A question asked often by those new to the world of photo editing is “should I get photoshop or Lightroom”? or “what is the difference between the two”? In short, the differences are enormous.
I do understand the confusion. After all “Photoshop” has the word photo in it. Therefore, it makes sense that it is the software that I should use for editing a photo! Well, not so fast. When Photoshop was originally designed, pretty much all it was good for was to do basic manipulation and color correction. Editing images was what it did, so it got the name Photoshop. However, over the years Photoshop has become much more than just a photo editor and has long since outgrown its name.
Today with Photoshop CC you can create 3D assets, Animate and paint a reproduction of the Mona Lisa if you want. Visually, there is really nothing you cannot create in Photoshop. The axiom “the only limitation is your imagination” is true with Photoshop. And, yes you can still edit your photos if you like.
Lightroom however, was built specifically wth the photographer in mind. Lightroom does one thing, edit photos. It is also a great cataloguer. With it you can tag and add meta data to your images. You can manage the existing metadata and organize the images anyway you want.
The editing process:
When editing a image in Lightroom the image is always “flat”. All the edits are applied over the top of the entire image. Now there are tools to specify specific areas and mask off others. But wherever the adjustments is, it effects the entire image below the area of application. The tools in Lightroom are restricted to what you would expect as a photographer. Exposure, contrast, saturation, curves ect. These tools are focused on “developing” the image. In fact these tools are located in what Lightroom calls the “develop” module.
Photoshop works quit differently from Lightroom when it comes to editing. Probably the most notable is Photoshop has a layer workflow. This means you can break your image apart into separate layers that are stacked on top of each other, i.e. not “flat”. So, if I want to make an adjustment to my image and I have separated it into layers, I can simply apply my adjustment to that layer without it affecting the rest of the image or anything on top of it in the layer order. It has the same “development” tools as Lightroom, but they are only a small portion of the entirety of the tools Photoshop offers. Photoshop is a compositing package while Lightroom is a image manager and tuner.
In the end, I’d say that it really is not a question of “Lightroom or Photoshop”. They are two very different programs. Both very good at what they do. Photoshop is an asset creator. A majority of the time I am creating something in Photoshop, I am starting with a blank canvas. It is literally impossible to have a blank canvas in Lightroom. Lightroom on the other hand is an asset organizer. Photoshop has no cataloging abilities. I would not want to processes a large amount of images at the same time in Photoshop. Lightroom is great for that. They compliment each other very well. . And with the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan you get both Photoshop and Lightroom for only ten bucks a month (not sponsored).