Pondering Lightroom vs. Photoshop

January 20, 2011

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

Post image for Pondering Lightroom vs. Photoshop

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.

Facebook Page for tips, specials, and client sneak peeks

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.

{ 6 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?


Jenny October 7, 2011

To hannah who mentioned gimp: well, I don’t use photoshop, never have. I use lightroom 3 and gimp in conjunction. I use gimp for my layers (as you would in photoshop), for textures, templates, custom made scrap pages, cards, and for “photoshopping” anything (head-swapping, background replacement, etc), but I use lightroom for stuff like presets (or in photoshop, I hear they are called “actions”) because 1) photoshop is expensive and 2) after years of gimping, I’ve read up on photoshop and I’m just not sure I could get the hang of it the way I have gimp and now lightroom. Of course I’m still learning 🙂 Its interesting to see this article comparing lightroom and photoshop because it has given me an extra push to consider photoshop, but as many mentioned, lightroom is so much faster, and right now I offer free sessions, and when I do start charging, it will be very inexpensive, because I started doing photography in order to be able to give people cherished photos, so I want to keep it within their budget, so, lightroom will probably always be my go-to, because its so quick, I love the presets. Although, looking at it, photoshop DOES have lots more possibilities that even gimp and lightroom put together can never touch a photo done in photoshop (but it can be close if you really try). Maybe I’ll get someone to school me in photoshop one day 🙂 The actions are so much better, it seems, in photoshop than lightroom presets seem to be but as I said, lightroom is something I love and depend on daily! and gimp is what I used before I had such a thing as lightroom… I would use picnik.com (I now despise any photographers in my area using that and passing off their work as “professional” but I digress) to do the cleaning up and use gimp to do the beautifying (“digiscrapping” and fairy fantasy edits were my thing) but now lightroom just adds that extra touch, and if you can’t afford photoshop, I really reccommend lightroom… its half the price, and you can download a 30 day trial version to see if you like it.


Alex October 4, 2011

While reading this post I actually downloaded the trial version of Lightroom to test it. I am a digital painter/designer/wedding photographer and the photographer in me could really use Lightroom as I can quickly edit hundreds to thousands of photos as opposed to Photoshop where it would take me significantly longer. For things like paintings, effects, heavy manipulation, etc. Photoshop is my weapon of choice. It seems that most if not all editing features in Lightroom can be found within Camera Raw and Photoshop but to me that increase in workflow that Lightroom offers makes it worth buying.


Jennifer September 24, 2011

Okay, I’m confused. Lightroom IS a Photoshop product. So do you mean Photoshop Elements???


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: