Photoshop vs Lightroom

Whenever Lola and I post images on our website and the Facebook fan page, we get plenty of requests on post-processing from our readers. One question that keeps coming back all the time is about Lightroom vs Photoshop – many beginners do not know differences between Lightroom and Photoshop and have a hard time choosing which one to get first. In this article, I will show the main differences between these two software packages from Adobe, what they are used for and what you can do in Photoshop that you cannot in Lightroom. Most of this article will also apply for Aperture vs Photoshop discussion, because Aperture and Lightroom share very similar functionality.

Photoshop vs Lightroom

Photoshop Compared to Lightroom

1) What is Photoshop?

Photoshop was originally created as a tool for simple image editing, which since 1990 has grown into a monster software suite with many functions and capabilities to accommodate graphic designers, architects, animators, publishers, photographers and even 3D artists. Think of it as a Cadillac of image editing with an unlimited potential that can grow not only with software updates and upgrades, but also with special plugins known as “filters” from Adobe and third party software companies. Want to stitch multiple photographs into a single panorama? Or create a High Dynamic Range photograph? Or get rid of skin blemishes? Or perhaps make a person look taller, shorter, thinner or fatter? Yup, Photoshop can do all that; and much much more. It would be pointless to try to list what Photoshop can do, because it would probably be a never-ending list. The term “Photoshopped” is now a part of our daily jargon, because we are constantly exposed to altered images that might look realistic while being fake – that’s the power of Photoshop.

2) What is Lightroom?

The full name for Lightroom is “Adobe Photoshop Lighroom”, which may sound confusing, because it contains the word “Photoshop”. In a way, it makes sense, because Lightroom can be considered a subset of Photoshop with specific functionality that Photoshop does not and probably will never have. It was created for the main purpose of managing a large number of images, keeping them organized in one place. Photoshop is a very advanced image editing tool, but when you edit hundreds of images, keeping them organized becomes a problem over time. Before I started using Lightroom, my photography workflow solely consisted of Adobe Camera RAW (which allows opening, manipulating and converting RAW files) and Photoshop (which I used to fine-tune images before saving them into my hard drive). It was a complex, cumbersome and inefficient process, even after I semi-automated it through a batch process in Photoshop. The biggest challenge was organizing edited images in my hard drive, sorting and cataloging them. I am not even going to talk about finding images, because it was an impossible task that required reviewing thousands of thumbnails and image metadata in order to find what I was looking for. As my file catalog grew, I realized that I had to find a better way to organize my photographs. And that’s when I discovered Lightroom.

Lightroom is a database-driven image management software that automatically reads image metadata (such as camera make and model, date/time captured, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and more), known as EXIF and writes information about each photograph in a new database known as “catalog”. As images are imported, Lightroom has built-in functionality to add additional information to each image, allowing you to tag images with specific keywords, flags and star ratings. This makes it very easy to sort through hundreds of images and pick the best ones, edit them selectively or in batches, then export the best images directly into websites like Flickr and Facebook. This type of tagging and indexing is not available in Photoshop, because Photoshop does not keep a database with cataloged images.

In addition to media management capabilities, Lightroom contains a set of tools that allow photographers to manipulate images. In short, think of Photoshop as an image editing tool while Lightroom is an image management tool with some limited image editing capabilities.

3) Lightroom Image Editing Capabilities

Lightroom has a specific set of tools that make it easy to edit and manipulate images. Here is a list of tools available in Lightroom’s Develop Module (version 3.5):

  1. Histogram Sub-Module: Histogram, Crop & Straighten, Spot Removal, Red Eye Corrections, Graduated Filter, Adjustment Brush
  2. Basic Sub-Module: White Balance Temp and Tint; Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light, Blacks, Brightness, Contrast; Clarity, Vibrance, Saturation
  3. Tone Curve Sub-Module: Highlights, Lights, Darks, Shadows, Point Curve
  4. HSL / Color / B&W Sub-Module: Hue, Saturation, Luminance
  5. Split Toning Sub-Module: Highlights Hue & Saturation, Balance, Shadows Hue and Saturation
  6. Detail Sub-Module: Sharpening Amount, Radius, Detail, Masking; Noise Reduction Luminance, Detail, Contrast, Color, Detail
  7. Lens Corrections Sub-Module: Lens Profile, Distortion, Chromatic Aberration, Vignetting
  8. Effects Sub-Module: Post-Crop Vignetting Style, Amount, Midpoint, Roundness, Feather, Highlights; Grain Amount, Size, Roughness
  9. Camera Calibration Sub-Module: Process, Profile, Shadows Tint, Red Primary Hue and Saturation, Green Primary Hue and Saturation, Blue Primary Hue and Saturation

As you can see, the list of tools is rather long – from cropping and changing basic exposure to fixing lens-specific problems. Here is a screenshot of the Histogram / Basic sub-modules:

Lightroom Develop Module

Specific changes can be saved as Presets and applied to a group of images. As Adobe develops new versions of Lightroom, new sub-modules and other sub-module specific features become available.

In addition to the image editing capabilities highlighted above, Lightroom also has built-in modules for creating slideshows, printing images, exporting image galleries for the web and more.

4) Photoshop Image Editing Capabilities

All of the above Lightroom image editing capabilities are automatically included in Adobe Camera RAW, which fires up when a RAW image is opened from Photoshop. While it looks a little different than Lightroom, every single function is mirrored in Camera RAW. When Adobe releases updates to Lightroom, it also releases updates to Camera RAW at the same time, so even small things like Lens Profiles get refreshed in both. Here is a screenshot of the Camera RAW panel:

Adobe Camera RAW

And here is a comparison of the exposure sub-module:

Lightroom vs Photoshop

As you can see, both have exactly the same functionality.

To sum it up, everything you can do in Lightroom can be done in Photoshop, plus much more. Some photographers use Adobe Bridge with Photoshop as part of their workflow without Lightroom. While bridge has some of the Lightroom functionality, it is not a database / catalog system. Think of it as a browser or file manager. Searching for an image requires going through all files, which could take a long time, whereas a similar search in Lightroom could be done in a matter of seconds – again, because Lightroom’s database is optimized for searching. If you have been using Adobe Bridge, try Lightroom and you will never go back to Bridge again.

5) What to buy – Lightroom or Photoshop?

The real question is what to buy – Lightroom or Photoshop? Since all of Lightroom’s image manipulation tools are already available in Photoshop, wouldn’t it make sense just to buy Photoshop? I always recommend to start off with Lightroom for the following reasons:

  1. Lightroom is easier to learn than Photoshop
  2. Lightroom already contains a big number of post-processing tools (as shown above) – good for 90%+ of editing tasks
  3. Lightroom will help you in establishing a solid photography workflow process
  4. Lightroom makes you more efficient, because you can go through and process many photos quickly, without having to deal with opening and closing files
  5. Lightroom will keep you organized by cataloging all of your images in one place, making it easy to find and work with images
  6. As a file and media management tool, Lightroom allows creating folders and sub-folders in your hard drive and can mass-rename files using templates.
  7. Editing images in Lightroom is non-destructive, which means that the original file never gets permanently changed, whereas Photoshop is a mix of destructive and non-destructive editing
  8. Unless separate layers are kept for every change, Photoshop does not keep historical changes. With Lightroom, you can go back and restore earlier settings after making changes
  9. Lightroom can display image metadata as an overlay as you edit photos. Photoshop cannot do that once an image is opened
  10. Lightroom is more than twice cheaper than Photoshop

I am sure there are many other advantages to using Lightroom, but these are the ones I personally find important.

Now remember when I said “I always recommend to start off with Lightroom”? This means that you will eventually have to get Photoshop. If you are planning to do any serious editing, you will have to get Photoshop to be able to do things you cannot do in Lightroom. It could be for something simple like removing an object from your image, to something more advanced like stitching panoramas.

6) Which version to buy

Buying Lightroom is easy – there are only two editions (besides education version) to choose from:

  1. Lightroom 5 Upgrade Package for Mac and Windows ($79)
  2. Lightroom 5 Retail Package for Mac and Windows ($149)

If you already own an older Lightroom license, then you buy the upgrade. If this is your first Lightroom purchase, then you buy the retail package.

Buying Photoshop, on the other hand, can be rather challenging. There are two different Photoshop editions – Adobe Photoshop CS6 and Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended. The latter contains extra tools for 3D animation, video, web design and more. Do not waste your money on the Extended edition and buy the regular one. Another problem is that Adobe Photoshop is also shipped in different packages and there are all kinds of upgrade packages available as well. Don’t worry about any of those either, unless you need specific software like Illustrator in addition to Photoshop and you are looking for a packaged deal. Here are the two Photoshop editions for photographers:

  1. Photoshop CS6 Retail Package for Mac and for Windows ($669)

If you already own an older copy of Photoshop, you might be eligible for an upgrade directly via

If you are just getting into photography, but want to explore an alternative image editing software without breaking the bank that can do many of the things Photoshop can, then you might want to check out Adobe Photoshop Elements. At a fraction of Photoshop’s cost, it has many of the features, tools and filters from Photoshop. Think of Photoshop Elements as a light version of Lightroom and a light version of Photoshop combined. While you can use Photoshop Elements to organize, edit, print and publish photographs, it can also nicely integrate with Lightroom if you choose to use Lightroom’s image organization features instead. If you just take pictures of your family and occasional landscapes & nature photos, then Photoshop Elements is a good choice.

