Lightroom Presets vs. Photoshop Actions: Epic Battle


Many professional and serious photographers heavily rely on either Photoshop or Lightroom - or both - as powerful tools of the trade. It's hard to imagine a professional photographer not using one of the two applications today. Both Photoshop and Lightroom have revolutionized the photo editing process by doing something important: simplifying it! 

Lightroom presets vs. Photoshop actions: epic battle from @BeArtPresets

So, the question begs: is one better than the other, especially given their ability to save individual user actions?


What are Lightroom Presets and Photoshop Actions?

Let's define presets for Lightroom and actions for Photoshop.

Photoshop allows you to save or record specific tasks you have applied to an image an “ action” so you can return later to use that same action to another photo. It is a smart and handy feature to Photoshop, but it is not unique.

Lightroom, made by the very same company that makes Photoshop, allows you to edit a photo any way you want and then save those settings so that you can automatically apply it to future images. Sound like Photoshop actions? It is.


What are their similarities?

Photoshop’s Actions and Lightroom's Presets have a fair amount in common:

  • Both can save you a lot of time. Once you’ve created them, you just have to return to them. For a busy photographer, the time savings can be significant.
  • They are both relatively easy to use. Once you create the effects in either program, you only have to remember how to get back to the presets or actions to use them again. There’s no guessing as to what you did the previous time.
  • Once you find an effect you love and set them using either program, you can recreate the effect time and again.
  • Although it might sound like an automatic step or setting doesn’t offer a learning opportunity, it actually can. You can browse others’ settings to learn more about various photo effects. You can use the presets and actions as a learning tool.


What are the differences?

We’ve discussed their similarities. Here’s how they differ:

  • Ease of use: Both programs allow you to set actions and return to them easily. As long as you save them correctly, you’ll have no problems reapplying them in the future to other images. However, Photoshop actions can be retweaked as needed to suit the next image but many users find that tweaking an image in Lightroom is a bit easier. If you need to tweak lighting or contrast in Lightroom, you just do it. In Photoshop, you need to be concerned with the multiple layers. You’ll need to make any changes on the correct layer. That’s not a problem on your Lightroom presets. Only make the changes you want and you’re set to go! When it comes to making changes to either the preset or action, Lightroom is faster.
  • Speed: Lightroom is just a bit faster than Photoshop. The difference isn’t significant but when you’re running through numerous images, the time savings can add up. Presets are applied to a picture instantly without lag time; this is yet, another advantage to it versus Photoshop.
  • Control & Application: Here the win goes to Photoshop. You have more control over effects and images in Photoshop than Lightroom’s presets. Photoshop’s multiple layers allow for better manipulation and application of changes to a picture. It allows you greater control over what and how you change an image’s many details.



Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets: Which One Should You Use?

Photoshop and Lightroom are hugely popularly with photographers for numerous reasons. Some professional photographers seem to prefer Lightroom over Photoshop, but many professionals use both applications. Minor differences in the two can make a difference to a photographer seeking to manipulate an image in a certain way or to save time as we have detailed. Both the presets and actions of the two programs make life easier for photographic editing and can save valuable time. Once you create and save your favorite effects in either program, you’ve simplified your future usage of either software. You can obtain consistent, beautiful effects in your images in a few simple steps. Both programs allow you to elevate the look of your photography quickly. And, both offer the ability to save effects for future usage which is why they’re so attractive in our industry.

Whether you use Photoshop or Lightroom (or both) becomes a matter of personal preference and need. Try them, talk to other photographers, and make a decision as to which or if both will be best for your photography practice!

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