For many photographers, it’s not immediately clear if Photoshop is actually good for photo editing. Sure, it can cut out objects, do graphic design work, and even 3D model, but what about the humble photo editing adjustment? Is Photoshop really meant for regular color and brightness adjustments? In short, yes, but here’s why.
Photoshop is great for photo editing, offering photographers a wide array of color, exposure, and contrast adjustments. Unlike other editing software, Photoshop uses a layer-based workflow allowing maximum control over how and where your adjustments occur.
If you’re someone who uses other editing programs like Lightroom or Luminar, Photoshop may seem like an elusive and overwhelming program. To give you an exact idea of why Photoshop is good for photo editing, let’s break down everything it has to offer.
What Makes Photoshop Good For Photo Editing?
1. It Can Work With Multiple File Types
One of the most important things for editing software is its compatibility with different file types. Whether you captured a RAW image with your camera or downloaded a PSD online, Photoshop can handle it all. This makes it easy to work with just about any file you need. If you are ever in a situation where you want to add graphics to a project, this single feature adds a lot of value.
Here are all the file types compatible with Photoshop:
- Photoshop 2.0 Format
- Photoshop DCS 1.0 AND 2.0 Formats
- Photoshop EPS Format
- Photoshop RAW Format
- BMP Format
- Cineon Format
- DICOM Format
- JPEG Format
- Large Document Format (PSB)
- OpenEXR Format
- PICT File
- PICT Resource
- Pixar Format
- Portable Bit Map Format
- Radiance Format
- Scitex CT
- WBMP Format
This impressive list covers just about every image file you would ever find yourself working with. As you might have noticed, RAW files are not on this list. That is because Photoshop converts RAW files into TIFFs once opened in the main workspace. However, you can edit your RAW files in their original format using Camera Raw. This feature opens up automatically whenever you open a RAW photo in Photoshop.
I’ll discuss more on Camera Raw and its features later in this post.
If you want more information on all the supported file types, see this post.
2. It Has A Wide Array Of Adjustment Tools
A second reason Photoshop is great for photo editing is the vast array of adjustment tools it offers. From exposure, color, contrast, and more creative adjustments, there’s nothing you can’t do in Photoshop.
Unlike Lightroom, Photoshop uses something called adjustment layers to edit your images. These adjustment layers can be easily adjusted independently or mixed together for creative editing styles.
With most editing programs, you’re limited to a single slider for how your adjustments appear on your photos. With adjustment layers in Photoshop, you can not only control the base adjustment but add creative effects with layer blending modes, opacity adjustments, or layer filters.
Put simply; you have far more creative freedom with every adjustment tool compared to other photo editing software.
3. Every Adjustment Layer Uses Layer Masks
With every adjustment layer you create, there is something called a layer mask that’s automatically added to the layer. Layer masks serve a similar purpose as selective adjustments in Lightroom but with far more control.
Layer masks help control your layers and adjustments in a variety of ways, such as:
- Where the layer/adjustment is visible
- The transparency of your adjustments
- The intensity of your adjustments as a whole or in part
- Add gradients, brush strokes, or selection shapes to your masks
That way, rather than creating selective adjustments separate from the global adjustments, layer masks allow you to do both. They can be applied to any photo editing adjustment or image layer, depending on the effects you want.
Best of all, since layer masks can be activated at any time, you can refine any adjustment later on with ease.
4. It’s The Best Program For Object Removal
Although most editing programs offer some kind of spot removal tool, they all fail to comparison to what’s available in Photoshop. Whether you want to remove a simple blemish or an entire person from your photo, it’s all possible in this program.
In fact, these adjustments are so powerful that many photographers use Photoshop solely for object removal.
There are a few main spot removal tools found in Photoshop called:
- The Clone Stamp Tool
- The Spot Healing Brush Tool
- The Healing Brush
- The Patch Tool
- The Content-Aware Move Tool
Each of these tools has slightly different uses for object removal. However, when used all together, you’re armed with the ultimate object removal arsenal available. Some of these tools are fully automatic, while others require manual sampling selections to clone out a particular area.
Compare this to something like Lightroom, which only has a spot removal tool that’s largely automated, and you’re going to have a much harder time removing objects.
With that said, for small spot removal adjustments like removing a blemish, you won’t notice a huge difference between the tools in Photoshop versus other programs. Where you will notice a difference is in larger object removal situations such as tattoos, logos, or entire people from a photo.
With so many powerful tools found in this program, it’s hands down the best editing program for removing objects from a photo. Just another reason why Photoshop is great for photo editing!
5. You Can Merge Multiple Photos
You’ll likely want to get more creative with your photo editing at some point along the way. A great way to do this is by merging different photos to create composites or improve the sky in your images.
This type of thing is not possible in Lightroom, but programs like Luminar offer many beginner-friendly tools to do just that. The difference between Photoshop and Luminar, however, is that Photoshop offers more manual control. When you’re dealing with AI-powered programs like Luminar, you forfeit a bit of that control.
In Photoshop, you can easily combine photos by creating selections and placing new elements anywhere you wish. In recent updates to the program, there are even automatic sky-replacement tools to get you results fast, even as a beginner.
In terms of regular photo editing, having the option to merge photos opens up a lot of doors. You can totally transform your images by adding new elements or experiment with graphic design elements. This may not be something every photographer looks for in editing software, but it’s always nice to have the option and allows room for creative growth!
The Basic Photo Editing Tools In Photoshop
Photoshop has a ton of different features that make it good for photo editing, but let’s stick to the basics regarding exposure and color adjustments!
– Camera Raw
Camera Raw is a tool inside Photoshop that almost looks like a mini Lightroom. Here you’ll find just about every basic image editing adjustment you could need to stylize a photo. In terms of exposure adjustments, Camera Raw offers all the typical sliders you’d expect.
Inside the Basic panel, you’ll find sliders to control the exposure, contrast, whites, highlights, shadows, and blacks. This way, you can easily control the overall brightness of your edit with ease.
You’ll only find the Tone Curve inside Camera Raw, which acts as another powerful tool for editing exposure or adding stylized contrast to your images.
Camera Raw will open by default whenever you open a RAW image into Photoshop, or it can be applied to individual layers as a filter. It’s an incredible tool for applying your base exposure adjustments or just brightening up a particular layer.
– Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer
The Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer is one of the most simple and intuitive ways to adjust the exposure of your photos. This adjustment offers two basic sliders called Brightness and Contrast.
Now it’s pretty self-explanatory what this tool does. The brightness slider will either lighten or darken your image, while the contrast slider will adjust the intensity of your shadows and highlights.
For quick exposure adjustments, this is a great tool for all experience levels!
– Exposure Adjustment Layer
The Exposure Adjustment Layer allows you to control the overall exposure of your photo, with some added sliders to edit the contrast. Inside this tool, you’ll find an Exposure slider, an Offset slider, and a Gamma Correction slider.
The Exposure slider is the most straightforward of the bunch. By dragging it up, you will brighten the photo, while dragging it down will darken.
The Offset slider controls the basepoint of your shadows and works well to create a matte look in your images. It can also be used to offset washed-out shadows if needed.
Lastly, the Gamma Correction slider controls the intensity of the mid-tones. This way, you can fine-tune your photo’s exposure and further stylize what would otherwise be a basic exposure adjustment.
– Curves Adjustment Layer
If you are familiar with the Tone Curve, the Curves Adjustment Layer will feel very familiar. This tool lets you control the brightness and contrast of your photo by adjusting a curve via anchor points. With this tool, you can target your adjustments to the shadows, mid-tones, or highlights and add some very unique effects to your edit.
You can also target the red, green, or blue color channels to add color effects with this tool.
– Levels Adjustment Layer
The Levels Adjustment does a lot of the same work as the Curves Adjustment, just with a slightly different interface. Rather than adding anchor points to a curve, you adjust the basepoints for shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.
The Levels adjustment offers another easy way to adjust exposure and contrast with just a few clicks.
– Camera Raw (Again)
Once again, Camera Raw comes into the discussion as it offers a few handy color editing tools. The two most useful are called the Color Mix Tool and the Color Grading Tool.
If you’re already familiar with Lightroom, then you may already be very familiar with these adjustments. The Color Mix is the equivalent of the HSL adjustment, while the Color Grading Tool is largely the same between Camera Raw and Lightroom.
You can easily control the hue, saturation, and luminance of multiple color ranges in your photo between these two adjustments. With the help of Color Grading, you can add further stylization to your edit by adding color tones to your shadows, mid-tones, or highlights.
I talk extensively about how you can use these two tools in my Photo Editing Unlocked course.
Overall, the color adjustments found in Camera Raw offer another great starting point for every photo you edit in Photoshop.
– Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer
The Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer works a lot like the HSL adjustment found in Lightroom. The difference, however, is that you can adjust the exact color hues you’re targeting in different channels. This is extremely useful if you want to add multiple adjustments to a single color range or isolate which tones of color are included.
The way this tool works is quite simple. You can pick a color channel to edit via the dropdown menu near the top of the tools dialogue box. With a color channel chose, simply adjust the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness sliders to refine how that color appears in the photo.
This is the best tool to quickly edit colors in Photoshop and help create a lot of amazing editing styles.
– Color Balance
The Color Balance Adjustment Layer is similar to the Color Grading adjustment found in other editing programs. The difference is that you have three sliders to help add varying colors to your photo rather than using a color wheel. You can further target where the colors are applied by going between the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.
