Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which Do You Need More?

"That's been Photoshopped" is something you hear often but have you ever heard anyone say "that's been Lightroomed"? Does your answer to that question tell you which form of software is better, or which you need more?

Both Lightroom and Photoshop are part of the Adobe suite of editing tools and if you're like me, you have access to both as part of your Creative Cloud subscription. However, some photographers out there might be looking at only using one. Is that a good idea and can it even be done? In this video, The School of Photography's Marc Newton runs us through the uses of each software platform and then gives us his verdict. While I might not necessarily agree completely with his opinion, what I do like about his videos is that he almost always uses examples and clearly explains his reasoning for things. Of course, that doesn't necessarily make him right but it does at least give you a good insight into his mindset and why he's making his choices.

The most interesting point that he brings up, which is perhaps a platform for a much wider debate, is the fact that post-production is an undeniable necessity if you want your photos to compare with other professionals. Personally, I love digital art and the modern day ability to manipulate images in whatever way you want, but what are the differences between Lightroom and Photoshop for editing and for your particular needs? Newton uses a portrait image and a landscape image here to make his point. 

The verdict on which one's the winner? If you're looking for one or the other, you might be disappointed. But it's best to watch the video so you can get a clearer understanding of what each does and then go from there. Personally, I use both every day but I do know many who use one or the other exclusively, so it does come down to what you know or what your needs are. What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Lead image courtesy of Pixabay user trainer 24

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42 Comments

My computer is blazing fast and I need to manipulate photos quickly and selectively, so I use Photoshop of 99% of my work. If I shoot some event (e.g., daughter's graduation), I'll just run the batch through LR, but otherwise PS is my editor of choice.

Iain Stanley's picture

Yeah to be honest I’m pretty much the same. If I want to do anything that might be related to LR in terms of editing I just use the Camera RAW plugin

I use the Camera RAW plugin a lot, even in my JPEG PS editing. The Shadows and Highlights adjustments look more natural than the native PS ones (can't figure out why they're different), and I like having access to the Texture, Clarity and DeHaze sliders.

Stuart Carver's picture

I’m fairly new to photography so I have started with Affinity, I have now added Capture One pro as my RAW converter and catalogue system with Affinity as a plug in for touching up images if needed.

Nothing against LR and PS but I’m happy with my setup.

I always prefer to get the main work done in C1 though.

well since I dont need LR at all I`d go with PS :) ..

Motti Bembaron's picture

Lightroom for 95% of my work. I do everything including light retouching in Lightroom. Photoshop is used for deeper manipulation. The only time I use Photoshop almost as much as Lightroom is for product photography.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Photography work: 90%ish LR here.
It's used for the odd cloning job or trimming. That's about it.

Rk K's picture

There are alternatives to Lightroom that are just as good, if not better. No credible alternatives to Photoshop though.

Ed Sanford's picture

Which ones?

Rk K's picture

C1, DXO, Darktable, Raw Therapee, even Luminar.

Ed Sanford's picture

Thanks for citing. I am using luminar as a plug in to LR. I just find it lacking in ease of operation, no soft proofing, and no print module. Also, how do you migrate over thousands of retouched images which can only be read by LR? I spoke with Adobe yesterday and I am going to extend my plan for 5 years at the current rate which is about what PS used to cost and watch these alternatives shake out.

Pete Whittaker's picture

Exactly my thinking, for what it does for image manipulation I haven't found any good alternatives to PS but there are a lot of good RAW developers (I don't care so much about the LR cataloging).

Ed Sanford's picture

But it is tied with photoshop from a marketing standpoint. How do you cut the cord. In my case, I would give up PS.

Pete Whittaker's picture

You're right Ed. I know of no way to get PS separate from LR under Adobe's subscription model. I guess the thing is to at least some of us, those other programs that Rk K mentioned above seem so preferable to LR that we're willing to pay for the PS+LR subscription, only install and use PS and pay separately to use another RAW developer of our choice.

