As a photographer you will need reliable editing software to be able to post process and edit your photos. One of the best options is Adobe’s offering. Photographers can use Lightroom and Photoshop which are part of the Creative Cloud editing software by Adobe. Creative Cloud offers a subscription model for photographers. Photoshop also comes in a so-called Elements version, which is a less costly and a viable alternative which still offers a lot of features.

Photo editing software

Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC

Lightroom is an ideal piece of editing software by Adobe if you want to organize and edit your photos. Lightroom comes in two versions: Lightroom Classic (desktop) and Lightroom CC (cloud).

Lightroom Classis resembles the old stand alone software and is desktop based. This is especially handy if you have a large catalog of photos which are already sitting on your hard drive. Lightroom CC has limited storage in the cloud which can easily prove to be too little. The advantage of Lightroom CC though is that your photos will be available on your desktop computer but can also be accessed when you are working on other (mobile) devices.

Watch the following in depth video if you would like to know more about the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic:

Lightroom is solely aimed at photographers, whereas the more extensive tool Photoshop is used by photographers, illustrators and graphics designers. For most photographers all they will ever need is Lightroom, because it has all the features for a seamless workflow – from image management to editing and printing.

Lightroom works with modules: Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print and Web. Each module has its own features. Most photographers will mainly use the Library and Develop module.

The Library module is like a management system for your photos and the starting point if you want to organize and later on edit your photos. Before you can start working on your photos in Lightroom you need to import them into Lightroom’s catalog. Within Lightroom Classic you can maintain the folder structure which is already present on your hard drive.

In the same module you will also find options to keyword your photos and adjust the metadata information such as title, caption, and copyright information – which is very handy for stock photographers who need to submit their entries to stock sites with all this information filled out. Details from your camera (make and lens used) are automatically imported.

To edit a photo you open the Develop module. This gives you options to make overall adjustments to your photo, like changes to exposure, color, vibrance, saturation, sharpening and many more. Specific and local adjustments to only a part of your photo are harder to achieve in Lightroom than in Photoshop, but not impossible. You can make some local adjustments for instance by working with brushes.

Some of the panels available in the Develop module are the histogram, tools for local adjustment, the basic panel, and panels for adjusting the tone curve, split toning, sharpening, noise reduction, lens corrections and more.  

One of the best features of Lightroom are presets. When you create your own presets or use the built-in presets or buy some from a third party, you can easily make adjustment with one click. A preset is like a recipe that tells Lightroom which actions to take – for instance turning a color photo into a black and white one. You can also select multiple photos and activate a preset for all of them in one go. After you have applied a preset you can still make further adjustments to exposure, white balance, color, vibrance, noise reduction and other aspects of your photos.

The tool bar in the Develop module gives you options to categorize your photos using color labels and star ratings. If you then go back to the Library module you will be able to search your catalog based on the labels you have assigned.

Lightroom saves all the edits that you make in its catalog. If you want to start from scratch because you are not happy with the changes you made to a photo you can easily reset it and all changes will be reverted. All the edits you make on a photo are non-destructive, meaning you can always go back to a previous or the original state of your photo.

Another useful feature is the History panel which allows you to go back to a previous point in your editing process. You can then go forward from that point again, thereby ignoring the edits you had already made before. If you close Lightroom the history of your edits remains, so you can always go back to them at a later stage.

Photoshop

Due to the many, many options in Photoshop – the other photo editing software by Adobe – the program is not easy to learn and use. Photographers may get lost in features they might never use. In Photoshop you can make specific adjustments to parts of a photo, something which is a lot harder to achieve in Lightroom. Photoshop’s key feature is the ability to work in layers, which makes it easy to make adjustment in steps and to specific elements in your photo.

If in Photoshop you want your edits to be non-destructive you will have to use layers. Although working with layers is not easy to learn, once you get the hang of it the possibilities are endless.

In Photoshop you can make much more drastic changes than in Lightroom. You can easily add other graphical elements to your photos or alter existng ones – e.g. adding text, replacing a dark sky with a blue one or combining multiple photos into one. Also the process of removing distracting objects in your photos is much easier in Photoshop than in Lightroom. If you want to clone and retouch Photoshop is definitely the better option.

Best tool and workflow

Most photographers will be best of using Lightroom rather than Photoshop editing software by Adobe. The learning curve  for Lightroom is less steep and if offers a large array of options for image management and editing. Lightroom has several modules under one roof, whereas Photoshop is aimed at the creative side of post processing your photos. In Lightroom you can keep your files organized in one place and start your workflow from there. When you choose to work in Photoshop the additional management tool called Bridge comes in handy.

If you have a large collection of photos that you need to manage the optimized library function of Lightroom far exceeds the possibilities of Photoshop and Bridge.

A great plus is that editing in Lightroom is non-destructive, so you can always go back to your original file without any of the edits applied. Photoshop however is only partly non-destructive.

If on the other hand you need to make complex edits like cutting out elements, changing backgrounds, retouching or combining multiple photos into one then Photoshop will be the go to tool.

If you would like to use both pieces of software and make use of their specific features you can easily go from one program to the other. While in Lightroom you can select a photo and choose to make further edits in Photoshop and return to Lightroom when you are done.

As a starting photographer there are several reasons why it might be best to start using Lightroom and progress to Photoshop later when you feel the need to make specific local adjustments to your photos or when you need more than a photo editing tool and are in need of design features as well.

In short Lightroom is ideal if you want to enhance your photos and Photoshop is the perfect tool if you want to create something new based on your photo.

If you are in doubt when it is best to use Lightroom or Photoshop you will find some anwers in this video.

Subscription plans and pricing

Adobe offers a Creative Cloud subscription for photographers. The programs that are included in this subscription are:  Photoshop, Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop Express, Photoshop Camera, Photoshop Lightroom Classic.

This means you can no longer buy these programs separately as stand alone tools. All Adobe software programs are now part of the Creative Cloud model.

I you are not ready to jump into Photoshop full scale you can opt for a light version of Photoshop and choose Photoshop Elements. Elements can also be integrated into Lightroom, just like Photoshop. Elements is not a part of the CC subscription model.

On this page you will find products, software and websites I recommend.  Some of the links here are so called affiliate links. If you follow any of these links and decide to purchase a products advertised on this page I may receive a small affiliate commission with no extra costs to you.