Confused: Photoshop or Lightroom?

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I'm an amateur photographer (Sony Nex-7 camera) and want to improve photos after they're taken; which product do I need? Photoshop or Lightroom? My PC is Windows 8.1. Can't tell from webpage info. which to buy. Thanks for your advice.
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Posted 5 years ago

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Steve Sprengel, Champion

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Here is an article where someone is attempting to answer that question:

Photoshop vs Lightroom

With my photos, I use Lightroom for all of them, mostly for overall adjustments of light, dark, contrast, color, saturation, noise-reduction, sharpening. LR does a good job with things that deal with the entire image.

When I have an image that needs an object removed or I need to assembled parts of two or more pictures, together, I use Photoshop, which has layering and masking.

Recently I wanted a Christmas portrait of our two small dogs against a white background. The problem was, getting two dogs to both look right and at the camera at the same time is trouble, so I took their pictures individually, picked the best two, adjusted them in LR, then opened them both as separate layers in Photoshop and put one dog next to the other. This worked well for me because the background was white and I hide the seam between the two in that whiteness.

Back when it was available for $10/month, I took advantage of the LR+PS Photographer's subscription bundle, and have both tools, for about the cost of an upgrade of Photoshop, before there was a monthly subscription.

Photoshop Elements which is much cheaper than Photoshop has some layering capabilities, too, so it might have worked ok, but I have Photoshop so didn't try Elements.

If I was giving advice to my younger self in your situation I would say get Lightroom to start with, and if it works well but you need to do more, then get Elements or maybe Photoshop if resources aren't that much of a concern.

LR and Elements and Photoshop all have 30-day trials. I would start with a LR 5.3 update running in trial mode and see if you like it, then once you have either purchased it, or are reasonably comfortable with it, but have maybe a week left in the trial, install Elements or Photoshop, whichever you think your resource fit the price of, and see if you can get Edit in Photoshop (Elements) to work how you want.

Photoshop can do many things, but it is more of a toolbox where you have to figure out which tool to use next. LR can do many things, too, but the layout of the Develop panel is kind of in the order you want to do things, so it's easier to figure out what to do next.

Element has a guided mode that will lead you through some operations, but eventually you'll want to do more and won't necessarily know what next.

You might want to check out Adobe TV and watch some videos about using LR and PS just to see if something catches your fancy, so you have some thing to get started trying to do, before exploring other areas. You might initially look at getting started or overview or what-is types of videos to get an understand, and then find tasks the look interesting and seem relevant:

You can download the Lightroom 5.3 update from links on Adobe's update page:

Images taken in raw format afford the most opportunities for adjustments but LR will work with JPGs as well.
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Rob Cole

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Core of raw photo editing functionality is the same in either product: Adobe Camera Raw. But Lightroom wraps it with some other handy features, like a DAM database, map module, publish services... And Photoshop adds editing features which go far beyond the common core.

Bottom-line: some people do fine with Lightroom alone, and no external editor, or use a cheaper external editor for select photos.

The hot setup, in my opinion, is to use Lightroom for most things, but have Photoshop as external editor for some photos. But there are also plenty of photographers who bypass Lightroom and use Photoshop instead (usually in conjunction with Bridge).

Note: If you buy Photoshop, you get Lightroom (and Bridge) for free, so if you have the money, just buy Photoshop. If you like Lightroom, use it, if not: Photoshop (+Bridge).

PS - I recommend downloading the trials and using them before deciding.