Have you ever felt that the photograph you took doesn’t resemble the beauty you while taking the picture? Is the amazing evening now turned into a rather boring image? For most photographers, both amateurs and professionals, post production is a important part of their workflow. Most of the time you don’t need to do huge adjustments to a image, before you take it from “nice shot” to “amazing!”. Of course, the amount of processing is quite dependant on the photographer, and some tend to process much more than others. Let’s not get into the “edit or no edit” discussion in this article, let’s rather look at the two most used softwares for processing images. Which one is best for you? Photoshop or Lightroom?

Post production has always been a huge part of photography, even the masters such as Ansel Adams spent hours processing his images to perfection in the darkroom.

Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships. – Ansel Adams

Why Process your Images?

I think it’s important to see the difference of processing and manipulating images. By processing images I mean correcting colour balance, increasing contrast and other minor adjustments to properly make your photo represent what you witnessed while making it. Manipulating however is taking the processing a bit further. When you manipulate a image you also add or remove elements.

Processing images is essential for 95% of your images. Yes, your image can be excellent straight out of the camera, but the camera is not always able to capture the colours just as you saw it, or seeing the details in shadows. These are minor adjustments that will take your photo to the next level.

By the title of this article you probably already understand that we will be looking closer into both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. These are the two most used processing softwares by photographers today. Let’s look at which features these have and see which one is best suiting for your needs.

What is Adobe Photoshop?

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 19.10.26Photoshop is the one of the most comprehensive editing software on the marked. Originally created as a simple photo editing software in 1988, Photoshop has grown into the most popular software among photographers, designers and even architectures, publishers and 3d artists. Listing up the features of Photoshop would probably take days, as the list is close to never ending.

You can more or less do anything you want with a image in photoshop. If you can’t do it in photoshop originally, there probably is more than one plugins to help you out. Anything from simple adjustments such as contrast or saturation to advanced techniques such within image blending or focus stacking can be done in Photoshop. At first glance it might scare you away, as it is a rather advanced software to use, but just as any other softwares it isn’t that hard to use as soon as you get to know the functions. That being said, I doubt that theres many people out there who know Photoshop to it’s fullest, as you have unlimited options on how to do things.

What is Adobe Lightroom?

Adobe Lightroom, or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as it is formally named, is just like Photoshop a software for processing images. However, Lightroom is in many ways a much simpler tool to use, as it’s main purpose is processing photography, not anything else.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 19.09.38Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 19.12.36Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom works as a all-in-one photography package. Besides being able to edit your RAW files, it also offers a easy way to organise your images. Personally this was my main reason to start using Lightroom. Going through all my files on the hard drive, just to locate the one file I was going to edit, was way to time consuming. In Lightroom you can easily organise your folders, rate images, give colour codes, use keywords and so much more to make sure you easily locate the images you need.

Another great function with Lightroom is the possibility to sync images. Say you are making a timelapse, and you have 500 images. Instead of manually editing every single picture, you can do your adjustments to one file and then sync it with the remaining 499.

Lightroom Features

Adobe Lightroom has as mentioned a big variety of features, most of them made for basic processing of your RAW file. I won’t mention all features available, but here is a list of all the relevant features for processing your images placed in the Develop Module:

  • Histogram Sub-Module: Histogram, Crop Overlay, Spot Removal, Red Eye Correction, Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, Adjustment Brush
  • Basic Sub-Module: White Balance Temperature and Tint, Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites Blacks, Clarity, Vibrance, Saturation
  • Tone Curve Sub-Module: Highlights, Lights, Darks, Shadows, Point Curve
  • HSL / Color / B&W Sub-Module: Hue, Saturation, Luminance
  • Split Toning Sub-Module: Highlights; Hue & Saturation –  Balance – Shadows; Hue & Saturation
  • Detail Sub-Module: Sharpening; Amount, Radius, Detail, Masking – Noise Reduction; Luminance, Detail, Contrast, Color, Detail, Smoothness
  • Lens Corrections Sub-Module: Profile Corrections, Chromatic Aberration, Constrain Crop
  • Effects Sub-Module: Post-Crop Vignetting Style; Amount, Midpoint, Roundness, Feather, Highlights – Grain; Amount, Size, Roughness – Dehaze; Amount
  • Camera Calibration Sub-Module: Process, Profile, Shadows Tint, Red Primary; Hue, Saturation – Green Primary; Hue, Saturation – Blue Primary; Hue, Saturation

As you can see, there is a lot of options and possibilities in Lightroom. I choose not to make a list like the one above for Photoshop, as that would probably fill a book.

What Should You Choose? Photoshop or Lightroom?

All the information above is definitely good to know, but you might be asking yourself: So which one should I choose? On one hand you have a extremely powerful tool that requires a lot of hard work to understand, while on the other hand you have a much simpler software that is slightly more limited in possibilities.

If you are a beginning photographer, I recommend starting with Lightroom. Why?

  • Lightroom is easy to learn
  • Besides being a processing software it functions as a library for your photos
  • It doesn’t edit the original file – but a mirrored version.
  • Working in Lightroom is non-destructive
  • Most of what you need to do with a image can be done in Lightroom

Do you consider yourself as a more experienced amateur or professional? You need to invest in Photoshop as well. Photoshop is simply the most powerful software where you can do close to anything you like. Even though you don’t need to spend hours in Photoshop processing a image, there are a few techniques you should learn to use in your workflow.

Today you don’t need to purchase the individual softwares anymore. Adobe CC offers a package specifically made for photographers, and for only roughly $10 a month you can use both Lightroom and Photoshop. It’s a small investment well worth the money.