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Adobe Photoshop vs Lightroom: Which one should you use when?

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  • 5 min read

In earlier times, when photography was done in huge boxed cameras with film and then developed in dark rooms, the things you could do with the image you got were limited. With the advent of technology though, today the possibilities are endless.

If you’re new to photography chances are you’re looking for a way to post-process your pictures. Most photographers tend to overlook how much of a difference proper editing can make in their images. However, choosing the right tool is critical.

Which editing software to choose is always a dreaded question in a beginner’s mind. Out of the host of options available, these two stand out the most — Photoshop and Lightroom, both by Adobe

But choosing between the two can be confusing at times. For instance, most people even confuse one for another thinking that they work the same way. In reality, they’re entirely different.

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What is Photoshop?

Photoshop is perhaps the most popular software by Adobe and hence, is more popular of the two. It was initially meant to function as a digital photo editor but its features have been significantly expanded since then. Now it is used by graphics designers, architects, photographers and a bunch of other people.


It is also known as a Pixel-level editor. This means that you can control your image down to every individual pixel that makes it up.

In its latest iteration, Photoshop is a massive software with hundreds of tools and plugins available for almost all kinds of image manipulation needs. This is where Photoshop is headed, it is more of an image manipulation software.


  • Great image manipulation capabilities
  • Pixel level editing capability.
  • Provides greater control over image
  • Integrated Stock library
  • An overall all-purpose software


  • A little intimidating for beginners
  • Progress monitoring facility is not present in fewer tools.
  • Hefty price tag (INR 16,236 per year)

Also read: 5 free alternatives to Adobe Photoshop

What is Lightroom?

Lightroom is more along the lines of your conventional photo editor. It pretty much consists of every tool you’ll need to tone your image down to perfection. Consider it a subset of Photoshop features that are required by most photographers.

However, Lightroom’s capabilities extend way beyond just image editing. It also helps you import, organise, manage and look up your images real quick. So overall, Lightroom forms an incredibly versatile photo editor as well as a management tool.

Also, unlike Photoshop, Lightroom is a non-destructive editor. This means that you don’t have to worry about saving your projects and then losing the original image. Lightroom has no save button at all. All your edits are kept in a catalogue which doubles up as a database of all edits and history.


  • Built-in file management/cataloguing
  • Non-destructive editing
  • Fast syncing of editing steps
  • A bunch of available presets
  • Easier to learn and cheaper than Photoshop ( roughly INR 8.5k per year)


  • No layers or blend modes
  • Limited editing/manipulation options
  • Minimal graphics design elements

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When should you use which?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. You pick the software more relevant to the type of editing that you have to do. It can either be photoshop or lightroom or sometimes even both.

However, one software does some things better than the other.

For instance, Photoshop has a bunch of tools that can completely change the way your image looks. These tools are also present in Lightroom, but the ones in photoshop do a better job. Pixel level retouching, compositing images, stitching panoramas and other advanced healing options are just way better in Photoshop than anywhere else.

On the other hand, Lightroom is perfect for most basic photo editing, including, but not limited to, cropping, white balance, exposure, histogram adjustments. It doubles up as a photo management tool as well. If you shoot in RAW, there’s no reason for you not to use Lightroom. It’s also way easier to learn than Photoshop.

So it comes down to your aim with the project. But if we were to point the primary difference between the two, it’s that Photoshop is more of an image manipulation tool while Lightroom is more inclined towards photo editing.

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: