Since the first Lightroom beta was released in 2006, the world of photography has undergone many changes. In those days, most people had never even heard of smartphones, and editing photos required sitting down at a computer. Today, photos shot on mobile phones grace the covers of top magazines, and billions of photos are captured and instantly shared online every single day.
Today, during the Adobe Max conference, Adobe announced the future of Lightroom. There’s lots of changes and plenty of confusion, so let’s get an overview before we discuss the finer details…
Lightroom Rebranded as Lightroom Classic
The folder-based version of Lightroom that we’ve known and loved for the last 10+ years is still going strong. It’s been rebranded as Lightroom Classic, because it continues to use the traditional desktop folder-based organizational system we’ve used for decades (as opposed to a modern cloud-based system).
Future development of Lightroom Classic is being refocused on improving performance and enhancing the editing tools. It’s become a bit of a jack-of-all-trades over the last few years, so this new focus is great news for serious Lightroom users.
Edit – Lots of long-time Lightroom users are worried this means that Adobe are killing off Lightroom, but let’s look at the evidence and logic…
Lightroom Classic CC 7.0 Release
Lightroom Classic 7.0 was released today, including the first wave of performance improvements, a new embedded preview workflow for faster culling, and a new range mask tool for color/luminance based selections, in addition to the usual new camera/lens support. There’s more information on the new features here.
Before you jump to upgrade, a word of warning is in order. Performance is a tricky thing. Making a feature faster on one computer can make it slower on another, and the code changes are so widespread, it can create bugs in seemingly unrelated areas. I’d recommend exercising a little caution because opening a catalog into 7.0 upgrades the catalog format, so you can’t easily roll back to 2015.12 if you run into problems. Lightroom 7.0 can be installed alongside Lightroom CC 2015, so if you’re an early adopter, perhaps test it using a clean catalog before upgrading your main working catalog, just in case. I’ll compile the early feedback into a blog post over the next week or two.
End of Perpetual Licenses
For the last couple of years, it’s been a subject of great debate… will Adobe keep selling Lightroom as a perpetual (standalone) license or not? We finally have an official answer… Adobe will continue to sell Lightroom 6 as a perpetual license, but Lightroom 7 and future versions will only be available to CC subscribers. At least they’ve said it now, and we can all stop guessing. They’ll continue to add new camera support to Lightroom 6 until the end of the year, and even at that point, your perpetual version of Lightroom will not spontaneously combust. If you’re currently a perpetual user, I’ve outlined some of the options here.
Cloud-native Lightroom CC
There’s a new cloud-native version of Lightroom, designed for the next generation of photographers. Because in this version everything’s synced to the cloud, your photos and edits are available on all of your devices, wherever you are. Since Lightroom manages your photos for you, this new Lightroom app is really simple to use (no more missing files!), but still has the non-destructive editing power we’ve come to expect from Adobe. It’s been rewritten from the ground up, so it’s relatively bug-free (hooray!).
It’s early days, so Lightroom CC doesn’t have all of the features of the Classic version, but it already has the essentials and will continue to develop rapidly. If you’re a Lightroom user considering moving to the cloud-native app, I’ve created a feature comparison table, so you can check whether it has the features you need for your workflow.
Lightroom for iOS/Android
The iOS and Android versions of Lightroom have been updated with some fantastic new features including AI-based automatic tagging and search, keywords, album folders to organize all of your albums (prev. called collections), and the Android version now has the brush tool too. You can read all about the new features here.
The mobile apps are designed primarily to be a companion to the cloud-native Lightroom CC ecosystem, so they now use the new terminology (e.g., albums instead of collections). The mobile apps continue to sync with Lightroom Classic, as they always have done, but no new cloud features will be added to Lightroom Classic, so keywords and collection sets don’t sync with Lightroom Classic.