The best photography workflow, in my opinion, involves both image editing and image management software working hand-in-hand like Lightroom and Photoshop do. When you come across an image in Lightroom that you need to edit in Photoshop, you simply right-click the image and click on “Edit in Adobe Photoshop”. The image opens up in Photoshop and once you are done with all the changes, saving the image imports that new image back into Lightroom and this kind of two-way communication is automatic. No need for imports or exports. The good news is that you can simultaneously work in both, which speeds up your workflow even more. The bad news is that owning both Lightroom and Photoshop is expensive. Another bad news is that once you get Photoshop, you will probably want to get good third party plugins as well, which means additional investment.

At the end of the day, good and reliable software is important for every photographer. Start off with Lightroom and once you learn its functionality and its limitations, get a copy of Photoshop to open up new doors in front of you. But be warned – Photoshop can be both a rewarding and a frustrating experience. It often takes years for professionals to truly master it.


  1. 1) Suhaimi
    November 2, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Assalamualaikum Mr. Nasim;

    Great explanation as always :) we all your followers thank you very much.

    I think my question here is kinda familiar, but I’d like to hear it from you (you may have written about it and I may not have read it yet) but my photography instructor once said during a photography course “Do you want to be a photographer of a photo editor…?” It seemed like he is not a fan of photo editing. And he’s not a fan of RAW too hehe

    Well, as for me I shoot RAW and occasionally JPEGs and I edit both the way I like it (since I’m doing photography as a hobby). And I’m not so sure how far a photographer can edit/ cannot edit? I believe there’s no such ‘gazetted’ borderline or limits.

    Looking forward to your advice as a pro and experienced photographer :)

    Thank you in advance & wassalam.

    • November 2, 2011 at 1:06 am

      Suhaimi, thank you for your feedback!

      Don’t listen to anyone who says that you should not edit your photos. It is silly when people try to enforce their own rules, because they think that post-processing is cheating. Even the great Ansel Adams himself spent countless hours working in a lab. I bet if he were alive today, he would have loved Lightroom and Photoshop!

      There are no limits to editing. I have seen many photos where the outcome looks nothing like the original. At the end of the day, it is all about your creativity, which does not stop on your camera :)

      • 1.1.1) Suhaimi
        November 2, 2011 at 3:49 am

        Mr. Nasim,

        Thank you for your kind reply.

        Yep indeed it is all about creativity, lets not put a limit to it :) or a newbie photographer’s life like me will be boring again lol. I’m doing photography (for now) ’cause I’m bored (sometimes sick and tired) of same old same old daily office work.

        Thanks again :)

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          November 2, 2011 at 12:17 pm

          Suhaimi, photography definitely helps out with reducing work stress! I can say that from personal experience :)

      • 1.1.2) Lisa
        March 6, 2012 at 3:54 am

        Thank you for your response. I learn so much from you! It’s freeing to hear you say, “edit away.” I read recently something else that really helped me with the process. The article said, that when we’re taking a picture – we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become distracted by thinking about what we are going to do with it in the editing process – while shooting, just focus on the subject at hand, and do everything you can to produce the most incredible shot possible. THEN, after creating the best shot possible, take it to the next level with editing. Our goal should be to focus on creating the best possible photos first. This helps me keep all the clutter out of my head, and helps me put all of my energy in one place at a time and gives me a better photo to work with at the editing desk – making me a better photographer, I believe.

  2. 2) Lisbeth
    November 2, 2011 at 12:57 am

    Thank you for a clear way to explain the difference between the two programmes.

    I too have had my thoughts about how much is ok to edit in my photos. With photoshop and 3rd part tools like Topaz, you can change almost everything. So when is too much?
    I have come to the conclusion, that it depends on what you want to show. Is a naturalist an better artist than an expressionist? Some pictures show the fact, others the atmosphare or the mood, and to clarify that, I use the different software…. and to remove an annoying spot here and there, but that’s another story ;0)

    • November 2, 2011 at 1:09 am

      Lisbeth, post-processing is a huge part of every professional’s workflow. I have seen an image edited in 15+ hours to get the final look. Does it mean that the photographer was cheating? Absolutely not. Sometimes that’s what you have to do to deliver an exceptional product…

  3. 3) Rich
    November 2, 2011 at 12:57 am

    All your discussions are enlightening-thank you.
    I am new to LR and CS5. You comment that nef is automatically opened in Raw when exported from LR to CS5. My images open in cs5 and not Raw. Am I doing something wrong?

    • November 2, 2011 at 1:13 am

      Rich, when you open an image from Lightroom to Photoshop, the image is automatically converted to a TIFF image. Since all RAW edits are done in Lightroom, there is no need to open the same windows in Photoshop. I always start off by correcting white balance/exposure (if needed) and once everything looks good, I then open the image in Photoshop, if additional editing is required.

      Once the image is saved in Photshop, you will have a second copy of your image in the same TIFF format in Lightroom.

  4. 4) john francis
    November 2, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Nasim love the site and like this article, i posted a similar blog on my website recently following similar questions, I use both too but similar answer to yours. Ive a quick play with pixelmator 2 this week on the mac app store which looks good and for the price is quite reasonable. Keep up the good work i enjoy listening to your views.


    • November 2, 2011 at 1:24 am

      Thank you for your feedback John! For some reason your blog URL disappeared…

      I checked out Pixelmator’s website and the software looks very promising. There are some other inexpensive image editing tools out there from companies like Corel, but Photoshop is way more advanced than any of them and it has the largest number of third party filters available. At the end of the day, I would personally spend time learning Photoshop than any other software package, to be honest. No matter what image editing software you start off with in the beginning, you will always end up with Photoshop :)

      • 4.1.1) Lisa
        March 6, 2012 at 3:59 am

        Nasim, what do you suggest is the best way to LEARN to use Photoshop and Lightroom? online tutorials? articles? what do you recommend as the most efficient and affordable way to learn, for the beginner?

  5. 5) rafavarium
    November 2, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Great comparison…as usual, hahaha.

    Well, I do find this information very interesting and I will share it with some friends of mine. I literally do 90% of my editing on Lightroom and I bought PSE9 to do some very minor tweaking as well, but to be honest I dont really need it for what I do.

    Keep up the great work!


    • November 2, 2011 at 1:25 am

      Thank you Rafael. That’s just the beginning – you will surely start using PSE9/Photoshop a lot more when your skills as a photographer improve. It is inevitable, trust me :)

      • 5.1.1) J.T. Wenting
        November 14, 2011 at 7:23 am

        hmm, have to contradict you there (but I’m a purist, or so I’m told).
        The more I shoot, the less I need PSE (7 in my case), and since buying Lightroom I only use it very occasionally.
        90% of my post processing consists of cropping, white balance correction, and occasionally applying a small colour cast, all things Lightroom can do very well indeed.

        I’ve never cared much for “creative photography”, using filters, editing out things and putting other things back in.

        And now, with Lightroom’s web gallery creation, there’s no more need for even those specialised tools :) shot in Uzbekistan last May. All processing done using Lightroom only, shot using a D200.

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          November 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

          Those are some neat images of my homeland, thank you for the link!

          I am also the same way with post-processing – more than 95% of my landscape work is done in Lightroom. However, there are situations when I have to use Photoshop for certain things. Whether it is to apply selective noise reduction/sharpening or fix areas of an image with specific tools, Photoshop has certain features that I wish were there in Lightroom. For those situations, I still have to rely on Photoshop. For portrait editing on the other hand, my wife heavily relies on Photoshop. She uses special skin-correction techniques that are not available in Lightroom…

          So I guess it all depends on what you are editing. Ask a panorama/HDR guru, and you will see a much higher Photoshop / Lightroom ratio…

  6. 6) Dan
    November 2, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Anything specific to consider about Aperture VS Photoshop to consider?

    • November 2, 2011 at 1:31 am

      Dan, most of what I have written about in this article applies to Aperture as well. Start off with Aperture and make further edits in Photoshop, if needed.

      One thing Aperture is lagging behind on, is lens correction through lens profiles. Too bad Apple has not implemented anything yet when Adobe already has hundreds of lens profiles available in Lightroom and Camera RAW. The good news is that you can use third party plugins or Camera RAW for that, but it is a major inconvenience.

      • 6.1.1) J.R.
        January 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

        Nasim Mansurov,
        I love your Blog. But I beg to differ on the Apple’s Aperture stuff:

        Aperture – Technical Specifications – RAW Support
        Aperture 3 supports RAW photo formats from more than 150 digital cameras. It also lets you work with most DNG files and import JPEG images.

        Image Editing Plug-ins
        These plug-ins extend the built-in image editing capabilities of Aperture, adding specialized tools for noise reduction, selective adjustments, lens correction, and much more….

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          January 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm

          J.R., I think you misunderstood my comment. When I talked about lens profiles, I meant support for correcting for specific lenses, not cameras. For example, if you have a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens that has some noticeable distortion at 24mm, you could use the lens correction module in Lightroom and remove the distortion at 24mm. This sort of correction is lens-specific. As far as I know, you cannot do the same with Aperture :)

          • J.R.
            January 25, 2012 at 8:58 am

            Nasim, Thanks a lot for your prompt response as always… I understand what you are trying to say. Then that puts me at a disadvantage for putting all of my efforts into using Apple Aperture. Is that your primary reason for not adopting Aperture for your post-processing?

  7. 7) noreen
    November 2, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Great comparison between the two editing software.

    I have both. I used LR most of the time. I only use CS5 when and if I have to do major editing.
    When using CS5, i sometimes use actions and that’s when i import my photos from LR to CS5. But now, I don’t have to worry about it. If and when i want some effects on my photos like the actions on CS5 does, there are already a lot presets to choose from. Some of them are for free. :)

    • November 2, 2011 at 1:34 am

      Noreen, thank you!

      Yes, I am exactly the same way – I take very few images to Photoshop and do most of my work in Lightroom. With some plugins like Nik Software Viveza and Dfine being available for Lightroom, my need to use Photoshop decreases even more!

  8. 8) Jim
    November 2, 2011 at 6:01 am

    As always, Nasim, thank you for your clear explanation. You mentioned workflow and the ease of going back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop. Does the same hold true between Lightroom and Elements?

    • November 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Jim, yes, Elements is also as integrated as Photoshop with Lightroom. If you have both installed, you should have an option under Edit to open the image in Elements. Once you save the image in Elements, it will automatically import it into Lightroom!

  9. 9) Jane
    November 2, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Thanks for another fantastic article Nasim. Mainly due to your advice, I’ve been learning Lightroom (and a bit of Photoshop). I’m fairly comfortable with Lightroom now, but still find Photoshop quite intimidating.

    Would you mind sharing some of your favourite plug-ins and when you use them? Are you a fan of “actions”, such as MCP Actions, etc?

    • November 2, 2011 at 11:55 am

      Jane, I know exactly what you mean. I have been using Photoshop since version 4 and trust me, I get intimidated by it every time Adobe releases a new version :) I still get lost in many of the functions of Photoshop.

      As for plugins, I personally own the Nik Software Suite and Lola made me get Imagenomic Portraiture that she now uses to edit portraits. I have tried many other plugins and these are the best ones, in my opinion. As for actions, Lola used to use some action sets before, but she stopped using them when she got more comfortable with Photoshop.

  10. 10) Chris
    November 2, 2011 at 7:40 am


    Thanks for your timely article. I’ve been using Photoshop Elements and have been considering purchasing Lightroom. I do have a question. Elements has Organizer. Is this somehow a light version of Lightroom? Will the organizational capabilities be that much better to justify the purchase for a amateur photographer such as myself. I am only a person with a camera, not in any way a pro, but have 40,000+ and growing photos.

    • November 2, 2011 at 11:48 am

      Chris, think of Photoshop Elements as a light version of Lightroom and a light version of Photoshop combined. In short, yes, you can use it to organize, edit, print and publish photographs. Here is a quick video overview of Photoshop Elements. You can download a 30 day trial of Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop. I would start off with Elements and see how you like it. Then try Lightroom with Photoshop and decide which works for you. If you are just taking pictures of your family and occasional landscapes & nature photos, then Elements is a good choice. If you have plans to become a pro one day and you are serious about photography, then skip Elements and go directly to Lightroom and Photoshop. From pure photo organization perspective, Lightroom is more suitable for managing thousands of photographs.

      Hope this helps :)

      • 10.1.1) Chris
        November 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm

        Thanks much Nasim.

  11. November 2, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Well written! Here’s another one on the same subject:


    P.S. For links to nearly 200 sites with tips, tutorials and videos on Lightroom (including this one) try:

    • November 2, 2011 at 11:29 am

      Thank you Mike! That’s a big number of Lightroom links you got on your site…pretty impressive!

  12. 12) Steve Teague
    November 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I am an amateur photographer, and love taking landscape photos, and manipulating them. I would love to own Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, but at $1000, it is not something I can see myself owning in the foresee-able future. I cannot afford to pull that kind of money out of my savings for software, and will not go into debt for anything. So I will have to settle for a less in-depth version of the software. What do y0u feel is really necessary that I have for working on my photos?

  13. 13) Bill
    November 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I think a much better article, especially for Mac users, would be about the other big religious war, namely Aperture vs. Lightroom.

    • November 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm

      Nah, I will stay out of that one :) It is like the never-ending Canon vs Nikon debate…

  14. 14) Kevin
    November 4, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Thank you for yet another brilliant comparison of two popular Adobe products! I find your reviews generally informative, detailed and unbiased. A rather informative resource and best of all, updated regularly.

    My only suggestion would be an addendum to expand on elements which is much more affordable than Photoshop CS5 and sometimes bundled in select laptop (noticeably Sony) purchases. Professional photographers would likely already be familiar with the products… but for the amateur/casual photographer, most would consider Elements or LR3 which are significantly more affordable.

    LR3 and Elements do flow nicely with each other … with Lightroom being able to ‘edit in Adobe Photoshop Elements’ to open a new window. I almost never use the Elements organiser, processing my workflow in LR3 and then using elements on the rare occasion I need to do something more with the photo or manipulate layers.

    A great resource for Lightroom is Scott Kelby’s book.

    The only real pain with Adobe and having several of it’s products is if there is a new camera purchase requiring an adobe RAW update that is no longer supported by an older version – requiring the need for two new purchases sometimes!

    • November 8, 2011 at 1:03 am

      Kevin, I added a paragraph about Photoshop Elements. And I agree about Adobe not providing updates on Camera RAW on older versions of Photoshop. It is very annoying and frustrating when they do that!

      Thank you for your feedback!

  15. 15) Kevin C
    November 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Nasim, glad I found your site, I enjoy the photos and the wealth of knowledge on display.

    I started with Elements 8 and DXO Optics Pro 6 then tried a demo of Lightroom 2. Eventually Adobe offered users of Elements Lightroom 3 for $100 and I took the plunge.

    Lightroom recognized the Elements database and offered to import it which I did. Also Lightroom setup Elements as the external editor. After reading Scott Kelby’s book and looking at some videos the workflow made sense. I am getting faster and the presets and output options are nice.

    One thing Elements Organizer offered that Lightroom is missing is face recognition.

    I used Photoshop years ago but I would rather spend the $600 on another lens or a body upgrade

    The lens profiles in DXO are much easier to use, updates include them and all of my Olympus glass is supported. The wide angle lens seems to benefit the most, primes the least.

    The 16 bit TIFFs from Lightroom need to changed down to 8 bit depth for doing panos in Elements which is a shame. Another way Adobe tries to get users to buy into Photoshop ;)

    • November 8, 2011 at 12:37 am

      Kevin, I have heard a lot of good things about DxO Optics Pro and other similar products. Adobe adds more lens profiles with every release, so I am pretty sure they will catch up soon. As for Photoshop, I agree – it has a steep price tag :( Hopefully its price will come down or they might offer good pricing this holiday season… it is a shame that they do not allow 16 bit panos in Elements!

  16. 16) Jas
    November 7, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Great read Nasim and although I use both; I love your reasons to go different routes. One question that challenges me all the time is export resolution when posting pics on facebook from both lightroom and photoshop. I understand the subtle different between dpi and pixels and know the min resolution can be as low as 72 pixels for photography pages, but for some odd reason; the pics look awful when I post them on facebook inconsistently. I have tried several resolutions and can’t seem to figure out what’s happening.. Any suggestions.. ?


    • November 8, 2011 at 12:31 am

      Jas, Facebook is known to reduce the image quality of photos during the resize process. What I would recommend, is to extract images small enough so that Facebook does not have to resize them. I believe Facebook resizes images larger than 800 pixels wide or high, so I would extract at something like 800×600 at 72 DPI. Open up the image in Photoshop, resize to 800 pixels, then sharpen it up, then do Save for Web and make sure that Color Profiles are not added and the image is converted to sRGB with no metadata (Facebook will strip metadata anyway).