The Color Balance Adjustment Layer is a great tool for bringing together the colors in your images or helping to give your photo a particular feel.
– Vibrance Adjustment Layer
Just as the name would suggest, the Vibrance Adjustment Layer controls the vibrance and saturation of your colors. Using this adjustment layer, you can quickly boost your colors and make your entire photo appear more colorful.
– Selective Color Adjustment Layer
The Selective Color Adjustment Layer is one of the most versatile color editing tools found in Photoshop. By breaking down your image into a variety of color and exposure ranges, you can easily target a particular area to spice up with color.
Inside this tool are four sliders reading Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. In a nutshell, you will add the listed color by setting a positive value while adding the opposite color with a negative value.
For example, you would add Cyan to the photo by dragging it up or add Red (the opposite color) by dragging it down.
As for the Black slider, dragging up will darken your photo/color range by adding black. Dragging down will lighten the same area by adding white.
Now you have a general idea of all the basic photo editing tools found in Photoshop. Although I could write an in-depth tutorial about each of these adjustment layers, this gives you a good idea of the options available. At this point, I’m sure you’re beginning to see why Photoshop can be a good tool for photo editing!
Is Photoshop Better Than Lightroom For Photo Editing?
Photoshop and Lightroom are both good for photo editing but serve different purposes. Lightroom is good for organizing large batches of images and applying basic editing adjustments. Photoshop performs better for applying advanced editing effects to a smaller number of images at a time.
It’s hard to compare two different programs when they are meant for different things. Adobe Lightroom is a complete photo editing program offering ways to catalog and organize images, batch edit, and export with ease.
Photoshop, on the other hand, doesn’t work as well with large numbers of photos. Instead, it’s best used for enhancing one image at a time. Rather than storing photos in a single catalog, each photo you work with in Photoshop is a new project. So you can begin to imagine how disorganized that can become after working with hundreds or thousands of photos.
Although Lightroom beats out Photoshop in terms of image sorting and efficiency, Photoshop still reigns supreme for editing adjustments. With more adjustment tools, selection methods, brush options, and creative filters, the skies the limit when editing in Photoshop. It’s simply easier to add more creative editing adjustments to your photos.
If you want to have the absolute best tools for editing photos but don’t care much about image organization in-program, Photoshop is a great option for photo editing.
However, if you prefer something a little more beginner-friendly, with space to organize and edit your images all at once, Lightroom is a better solution.
Luckily you don’t necessarily need to pick between one or the other. It’s actually cheaper to get Lightroom and Photoshop together than it is to get Photoshop by itself. With Adobe’s Photography Plan, you can get both programs for just $10/month or even test out their 7-day free trial!
Which Version Of Photoshop Is Best For Photo Editing?
The best version of Photoshop for photo editing is the most updated version released by Adobe. As a Creative Cloud subscriber, you’ll get automatic updates to Photoshop each time one becomes available. These updates provide program improvements and enhancements in a variety of photo editing tools helpful to photographers.
These major updates typically come around at the end of every year, often with a total overhaul of the program. In past updates, there have been new tools added, adjustment options tweaked, or more creative filter options.
Before Adobe switched to the subscription-based price model, you’d have to purchase the entire program again for these types of updates. Now you get all of these included with your monthly or yearly subscription to the Creative Cloud.
Is Photoshop Worth The Money?
Photoshop is worth the money for those wanting more control in their photo editing. By offering more advanced tools and adjustment layers, it’s easier to be more creative with your photography. Whether you need to edit a photo or work on a graphic design project, Photoshop offers an exceptional amount of tools considering its $10/month cost.
When you begin editing photos, Lightroom is often the first place people start. It’s easier to use, less overwhelming, and has most of the tools you need. The trouble is, as you improve as a photo editor and want to make more drastic adjustments, Photoshop becomes a necessary tool.
For example, if you need to remove something larger than a small dot in your frame, Lightroom’s spot removal tools become very limiting. With Photoshop, you can remove virtually anything from your photo since you have manual and automatic sampling control.
In other editing programs, it can be slightly more difficult to keep track of multiple selective adjustments. Since Photoshop is layer-based editing software, it’s far easier to track every adjustment and the layer masks you are using!
Now, if you decide you want to design a logo, create a graphic design, or make a banner for social media, Photoshop is once again the best tool for the job.
By providing so many options in the way you edit a photo (or add graphics to your photos), Photoshop is an essential tool for all photographers and absolutely worth the money.
Especially when combined with Lightroom for $10/month in the Photography Plan.
So now you can see why Photoshop is good for photo editing, especially when put alongside Lightroom. Photoshop is a very capable photo editing software with more powerful tools than any other program currently provides. Whether you only want to edit photos or create promotional materials for your business, Photoshop lets you do it all.
– Brendan 🙂