Lightroom and Photoshop: Why Use Them Together?

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Why use Lightroom and Photoshop together?

Some photographers rely on Photoshop to process their photos, others swear by Lightroom. But I'd encourage you not to think of using Lightroom and Photoshop as an either/or proposition, but rather, think about them as a unit, each of which is better at some tasks than others. If you want the most functionality to process everything from a big shoot to that one special photo, the ideal situation is to have access to both Lightroom and Photoshop, and understand how to use them smoothly and efficiently together, which is what this course is all about.

But first, why use both Lightroom and Photoshop to process your photos? The main reason is that Lightroom and Photoshop are very different under the hood, and that affects what each program is best at. Under the hood, Photoshop is a pixel editor, but Lightroom is not. Instead, Lightroom works by creating editing instructions, which it stores by default in a database called a Catalog. That means that every photo adjustment that you make in Lightroom is non-destructive of the original photo. It's just a set of instructions about how to display the photo. And that is a big reason to make as many photo corrections as you can in Lightroom rather than in Photoshop.

Lightroom is particularly good at global corrections, those that affect the entire photo. Most of the photo corrections are done with intuitive sliders in Lightroom, and those sliders are arranged in the develop module with a built-in workflow where you can basically start at the top and move through the sliders in order. Another benefit that Lightroom offers is that it simplifies applying the same corrections to lots of photos, which is not such a simple thing to do in Photoshop. And Lightroom does a great job of keeping track of your photos in its database- style asset manager, the Library Module, which can keep track of photos no matter where they're located, even offline.

Photoshop, on the other hand, is a Pixel Editor. When you make changes to a photo in Photoshop, you're manipulating pixels in the actual photo, a potentially destructive workflow. Now there are some workarounds for nondestructive editing in Photoshop. Smart Filters is just one example. But those workarounds are not always that obvious, particularly to novice users. One reason is that Photoshop has been developing piece by piece for more than 20 years, and so its controls aren't as streamlined, nor its workflow as intuitive as Lightroom's.

However, Photoshop's ability to edit pixels means that it can do some things that Lightroom cannot do, or cannot do as well, like compositing, retouching, working with layers, making more precise local corrections, and more. In the last chapter in this course, I'll walk you through some scenarios like these in which it makes sense to pass images off from Lightroom to Photoshop, so please do stick with me for that important practical chapter. So those are differences in Photoshop and Lightroom that give you reason to use both programs together for photo processing.

There is one important way in which the programs are similar, and that is the way that they handle raw files. So I would like to just introduce that subject here. Lightroom can process non-raw files in JPEG, TIFF and PSD formats, but where Lightroom really excels is as a raw converter, a program that can take the raw data captured by your camera's sensor and convert it into a color image that you can see and work with on your pixel-based screen. In the process, Lightroom sliders and tools allow you to control the appearance of the converted image.

Photoshop itself isn't a raw converter like Lightroom, but Photoshop comes with a plug-in called Camera Raw that is a Raw converter, and in fact, that shares the very same processing code as Lightroom. If you keep Photoshop's Camera Raw plug- in updated, so it's the same vintage as your copy of Lightroom, Camera Raw will have the same capabilities and controls that you'll see in Lightroom. That fact has a lot to do with the Photoshop Lightroom integration features you'll see in this course working as expected for you.

So later in the course, I will show you how to update Camera Raw and what alternatives you have in the event of a mismatch between Camera Raw and Lightroom. So let's put out that information to work. What does a typical Lightroom Photoshop workflow look like, and what would you use each of the two programs for in that workflow? Well, I recommend that you begin processing in Lightroom and do as much of the photo corrections as you can accomplish there, focusing mostly on global photo corrections. The corrections that affect an entire image, like White Balance, Tonal Adjustments, Color Saturation, and more.

If you have other Photoshop in the same light, then try synchronizing your adjustments to them as well. A quick way to do that is with the Sync button in the develop module. If there are some localized trouble spots that could obviously be fixed with Lightroom's local adjustment tools, but maybe small sensor spots. I might work on those in Lightroom too, but I'd hold off on most local corrections till I get to the more precise tools that Photoshop offers. After working with the bulk of photos from a shoot in Lightroom, I'll usually cull out a few to pass over to Photoshop for further editing.

I'll take photos over to Photoshop to do things that Lightroom cannot do, like, as I said, layered compositing, or that I know I can do better in Photoshop, like more sophisticated retouching or any of the many other things that Photoshop excels at. Finally, if you use the techniques I'll show you in this course to pass raw and non-raw photos between Lightroom and Photoshop, when you're finished editing, the resulting file will be in your Lightroom Library, or you can take advantage of Lightroom's terrific database system to manage the corrected photo. And when you need to output a copy for a particular use, you can export a copy from Lightroom or take the photo into Lightroom's print, web, or book modules to get creative with your photos.

So that's a look at why to use Photoshop and Lightroom together, and an overview of the Photoshop Lightroom Workflow. Actually, using the two programs together involves some twists and turns, so let's dive in and see what those are in the rest of this course.

Why use Lightroom and Photoshop together?
Video duration: 5m 58s 2h 36m Intermediate


Why use Lightroom and Photoshop together? provides you with in-depth training on Photography. Taught by Jan Kabili as part of the Using Lightroom and Photoshop Together

Photoshop Lightroom
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