Adobe Lightroom vs. Photoshop Elements

By Kimberly Bowen
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Adobe has many products aimed at helping you improve the quality of your images. If you're interested altering your photos, but you don't want to get into the technicalities of learning professional-grade Photoshop CS5, you'll probably want to look at Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Lightroom 3.

A common question people ask when they're looking at Adobe products is,"what is the difference between them?" Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom appear similar, but they have distinct differences. Photoshop is photo editing software, Lightroom is photo manager software. We have looked at both products and identified some of the main differences between them. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™

What Is Adobe Photoshop Elements?

Say you want to put your sister's face on a penguin, or you want to add yourself to a photo of your friends in front of the Eiffel tower. Photoshop is the software for this type of task. It has a vast selection of tools to help you manipulate your image. This can include combining two or more images, changing and adjusting colors, blurring objects, altering the size of objects in the image and applying stylistic effects to your picture.

Photoshop gives you more control over your image editing than Lightroom. You can select portions of your photo to edit with Photoshop and continue to make changes to those elements throughout the editing process. Photoshop creates layers on the image to help you control and adjust each aspect of the image with precision. Photoshop also gives you the ability to create high dynamic range images, which combine several photos of the same subject in different lighting conditions.

Photoshop is complex software. While you can use basic tools after a quick tutorial, to master the techniques and understand all the tools takes hours of dedicated study and practice. However, the payoff for learning Photoshop is worth it to make your edited images seamless.

What Is Adobe Lightroom 3?

Adobe Lightroom 3 is more simplified editing software than Photoshop. You can still perform many of the same basic editing tasks, such as crop, clone, noise removal, conversion to black and white and levels adjustments. However, instead of spending hours watching tutorials, you can quickly pick up the skills and start working on your photos. Lightroom doesn't have layers, so you don't have to worry about selecting the correct layer in order to perform the edits you want to make.

In Adobe Lightroom 3, you make changes to the whole picture at one time. You can increase the exposure of a photo to lighten the image. Then you can intensify the black levels to even out the additional light in the photo. After that, you can bring out the brilliant colors you originally saw when you snapped the photo. If you're not sure what to do to make your photo look good, you can apply a preset combination of settings.

Although Adobe Lightroom 3 doesn't have the same advanced editing capabilities as Photoshop, it has other strengths, including better printing options and easy-to-use organization tools. Instead of focusing mainly on editing, Lightroom lets you manage your photos through keyword assignment, a rating system, tags and a search feature. Lightroom also enables you to send your photos directly to Facebook, Flickr and Smug Mug.

When it comes down to which software to purchase, the question you'll want to answer is what you want to do with it. If you're interested in having a high amount of power over the editing process, you'll want to choose Photoshop. If you want to enhance your photos, keep track of where you store them so they're easy to find, and quickly send them directly to a Facebook album, Adobe Lightroom 3 is going to be the more appropriate software.

 
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