Should You Use Photoshop CC, Elements, or Lightroom?

What is the right flavor of Photoshop for You?

It can be a bit intimidating trying to decide which image-editing software you need if you’re unfamiliar with them and don’t know what each one has to offer. If you browse through the internet or stroll into a store and glance at the options on the shelf, how do you know what to pick? What if someone can’t tell you the difference between Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Photoshop Lightroom? What happened to the good old days of just Photoshop?

In this article I will try and help you understand who each version of Photoshop is for and what the advantages of each of these programs are:

Photoshop Elements: An Image Editor for Most People

If you’re a web designer, small business owner, or someone who wants to edit the occasional family photo, then Photoshop Elements is all you really need. Photoshop CC may be too overwhelming and you may use less than 30% of what is available in that program.

With Photoshop Elements you can take advantage of features like layers and you can even remove backgrounds from images. You can also use it to make simple web graphics and banner advertisements. This fits the needs of what most people are looking for from Adobe Photoshop. It is also a good entry level program for new graphic designers, particularly those who are very young or might be students. The price also makes it attractive since it is typically under $80 to own it outright.

Lightroom: An Image-Editing Solution for DSLR Photographers

If you’ve made the investment in a DSLR Camera, the odds are when you use it, you will be taking quite a few photos. Lightroom will allow you not only to edit those photos, but to organize and catalog them, as well as do bulk editing. You can use the catalog features to make your images easier to locate on your computer, and add important metadata to your images before publishing, helping you protect your images. It will also allow you to edit them non-destructively, meaning the image originals/digital negatives will be preserved and any changes can be easily undone.

Adobe Lightroom will also allow you to do tethered shooting and preview the images on your laptop when it is connected to your camera (some camera models do not support this). You also can edit the RAW images rather than JPEGs, which will allow you to maintain high image quality and more detail.

Photoshop Lightroom is easy to use both for professional photographers as well as photo enthusiast and hobby shooters. It is also vary affordable at under $160 to own Lightroom 6 outright or you could get the Lightroom CC Photographer Bundle which includes Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for $9.99/month or $120/year.

Photoshop CC: A Program for Designers, Digital Artists, and Paid Creative Professionals

Photoshop is considered the industry standard for graphic designers and other creative professionals who deal in image editing such as digital artists and photo retouchers. It has a large set of capabilities ranging from simple image editing to digital painting, 3D graphics, and even animation. Its abilities extend into video editing and web design, and can be improved further by 3rd party plug-ins.

Adobe Photoshop is the most recognized program in the graphic design industry and across creative services professions, but it also one of the most challenging to learn due to all the options it has to offer. There are any number of ways to approach the exact same task, such as removing the background of an image. With that in mind, it’s clear that Photoshop is a tool geared towards professionals. While hobbyists do enjoy it and are capable of using it, this requires a large investment of time, and until recently it was also a large financial commitment as well.

With Adobe moving to the Creative Cloud Subscription model Photoshop is now more accessible, since you can gain access to both Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC through the Photographer Bundle option for $9.99/month.

So Which Version is Right for You?

  • Photoshop Elements: Small Business, Hobbyist, Students, Web Designers, Anyone on a Budget
  • Photoshop Lightroom: DSLR Photographers, Photography Enthusiast
  • Photoshop CC: Graphic Designers, Digital Artists, Creative Professionals, Photo Retouchers
Posted on: June 5, 2015

Roberto Blake

Roberto Blake is a Graphic Designer helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses improve their branding and presentations. Roberto also teaches Graphic Design and Adobe Tutorials through his YouTube channel and community. Roberto's Photoshop artwork has been featured in publications such as Advanced Photoshop and Photoshop Creative Magazine. See

3 Comments on Should You Use Photoshop CC, Elements, or Lightroom?

  1. Great article, Roberto.
    Informative. You’ve laid out the difference between the various types of Photoshop. Thanks for this Info.

  2. This is a super informative article! Thanks! What are the biggest advantages that Photoshop CC offers for designers that the cheaper and easier-to-use Photoshop Elements doesn’t have?

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