Leigh Miller's picture

Lightroom mobile on my iPad pro....designed from the ground up without all the legacy issues of the desktop version.

PS for when I need to retouch

Daniel Lee's picture

If I could only use one or the other it would definitely be PS. I don't use the cataloging in LR and only do the basic adjustments that can be done in ACR. The main use LR has for me is a DNG converter on import.

Kirk Darling's picture

I do commercial portraiture, which means I never have more than a 80-150 exposures from a job. I do them in Canon DPP and then go straight to Photoshop. Inasmuch as I always use Photoshop for my consumer portraiture and never use Lightroom, that's my answer to the question.

Iain Lea's picture

If I have a good model in front of the camera then 100% C1. If I have a normal person in front of the camera then 5% C1 and 95% PS.

Warwick Cairns's picture

I no longer have Photoshop - my copy stopped working when I upgraded my Mac to Mojave - and to get it back I’d have to move to the subscription model and start paying Adobe every month. So I decided against that. I can honestly say I don’t miss it. All my processing now is done in Lightroom.
The beauty of it is that it’s nondestructive. You can always go back to a picture months or years later and process it differently.
I also feel that while Lightroom helps you optimise the pictures you take, Photoshop leads to people faking their images - taking out things that were there and putting in things that weren’t. It can lead to sterile, unrealistic images.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Landscape/wildlife photographer here... I feel that if you can't edit the image in LR, then it's not a good enough image. Anything that needs the extreme capabilities of Photoshop will not reflect reality anymore (just my opinion here!).

I do use Photoshop sometimes for complex content aware fill in specific situations: like when a raindrop comes on my lens during a thunderstorm at the exact place that you can't just use LR's spot removal tool.

Simon Patterson's picture

Well I use Photoshop but not Lightroom so I find the question very easy to answer!

Matthias Dengler's picture

Why is there even such a question?
Lightroom is a raw-converter, Photoshop an editing software.
End of story.

Kenneth Muhlestein's picture

That's what I was thinking. It's barely comparable.

user-206807's picture

I agree, but in fact Camera Raw is the raw converter and you can use Camera Raw directly from Photoshop.

Matthias Dengler's picture

yeah well, sure. The only advantage I see in LR is the batch editing and the library function (exporting and renaming). Other than that, I wouldn't use Lightroom, as Photoshop has "Lightroom" / Camera Raw built in.

Warwick Cairns's picture

Lightroom allows you to edit all the major parameters of your photographs, including highlights, shadows, sharpness, contrast, colour profile and so on. It’s a photographer’s image editing and optimisation tool. And as I say, it’s nondestructive- it keeps your raw image safe, like a photo negative. Photoshop permanently changes your pictures but allows you to add stuff - layers, graphics, text etc. Which makes it better for graphic designers.

Matthias Dengler's picture

That is pure nonsense.
No commercial job will be done without Photoshop.
If you only sharpen your images in Lightroom, I'm very sorry for your images. There are way better ways to sharpen you images in Lightroom. Please show me, how you want to properly create masks to match product and skin colours in Lightroom.

If you keep a background copy of your Original file and keep it locked without merging it all down, nothing has been changed forever. Based on your statements I don't think you have any professional / commercial experience, which is fine depending on your level and aspirations. But please, don't generalise.

Keith Meinhold's picture

As a graphic designer (17 years) and someone who does both product photography and portraiture I use LR all the time, usually LR first and PS second, but often need both particularly when dealing with a large number of images LR. As for text/layout etc, that goes to AI or ID as far as I'm concerned.

Warwick Cairns's picture

I think we're talking about different things. You're talking about product photography and commercial shoots - things for which I'd probably use Photoshop too.
I'm talking more about photojournalism and the sort of photography practised by Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Diane Arbus, Garry WInogrand, and the Magnum photographers.

Matthias Dengler's picture

In Photojournalism Photoshop is not even allowed, sometimes not even raw photography - as in Reuters.

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