Last year, Adobe shook up its Lightroom ecosystem – and quite a lot of its longtime customers – by announcing Lightroom CC 1.0, a completely new desktop photo management and editing app focused on Creative Cloud integration. The previous version lost its name to the upstart and was rebranded Lightroom Classic CC, leading many people to think, over Adobe’s sudden strenuous objections, that Classic was soon headed for the rejects bin.
Today, Adobe released Lightroom CC 2.0 and Lightroom Classic CC 8.0, both still breathing and both with additional features. In this article I’m specifically looking at what’s new in Lightroom CC and how it fits into the greater Lightroom lineup (which includes mobile versions for iOS and Android), but it’s worth mentioning up front that photographers using Lightroom Classic shouldn’t feel anxious about the immediate future.
Lightroom CC 2.0 Gets More Cloud-y
One of the primary reasons for building a cloud-focused version of Lightroom is to be able to share an entire photo library among multiple devices. Lightroom CC uploads everything to Creative Cloud by default, even Raw files, and from that high perch it can ensure that the images and edits are in sync in Lightroom clients on the desktop, tablets, and phones. (You can also optionally store your photos on a local drive; the cloud isn’t the only repository, but it acts as the master record.)
In Lightroom CC 2.0, Adobe’s Sensei machine-learning technology is responsible for many of the marquee new features
Having a photo library in the cloud opens up possibilities for working with the image data on Adobe’s servers. The company already uses it to deliver better results when clicking the Auto button in Edit mode, and to search for objects and scenes based on visual recognition. In Lightroom CC 2.0, Adobe’s Sensei machine-learning technology is responsible for many of the marquee new features.
Facial recognition is a processor-intensive task, as anyone who’s waited for Lightroom Classic to churn through a local library knows. In the new Lightroom CC People View, the library is indexed and analyzed in data centers instead of your computer. It appears as a category under My Photos, along with the All Photos, Recently Added, and By Date categories.
|The People View in Lightroom CC 2.0.|
|Viewing photos where Lightroom – actually, Adobe Sensei – has identified a person.|
Lightroom CC presents a circle for every person it’s identified, so you can assign names; it doesn’t tie into your contacts database or anything outside Lightroom. Since inevitably some photos of the same person don’t get matched, a merge feature lets you combine them. You can also hide people from the list, such as when it pulls unknown individuals out of group shots or public scenes that you don’t want to see all the time.
When you type within the Search bar, Lightroom presents possible metadata matches as you type, including camera, lens, and shooting data. Each term you add stands on its own, so to find boats at sunset, you’d type “boat,” press Return, and type “sunset” and press Return again. However, there’s no AND/OR/NOT logic to the field; typing “boat” and “sunset” brings up images of boats and images of sunsets, not necessarily boats at sunset. Oddly, folks you’ve identified in the People view are not included in text searches, but a new People filter presents named people as a way to narrow the results.
|A search for “boat” and “sunset” has brought up photos that include one or both terms. Or maybe Lightroom assumes a boat owner lurks somewhere in that forest at the top right.|
Tying search to Sensei, however, means there’s no local search capability. If your laptop is offline, the Search field doesn’t even work (but the Filter options do). Or, if you do have Internet access, but you’ve paused the sync feature, the search feature won’t pick up any photos you’ve imported that aren’t yet copied to Creative Cloud.
The web component of Lightroom at lightroom.adobe.com lets you view and edit your library in any web browser. It’s also the heart of Lightroom’s options for sharing albums or individual photos via a link, versus transmitting image files themselves. The new Share tab collects shared items in one central place.
On the Mac and Windows versions of Lightroom CC 2.0, a new Connections feature is the foundation for sharing photos to third-party services. Right now the only option is to tie Lightroom to an Adobe Portfolio site, but the company hopes to add vendors such as photo labs or photo book printers.
One annoyance with the Share tab is that its button is an icon that looks like two people, which is where folks are going to click when attempting to open the People view. I’ve been using the beta for a while and I still do it.
Apple Photos Migration
If you’ve decided that the Lightroom CC ecosystem is the way forward, and you use a Mac, a new Apple Photos Migration tool can copy the contents of an Apple Photos library into Lightroom. It applies only to the system library, not any separate libraries you may have created. Any photos stored in iCloud Photo Library that aren’t on the local disk when the migration happens are not included; for example, if Photos is set to optimize the library, some images are deleted and replaced with proxies to free up disk space until the originals are needed again.
The People view, search improvements, and Share tab features also appear in the iOS, Android and Chrome OS versions of Lightroom.
