Lightroom or Photoshop? How About BOTH?

I’ve read a couple of articles lately that discussed whether Photoshop or Lightroom is the better choice for photo editing. To me, the no-brainer answer is a definitive “BOTH”, because they both have their strengths and weaknesses, and also because they complement each other so well. And, with Adobe’s Creative Cloud program, which allows users to have both of these applications for less than ten bucks a month, it’s also become affordable for mere mortals to have both, which wasn’t always the case.

However, there are vehement adherents to the Photoshop-only philosophy. I had a discussion with one of those adherents yesterday, a person who is an ardent Photoshop user (and Lightroom hater). When I asked why, this is the answer I got:

Lightroom can’t do “real” photo editing. It’s only good for basic exposure and color correction.

Interesting position, and a fairly common one. There’s one particular “Facebook-famous” photo retoucher (who shall remain unnamed) that is so anti-Lightroom that he claims that LR is useless, makes people into shitty editors, and he often actively ridicules the Lightroom users who are unfortunate enough to stumble onto his page. It’s a shame that people are so narrow-minded, but hey, it takes all kinds right?

As for me, I use Lightroom for the majority of my work, and Photoshop for when I need the extra horsepower. The shot below illustrates a typical before and after of a shot I processed using both Lightroom and Photoshop. I did the color correction, exposure and basic skin cleanup in Lightroom, and used Photoshop to even out the skin tones as well as playing with the color and tone of certain isolated areas.

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This second shot I’ve used as a demonstration of what is possible using only Lightroom. All editing on this shot was done solely within Lightroom’s develop module.

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Even with my admittedly modest editing skills, it’s still clear that Lightroom is a very capable photo editor, even when going well beyond simple color and exposure correction. To be sure, Photoshop could have handled the job just as well, but at a cost of a much steeper learning curve and considerably more work, especially to make certain that all the edits have been done non-destructively. The point of this whole thing is not which is “better”, but rather that if you’re using either application to the exclusion of the other, you’re missing out on some great stuff.