A lot of people ask “What is the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop” the answer is they both do some of the same things and they are both completely different. This article is definitely NOT an in depth comparison between the two products, more an attempt to help you decide which application suits you better.
Firstly, let me say that I believe ALL photographers should start with Lightroom and then some/many will also need Photoshop. I will explain why I believe that later.
What is Lightroom?
LIBRARY Lightroom is firstly and foremost a database / catalog system designed specifically for photographers. It has rich keyword searches, metadata searches and much more. It enables you to create collections and keeps track of all of your photographs and if you have keyworded them correctly, enables you to find any photograph out of 100,000+ within seconds.
DEVELOP Secondly, Lightroom enables you to enhance your photograph so that it looks more like what you saw that captured your attention in the first place. How often have you seen something and clicked off a photo, only to be a little disappointed when you look at it on your computer? One of the reasons for this (it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad photographer) is that the human eye has a much greater dynamic range than your camera (no matter how good it is). As an example, you look into a shaded area and you can see something in there – you take a photo and it is nearly black – why? Because your eye can interpret the shadows better than your camera can. The detail is often there in the image – you just need to be able to bring it out – and that is the type of thing LR can do so well.
MAP The map module allows you to visually graph on a map of the world where all your photos were taken. Handy if your camera supports GPS Co-ordinates.
BOOK Lightroom interfaces nicely with Blurb to allow you to quickly and easily create your own book.
SLIDESHOW As it is named, this module allows you to create a slideshow quickly and easily
PRINT A very handy module that allows you to create many and varied print styles and print your photographs. Great for proof sheets, prints and many other uses.
WEB This module allows you to create web pages simply and quickly.
What is Photoshop?
This is a big question! It’s a lot easier to ask, what ISN’T Photoshop! Photoshop is NOT a database, it is not a mapping tool, a slideshow creator or for bringing together the elements of a book or webpage.
As far as editing goes, I don’t think anyone would argue that Photoshop isn’t the premier product for editing and manipulating photos.
All the editing described in the DEVELOP module of Lightroom can be done in Photoshop – but in many instances LR does it just as well and a lot more simply than PHOTOSHOP. For example, changing overall exposure, contrast, saturation, vibrance, whites and blacks are very simple in Photoshop. If you don’t have LR, then photoshop brings up Camera Raw which is basically Lightroom’s Develop Module when you open a photo.
Where Photoshop is obviously superior to Lightroom is in the tools like spot removal. LR5 has a great new spot removal tool, very similar to the one in PS – but only good for simple edits. If you try and do too many edits in Develop, LR very quickly chews up your computer’s resources and becomes unusable.
PS allows you to manipulate images in pretty much every way imaginable – but it is a monster to learn.
A very good training resource is Scott Kelby’s new ebook “Photoshop for Lightroom Users“. I highly recommend it. If you have an Android device (like I do) then you simply download the Kindle for Android App and your device acts just like an e-reader. This book covers step by step how to do the most common things a Photographer would want to do but finds Lightroom too limited. Get a copy now!