      Hope this helps :)

      • 16.1.1) Jas
        November 8, 2011 at 1:01 am

        Thanks Nasim …!! That’s exactly what I was looking for and had really no real information so far in the past..! :)

        I will put your advice to action tomorrow and will def reach back to you with my finds. You just might have made my life a bit easier. MUCHO GRACIAS!!!! you rock!


        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          November 8, 2011 at 1:03 am

          You are most welcome Jas! ;)

          • Jas
            November 10, 2011 at 8:28 pm


            You were so right and it worked! I haven’t tested with too many pictures but I already see the big difference..! I can’t thank you enough considering all the frustration I had for last couple years.

            I took your advice and applied a bit of sharpening using Photoshop filter before exporting them to Save for Web. I wish Lightroom had something specific to Web export as well..

            One of these days, I would have to sit down and figure out an easier way to export/import pictures to various locations. :)

            Thanks again!

            • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
              November 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm

              No problem Jas, glad it worked out for you :) Keep in touch!

  17. 17) Peter
    November 8, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Nasim, where would you put Photoshop Elements in this mix in terms of learning curve and post- processing power? Lightroom-Elements-CS5?

    • November 13, 2011 at 11:01 pm

      Peter, yes, that’s how I would put it – Lightroom-Elements-CS5.

  18. 18) Cameron
    November 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Hi there, great review, very informative.
    What I’m trying to figure out is which piece of software is most similar to the older Photoshop 7? I used this years ago and am familiar with what it can do, however it got lost a while back and now I’m looking to replace it. I mostly used it for photo touch-ups/manipulation, but its graphic design tools came in handy as well. Looking at Lightroom and Elements, I’m not sure which do this better. Elements is a bit closer to my price range, but my concern is that it is mostly a package with filters that can combine multiple photos rather than edit a single one well.
    Any suggesti0ns appreciated!

    • November 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      Cameron, Elements has plenty of tools from Photoshop, so you can definitely edit images in it. It is not as powerful as Photoshop, but good enough for most situations. Unless you are planning to do a lot of heavy editing, you might find Elements to be enough for your needs.

  19. 19) Fotopratica
    November 14, 2011 at 9:30 am, translated for our Italian readers, thank’s Nasim

  20. 20) faris
    November 16, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Ho do I keep my Lightroom if I reformat my Win 7? I don’t want to lose all my edits and directory structures if possible. What should I backup? Thanks Nasim. Faris.

  21. 21) Ravi
    November 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Did you have a chance to test Nikons Capture NX2? I heard its control points was innovative to work with and it worked better with the NIkon NEF files. I am not sure about that as the codec is open to every software vendor, but i was just curious.

  22. 22) Julia Atwood
    December 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Looking at LR it seems it is fairly close to iPhoto. Is this correct? I am a fairly new photographer so is it useful for me to get these fancy programs. I am concerned with iPhoto and the long term storage of my images but do not know of a solution for that. Do you know if only iPhoto or LR can be exported only to an hard drive specific to save images and perhaps music? I am clueless when it comes to computer knowledge and am beginning to get a bit stressed out thinking of future issues with photo storage.
    Thanks for your knowledge and contrubution.

    • 22.1) Ravi R
      December 9, 2011 at 11:06 pm


      iPhoto is a black hole for photos. You can check them in but cant check out. Though there is another way to have all your photos in an external drive and press the “option” key when iPhoto starts. When you do that it will ask if you want to create a new library. That time just ask it to reference an external library. Where the external library is a directory of photos in an external drive or even a different folder on the same computer. That way you have access to all your photos to be used with other programs plus copy at any time etc.. without having to export it from iPhoto all the time.

      Read up on this article as to how to set that up,

  23. 23) Barry
    January 6, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Anybody using open source software like RawTherapee or UFRaw (RAW processing) together with GIMP?
    Just wonder how ACDSEE Pro 5 compares to Lghtroom.

    • 23.1) Ravi R
      January 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm


      I have used GIMP + UFRaw for NEF processing. Its comparable to Photoshop but the documentation and help is strewn all over the internet.

      The concepts are the same but the menu items are different. If you are following a Photoshop example in GIMP you just have to know what the corresponding shortcuts are etc…

  24. 24) Allison
    January 14, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Thank you for demystifying the two products. I am a newbie to photography and hoping to be more than a novice at some point. I felt the same as some of your readers who do not think photos should be post-edited. After reading all the comments, I have a new perspective. I think I will start off with Lightroom and then maybe move to photoshop. Thanks again for sharing your expertise.

  25. 25) Josh
    January 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Item #2, first line…
    The full name for Lightroom is “Adobe Photoshop Lighroom”…

    Font choice on this site makes it really hard to read.

  26. 26) Ravi R
    January 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Out of curiosity I tried out products from Corel. Their “Aftershots Pro” rocks !!!

    I downloaded a trial and am very impressed. I am using Photoshop Elements right now and its a resource hog. I do have a Core i7 with 12 GB RAM and yet switching between “Edit” and “Organize” is taking forever.

    • 26.1) Barry
      January 26, 2012 at 3:13 am

      Have you tried ACDSEE Pro 5 as an editor? You can download a trial from their website.

  27. 27) Andrey
    February 4, 2012 at 4:42 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Thank you for the comprehensive overview. Any thoughts on Capture NX2 vs LR3 (in terms of quality of the output, not the ease of use or keeping images organized).


  28. February 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Mansurovs,

    I enjoy your site and the volumes of information you provide – especially your impressions of various gear.

    I was just searching your site for your evaluation of Nikon’s Capture NX2, but only found a couple of brief questions from your visitors.

    I just want to add my impression of NX2, which I have been using since it upgraded from Capture and NX … in my humble opinion it is just magical, especially with the NIK CEP 3.0 upgrade and the incredible control point technology throughout the software that eliminates all that tedious mask work in photoshop. I shoot all Nikon, and all raw (NEF) and have yet to find software that renders the NEF format as well as it does. And the range of developing options such as changing white balance and picture control as well as other in-camera settings is invaluable. I now do 85% of the processing steps in NX2 and then go into Photoshop CS5 for miscellaneous finishing touches (adding frames, some distortion corrections, and some cloning) and for access to Topaz, Define, and Alien Skin plug-ins for special treatments. And for my money, NX2 has the best sharpening engine (unsharp mask) available.

    If you want to do in minutes what it might take hours to do in photoshop, and do it more seamlessly, NX2 has the right stuff.

    • 28.1) Ravi R
      February 7, 2012 at 4:12 pm


      I love the U point technology from NIK and the NX2 software. I played around with the trial version and was very impressed.

      But I also checked out “Aftershots Pro” from Corel and I was very impressed. Main reason, the software makes use of multiple cores in today’s PC’s and so even large raw files zip and zoom like nothing else out there. Plus their workflow and image editing is top notch and simple. I found their sharpening to be very good. It somehow selects only the sharpest part of the images instead of sharpening the whole image and introducing noise. I know most software’s do that, but Corel just blew me away. Plus it comes free with NIK’s noise removal PLUS RAW noise removal as bonus. I used to have ADOBE Photoshop Elements but it was such a resource hog and was very very slow on my Core i7,12 GB RAM machine. Thats when i decided to get rid of Adobe.

      They recently had a one day sale for “PaintShop Pro XL” with NIK’s filters for around $39.00 and i bought it and can’t be happier.

      Corel is coming back big time with their software now.

  29. 29) Shanky
    February 24, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Hi Nasim.

    I loved the way you have simplified it and have presented it in a way that even newbies like me can understand. I also like the layout and fonts used in your site. Thanks for a great site that I can follow.

  30. 30) cyberpackrat
    March 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    A simple but HUGE thank you!!
    I believe you are right about Ansel Adams & Lightroom/Photoshop! Photography goes beyond your camera and creativity goes beyond photography!

  31. 31) Taylor Herzog
    March 19, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Thank you soooo much for all these amazingly helpful articles! I recently stepped into the world of SLR cameras & purchased the Canon Rebel T2i mostly for the purpose of taking quality pictures of my 2 yr old & 7 month old. I also bought Photoshop Elements mostly because it was a cheap way for me to do some basic editing. In one of your articles you mention being able to edit out “noise” in a photo & I was wondering if this is a possibility w/ Photoshop Elements or do I need the more expensive programs?

    Thank you again for all your tips!

  32. 32) Keith
    March 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Hello. Thanks for writing your thoughts. I have been a photoshop user for 10 years, and for the past month I have been trying to get on the lightroom bandwagon, and I just can’t hang on.

    With lightroom, I see it good for batch processing on images all in the same lighting, scene, exposure, etc. But not for editing a wedding, where every 5 minutes you are in different lighting.

    Also, I see lightroom as only doing quick global adjustments. Photoshop seems much more like the darkroom that I first learned from. With photoshop I can work on each image quickly, with great shortcut keys, shortcut keys for actions, and work locally very easily with dodge and burn and adjustment layers.

    I will be keeping photoshop in my workflow.

    Thanks for your insite.

