Photoshop vs Lightroom for beginners

Shifting to the digital era has led to the usage of technology in almost every sector. In photography, one of the most common questions I get asked is, “What software should I use to edit my photos?” There are a lot of options but the most popular options are photoshop and Lightroom, both by Adobe and both need a monthly subscription. Beginners often struggle to see the difference between the two software programs. They are both used in the photographic community, yet each serves a unique purpose. Understanding what makes these programs different from each other will help you make an informed choice while selecting the right tool for your picture editing.


Differences between Photoshop and Lightroom

Destructive vs. Non-destructive

A critical difference between photoshop and Lightroom is how they treat your image during and after editing. Lightroom is a non-destructive photo editor meaning it does not permanently alter the original copy of your file. On the other hand, photoshop is a destructive editor that manipulates pictures directly from the original copy. Therefore, when you use Lightroom, you can always access the primary image from your computer. It saves the edits you make on a separate file known as a catalog and preserves the changes made without modifying the image itself. Photoshop helps end up with a newly edited image and only access the original photo if you saved a copy. However, you can make your photoshop non-destructive by keeping three separate files, including your original image, a large Photoshop PSD, and exported document with final edits.

Editing and adjustment

Adjusting means applying changes to color, lighting, and sharpness of the entire file without adding materials to the original camera photo. But, editing manipulates an image, altering particular areas and attaching content such as shapes, text, or other pictures on top of the primary one. Therefore, Lightroom is mainly meant for adjustment while photoshop does editing and brightens underexposed images or can increase or decrease photos sharpness. Also, Lightroom uses a brush, shape, and gradients to manipulate selected areas in a picture. Note that the domain of Photoshop is actual creative editing. Hence, you can use Select and Mask tools from photoshop to cut or place an image on another with different backgrounds.


Lightroom is designed to handle file transmission on hard drive, sharing, organizing, editing, printing, adding keywords, and creating slides for effective workflow. Photoshop cannot make transfers, organize images or make photo books. However, depending on the tradeoffs you are willing to accept, photoshop is outstanding in sheer editing power. Additionally, you can integrate it with Adobe bridge for importing and organizing photos, hence offering a comprehensive Lightroom-like workflow experience.

Final Thoughts

Excellent and reliable software is vital for tasks involving making changes to an image. Therefore, as a beginner, you can start with Lightroom, and once you learn its functionalities, you can later use photoshop to open new doors. Also, for images from your camera card, apply Lightroom for organizing and fixing light, crop, and color. Notably, for deep image manipulation, such as removing people or objects, adding shapes, and applying artistic filters, you will need a photoshop program.