A question that I get pretty frequently is from new photographers who are looking to learn how to edit and manage their digital images. Much of the debate for these photographers is choosing between the two big pieces of software that they’ve heard all about: Lightroom and Photoshop. Let’s get to the bottom of which you should learn and be recommending to your photographer friends.
What exactly are the differences between Lightroom and Photoshop? It’s hard to pick a place to start! Although both programs are used by photographers to edit images, the differences are pretty strong.
Photoshop has tons of uses, and has been around for many years now. Photoshop is what we call a pixel-level editor. We’re making changes at the “pixel level” with great precision. Photoshop also has Adobe Camera RAW built in that lets us apply lots of adjustments to the images, such as exposure.
Lightroom is a program that is tailored around photography use. As you probably already know, it has a lot of tools for both managing and editing our photos. As opposed to Photoshop, Lightroom doesn’t edit on the pixel level. I’ve heard Lightroom’s spot edits refereed to as “region specific” , and we can of course apply edits to the whole image such as exposure, contrast, and much much more. 😀
Photoshop will actually let you get down to the pixel level and tweak images on a pixel by pixel basis. This differs from Lightroom’s “region edits.” Neither is perfect, and each system is great depending on the situation.
In addition to all of those, Lightroom’s big claim to fame is the non-destructive image editing style. We edit to catalogs and the edits don’t change our image until we export. Don’t forget about all of the modules that let us build web galleries, books, slideshows, and much more.
When we talk about the Lightroom difference, one of the biggest differences that I think of is the way that the image editing system works.
I’m not here to specifically choose one solution. I’m a big Photoshop user and love it as well. But if a photographer had a dozen hours to spare to learn just one of these programs, I’d have to recommend Lightroom. Lightroom is a piece of software that’s built by photographers, with photographers exclusively in mind. Photoshop is for users of
If you learn Photoshop from front to back, you’ll surely be able to handle all of your image needs. The problem is that the work it takes to learn Photoshop is simply overwhelming. It’s feasible to learn the majority of Lightroom. It’s impossible to learn the majority of Photoshop.
It’s feasible to learn the majority of Lightroom. It’s practically impossible to learn the majority of Photoshop.
My advice would be to master Lightroom as much as possible, and try to fill in Photoshop knowledge as you go. There are some things that you can only do in Photoshop, period. Advanced, pixel level image editing basically requires Photoshop, but it may surprise you to find how much you can do in Lightroom as you explore it in-depth.
It’s also not necessary to choose just one! With some Lightroom knowledge, we can send an image to Photoshop to edit, and then send it right back to Lightroom. We’ll be taking a look at this and so much more in the future.
Do you do the majority of your work in Lightroom or Photoshop? How does each fit or fall short of your needs? Let’s get a good conversation going – I’d love to hear your thoughts.