  33. April 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Excellent post, I have been looking to buy a photo editing software for my home purpose (for the first time ever). I used to have Photoshop elements 6 that came with Sony Vaio AW90US but then it is in Japanese and I could never use it fully. I own NEX5 and D700 so I need a software that helps me organize, edit, and print files (including video). I have nearly 500 GB of photos/videos already.

    Can somebody tell me which one should I consider: PSE10 or LR4 (in terms of image editing features including some minor layer based editing). The problem with LR4 is it doesnt support layered editing and the problem with PSE is that it doesnt support video editing. If LR4 doesnt support layers, then is there any way I can do similar editing without layers in LR so I can get same effect as in PSE10 is capable of giving with layers. Or, will I be missing something big other than video editing if I buy only PS10 (I know LR4 supports video editing but not PSE?).

    • 33.1) Vic
      April 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      I used lr from version 1 now am on v4. My workflow is lr plus external plug-ins like pse8, nik silver eff pro2, photomatix. Main work is lr and anything I cannot do on it I lr sends a tiff to a plug-in and it is returned to lr when processed. Each plug-in will do what lr cannot do and once u get the hang of it, it becomes dead easy flowing from one software to an other. Apple Apreture is very similar in its workflow. I got lr cause it was cheaper initially and Apreture looked like an over grown iPhoto which I don’t like although this has improved a lot since v1. Hope this helps.

      • 33.1.1) SVRK Prabhakar
        April 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm

        Thanks a ton Vic for sharing your experirence, I think this one is very good. Can you let me know how much did you spent on those plugins? I hope adding all those wont cost same as PS10 or even PS? Thanks in advance.

        • Vic
          April 23, 2012 at 7:52 am

          Hello mate, glad you found my tuppence worth useful. Unfortunately you have to pay the full asking price some less some more than PS10. Nik usually have offers as well as the others. LR3, some sellers might have LR1/2 going even cheaper, LR3 is currently going for about £60 which gives you a step up to LR4 which is over a hundred quid whilst my upgrade was 59.99. Photomatix is about 60.00 but there are other HDR software out there. Nik was the most expensive which is about 199 euros about 175 pounds but in my opinion and others nothing touches it for monochrome. if you are going for nik it is worth looking at buying the whole collection for a lot less then the price of CS5, only if you need it of course, I did’nt and had to pay more for single items like Silver efex pro II. Best way before parting with money check all the software sellers for older versions. Good Luck.

          • SVRK Prabhakar
            April 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm

            Hi Vic, it was not tuppence at all! it appears that it is not for me, that is a lot of money, I am looking for a budget option of doing most of it for non-income purposes while still keeping LR4 as base (if I can since I loved the non-destructive means of re-touching photos).

            • Vic
              April 25, 2012 at 9:56 am

              Hi mate, I too do it as a hobby only. But like I said you can get cheaper back copies and just pay for updates if you want. You don’t need lr4 as i was very happy with lr3 and you still can do so much with it, but the upgdrade was just 60 quid and could not resist it. PSE10 is the one to go for if you need to use layers LR of any version as you know does not support layers. I think there also might be some free simple video editing software out there it’s just a matter of looking for them. Have you tried checking Aperture which is like LR to see what if offers you,it’s about £45 as a download, also Apps on the Apple store which are either free and or reasonably priced but make sure you read the reviews before parting with you money.

          • SVRK Prabhakar
            April 25, 2012 at 8:09 pm

            Thanks a lot Vic, I will give a try and see what more is out there…

  34. 34) Andre
    April 16, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Sorry if it was mentioned and missed it but one of the great advantage of Lightroom is the ability to edit images, and have multiple versions of the edits, without touching the original image and without creating copies of the original (except when using external editors). This is very useful to beginners as it is very easy to overwrite an original and it’s very instructive to try different variations. It also adds the ability to recreate any output image from the edit settings saved in the LR database. Edits can be modified at any point in time without the need to start again from the original. You can do the same with Photoshop if you develop a good workflow and are VERY good at following it. But for me, things always became messy. Lightroom makes thing much more clean and gives you a neat interface with searchable tags, flags, metadata, stacks, etc.

    I would also recommend LR over PS for beginners to start with.

    To me:

    LR = Photo library management software including day-to-day photo editing functionalities, presented in a rigid and comprehensible workflow
    PS = Photo editing software including very advanced editing tools not available in LR

    Thanks for the great summary!

    • 34.1) SVRK Prabhakar
      April 16, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Thanks a lot for that clarification.

  35. 35) SVRK Prabhakar
    April 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    It was not tuppence at all! it appears that your approach may not fit for me, that is a lot of money, I am looking for a budget option of doing most of it for non-income purposes while still keeping LR4 as base (if I can since I loved the non-destructive means of re-touching photos).

  36. 36) Surono
    May 1, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information about Adobe Photoshop vs Lightroom for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.

  37. 37) Ron
    May 9, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Thanks, I’ve been asking the differance question to people and no one seemed to know… even some “photographers” I know.

  38. 38) BP
    May 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Great article. I have been using Bridge, camera raw and PS for my workflow. Would it be possible to proivide tutorials on the database aspects of Lightroom? Workflow with some examples. I have a light room but I like PP in Photoshop. Ionly have ~12K images organized in folders which I navigate through Bridge. I would like to explore database features of Lightroom but have not found any good article yet. Greatly appreciate your tips. Thanks.

    • 38.1) Vic
      May 14, 2012 at 5:14 am

      There are many tutorials regarding all aspect of Lightroom from Julieanne Kost and Matt Kloskowski
      to name two and many others who are LR Gurus. Also books by Scott Kelby you might want to get and many forums on the subject too. Hope you find this useful.

    • 38.2) Vic
      May 14, 2012 at 5:25 am

      Forgot to mention you can also use your folder where you keep all your original images to import it as a Catalogue into LR. Your originals will remain in that folder untouched and the catalogue in LR becomes a mirror image of that folder and you can process them to you hearts content. If you then want to share the processed versions of your images you export them as Tiffs of Jpegs.

      • 38.2.1) BP
        May 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm

        Vic, Thanks for your response and information for tutorials. I will check them out and tryout LR database features. Best wishes.

        • Vic
          May 17, 2012 at 11:48 am

          BP, Pleasure mate, you might want to register with Adobe so you can get on the forums and be able to get in touch with other LR user who are pretty hot on this subject. You will be able to get an Adobe newsletter if you want too. Also try Victoria Brampton another LR Guru who also writes on the subject and you can buy her books as pdf’s to download on your mobile, pads and laptops for reference you might need. regards

          • BP
            May 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm

            Vic, Thanks for these additinal tips. Last few days I have been exploring those features, so far so good. Best wishes.

  39. 39) Toni
    June 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Hi Viv..Im still newbie and just into photography just for fun..anyway I have canon powershot s100 and i wonder can I make nice bokeh with it except in macro mode? If not what camera that can do it without being bulky such as SLR. I dont plan to buy lenses yet to make bokeh photo..just a large sensors camera that small enough..I read about sony nex5n and other brands as well which is not too big but I wonder if that type can make bokeh without additional lense?

    Or maybe its easier if I buy phoyoshop editing software to make it blur in the background since I am just a newbie..does the Element can do it?


    • 39.1) Vic
      June 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Toni, don’t worry about being a newbie, we all have had to start somewhere, so first I wish you luck in your new hobby and hope that you get a lot of fun out of it as I have.

      Now, I am not familiar with the s100 so cannot say much about it but if it is a point and shoot camera you won’t have much control over it although if you can get very close to your subject the depth of field will be very shallow unless the camera uses a small aperture to compensate for the light if its very sunny.

      All the new CSC type cameras have APS-C type sensors or slightly smaller 4 third sensors like Olympus, Panasonic etc. You can buy these in kits or body only and if you buy kits they can have one or two lenses. You could save money on earlier models if you don’t want the latest as the earlier models can be priced down. As well as my DSLR I use the Nex-7 and apart for the video button being in the wrong place I can’t fault it. I have not used the nex5n and by all accounts it’s a great camera according to what I read on many forums and a lot cheaper including lenses than my 7. Bokeh depends on which lens and aperture you use. If you buy body only camera older manual lenses used with an adapter will help you practice “Depth of field” on the cheap.

      Software can diffuse the background but it can be a lot of work if your subject is complicated and need to spend time cutting it out. And, as you are new it’s better to do it in camera at the time you take your image. I would concentrate on the image taking and learning what your camera can do rather than buying expensive software, even Elements is about £70. But, if you want to practice, there are much cheaper Apps (some free) some for as little as 65p and software like Gimp which can be downloaded free.

      Photo mags are great resources for buying cameras and learning photography and subscriptions are cheaper than buying from shops.

      Good Luck.

  40. 40) Snappa
    June 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Good stuff, thanks for taking the time to write this up.

    • 40.1) Vic
      June 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      You are welcome.

