Pondering Lightroom vs. Photoshop

January 20, 2011

in Lightroom, Photography Creative Team, Photography Tutorials, Photoshop, Susan Keller

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Written by: Susan Keller

I’m often asked, “Lightroom OR Photoshop?” I invariably answer, “BOTH!” Both of these amazing pieces of software are part of my daily photographic life. Here’s how my personal usage of each breaks down:


  • I organize, rate, sort, keyword, delete, compare every photo (personal & professional) in Lightroom.
  • Every photo I take “lives” in Lightroom…some “travel” to Photoshop.
  • I edit 99% of my personal family photos in Lightroom, never touching Photoshop – because LR is fun, fast, efficient, and “good enough” for my personal stuff.
  • I make all my slideshows using Lightroom.


  • More than half my professional photos “visit” Photoshop from LR. Why? Because PS just finishes/fine-tunes photos in a way that I haven’t yet been able to duplicate in LR.
  • PS is a superior editor for fine details – exacting, local adjustments can be made to color, contrast, sharpness, highlights, shadows, cloning, etc.
  • Anytime I want to play with textures and layers, PS is my go-to.
  • Anytime skin-smoothing or blemish-removing is required, PS is necessary.
  • Anytime I need a really good b/w (personal or professional).

So, to sum up my personal experience with Lightroom vs. Photoshop: LR is my organizational workhorse and my editor for nearly all my personal photos. PS is the fine-tuning editor I use to provide my clients with the best finished photos I am capable of creating.

Side-by-Side Comparison

To show you exactly what I’m describing, I thought I would provide images from a recent Fix-it Friday. I will show you the image as I edited it in LR-only and in PS-only, color and b/w (oh, and I tried to keep the edits as close as possible in terms of color, toning, etc.):

Color Edit: LR top, PS bottom, followed with side-by-side comparison …

I think the LR edit, that literally took me 5 seconds, is quite nice. And if it were my personal photo, I’d happily call it quits and move on to my next photo. What PS allowed me to do is brighten the image, but still retain freckle detail. And you can see that overall, the PS edit is just sharper and more detailed.

Black & White Edit: LR top, PS bottom, followed with side-by-side comparison …

The gap between the two softwares is a little clearer with b/w images. I’ve yet to find a b/w preset that I love quite so well as a PS b/w. Don’t get me wrong: I create lots of LR b/w’s (personal stuff) that I’m quite happy with. It’s just that once I compare them to the richness and sharpness of a PS-created b/w, the LR edits all look “muddy” in comparison.

So, there you have it. My love affair with LR & PS. When and how I tend to use them. And why. With examples. The End. :-)

Meet Susan:

Orange County Baby, Child & Family Photographer

I totally love a great roadtrip adventure with my dudes, or a cozy afternoon curled up with a good book. “Reality” tv totally sucks me in. I prefer my chocolate to be semi-sweet and my Diet Coke to have a squirt of root beer in it. Photography makes my heart sing and waterskiing leaves me sore & limping but deeply satisfied.

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We could debate all day on which program is better for editing…Photoshop, Lightroom, a combination of both or a host of others. There are as many opinions as there are people who use them! We do love Susan’s explanation on how she utilizes these two programs for the editing work that she does. Please feel free to share your editing workflow in the comments section below.

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole June 18, 2012

You can use the cloning tool to edit blemishes out/fix… Also you can use various “brushes” that you customize to adjust clarity and sharpness to make more detailed image like the photoshop answell… My photographic style is the softer though of the top images… I like bokeh and natural sharp image. But everyone has their own style. Mi do love yor photographic style of your PS images also :)


Michelle April 20, 2012

I seem to prefer the Lightshop photos to the Photoshop. Hmmmm.


Saundra November 27, 2011

Help – I’m still not sure Lightroom or Photoshop. But I do have a simple question, in reading these posts, it sounds like you can’t fix blemishes or edit out unwanted objects in your photos using LR. Is that right?


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