Lightroom FAQ’s – October 2017 Announcements
There’s sure to be a mass of questions about these announcements. I’ve preempted many of the questions I expect to see, and I’ll continue adding to the FAQ’s below as new questions arise. For easier access, I’ve divided them up into general questions, Lightroom Classic questions, Lightroom CC questions, Subscription-related questions and perpetual license questions. (Links just scroll down.)
What’s the difference between Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC 2015 and Lightroom 6?
What a mouthful! Ok, here goes…
Lightroom CC is a new cloud-centric photography service. All of the photos are stored in the cloud and available on all of your devices, whether they run Windows, macOS, iOS, Android or tvOS, as well as in a wide range of web browsers. It can take advantage of cloud computing, for example, machine learning based search. Lightroom looks after everything. If you buy a new computer, you simply install the app, sign in… and all of your photos appear!
Lightroom Classic is the latest release of the traditional desktop-centric version of Lightroom, where files are stored in folders on a local hard drive. It has limited communication with the Lightroom CC apps, but can sync small smart previews to the cloud for viewing/editing and can receive new photos added using the Lightroom CC apps. You’re in charge of managing your photos.
Lightroom CC 2015 is an older version of Lightroom Classic available to CC subscribers. It currently has limited communication with the Lightroom CC apps.
Lightroom 6 is an older version of Lightroom Classic, released in April 2015, and is still available as a perpetual (standalone) license, for those who don’t want a subscription. It doesn’t communicate with the Lightroom CC cloud.
Why create a new Lightroom app instead of improving the cloud functionality of Lightroom?
Trying to shoehorn a cloud-centric workflow into an app designed for a single desktop just doesn’t work well and adds unnecessary complexity. Each workflow has very different needs. Separating the apps – albeit with some crossover – means that each app can focus on its strengths and be more focused on the needs of the photographer.
Is Adobe abandoning professional and advanced photographers to concentrate on mobile photographers?
Adobe is making it easier for new photographers to get started with Lightroom, but that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning the existing user base. Quite the opposite, in fact. They’re renewing their commitment to improving their photography software based on feedback from all kinds of photographers, from beginners to professionals.
Why has Adobe changed Lightroom’s name? Why not call the new one Lightroom Elements?
Although the new Lightroom CC app currently has a limited feature set because it’s a 1.0 release, it’s not designed to be a stripped down (or ‘Elements’) version of Lightroom.
Lightroom is now growing in two different directions now instead of one, but they are closely related, so they both need to stay in the Lightroom family. Lightroom CC will focus on cloud workflows, while Lightroom Classic will focus on a traditional desktop workflow.
Which one do I need?
Lightroom CC focuses on a cloud-centric workflow, which is ideal for photographers using multiple devices, or who just want a simpler way to organize, edit and share their photos. It is a 1.0 release, so it doesn’t have all the features of Lightroom Classic yet, but it may already do everything you need.
Lightroom Classic focuses on a desktop-centric workflow, which is ideal for photographers shooting very high volume, with limited internet connections, or those who require features not currently available in Lightroom CC.
To help you compare, I’ve created a list of features and flow chart to help you decide which version is right for you.
Does this mean Lightroom Classic is dying?
No, Lightroom Classic development has been refocused on performance and editing improvements, which is brilliant news! Many of the engineers are new to the team and very enthusiastic about improving Lightroom.
Do I have to switch from Lightroom Classic to Lightroom CC?
No! There are lots of reasons you might consider switching from Classic to Lightroom CC, for example:
- You want all of your photos backed up to the cloud and available on all of your devices, without having to import and export catalogs. Having all of your originals available wherever you are grows on you quickly!
- You struggle with the file management or complexity of Lightroom Classic. Lightroom CC is designed to be much easier to use.
- You want to take advantage of cloud features, such as artificial-intelligence based search.
On the other hand, you may prefer to stick with Lightroom Classic because:
- Your internet connection is too slow or bandwidth is too expensive.
- You use advanced features that aren’t available in Lightroom CC yet.
- You have many TB of photos that need to stay on local hard drives.