  41. 41) Kieran
    July 3, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Thank you!

    As a beginner, I appreciate your clear and concise explanations.

  42. 42) Vic
    July 6, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Your welcome, enjoy your photography and one day you will be dishing our your experiences. Take care.

  43. 43) Allen
    August 1, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Aug 1.
    Hello Nasim Mansurov
    I have Photoshop Lightroom 3. Unfortunately I can’t find any tutorials that clearly teach someone totally new, step by step for Windows 7. Everything searched for and found is for Apple Computers. It’s very frustrating. If however I have missed seeing these instructions somewhere and or if they actually exist could you possibly guide me to where they are. A book I could buy would be really nice.
    Thank you.

    • 43.1) Vic
      August 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      Since Lightroom is an Adobe software, that’s the first place to look. Also LR for Windows is also extensively covered as much as for Apple Macs. Check out Scott Kelby , Matt Kloskowski and Julieanne Kost. All give great advice and tutorials from their websites. Also check out Victoria Brampton she has written books about the subject too.

      Good luck.

  44. August 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Thank you for this. I have been using Photoshop and I have learned how to use it and am really happy with what I can do with it. My images are edited a lot, and I did wonder about Lightroom. Someone recently asked me why I didn’t use Lightroom instead of PS, and it got me wondering if I was using the wrong thing, but after your article I know I am using the right product for what I do.
    My husband is a programmer and if it is one thing he has taught me, is how to organise my files, and to make sure he would approve I showed him today and I think he was impressed, very impressed, still a couple of things I need to do, but I like my system and it works well for me.
    Thank you for this comprehensive description. It was great.

  45. 45) Doug
    September 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Fantastic article. I am just getting started in photography and was wondering what I should purchase. Thank you!

  46. 46) Emily
    September 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you so much for this! It was very helpful!

  47. 47) Timothy Behuniak
    October 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Hi Nasim!

    I love photography and have been taking photos for many years. I used to hate the idea of using any post-processing software because I believe any one can take a photo of something boring and make it look interesting using post-processing. But, i also believe it would help to enhance my photos in a positive way. I am just starting out in this maze of post-processing softwares. I have the free trial of lightroom, but it is very confusing to me and i can’t figure out how to do some simple things, what should I do. Try to take a class, are there tutorials somewhere, youtubes perhaps? Any feedback would be nice, thank you very much for your time! :)

    • 47.1) Vic
      October 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Tim, many icons of photography post processed their images so don’t think it is cheating. Post processing is not important if you like your images processed by your camera, i.e. Jpegs, although these can be enhanced further if you want. Jpegs are like Reversal film (Slides) and even in films you could not process them further like you do in digital form (again I am referring to Jpegs).

      Raw on the other hand is the image you take which is not processed in your camera and is like the Negative film which has to be developed and printed. In film if your exposure was not perfect you could get a better print if you used the correct type of printing paper usually hard or soft grade being the most common. So post processing is not only necessary but also very important in Raw using a Raw converter software like you get with Adobe Elements.

      Also remember we all see similarly but not identically so our taste is individual and therefore what might be great for some, others will find an image boring or not bad etc etc. Photography in general is very subjective so you have to please yourself how an image should be and take someone else’s opinion with a pinch of salt. I personally find post processing not just important but very absorbing and worthwhile and enjoyable.

      Now see my post 83 which will tell you where you can find tutorials but first a good place to start is the Adobe website and forums.

      Good luck and happy photography.

      • 47.1.1) Timothy Behuniak
        October 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

        Thanks very much!

  48. 48) Joseph
    October 10, 2012 at 9:36 am

    This is a great breakdown of the differences and similarities of the two Adobe programs.

    I started off using Lightroom 3 because it was cheaper. After buying LR, I tried Photoshop trials a few times over the course of a year, but found it had such a steep learning curve that it made more sense to stay with Lightroom. But then I got to a point where I wasn’t happy with the limited functionality of Lightroom and needed more manipulation tools. So I bought CS5, took one 4-hour editing workshop and spent tens of hours watching tutorials on how to do more advanced editing using layers and masks (Thanks,!).

    When I became comfortable with CS5, I stopped using Lightroom altogether – and I haven’t looked back. Camera Raw (part of CS5) does everything I did in LR before, and Bridge is now my previewer of choice for my raw files. My initial edits in Camera Raw are saved in XMP sidecar files, and I can always revert to the original RAW file if I so choose. It’s also easy to use Bridge to apply the same initial edits to a group of images so I don’t have to do the same thing to each RAW file. I find this very similar to Lightroom. LR is a good way to catalog images, yes, but after developing my own CS5 workflow, that cataloging was really unnecessary for me. Besides, I found the LR catalog to be VERY large and cumbersome and a bit tricky, especially if one moves files or gets a new hard drive. Then you have to manually tell LR where to find the new file(s) – a pain in the butt.

    I will say that the most attractive feature about LR is that it is non-destructive to RAW files. To this date, however, I’ve never made any destructive changes to my RAW files using CS5 (knock on wood). I have a huge folder of Nikon Transfer files that contains all of my completely unedited RAW files should I ever need them – and this folder is backed up on a separate drive should I accidentally *destructively* alter one of my RAW files.

    In my CS5 workflow, I always save my final, client-ready files in three formats: full-size TIFF’s, full-size JPEG’s and web-optimized and watermarked versions. Each client has their own folder containing these files (completely separate from my Nikon Transfer folder), so if I need to go back to them at any point, it’s always easier to access them via Windows Explorer than it is LR’s catalog. I also save all client files in triplicate on three separate drives – very redundant backup system, but I don’t lose any files this way!

    I do know photographers that use LR exclusively, but it’s not for me. I spend no more time editing individual photos now in CS5 than I did in LR. In fact, I think I’ve become very efficient using CS5 – having developed a group of actions that I use for every image.

    Thanks for a good read!

  49. 49) Photoshop Pro User
    October 14, 2012 at 1:56 am

    I like how you say photoshop is destructive and not save the historical changes, yes it does destroy and as long as you save your files as a photoshop document, you can retain everything in the history, I use Photoshop on a professional level and not to just convert Raw to Jpeg like what Lightroom is great for. Photoshop is for serious top end users who are in the business for image manipulation and working with CMYK output for printing, you really do not want to go through one by one with 200 images from a wedding with Photoshop, even though you can set up automation and bulk processes, Lightroom will do these simple tasks a lot eaiser… The differences are Lightroom is a consumer grade program and Photoshop is an industrial grade program, that is the difference in a nut shell. Lightroom can take a few months to learn everything, Photoshop on the other hand if you want to learn the simple basics could take several months of practice and to learn to use it properly most will go to college for a few years and study the program. If you just got a digital camera and want the image to glow with color, make black and whites look sharp, crop and resize, to learn simple photo editing tricks, start with Lightroom. If you want to do some corrections like cloning and background removal and working with multiple layers and overlays and way more so cool tricks, start with a free open source program, most people use GIMP, I like PAINT.NET (that is the name of the program) because its a Photoshop look-a-like and easier to transform into Photoshop than using GIMP, so start with the freeware programs… just google “Open Source Alternatives to Photoshop” and move up to the next phase of learning, besides the real version of Adobe PS is almost a thousand bucks…. are you ready for that…

    Happy Clicking….

  50. 50) Michele
    January 3, 2013 at 6:33 pm


    I just got LR, and I like some of the features that I have tried. I have a few questions in LR can you add text to a photo? Also can you do basic editing like making all of the photo black and white, then change one part of the photo to color?

    • 50.1) Vic
      January 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      Hello Michelle,

      The only text you can add on an image in LR is your copywrite name, you have to go to CS or PSE externally to add text but this is very simple to do.

      As for colour on mono I take it you mean Colour Popping. this can be done several ways in the Develop Module using either the masking brush and move the Saturation to the left or, moving the Saturation slider in the same way in Basic then bring the colour back in HSL.

      My preference is to go externally to Nik foto effect Pro (if you have this software), as in this way you can first do the mono processing far better (in my humble opinion).

      The best way to learn a lot on LR is look for tutorials on the Adobe website from Matt Kloskowski and Julienne Koss. You can download tutorial Apps for LR for Apple or Android some of which are free.

      Good luck and Happy Photography.

  51. 51) RJM
    January 8, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Thanks for summarising the capabilities of LR. I have been using a very old version of PS for years which I find a struggle to use, even though all I usually want to do with photos is crop, straighten, tweak colour casts and boost contrast. Also, I’m now finding it a pain to keep my photos organised, so I think LR alone would be enough for me, maybe with a new version of Elements.

    I’ve been using Picasa because it brings up thumbnails a lot faster than my Windows folder, but it sounds like LR has more advanced search/catalog functions than Picasa, is that right? For instance, in Picasa you can only star photos (not grade them on a scale, for instance, or sift them into customisable categories). And once starred, they cannot be deleted, when I’d like to work the other way around, starting with photos that need deleted immediately before moving on to the good stuff.

