Adobe’s marketing strategy for Lightroom has been unclear in recent years. The software has gone from a permanent license to a monthly subscription, there have been several name changes and new products have joined the range of software dedicated to photographers. Not easy to find your way around.
Today, I’m going to clarify all this and explain to you which software to choose according to your needs and your goals.
What is Lightroom and how can it help you?
Most amateur photographers know the name Lightroom and associate it with photo editing. It’s true that this software allows you to edit your photos, but this is not its only function, far from it.
The strength of Lightroom is that it can manage the entire workflow of the photographer. And that’s where it differs from its competitors because it is the only software to offer so many features. The majority of professional photographers use it, and not for nothing.
With Lightroom, you can for example :
- Import photos from your camera to your computer’s hard drive
- Sort the photos you want to keep and those you can throw away
- Edit your photos
- Classify and organize your photos
- Easily manage multiple storage devices (internal hard drives, external hard drives, NAS, etc.)
- Export and share your photos with friends and family or on social networks
- Print your photos in a professional way
To summarize, in addition to allowing you to improve your photos with its editing tools, Lightroom simplifies your life and saves you a lot of time.
A bit of history: permanent licenses and the Creative Cloud subscription
STEP 1 – FROM LIGHTROOM 1 TO LIGHTROOM 5: THE PERMANENT LICENSE
When Adobe first released Lightroom, it was offered as a permanent license – also known as a “boxed version”. When you bought version 1 of the software, you could use it as long as you wanted. Even if version 2 was released, you were free to upgrade or not. If you decided to upgrade to version 2, you had to buy a new license and install it on your computer.
This method of purchase was your only option to acquire Lightroom versions 1 through 5 (released between 2006 and 2013).
STEP 2 – LIGHTROOM 6 AND LIGHTROOM CC: THE APPEARANCE OF THE SUBSCRIPTION
With the release of Lightroom 6 in April 2015, a new purchase option appeared: a monthly subscription. Unlike the boxed version, with the subscription you automatically benefit from all the updates offered by Adobe and when a new major version is released, you don’t have to pay extra to enjoy it.
To encourage adoption of the subscription version, Adobe has added some tools that were never available on the boxed version (the haze reduction feature for example).
To differentiate the two versions of the software, Adobe gave the name of “Lightroom CC” to the subscription version and “Lightroom 6” to the boxed version – “CC” being the initials of “Creative Cloud”, Adobe’s Cloud platform.
STEP 3 – LIGHTROOM CLASSIC CC AND LIGHTROOM CC: EXCLUSIVELY UNDER SUBSCRIPTION
In October 2017, a new Lightroom update was released by Adobe.
What should have been Lightroom 7 was never actually released because Adobe decided to stop marketing the software in boxed version.
With this update, the Lightroom CC we knew (which was the subscription version of Lightroom) was renamed to “Lightroom Classic CC” and a new software appeared: “Lightroom CC”, which is the adaptation to computers and the web of the “Lightroom Mobile” application we knew until then.
I know, it’s not super simple to follow. To summarize, here are the options available to you today:
Lightroom 6 is the latest boxed version released by Adobe. It is no longer maintained since January 2018, which means that no updates will be brought to it and no more bugs will be fixed. In other words, if you encounter a problem, you are on your own.
If you have it installed on your computer, you can continue to use it, but be aware that if you change your camera, the RAW files of the latter may no longer be readable on Lightroom 6.
Today, there are still sites offering to buy this version. I strongly advise you not to buy it.
Lightroom Classic CC
Lightroom Classic CC is the software we know since 2006, but proposed with a monthly subscription.
It is the most complete version of Lightroom, the one that is the most used in the world today, and the one for which you will find the most training, tutorials, or books.
Lightroom CC is a new, cloud-based software that first appeared on smartphones before being adapted to computers in 2017.
At the moment, this version is limited and has fewer tools than Lightroom Classic.
It has some advantages, such as its integration with Adobe’s cloud or its smart search feature through which you can find all the dog photos that are in your library, even if you haven’t added any tags to your photos and they aren’t categorized.
