Photoshop and Lightroom: What’s the Difference?


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My first professional photos were taken with a film camera. I was using slide film to shoot for a car magazine. Two years later, I made the switch to digital and a whole new workflow was created. First, I had to choose the photos that I liked and then edit them using a photo editor program. Finally, I had to send them to my boss. This is all pretty common nowadays, right? Sure. There are many ways to accomplish this, especially when you consider Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. What is the difference between these two? That’s quite a question. Let’s answer it.

The most important point before we begin

Now, I will talk about Lightroom like it was one product. There are currently Two versions of Lightroom There are two versions: Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC. This is Lightroom Classic CC. It does local file management and is desktop-only (like Photoshop). It offers the most direct comparison of the two. Lightroom CC, a cloud-based software, can be used on both desktop and mobile. There are many other differences. You will need to pay for Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC if you want them both (Classic or not). Creative Cloud subscription. Currently, a Photography Plan that includes Photoshop CC, as well as both Lightroom flavors, is available for $9.99/mo (paid annually). The $49.99/mo plan includes all apps in the Creative Cloud suite and is the next most affordable option. I use Illustrator so much. That’s it.

File Management

The other day I was able to do a shop tour for a magazine. It will be available on newsstands in the next few months. When I returned from the shoot, I had two cameras, and multiple memory cards, and needed a way for me to quickly and efficiently process my photos. I used to pull up the Finder (Mac since 2006), then switch to Icon view, and then manually preview each shot. The ones that I hated, I’d tag red. The ones that I loved, I’d tag green. It was tedious, it was. Lightroom has changed the game. Lightroom allows me to view all my files simultaneously when I open it. I can import images from my memory cards and sort and categorize them as I wish. I can even use templates if necessary. This means that I can complete my initial purging quicker, which allows me to move on to the next stage: picking the good ones. I can organize things in folders and create any workflow I want. It has shaved hours from my processing time. Photoshop does not have this feature. I expect my computer to speed up if I open multiple photos. Because Photoshop is hard at work, Helicarrier levels are possible. It’s not possible to open multiple files at once and move them around quickly. It’s Lightroom, all the way. In this instance, Lightroom is the clear winner if you need to move multiple files and process them.

Non-Destructive Editing

Admittedly, I was late for the Lightroom game. Non-destructive editing was one of the main reasons I began using it. Let’s get into it a little. Forget photos for a moment. This is written in Byword. I can save the text file by hitting command-s, and it’s done. What if I wanted the document to remain exactly as it is now? Cool? Let’s suppose that I need to make some edits but want to keep the original document the same. You can’t do it, right? You should save another copy of the file. This will give you two or more versions of your document at different stages of editing. This is how Photoshop works. You can save new versions if you make changes to files but want to keep the original file intact. Docs will end with -v1, or -v2, depending on the format. Lightroom is a different kind of photography. You are not changing the original document if you edit a Photo in Lightroom. Lightroom, however, preserves your original photo as it is and separates the edits as instructed. You can keep your photo factory-fresh each time you work on it. Also, you don’t need to make a million adjustments if something goes wrong. It is called non-destructive editing. It’s amazing. Handy, right?

Varying Skill Sets

Many people find Lightroom easier than Photoshop. It’s almost the reverse for me: Since CS2 I have been using Photoshop, so it feels more natural. However, that doesn’t mean they have to be ignored. Lightroom is one of the all-in-one tools that Ikea sells. You’ll be able to put the cabinet together quickly with its drill, hammer, and other tools. It is accessible to anyone. Photoshop, however, is an 84-inch Snap-On toolbox just like the one you would find at a car shop. It is almost impossible to resist. You can use this tool to mount or disassemble the front end of a 1981 Chevy truck. There is a learning curve. It’s possible to figure it out but it will take effort and time. Sometimes you may need it, sometimes not. So make sure you have the right tools for the job. Let’s now put it back in my example. Lightroom is open and I can offload all my memory cards to one location. I can apply filters and edits to any photos I like. It’s all very simple. However, I found that dust had built up on the lens of one of my favorite outdoor shots, and couldn’t fix it in Lightroom. The file was opened in Photoshop. I removed the dust and it is now ready to go. Let me return to my metaphor. It was the small file processing toolbox and the large toolbox for manipulating photos. Talking of…

Manipulation vs. Editing

One way to see the differences between these programs is to compare manipulation and editing. Lightroom allows you to edit photos. You can easily manipulate images with PhotoshopExample: Let me tell you that I want to take a picture of a girl riding in a subway car. Make it look like she is on a beach. This is manipulation. It’s all about Photoshop. What if you wanted to improve the shot of the subway car and add cool filters to make it perfect? That’s it for Lightroom. This is not to suggest that Lightroom can’t be used for powerful tasks. Photoshop is the best tool for changing the appearance of a photo.

Your choice

Which app is right for you? Lightroom is a great tool for photographers. Photoshop is a great tool for graphic designers.       But, really, why would you choose? Both can be purchased for the lowest Adobe plan, so there is no reason to make this a yearly subscription. Sophie’s Choice situation. Instead, enjoy the fact that both can be used whenever you want.

About the author

Kobe Digital is a unified team of performance marketing, design, and video production experts. Our mastery of these disciplines is what makes us effective. Our ability to integrate them seamlessly is what makes us unique.