    I’m thinking I should start shooting in Raw with my Pentax K5, but do I need to buy Adobe’s Raw converter before being able to catalog or edit them in either LR or Elements?

  52. 52) Ron
    January 21, 2013 at 5:11 am

    Thank you for explaining the differences. It looks as if I shall be forced to buy Lightroom or upgrade to CS5. I have just bought Nikon3200 and it produces Raw files which cannot be opened with my CS4. They can be converted with another software, but I want to open them directly into an editing program. So be careful CS4 user’s if you consider changing your camera.

  53. 53) Roberto A. Quezada-Dardon
    January 24, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you so much for a concise and easy to understand explanation of tjese two programs. I will stick with Photoshop and Bridge. :)

  54. 54) Roger Harrison
    March 10, 2013 at 12:45 am

    Thank you for explaining the pros and cons of both suites so simply. I had been led to understand Lightroom is a better editing tool than Elements with Camera RAW. I now know better.
    I have a PS catalogue of 55,000 plus images and had been expecting to have to recreate in another software suite. Thank goodness I can continue as is – phew!
    Kind regards

  55. 55) pablo
    March 15, 2013 at 4:25 am

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, I used to use photoshop but Lightroom is much more better for big editing, like 200 photos for examples. My workflow has improved using Lightroom, I’m much more efficient in less time!
    I would like to provide my resources for Lightroom presets (very usefull when you need to manipulate your images without photoshop)

    Hope you will find usefull, thanks

    • 55.1) Roger Harrison
      March 16, 2013 at 12:30 am

      Thank you very much for your help.
      I have decided after playing with LR for a few hours, to remain with Elements 10 + as it is a system I have come to know and use reasonably well. I am closing fast of 70 years of age and might well be finding my level of technical development is slowly diminishing ;-))
      Kind regards

      • 55.1.1) Vic
        March 19, 2013 at 2:59 pm

        Hi Roger, if for example you import your 55k of images in LR you can still import them as the catalogue you already have with all it’s folders intact as a mirror image. They will appear as is including the processing work you made on them and any side cars to all your raw images will be included. It is non destructive. If you are still worried you could copy all in another partition or on an external hard drive as an archive, which is what I do, I have several backups of all the images and folders that I have accumulated over time.

        Also as for your age I will hit 69 in October this year and I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination. I find LR very intuitive and if I get stuck there are many tutorials out there not just from Adobe but the web is littered with them. The best way to find out for yourself is to download a trial for free and see how you get on.

        Good luck,


        • Roger Harrison
          March 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm

          Thanks, Vic.
          I have downloaded the suite and quickly became befuddled……
          I shall keep at it for a while..

          • Vic
            March 22, 2013 at 8:53 am

            There will be light(room) at the end of the tunnel, stick with it Roger!

    • 55.2) henrymaxm
      June 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks for sharing Pablo.

  56. 56) Kat
    May 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Thank you so much! The best explanation ever and big help with making my decision. I have used Photoshop 7.0 for years and then wanted to start working with CR2 files.. and Photoshop 7.0 dont support it. Time to make the change. Thank you!

  57. 57) Peter
    June 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for this breakdown between Photoshop and Light Room.
    Well written and segmented.

  58. June 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Great Article, really enjoyed it Nasim.

  59. 59) Skeith
    June 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Photoshop does have historical data. You can revert / undo any damage you might did, but it’s limited

  60. 60) Mostwanted678452056
    June 18, 2013 at 4:23 am

    If capturing photos with a camera is like sculpting a statue or writing a poem…….post processing is like giving finer details to a sculpture or composing a tune for that poem……..Both are equally important…….Being able to identify and capture a picture as well as sitting in front of a PC for hours together to fine-tune what has been captured……after-all photography is an art and every art requires skill as well as dedicated hardwork…….

  61. 61) daniel
    June 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    I’m leaning towards Lightroom and Elements but I read (despite your statements) that unless you have a plug-in or some other wizz-bang tool, that Lightroom images don’t open/transfer/merge, well into Elements. Can you shed light on your experience. I’m a novice but like to start out with the best tools that I can afford to minimize friction and me getting turned off by the process.

    • 61.1) vic
      June 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Hi Daniel, I still use Element 8 as LR does not stitch panoramas or do layers and have had this software as a stand alone and have had no problem opening images in it. It is best to buy Elements as a plug-in rather than a stand alone as it integrates better if you use LR on its own. I also use Nik Photo Efex 2 and Photomatix Pro as plug-in’s for LR instead of stand alines. When you finish work in these softwares just click the “Save” and NOT the “Save as” and your finished work will automatically returns into LR. There are no whizz-bang tools for LR just software that can work seamlessly with it.

  62. 62) Allen
    June 20, 2013 at 4:05 am

    Hi Nasim Mansorov.
    Loaded Lightroom and Photoshop CS5 on Windows 7 Professional platform. In the short term I would like to know how to stop or control either one from taking over at the mere mention of a photo. I want to be in control of the software, not the other way around as it is at the moment. I have a set of photos that I would like to open with Microsoft’s own program. Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • 62.1) Vic
      June 20, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Allen, I not sure if this is relevant to you but, sometime ago had the same problem on my Mac. I found that a photo opens in Adobe Elements and not the one I want. I don’t know about Windows as have never used this platform but assume you can assign all images/photos to open in a default programme, in your case Microsoft’s own. Also note that Raw/DNG files will most times open automatically in software that uses Adobe Raw convertors unless you use …open in….and the programme of your choice.

      Regards Vic

  63. 63) Allen
    June 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Hi Vic.
    Thank you for your speedy reply. I have tried the “open in” but Adobe over rides that command. There must be a way, I will just have to keep searching. In the past when this happened it was a simple case of close Adobe and then use “Open In”. Thanks again.

    • 63.1) Vic
      June 22, 2013 at 7:26 am

      Hi Allen, no probs as I have had my fair share of frustrations myself. Assume you assigned Microsoft’s programme as the default programme to open your images? Other than that I am baffled and can only suggest forum searches. Sorry and regards,


  64. 64) Allen
    June 22, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Hi Vic.
    I’m making headway again, a new Hard Drive was fitted under warranty, it seems in the rebuild of all programs some things might have gone astray, I have been busy removing various drivers and restarting to find they are now in place and working fine, that was after every Driver was up-dated with the latest. I can say; I Don’t Understand but there you go. To add insult to injury Canon’s own USB cable link Camera to Computer died. A Card Reader enabled a smooth transfer, at last a decent Desktop back ground.
    Thank you for all your help and concerns. Progress/Happiness happening.

    • 64.1) Vic
      June 22, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Hi Allen,

      Great stuff mate, glad you got there in the end. Now you can concentrate on your photography. Happy snapping.

      Regards Vic

  65. 65) Allen
    June 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Many thanks Vic

  66. 66) Pratik
    June 25, 2013 at 9:47 am

    This is a great piece of information. Really very helpful.
    Many Thanks for this much needed guidance…

  67. 67) Surabhi
    July 15, 2013 at 4:13 am

    Great article.
    Thank you for the nice explanation.

  68. 68) Olivia
    July 19, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    OMG! Thank you so much for making this post. I finally understand the differens and yeah – it just helped me a lot! Amazing work – it must have been taking sooooo long time to make this post, and i’m glad you did;)

  69. 69) stephen
    August 10, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Even though your original post is quite old it has helped me a lot to decide to purchase Lightroom. I take lot of landscape and building photographs and I need the functionality to be able to correct for converging verticals and it seems the new version of Lightroom can do that for me as well as catalogue my photographs.

  70. 70) Shirsha
    August 14, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Extremely informative post. I have been taking photographs (as a hobby) for a couple of years now, but have been too scared to try out any of the photo-editing softwares. I am finally prepping myself to take the plunge to learn photo-editing, to add that something extra to my photographs. Between Elements and Lightroom, what would you recommend for an absolute newbie when it comes to editing pics?

    • 70.1) Vic
      August 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Both are great and I have both except I use PSE 8 and not the latest version. Both can catalogue your work, PSE with Bridge whilst LR is a complete package. If you need Layers, blends and panoramas then go for PSE 11, if not then LR5 is the choice. If you run an apple mac check Aperture although I prefer LR5. Loads of tutorials from Adobe, check Julienne Kost and Matt Kloskowski and many more.

  71. 71) Bob Fitzs
    September 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I was wondering if you have ever done a review of other photo editing packages. For years I have been using Serif Photoplus. I have just received version 6 and it is excellent. I would like to know how it would compare to Photoshop or Lightroom. The manufacturers (Serif) say it does all the PS or LR do but is considerably cheaper.

  72. October 1, 2013 at 2:46 am

    I have used Photoshop since I started photographing weddings. Would be beneficial if I bought Adobe Lightroon? I already have the built-in adobe raw.