Or you may decide to stay with Lightroom Classic, but dabble your feet in Lightroom CC, for example:
- Use Lightroom Classic on your desktop, sync smart previews to the cloud, and use Lightroom CC on your laptop and mobile devices, so you can view/edit photos on your other computers without having to import/export catalogs.
- Use Lightroom CC to load your originals to the cloud, but then let them download into Lightroom Classic for more advanced features. (Although this workflow can get a bit clunky, so I’d only recommend it for very advanced users.)
Can I still sync from Lightroom Classic?
The existing cloud sync functionality will remain in LR Classic, so you can sync with any of the Lightroom CC apps including the iOS/Android apps, but no new sync functionality will be added to Classic (so keywords and collection hierarchy won’t sync).
Who is Lightroom CC designed for?
Lightroom CC is designed for all passionate photographers, whether they’re beginners, advanced amateurs or professionals. Many of the advanced sliders are hidden by default, so it’s easier for new photographers to get started, but it still has all the power of the Adobe Camera Raw engine. It’s only version 1.0, so although the feature-set is limited at the moment, it will rapidly grow based on user feedback.
Is Lightroom CC a dumbed down version of Lightroom?
No, it’s a different tool for a different job. It’s focused on a cloud-based workflow, rather than a folder-based workflow. It is simpler to use, because it looks after all of the file management and many of the advanced editing sliders are hidden by default, but there’s plenty of power under the hood.
Does Lightroom CC have all of the editing tools from Lightroom Classic?
The same camera raw engine lies under the hood of both versions of Lightroom. In Lightroom CC, some of the advanced sliders are hidden by disclosure triangles and buttons. There are a few features that don’t have a user interface yet, such as the tone curve, split toning and camera profiles, but these are expected to follow over the next few months. In the meantime, Lightroom CC can still understand and apply these hidden adjustments when added via synced settings or presets.
Which file formats does CC support?
Lightroom CC can import all of the same file formats as Lightroom Classic, including the full range of raw file formats.
Which Lightroom Classic features is Lightroom CC missing?
There’s a feature comparison on this page.
Why doesn’t Lightroom CC have my favorite feature from Lightroom Classic?
It’s early days. There’s a good range of features already, but it’s also a version 1.0 product, which means it’s in a stage of rapid development. Adobe is looking for your feedback on must-have features. You can share your requests at the Official Feature Request / Bug Report forum.
Can I use Lightroom CC offline?
Yes, you can use Lightroom CC when you don’t have an internet connection. Obviously it can’t sync with the cloud when you’re offline, and the cloud-based search feature won’t work, but you can still add new photos and work with photos that have already been downloaded.
Can I keep a local copy of my photos or all they just stored in the cloud?
Everything’s saved safely in the cloud, but it’s very easy to keep a local copy too. There’s a checkbox in preferences to store all originals locally, and Lightroom manages the storage space for you. You can even set the originals to store on an external hard drive, and if you add new photos when the hard drive is disconnected, Lightroom automatically moves them over when you reconnect the drive. It couldn’t be easier.
How many computers can I use?
You can currently have Lightroom CC activated on two desktop/laptop computers, plus as many mobile devices and web browsers as you like.
Can I convert my Lightroom Classic catalog to Lightroom CC?
Once you’re sure that Lightroom CC has all of the features you need, there is a migration tool to upload a Lightroom Classic catalog to the Lightroom CC cloud. It does require twice as much hard drive space, at least temporarily, as the migration process copies all of your photos into its own storage space, ready to upload to the cloud.
If you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to a Lightroom CC-only workflow, I’d suggest using Lightroom CC like a mobile client for a while, just viewing/editing smart previews synced from Lightroom and adding new photos, rather than jumping into migration (which is a one-time process). While it is possible to have “a foot in both camps”, it can get a bit messy.
Can I have both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic on the same computer?
Yes, Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic can both be installed at the same time, especially if you’re dabbling your feet in the water to see if Lightroom CC is right for you. They don’t share the same catalog, other than via the cloud sync.