Thoughts on Lightroom CC a Year On
When Lightroom CC first appeared, I used it almost exclusively for several months because I was writing a book about it. Since then, I’ve stuck with it, for a few reasons:
- I like having my photo library available on my iPad Pro and iPhone. I find myself often making edits or culling photos on the iPad when I don’t want to bring out my laptop. It’s also convenient to edit photos and share them directly to Instagram or Facebook. Although I still use Lightroom Classic as well, it’s not designed for sharing among devices as well. When you import photos into Lightroom CC, the originals are uploaded to Creative Cloud to sync to other devices. If you import into Lightroom Classic, you must specify which collections will sync, and then the images are converted to lower-resolution Smart Previews before being uploaded. In terms of image quality and making edits, Smart Previews are perfectly workable: edits are synced back to the original images in Lightroom Classic. However, if you’re editing them in Lightroom CC and export the shots to Photoshop for any extra adjustment work (the retouching tools, for instance, are still better in Photoshop), you’re starting with a lower-resolution copy to work with.
- The performance of Lightroom Classic has improved over the year, but working in Lightroom CC is faster, plain and simple. For some people, this is reason enough to switch.
- One of my favorite features of Lightroom CC is how it handles images on disk. My MacBook Pro doesn’t have enough storage for my entire library, so Lightroom invisibly removes older originals to conserve disk space, and downloads them on demand from the cloud when needed. But I also save original copies of each image to an external drive in my office. When that disk is not connected, newly-imported photos are kept on the laptop’s storage; as soon as I connect that external drive, Lightroom automatically moves the files from the MacBook Pro to the external. In Lightroom Classic, you have to manually move and copy images. Lightroom CC also supports storing your library on a NAS (network-attached storage) device.
That said, a year on, Lightroom CC 2.0 still presents some significant hurdles for some people.
- It’s still missing features from Lightroom Classic that I pine for on occasion, such as creating HDR images and panoramas. You can send images to Photoshop for those tasks, but the tools in Lightroom Classic are faster and more straightforward. There’s no option for printing or making books, so if that’s important, you want to stick with Classic. And the metadata support is still bare-bones, with just a basic keywords field and most IPTC fields hidden from view.
- This is perhaps one of the biggest limiters for many people: To really take advantage of Lightroom CC, you need a robust, always-on Internet connection. If you’re on a low-bandwidth connection, it’s impractical to upload gigabytes of data in any reasonable amount of time; and some service providers limit the amount of data you can transfer every month. And although it is possible to use Lightroom CC without syncing, many features rely on Sensei. If your library isn’t synced to Creative Cloud, you miss out.
- Even if you do have a good Internet connection, Adobe charges for additional cloud storage. The Creative Cloud Photography plan starts at $9.99 per month, which includes 20 GB of storage. That plan, which includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC, and Photoshop CC, goes up to $19.99 per month for 1 TB of storage. Beyond 1 TB, there are 2 TB, 5 TB, and 10 TB upgrades that cost an extra $9.99 per month per terabyte. So, moving up to 2 TB of storage ends up costing about $30 per month, and 10 TB costs about $120 per month. (There’s also an option to get just Lightroom CC and 1 TB of storage for $9.99 per month.) And to reiterate a common complaint, those are subscription prices to rent digital storage, an approach many people don’t like.
- To dovetail with the topic of being online, as I mentioned earlier, you must be connected to use some features. The one that gets me every time is the lack of local search: it’s unacceptable that my laptop needs to be connected to the Internet to perform even a keyword search of the photos in my library. Even recently-imported photos aren’t searchable until they’ve been uploaded and indexed by Creative Cloud.
The Future of Lightroom CC
Last year I said that I believe Lightroom CC is the future of Lightroom, and that at some point, but not soon, Classic will be replaced by CC. Predictably, some people thought this meant Classic is on its last legs, and the software they’ve invested large numbers of photos and hours was about to pull a swift disappearing act. The photographers who use Lightroom Classic saw what happened when Apple dropped Aperture, and were no doubt aware of Apple’s even more abrupt abandonment of Final Cut Pro in favor of the dramatically redesigned Final Cut Pro X. Those are actions that continue to reverberate among the people who were impacted by them.
Will Lightroom CC ultimately become the one true Lightroom in the future? I believe so, but Adobe doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get there
Adobe is wisely undertaking a more gradual transition, continuing to develop both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic simultaneously without an apparent rush to supplant the latter. In fact, the inclusion of the People view, and not the tools for working with HDR and panorama images – which Adobe representatives confirmed last year were on the roadmap for Lightroom CC updates – points to a measured approach to the software’s development.
Will Lightroom CC ultimately become the one true Lightroom in the future? I believe so, but Adobe doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get there yet. In the meantime, I think Lightroom CC is becoming more compelling, but Lightroom Classic photographers, especially if they rely on Classic-only features, will continue to watch for it to get more interesting.
Disclosure: Jeff Carlson has done contract work for Adobe in the past.