  73. November 9, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I’m wondering if there is an easy way to catalog photos. I have a LOT of photos and they are just labeled by years, subcategory place or month, subsubcategory))),(yes I know), side trips etc. The main reason I do this is cuz I got immunized by lightning once and lost every thing I had in Elements. Somehow my whole catalog got zapped and my documents etc also but now I have a trogladite storage(or whatever) and I store everything there. Is there a program that can read what is there and do it? Yea I know the possibility but I got close to 100gb and I’m a little traumitized by doing each one one at a time. ARRGGGHHH!!!

  74. 74) mozo
    December 2, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Thank you very very much. You enlightened me.

  75. 75) Hong
    January 15, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Sorry perhaps your answer is in this lengthy Q&A but all I am curious about is if we have a PSD file are we able to view, edit each layer on Light? Also if that’s all we really need to do, are their other programs better suited for our dollar spent?

  76. 76) naushad
    March 19, 2014 at 4:08 am

    dear nasim
    salam, I am really happy with your comparative description of both the softwares…well said all….now I am going to use lightroom for time saving point of view….specially it edits RAW format quickly..

    thanks allot

  77. 77) Ian
    March 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Enjoyed reading your comparison so much as I am just in the process of deciding which software to purchase. In my photo-journalism work, I frequently like to crop images in terms of layers. I like to display athletes in action with all background removed. Does Lightroom do this efficiently without having to painstakingly click your way round the object/person? (Perhaps you can tell, I currently use a very old version of Photoshop). At best, I could only afford Lightroom 5 or Photoshop Elements 12.


    • 77.1) Stok
      April 1, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      Hi Ian. There is better ways of cutting people out than ‘tracing’ them painstakingly… Photoshop is the best for that, but you need to learn it first… ;c)

  78. 78) Virginie
    June 4, 2014 at 5:46 am

    Thank you for you post, I know now which one to choose :)

  79. 79) Rusydi Jauhari
    June 21, 2014 at 3:02 am

    dear nasim ..
    assalamualaikum .. for best result . i could use JPG or RAW .. please answer me. and i don’t know what the difrent between JPG and RAW

  80. 80) Mbel
    July 1, 2014 at 1:17 am

    That was an excellent, informative, and to the point article!! Great read, I will be visiting your site more often!

  81. 81) sasphoto
    July 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    I usually shoot in jpeg format and I was thinking about geting Photoshop, but I noticed you mentioned that the editing similar to Lightroom is Camera RAW. Since I don’t shoot RAW, can I still edit my images with all the detailed tools that are available in Lightroom on Photoshop? I’ve had Lightroom for 2 years or so and I LOVE it, but I wanted to get Photoshop to take it a step further. Before I buy it I want to make sure I can still edit my jpeg images in Photoshop with the same tools Lightroom has (if I don’t shoot RAW). Any insight would be most appreciated! Thanks!

    • 81.1) ryan
      February 12, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      If your into photography always shoot RAW it had more color, the white balance can be adjusted, and it does not lose quality hen moved or resaved

      • 81.1.1) Stok
        April 1, 2015 at 12:22 pm

        You can still edit JPG’s. You don’t HAVE to shoot RAW. Secondly, if you really need that much RAW capability, you should learn to take better photos.

        • rcfalcon56
          May 31, 2015 at 9:29 pm

          Shooting RAW doesn’t mean you take crappy photos. The vast majority of pros shoot RAW and I wouldn’t tell them they need to learn to take better photos. The main difference between RAW and JPEG can be summed up as follows.
          If I shoot in JPEG, the camera decides how the final shot should look like based on the in camera settings I chose when I set up the camera. To do this, it actually deletes information from the image as the onboard computer manipulates the data in the image and then saves the JPEG. You can still edit it in Lightroom, but you are now limited on what you can do. For example, if your white balance is off, you can make minor changes to the overall hue of the image but you can’t directly change the white balance of the image. Want to do a color isolation? Sorry, no can do. At least not very easily and you will still loose image data in the process.
          With RAW on the other hand, I decide what the final outcome should be in post production. I can edit it to my hearts content knowing that not one pixel will be changed from the original RAW image! It’s called non-destructive editing and both Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW do this. If I later decide I want a different look, I can re-edit any way I choose because all of the original data in the image is still there for me to work on. I can do this as many times as I want to and never loose image quality. Color isolation, no problem. Monochrome? Easy peasy. This is something that is impossible with JPEG.
          Additionally, JPEG is what is called a “lossy” file format. When the image is compressed, data is lost and cannot be recovered. This doesn’t only apply to photos, it applies to any JPEG graphic or image.
          Needless to say, I shoot RAW.

  82. 82) May
    July 31, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks for your sharing , I think The lighting room is for Professional and experienced photographers will appreciate Lightroom’s Darkroom-type image editing options and its well thought-out workflow that allows you to quickly apply standardized edits to large numbers of files
    And you can download the photoshop CS6 extended on
    and if you qualified , you can buy a student and teacher edition photoshop on , it is cheaper

  83. 83) dick
    August 8, 2014 at 11:15 am

    The first time I contacted you with a question I received a clear and concise answer. I knew at the time I had discovered a unique professional photographer who can explain clearly and offer honest advice.

    This article is an exclamation point to your advice. Thank you for writing such clarity.

    I have not had time among 3 jobs to delve into either….new mac coming with last version of aperture; however, I will probably get both lightroom and photoshop cs in the future.


  84. 84) Rodrigo
    September 7, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Thanks a lot. It really helps me a lot in my path to photography.


  85. 85) ceoart
    September 27, 2014 at 12:20 am

    I was able to purchase the older version Adobe Photoshop CS6 EXTENDED for only one time $151.00. It is not the newer CC Version that requires you to pay every month for it, but it does everything need. I purchased it at:

    They have a A+ Rating from the Better Business Bureau since 2001 and list the rating link on their site. The software works great for me.

  86. 86) pradeep saini
    October 31, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    I always like to do creativity. I have knowledge of Photoshop and now i want to learn Photoshop Lightroom it can help me to do more effective graphics images. Can share me any simple tutorial in Lightroom.

  87. 87) Gabriella Louise
    November 4, 2014 at 1:49 am

    Thank you so much for this! It’s so super helpful. I was struggling with what to choose, but now I know exactly what I want :)

  88. 88) Guest
    November 24, 2014 at 2:10 am

    I prefer Photoshop for all it does but I guess I’m 60% designer & 40% photographer. I made this little graphic to help explain the Lightroom / Photoshop different.

  89. 89) Daniel Walter Scott
    November 24, 2014 at 2:13 am

    I made the comment below. Looks like I wrecked it though and I can’t delete it because it was written by ‘guest’. Oh well.

  90. 90) jazzad
    December 2, 2014 at 2:42 am

    I prefer Photoshop for all..Maybe you wanna learn about photo editing :

  91. 91) Adrian
    December 7, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I am in the middle of a photography couse. I need to be able to pick up a photoshop Histograma nd drop it into a Word document. Every thing I’ve tried fails. So my challenge is: How can i achieve this?
    Cheers to the answer,


    • 91.1) Alex
      January 11, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      I work on Windows 7 system, and use following sequence:
      1. display Histogram,
      2. open program “Snipping tool”(located in Accessories),
      3. Capture a part of screen with necessary content,
      4. Paste it into Word.

  92. 92) Monique B
    February 1, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Thank you SO MUCH for writing this article! I have been searching for a good explanation of the differences between the two, and always ended up more confused than when I started searching. THANK YOU, THANk YOU!

  93. 93) jennifer jacson
    February 2, 2015 at 3:18 am

    I moslty prefer PS, because it cannot be competed by any one, only some website which is near to this
    Photoshop Editor Online is toolpic which has many new function added, and as per my guestt it will soon touch the real function of PS. But i belieave no one can be compete to photoshop they are spending million of dollar to make it different.

  94. 94) Ty Thongdeth
    February 26, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    I am using photoshop and lightroom over 16 years and i use for professional work .you cannot compare LR and PS they are not comparable its like an apple and orange photoshop is harder to learn because the are thousand of thing that lightroom dont have them

  95. 95) Sarahshard
    April 3, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Really great article, informative , insightful and honest. Thank you.

  96. 96) CFandHappy
    April 19, 2015 at 3:29 am

    This is very helpful, thank you. I’ve done a bit of editing over the last year or so and I’m going to go straight for Photoshop. I’m a Photographer so it’s more about quality than quantity, and editing just one photo will take me ages, so I don’t need all the storage space of Lightroom.

  97. 97) total protect home warranty
    August 8, 2015 at 1:38 am

    I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!!
    total protect home warranty

Comment Policy: Although our team at Photography Life encourages all readers to actively participate in discussions, we reserve the right to delete / modify any content that does not comply with our Code of Conduct, or do not meet the high editorial standards of the published material.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *