Adobe took a different direction with one of its most popular products, Lightroom, and forked the flagship post-production suite for photographers into two: the new Lightroom CC, and the seventh version of Lightroom, Lightroom Classic CC.
This product split was a polarizing move that left users wondering about the future of Lightroom. Would Adobe eventually leave behind its pro platform for a cloud-based editor? What was the outlook for what was now called Lightroom Classic?
In this article, we'll take a look at how Lightroom CC fits in the Adobe ecosystem and what the future may hold for the platform. We'll also talk about the kinds of photographers who might benefit from this new version of Lightroom.
What is Adobe Lightroom?
If you're new to Lightroom altogether, it might help to understand the purpose that it serves for photographers. Adobe makes enough tools for creatives that there are natural overlaps between the apps. So what makes Lightroom different from other products in the Adobe portfolio?
When I started with photography, most of my peers were using Adobe Bridge for organizing and Photoshop for image processing. They'd import raw images from their shoots, process them, and export them as finished images.
The biggest shortcoming of this approach was the time it took to process images. Photoshop is an incredibly powerful tool that can do practically anything you'd like with photos, but it's not tailormade for organizing shoots or processing large batches of images.
That's where Adobe Lightroom carved out its niche. With tools like presets and syncing settings, you could rapidly work through a shoot and spend less time plodding through large batches of photos from weddings or events.
Lightroom also set itself apart as an image cataloging app. Not only was it used to process files, but it could also efficiently tag, keyword, organize, and archive images. These features led it to gain a strong following with busy professional photographers who needed a one-stop shop for managing their image library.
A Shift in Adobe's Business Model
Lightroom used to be denominated by version numbers, and periodically received significant updates. Every couple of years Adobe would launch the latest version of the app and users would purchase the newest edition, ending with version 6, which, by the way, is still available but no longer updated, for $150. Now, new versions of Lightroom are available only with a subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud service (much to the chagrin of long-term and professional users, who were accustomed to buying their software instead of renting it).
To understand Adobe's motivation in moving to cloud-based and subscription-based versions of its apps, it helps to understand the business motivations that are at play.
As a company, Adobe has been on a long journey of transforming their business model. Instead of buying apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator, Adobe decided they would prefer you to pay a monthly subscription to access to the app. Part of this shift was to cut back on the rampant piracy, but that's not the only reason.
One of the key advantages of the subscription model (for Adobe) is that they secure long-term business from you. Shifting to a monthly recurring revenue model creates a predictable series of cash flows. There are benefits to photographers too, however, like predictable costs and always having stable, up-to-date software for your archive.
The subscription also lowers the front-end cost to getting started: a month's fee unlocks access to all the apps. The Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan is $10 USD per month, at the time of writing, and includes access to both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. You can download both the Classic and "CC" versions of the app under that subscription package.
Key Features of Adobe Lightroom CC
Let's take a look at some of the critical differences in Adobe's new version of Lightroom.
Lightroom CC's existence is primarily explained by the boom in popularity of online photo-sharing services. More and more apps assume that the user wants to store files online and, ideally, make them available on any device.
One nice advantages of this shift is that it makes easy web access possible: Lightroom CC has a web-based version that lets you edit your synced image collection from any web browser. Moving online provides redundancy in your image collection, new kinds of storage, and unlocks cloud-based editing workflows.
If you're going to commit to Lightroom CC, consider getting the Cloud package, which includes one terabyte of storage. If you're going to push all of your images up the cloud you'll likely need more room than the typical 20GB included with the basic photography package.
Mobile is First Class
Besides the web app that I've already highlighted, the mobile version of Lightroom CC closely mirrors the desktop experience. Particularly on tablets, this delivers a consistently usable experience for editing your images while on the go.
Lightroom Mobile has existed for some time, but Lightroom CC has a workflow on mobile that much more closely mirrors the desktop app. You'll find all of the same controls, interface, and settings on the mobile version of the app.
Easy Sharing Options
One of the advantages of a cloud-centric app is that everything is already online and connected to the web. Lightroom CC's easy integrations make it one of the best and fastest ways to share your images with popular online services.
Who Should Use Lightroom CC?
The common consensus in the Lightroom community seems to be that Lightroom Classic continues as the platform for professional photographers, while Lightroom CC is better for casual users that want to keep their image libraries online.
Smartphone photography is where Lightroom CC shines. The latest phones have incredible photography capabilities, but they need a more advanced editing platform than the built-in tools on iOS and Android. Lightroom CC might be the perfect app for this: professional-enough to process those images, but doesn't require you to migrate to a desktop app to work with them.
Lightroom CC is a good step in the right direction for Adobe. I won't be surprised if they keep adding more features to Lightroom CC.
As for me, I'm still using Lightroom Classic CC for my image library. I'm accustomed to the interface, and I have a lot invested in my knowledge and skill-set in that specific app. In time, I believe that Adobe will merge the two apps by continuing to iterate on Lightroom CC, adding features that are currently only in the Classic version.
More Lightroom Tutorials
Lightroom CC is indeed a different direction for Adobe, but it's one that seems to align with user's preferences for robust mobile apps and cloud-based access. In this article, I hope you saw some of the specifics of the new Lightroom CC that might help you choose the right version for you.
Make sure to check out the tutorials below for other information on how you can use Lightroom to get the most of your images:
- 40 Free Black-and-White Presets for Lightroom to Convert Photos to MonochromeAndrew Childress31 Jan 2021
- How to Build a Film Style Look in Adobe LightroomAndrew Childress29 Jun 2018
- How to Use Hue, Saturation, and Luminance for Creative Color in Lightroom ClassicAndrew Childress29 Jun 2022
Which version of the app do you find yourself using the most often? Let me know in the comments section below if you have thoughts about Adobe's direction for Lightroom, and what you want to see in future versions.