Beginner Photography: Photoshop or Lightroom?

Photoshop is the cornerstone of Adobe and pivotal to its success since the first release way back in 1987, and in 1990 under the Adobe brand. Lightroom is not as old, well-known, or powerful as Photoshop, but it still holds plenty of value and is one of the most-used programs in the Creative Cloud Suite.

What is their purpose?

The ubiquitousness of Photoshop and its common usage in the English language highlights its presence in the 21st century. There are limitless applications of image manipulation which can be executed within the program, and although not designed for it, can also be used for basic word-processing, video editing, or animations. The sheer power of Photoshop makes it a one-and-all program for photography enthusiasts. However, even if it is capable of so many functions, the main focus remains within image editing, retouching, mockups, and image compositions.

Meanwhile, most users see Lightroom Classic as a supplementary program to Photoshop. (It’s an unspoken rule to stay away from Lightroom CC – a scaled-down version of Lightroom Classic and holds images in the cloud. Think of it as a similar relationship between Premiere Pro and Premiere Rush). Lightroom is mainly seen as file management and used for retouching small and minor details, especially with colour profiles. However, as we’ll explore below, Photoshop and Lightroom are designed to work hand in hand

The Editing Process

Each user follows their own process when exporting and managing their images from their camera. There’s a general process all photographers will follow, but the finer details are dependent on the user and situation.

Most (if not all) photographers will take photos on their cameras in a RAW file. These files are not compressed and image data is unprocessed, meaning every small detail seen in the viewfinder through the camera lens will be captured. The JPEG and PNG formats most users are familiar with have been compressed and formatted to be in a smaller, lower quality file.

Lightroom Classic

Photography sessions will usually result in hundreds or maybe even thousands of photos. All the files are transferred from the external camera to a local drive on a computer. These images are imported into Lightroom, and will open into an easily-navigable library where the user can quickly organise and compare photos, edit details, and sort/filter to select which ones they would like to edit. There is also an option to add keywords and tags to the file, collate them into folders/collections, and quickly overlay preset editing profiles.

Following the above, the user will move into the Develop tab at the top of the screen and have the option to adjust each photo as necessary. This includes the white balance and colour grading, temperature, contrast, shadows, light sources, exposure, and other photography elements which may not have been absolutely perfect during shooting. There are also options such as correcting red eyes, bright reflections, and spots prevalent during evening and dark shots.

After the main editing component, users can pin the location of their photography in the Map module built into Lightroom. The other modules (Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web) allow the user to preview their work in said format, and can even publish and print a book from Lightroom directly


For onscreen viewing, some images may need further edits to correctly match colour profiles or adjust imperfections, such as blemishes or graining. Specialised tools within Adobe Photoshop will greatly assist with such edits, from which these files can be exported into JPEG and PNG formats. Image manipulation will also fall under this category. Want to change a cloudy sky to a clear one? Photoshop has you covered. Want to put yourself into a different background? It’s done in four clicks of the mouse. Adobe Photoshop is an insanely powerful tool, and knowing how to take shortcuts significantly speeds up the design process