Perpetual / Standalone Licenses
How do I buy Lightroom as a perpetual license?
If you’re really anti-subscription, it is still possible to purchase Lightroom 6 as a perpetual license. It’s just well hidden on the website!
First, click on this link to reach the main perpetual product purchase page:
Buy Lightroom 6 then select your country in the bottom right corner.
Search for Lightroom at the top, then select the Photoshop Lightroom 6 product, not the Photoshop Lightroom one.
If you’re upgrading, change the pop-up from Full to Upgrade. Then you can select your current LR version and checkout.
Will Lightroom 6 continue to be updated?
Lightroom 6 will continue to receive new camera updates and bug fixes until the end of 2017, but it won’t get any new features.
I currently have a perpetual license – what are my options?
What does the Photography Plan subscription include?
The Photography Plan subscription costs $9.99 a month (with a year’s contract) and includes:
- Lightroom Classic CC for Windows and Mac
- Lightroom CC for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android
- Photoshop CC for Windows and Mac
- 20GB cloud storage space
You can have the same package, but with 1TB of storage space for $19.99 a month. There’s a special offer for current members at $14.99 for the first year, if you want the whole lot.
What does the Lightroom CC subscription include?
If you don’t need Lightroom Classic and Photoshop, you may prefer the Lightroom CC subscription. It also costs $9.99 a month but has loads of cloud storage space for a cloud-centric workflow. It includes:
- Lightroom CC
- 1TB of cloud storage space
What happens if I run out of cloud space? How much for extra storage space?
If you run out of cloud storage space, you can either start deleting some files (we all have accidental photos of our feet!!), or you can purchase extra storage at $9.99 per TB, in bands of 2TB, 5TB or 10TB.
Is cloud space limited to Lightroom sync?
Cloud space is now shared between Lightroom sync and Creative Cloud files, so you can use spare space to keep other documents in the cloud.
Can I cross-grade from the Photography Plan to Lightroom CC or vice versa?
Yes, just talk to customer services.
But what if they hike the price?
It’s been $9.99 a month since they released the photography bundle in 2013. There have been a few regional variations for differences in local taxes and currency exchange rates, however these have caused prices in some regions to go down as well as up. There’s no question, the price will have to increase someday, but let’s be honest, if the increases are unreasonable, everyone would just jump ship.
Do I have to be online all the time to use CC?
You don’t need constant internet access to use Lightroom. You briefly need internet access to activate Lightroom. It also “phones home” now and again to check your subscription status, but you can be offline for up to 99 days before it reverts to a limited mode.
An internet connection is needed for syncing, of course, but it’ll save up any sync tasks until you’re back online.
What happens if I cancel my subscription?
If you cancel your subscription, Lightroom goes into a limited mode. You’re not locked out! All of your photos and the work you’ve done to them is still accessible. Specific features stop working:
Lightroom Classic – The Develop module, the Map module and Lightroom Sync stop working. In the limited mode, you can still import new photos, use the Library module to organize them, use Quick Develop to do basic edits, use the Book module to create books, use the Slideshow module to create slideshows, use the Print module to print your photos, use the Web module to update your web galleries, and export your photos, just as you could before.
Lightroom CC – The editing tools stop working and Lightroom sync stops uploading new photos. You can download photos from the cloud, organize them, search for them and save them. You’ll have a year to download to your own hard drive or sign up again.
There are 5 more posts related to this series of announcements:
- The Future of Lightroom
- What’s New in Lightroom Classic October 2017 (7.0)?
- The End of Perpetual/Standalone Lightroom Licenses
- Lightroom CC 1.0 Released!
- Lightroom CC vs. Lightroom Classic – Which Do I Need?
- What’s New in Lightroom iOS/Android October 2017 Releases?
I know you’ll have loads of questions, so I’ve written free Quick Start eBooks, available for download later today.
More extensive books for both Lightroom Classic 7.0 and Lightroom CC will be available soon in eBook and paperback formats, and I’ll let you know as soon as they’re released.