Adobe Lightroom vs. Photoshop: Side By Side Comparison

Lightroom and Photoshop are the two main photo editing products from Adobe, and both can produce very similar images. However, upon closer inspection, the two aim to serve completely different users.

If you’re not sure which product to use, check out our guide on which of these two products may be better for you. 

Whether you’re venturing into photography, visual arts, or just need a way to spruce up your Instagram photos, image processing, and post-production software is an important tools to have in the Internet age.

While cameras on phones and in the consumer market continue to improve, there’s a growing need to ensure that those photos look the best they possibly can. This is where image processing and post-production come into play.

As far as the tools available to perform these feats go, there are dozens available that will vary critically in price, value to the consumer, and intended user. However, two will almost always continue to be recommended above the rest—Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

Lightroom and Photoshop may both be Adobe products, but both are designed to tackle unique situations and won’t be the best for all types of image manipulators.

That’s why we’ve taken a close look at Adobe Lightroom vs. Photoshop and worked to come up with a comprehensive breakdown of what these two products accomplish, create, and make. We’ll also work to answer the pressing question: which is better?


Before we get into which software is better, we need an intimate understanding of what these products provide for the end user.

Both Adobe Photoshop, as well as Adobe Lightroom, can be considered image processors and post-production suites. These are both fancy terms that let users know that they can hope to manipulate an image in a variety of different ways.

For example, let’s say you’ve taken some photos on your most recent vacation, but you want to focus on certain elements in your photos and make the colors pop. Using both pieces of software, you can crop your image, sharpen up elements, and increase the saturation to make your image look larger than life.

Almost any image you see on Instagram, in magazines, or across the internet has had some image processing done do it. This means someone has gone in after the production of the image to make it look better or outright change the elements in the pictures. This process is also called post-production.

So what does this all mean for you?

Generally speaking, if you’re working in the visual arts, you’ll need image processing. But that term is quite large, and not everyone is looking to do the same thing with photos. While you may want to make colors pop in your vacation photography, for example, that may not be all you wish to you.

You might want to edit the photo so that the mountains look closer, or you might want to erase other beachgoers so that your photo by the ocean looks more barren than it was. In some cases, you may want to create an image rather than manipulate it.

These processes can be very complex and require software equipped to handle all sorts of different tasks with imaging based on a variety of tools. The devil is in the details, and it is how

Lightroom and Photoshop handle these smaller tasks that will determine which one is right for you.


Let’s take a closer look at Adobe Photoshop.

Adobe describes its Photoshop software as an imaging and design application. Photoshop presents creators with a large range of tools and settings that give total control over to them—but at a significant cost.

Photoshop has been the go-to resource for just about any image editing for decades, and if you’re more familiar with Photoshop than Lightroom, we wouldn’t be surprised. Photoshop offers many tools for animators and illustrators, but perhaps their biggest claim to fame is the manipulation of pre-existing photos.

Photoshop’s major selling point is versatility. With presets, plug-ins, mods, and a host of online resources, you can create just about anything that can be seen with this software. In fact, Photoshop can render images in three dimensions—giving creators the ability to place objects in their pre-existing photos with true depth.

However, Photoshop’s biggest selling point is also its biggest flaw. Photoshop is notorious for a steep learning curve and relatively little mercy for smaller modifications. This often means consulting online resources and materials to uncover how to perform simple tasks like after a photo’s colors and saturation.

Still, you cannot take away the fact that Photoshop can accomplish what would usually require several different applications. By being a jack of all trades (and a master of quite a few as well), Adobe has created software that’s popular with industry professionals and amateurs alike.


Photoshop may be especially valuable as an all-in-one tool, but Adobe’s Lightroom offering shows that the company knows that certain individuals need ease of use more than they need superfluous features.

Adobe advertises Lightroom as a photo service and puts special attention on photography. Lightroom is highly focused on file organization as well—allowing photographers to organize their photos by date, subject, context, and even search for them with specially created algorithmic terms.

Lightroom gives photographers the tools to edit and adjust their photos as needed right in the interface. Users can adjust the size, brightness, white balance, saturation, and more with the click of a button and just as quickly undo the changes if need be.

Think of Lightroom as a separate file system for your photos. However, instead of clogging up your hard drive, Lightroom uploads your content to the Adobe Creative Cloud, which grants you access to your photos anywhere from here to the other end of the world.

While Lightroom’s color and photo processing features are just as powerful as Photoshop’s, you won’t find many other features that compare to the other software. If we compared Adobe Lightroom vs. Photoshop regarding features, the clear winner would have to be Photoshop.

However, where Photoshop poses an all-in-one solution to photo problems, Lightroom is hyper-focused on pleasing one market far better than Photoshop ever could.


As you can see, both Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are both programs that accomplish similar feats. Both also have the distinction of having critical acclaim and high marks from industry professionals.

However, we do need to determine which is the better program.

To answer this question, you’ll need to answer a few of your own. Consider the following when it comes to photo processing:

  • Do I need to manipulate pre-existing images or create new ones?
  • How much time do I have to learn new software?
  • Do I need these images organized?
  • Do I need 3D image processing?
  • How important is a cloud-based workflow to me?

These questions will help lead you to the right side of the Adobe Lightroom vs. Photoshop debate.

If you’re an illustrator, animator, or image creator, we’d have to recommend Photoshop to you. It is the only one of the two products that allow for pure creation and assembly of other images to create something wholly unique.

Photoshop can accomplish just as much as Lightroom can as well as tackle unique situations that can solve just about any image problem. You’ll need to spend a great deal of time reading tutorials and becoming intimately familiar with the unintuitive interface, but there may not be better software on the market that can tackle what Photoshop can.

Are you a photographer, social media influencer, or hobbyist looking to improve your photos? For you, we’d recommend skipping Photoshop altogether and going straight for Adobe Lightroom.

Lightroom is intuitive, easy to use, and provides a clear means through which you can organize the photos you’ve taken. While simple, Lightroom is powerful and can manipulate your images in hyper-specific ways to allow you to have just as much control over the final product as Photoshop—if not more.

If we’d have to choose a winner between the two products, we’d be remiss if not to say that Adobe Photoshop is more capable of creation than Lightroom. However, most people will not need the extra features included with Photoshop and definitely won’t need to undergo the steep learning curve to use it.

We hope that our guide here has given you a good place to start with Adobe, the Creative Cloud Suite, and specifically which of their two major photo editing products best aligns with your personal needs.

No matter which product you choose, we hope that you take the time to learn the ropes and see why Adobe products are some of the best in the world for creators, influencers, and innovators. With the right tools, you can take your visual art to the next level.

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