Lightroom vs Photoshop: what are the differences?

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While Photoshop and Lightroom really complement each other, it’s important to know the differences.

It may not be immediately apparent, but many people are not aware of the differences between Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

However, if you take a look at the feature set belonging to Photoshop and Lightroom, you will see that they are two separate apps.

Here, we take a look at how the two Adobe image editors differ and, by proxy, where their similarities occur. Let’s take a look at what sets Photoshop apart from Lightroom.

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What Are Lightroom And Photoshop For?

The biggest difference between Photoshop and Lightroom is why they are meant to be used.

While Photoshop started out life as a raster graphics editing application, it is now an industry standard for all kinds of graphics editing and design.

So Photoshop is not only capable of manipulating existing images, it can also be used to create images entirely from scratch. It aims to be a graphic editor and has many tools associated with the creation and editing of graphics.

Lightroom on the other hand, is designed only with converting and editing photographs in RAW image format. It is intended for use by photographers who wish to enhance their photos.

At its heart, Lightroom is a RAW file converter, but it also lets you organize your files (thus acts like a file manager) and manipulate photographs. However, unlike Photoshop, there is no design tool available in Lightroom.

Thus, Photoshop is intended for use by graphic designers to create and manipulate raster graphics, while Lightroom is intended for photographers who want to convert and enhance RAW image files.

What Can Lightroom Do That Photoshop Can’t?

Lightroom might seem like a more simplistic tool than Photoshop, but that’s because it’s built around the workflow rather than the design. Here are some of the main features that you will find in Lightroom but not in Photoshop.

Edition By Lots

Need to apply the same changes to a whole bunch of images? Well, in that case Lightroom should be your workhorse.

Not only is the app capable of applying batch editing to multiple files at once (saving you hours in the process), but it can also apply saved presets to images, which can be downloaded at from other sources, saving you even more work.

Non Destructive Edition

If you’re the type of person who changes your mind after editing an image and there’s no way to get the original file back, then Lightroom offers a tool called “non-destructive editing”.

Every time you edit an image, Lightroom creates a backup. So no matter how many times you edit a photo, you can always go back to a previous step and recover the file.

RAW edition

As mentioned, Lightroom is a RAW file editor, so if you take your photos in RAW format, you can manipulate them immediately without needing a specific tool. In this case, Lightroom is the tool!

Photoshop requires you to have an additional plug-in called Adobe Camera RAW, and doesn’t work as an image editor for this type of file – at least not straight out of the box. Lightroom does.

What Can Photoshop Do That Lightroom Can’t?

However, Photoshop is an incredibly powerful image creation and editing tool that offers maximum functionality.

Here are some of the attributes Photoshop has on Lightroom.

Extended Tool Set

There is no denying that Photoshop has a LOT of tools. This can make it quite an intimidating space for the novice. However, it is these tools that give Photoshop an overall advantage over Lightroom.

While Lightroom is great for doing strictly photo editing tasks, Photoshop can edit any image and can be used to make additions to an image, such as text or other graphics. It can even be used to create a completely new and unique image from scratch.

Layer Editing

If you plan to cut out a snippet of a paper image and then place it on top of another paper image, you’ve basically created a new image with different layers.

Photoshop works the same way. You can copy and paste elements from another image into a separate image, and Photoshop will recognize it as a new layer. You can even manipulate these layers separately to achieve different effects.

Photoshop also lets you add shapes and text to an image, using the tools available on the toolbar. When you do this they will also be added as a new layer and everything can be manipulated independently.

You also have full control over layer placement, as Photoshop will allow you to move a layer closer to the front of a stack of existing layers or to place it behind other layers.


Sometimes you may find that an image has elements that distract from the subject. A trash can that sort of made its way into the background of a wedding shot, for example.

With Photoshop’s compositing tools, you can take snippets from another location in your image and place them over any unsightly imperfections that you think are ruining your photo.

You can even take completely separate image elements and use them for composition purposes, such is the versatility that Photoshop offers.

Detailed Edition

Photoshop is so powerful that it can be used to modify the smallest details of an image. It works at the pixel level, so even if there is a one pixel wide spot in your image, Photoshop can deal with it.

Obviously this means that you can make some very subtle edits that can really improve your images and make them more appealing to those viewing them. Lightroom is not capable of this degree of editing.

READ ALSO: Top 8 Best Sites to Download Free Photoshop Brushes

Lightroom Cons. Photoshop

To be completely honest, we shouldn’t really think of Lightroom and Photoshop in a “negative” way.

The two programs complement each other, so you can batch edit your images using Lightroom and then refine the details with Photoshop.

This is where it will pay off to know some of the basic Photoshop skills for beginners.

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