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Should You Use Photoshop or Lightroom to Process Your Photographs?

Updated on September 10, 2013

Every person is different and every level of Photographer will have their own preference between the two programs. Neither answer is right. It all depends on what you need in a program and what features will help assist you with whatever it is that you're trying to accomplish.

If you're going more towards the artsy side of Photography and want a program that will allow you to composite and add elements to it, Photoshop has a lot more features and ability to accommodate that process. If you're looking to process photos from a wedding or a photo shoot and want the ease of affecting all your photos the same way, Lightroom easily matches settings from one photo to another and allow you to export with special restrictions.

General Breakdown between Lightroom and Photoshop

Before any big purchase or investment, it's always a good idea to know whether or not it's worth learning a new piece of software or spending money on it. Below you will find the features of processing photographs that I find important to compare.

Builds a lasting photo catalog.
Ability to copy presets and settings to multiple photographs.
Yes, but very limited
Easily exports multiple photos.
Yes, with multiple settings and adjustments.
Preview different effects and looks on your photos.
Allows for Multiple Layers for image manipulations.
Allow RAW processing such as black and white levels, highlights, saturation, white balance, etc.
Allows for specific fixes and problems. (like red eye, masking and fly aways)
Yes, but very limited.
Saves RAW information and history
Yes, to a certain degree
Ability to flag, edit, reject and sort through multiple photos
Ability to edit and view Metadata.

My Choice of Lightroom Highlights

After using Lightroom, I've fallen in love with a couple of the program features. Depending on how serious you are, or if you have a photography business the following may interest you and help you with creating a better workflow.

Lightroom Interface
Lightroom Interface | Source
  • Ability to easily export photographs. You can check a box and have the program automatically re-size all of your photos you're exporting, as well as watermark all of them. You can also customize how your watermark will display on your photo.
  • Easily copy settings from one photo to another. This allows you to adjust the exposure, blacks, whites, highlights, saturation, etc on one photo and then copy the settings to all of your other photos. This is a HUGE time saver, especially if you've take the same settings with multiple photographs.
  • Ability to use presets and preview them easily. If you've ever used the color grading software, Magic Bullet, you'll be able to appreciate this feature. Basically you can "try on" multiple effects for your photos just by placing your cursor over the name of the effect. This saves time as all you have to do is move your cursor down the list and you don't have to worry about undoing your settings.
  • Import and build a photo catalog. This one isn't as dire to me right now, as I mainly take photographs for myself and archive them for me, but it's a great way to help stay organized if you don't already manually organize your photographs and have a system.

My Choice of Photoshop Highlights

Photoshop is a tool that easily allows you to manipulate images to suite your needs. It has built in RAW editing that allows you to adjust your photos before being imported as a JPEG for easier editing.

Camera RAW window in Photoshop
Camera RAW window in Photoshop | Source
  • Powerful tools for manipulations. Photoshop has more than a handful of image manipulation tools that will help correct fish eye, perspective, exposure problems and allow you to fix fly away hairs and pesky tourists.
  • Multiple layers to composite different elements. This is an excellent resource for getting more composited photographs or adding different elements on top of a base image.
  • Adjust RAW images. You can adjust raw images and change the lens distortion, highlights, shadows, blacks and whites. You can also adjust multiple photos at the same time by select more than one photo in RAW editor window. However, the RAW editing capabilities are very limited, but if you are just starting out, this is a great way to get your head around the power of shooting in RAW.
  • Applying presets and effects on your photos. By using action scripts, you can streamline adding different looks for your photos.

An in-depth look into the history of Lightroom and a comparison between Photoshop and Lightroom.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

As you can probably see from the above highlights, I lean more toward using Lightroom as I find it easier to adjust the settings between multiple photos. Before, when I wasn't taking as many photographs or multiple photos shot with the same settings, I was content with using Photoshop and working around the Camera RAW window.

However, as I've become more serious about photography, I've found the interface, exporting functions and libraries of Lightroom to be what I'm looking for when editing photos. I like being able to preview my looks easily and quickly, and I like that I can edit the RAW file easily.

If you're unsure of which program, I would suggest downloading the demo of both programs and trying them for yourself. Nobody knows what will work best for you other than yourself and you may find you have a preference or enjoy one setting over the other that will make your decision.


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    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 

      3 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Very educational. Just wondering what's your opinion regarding google picasa? It does offer some of the image editing with much easier interface and it is free.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Congrats on this HOTD, Noelle. This is very useful for everyone who needs help with Photoshop. Voted up!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      The thing about Photoshop is that it was designed for graphic artist type photographers that want to be able to work all the way from pixel to whole photograph and to be able to merge multiple layers like printers do. This is far more than most users need on a regular basis.

      Lightroom is designed to process pictures that are close to what you wanted quickly and easily and is much more user friendly to the average photographer who has many shots that just require the odd small tweaking. There are quite a few professionals that use both, but in the different ways you described.

      I found your comments interesting and useful.

    • James Vicmudo profile image

      Arvin James Vicmudo 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      i'm a graphic artist that mainly uses photoshop and paint tool sai and i found your article very well written that objectively compares the two software evenly. By the way, congratulations on the hub of the day award.


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