Difference between Lightroom and Photoshop

November 14, 2016 by Editorial Team

Lightroom and Photoshop are more than just popular image editing software from Adobe. While both have a wide variety of functions, these programs have major differences. If you’re looking for a good image processing software package, read on to see if one will be a good fit.


Lightroom vs Photoshop
A screen capture of Lightroom’s user interface.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, or simply Lightroom, has two main functions – to process photos and organize digital images for Windows and Mac OS X users. This application allows users to view, organize and retouch digital images. Lightroom’s most defining function, however, is to manage huge amounts of image files.

Lightroom can help users import and export images, create image collections, and sort images according to metadata (camera used, time stamps, shutter speed, etc.). This built-in functionality can help build a detailed catalog of imported images by adding useful information or tags such as ratings, keywords, and flags. Users will be able to easily sort through and pick the best images. Catalogued and indexed images allow the user to create more streamlined workflows, as images can be selected in batches of any size for editing. The selected images can then be exported to any website such as Twitter or Facebook. Photoshop does not have support for this comprehensive indexing function, as it does not have a database for catalogued image files.

In terms of image editing, Lightroom comes with essential post-processing tools, but they are not as powerful as the ones carried by Photoshop. Another important Lightroom feature is RAW file support – this means RAW image files are supported without having to install any plug-in. Other standard editing tools include cropping, lens corrections, effects, split toning and more. Lightroom users can save specific changes as presets that can be applied to a group of selected images. Lightroom’s editing function is non-destructive, which means the original image file is not altered in the editing process.

A screen capture of Adobe Photoshop’s user interface.

Developed by Adobe Systems employees Thomas and John Knoll, Photoshop is an industry standard in raster graphics editing. Raster graphics editing includes creating and editing images interactively on a computer screen, then saving those images in various raster or bitmap formats (e.g., PNG, JPEG, GIF). This powerful feature allows editing at a pixel level, which gives unlimited options in image manipulation.

In addition to a suite of more advanced capabilities, all the image-processing features supported by Lightroom are present in Photoshop. Users can store several layers within a master file, which allows various edits on different layers with the option to hide, blend or modify any of the these layers separately. Actions or editing processes can be recorded, allowing users to review the editing steps.

Photoshop comes with a comprehensive toolbox that offers all the tools an image editor would require. Users can reduce camera shakes, implement photo filters, and use masks and alpha compositing. Photoshop allows users to edit and create vector graphics, 3D graphics and text to a certain extent as well. These supported functions can be further enhanced with the help of plug-ins available separately.

Lightroom vs Photoshop

So, what’s the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop?

Lightroom is software that offers users the capability of being able to view, organize, and retouch digital images. On the other hand, Photoshop is a much powerful image creation and editing tool that offers image manipulation capabilities down to a pixel level. Lightroom is fully capable of editing images in RAW file format straight from the camera while Photoshop requires a plug-ins such as Adobe Camera RAW to pull and modify RAW files.

Lightroom’s best feature is that it allows users to manage their image libraries better through a comprehensive tagging and indexing system. Photoshop does not have this feature.

While Lightroom’s post-processing capabilities are sufficient, it does not compare with the advanced tools Photoshop offers. In line with this, Lightroom is easier to learn and more appropriate for beginners to use. Photoshop is designed for photographers, 3D artists, architects, animators and graphic designers, and it takes more time to master compared to Lightroom.

Comparison Chart

Best for organizing image files for efficient workflowsImage creation and editing software
Can edit images in RAW formats straight from the cameraRequires ACR plug-ins when editing RAW files
Easy to learnHigh learning curve


Here is a YouTube clip that compares Lightroom and Photoshop in length.