out of cloud storage (this is what the numbers mean), you can always buy more for $9.99/1TB per month.

Additionally, with every plan, you get access to the latest features and updates as soon as they’re released, for free.

Lightroom & Photoshop deals

Lightroom photography plan 1TB icon
$9.99/mo $14.99/mo
  • 1TB Cloud Storage
  • Lightroom on Desktop + Mobile
  • Adobe Spark & Portfolio
Photoshop plan 100GB icon
$20.99/mo $30.99/mo
  • 100GB Cloud Storage
  • Photoshop on Desktop + iPad
  • Adobe Fresco, Portfolio, Fonts & Spark
Photography plan 20GB icon
$9.99/mo $14.99/mo
  • 20GB Cloud Storage
  • Lightroom on Desktop + Mobile
  • Photoshop on Desktop + iPad
  • Adobe Spark & Portfolio
This table is updated daily and guarantees the lowest prices.

Lightroom (1TB) – $9.99/month

  • Lightroom CC on desktop and iPad
  • 1TB of cloud storage
  • Adobe Sparks and Adobe Portfolio

This plan is best for those of you, who prefer working across multiple devices and need a lot of cloud storage space. This way, you can work on your projects from your desktop, tablet, or phone.

But remember – Lightroom CC is the same thing as Mobile Lightroom. With this plan, you won’t be getting Lightroom Classic.

Photoshop (100GB) – $20.99/month

  • Photoshop on desktop and iPad
  • 100GB of cloud storage
  • Adobe Fresco, Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Fonts, and Adobe Spark

If you’re more of an artistic type, who prefers design over photography, this is the plan for you.

100GB of cloud storage is plenty and enough to sync all your projects between desktop and iPad.

Adobe Fresco is a drawing app that makes the drawing process easier. While some might consider this kind of drawing as “cheating”, you owe it to yourself and your talent, to at least give it a try.

Photography (20GB) – $9.99/month

  • Lightroom CC on desktop and iPad
  • Lightroom Classic
  • Photoshop on desktop and iPad
  • 20GB of cloud storage
  • Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Fonts, and Adobe Spark

Finally, this is my personal favourite and the go-to plan for any photographer.

While you will not be getting a lot of cloud storage, you will get the full package of all photography apps you’ll ever need. Plus, for $9.99/month, you don’t have to choose between Lightroom and Photoshop – you get both. ?

If you ever run out of cloud storage, you can buy more for $9.99 per 1TB per month.

How to use Lightroom and Photoshop together?

Let’s stop comparing Lightroom and Photoshop for a second, and think about how you can use them together for better results. Adobe worked hard to make both programs work seamlessly with each other.

What the most photographers do, including me, is to start the editing in Lightroom, which also takes care oh photo organization. After you stop processing a photo in Lightroom, you can quickly export it to Photoshop with Right click > Edit in > Photoshop or by simply clicking command or control E.

It will take you a while to get used to the idea and use it in the best possible way. For this to happen, you will first have to learn to use both tools.

FAQ

I’ve tried answering all your remaining questions, but if you have more, feel free to post a comment below.

Which is better Photoshop or Lightroom?

Which program is better for you depends on your needs. Photographers will benefit from Lightroom’s powerful features and the library that helps keep photos organized. Designers and artists, on the other hand, will be able to create outstanding products using Photoshop’s large repertoire of tools.

Is Lightroom easier than Photoshop?

Lightroom has overall fewer tools and a simpler interface, which makes it easier to use than Photoshop, which is especially advantageous for beginners.

Do you really need Photoshop if you have Lightroom?

In short, if your goal is photography only, then probably not. However, if you want to further manipulate your photos, you will definitely need Photoshop.

Should I edit in Lightroom or Photoshop first?

Photographers usually begin in Lightroom and finish with Photoshop. The main reason for that is the Lightroom library that helps you keep all your photos organized, while Photoshop is better for taking care of single projects.

Final thoughts

Adobe has always produced high-quality programs at a reasonable price.

While many people dislike the new subscription system, it has made programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop, accessible to everyone. Now, both pros and amateurs can use the same software – there are no more excuses for bad photos. 😀

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