But these advantages don’t make up for the shortcomings compared to Lightroom Classic:
- Fewer editing tools
- Less tools to organize your photos
- Printing, exporting and sharing functions are very basic
Its interface is also completely different from that of Lightroom Classic.
The subscription packages
Adobe offers 3 subscription packages specially designed for photographers:
Lightroom CC subscription: with this package offered at $9.99/month, you will be able to use Lightroom CC and will have 1 TB of storage space in the cloud.
Creative Cloud for Photo subscription: with this plan, also offered at $9.99/month, you can use Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop. You will only have 20 GB of storage space in the cloud.
Creative Cloud for Photo (with 1TB of cloud storage): In this third plan, you’ll be able to use all three programs (Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop) and have 1TB of cloud storage.
In each plan, you can increase your cloud storage space up to 10TB – for an additional monthly fee, as you might expect. All of these pricing and subscription plans can be found on Adobe’s website.
As you may have noticed, two of the three subscriptions offer both Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC.
So, Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, or both?
Let’s start by looking at Lightroom CC. Clearly, for someone who is really interested in photography like you and me, this software is not at the level of Lightroom Classic.
Lightroom CC is aimed at a wider audience and is positioned as a competitor to Apple Photos, Google Photos and other photo managers aimed at the general public. At the moment, for a more advanced user, it lacks many functions.
A simple example is when you want to export your photos.
Lightroom CC only offers two options: save in JPEG format or save in the original format (i.e. copy the original RAW file and add the settings to an attached file). On the other hand, Lightroom Classic is able to export in multiple formats, allows you to manage the quality and size of the exported files, and even apply a watermark automatically.
Clearly, if you only take a few photos when you’re with your family and your main device is your smartphone, Lightroom CC is for you. If you are a little more interested in photography and want to progress, it is better to use Lightroom Classic as a priority.
This could change in the future because at the moment it is not clear what Adobe’s intentions are: will Lightroom CC remain a product for a wider audience or will it evolve to one day replace Lightroom Classic? Are the two products designed to work together? Because yes, at the moment it is the latter option that is more interesting.
You can use both Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC and that’s why both software are included in Adobe’s subscriptions: they cohabit very well together. Let’s see how.
Why and how to use Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?
If you only need to use one software, I recommend you to use Lightroom Classic. You will have more options to edit, organize, export and share your photos.
But, since both software are included in the same subscription, there is nothing to stop you from using both in parallel.
From Lightroom Classic, you can easily sync a collection of photos with Lightroom CC – it’s just a click away. Once activated, the synchronization goes both ways: your photos are available on Lightroom CC and if you make a change from there, it will be carried over to Lightroom Classic.
In itself, this is not very interesting. Why have two programs on the same computer sharing the same photos? But what you need to understand is that Lightroom CC is more than just an application. It’s actually a platform in the cloud.
When you make a collection available in the Lightroom CC environment from Lightroom Classic, you can access it from the Lightroom CC app installed on your computer, but also from Lightroom CC on your smartphone (iOS or Android), a tablet and even from a web version of Lightroom CC. In short, you can access your photos wherever you are and even if you don’t have your computer with you.
This feature allows you to do interesting things like:
- Find all the pictures you take with your smartphone on your computer without even having to manually sync anything
- Sort through images from your last photoshoot while you’re on the subway on your way to work
- Share photo galleries with your friends and family and update them dynamically from Lightroom Classic (if you add or delete photos, your friends and family will see the changes automatically)
- Use your smartphone or tablet as a mobile portfolio and show off your best shots to anyone who cares – or just your kids’ latest photos to their grandparents.
- Lightroom CC for mobile is even capable of saving RAW files. If you equip yourself with a small SD card reader that’s compatible with your smartphone when you’re on the go, you can upload your photos to Lightroom CC Mobile and the RAW files will be automatically synced and available on your computer.
- Share your photos on Instagram without having to copy/paste photos or go through other software like Dropbox.
There are probably other uses I haven’t thought of yet, but you get the idea.
Setting up and synchronizing Lightroom CC is pretty straightforward, but I thought of you: everything is explained step by step, in detail and without technical language in my book “Learn Lightroom Classic”. You’ll discover how to set up Lightroom CC and how to adapt your workflow on Lightroom Classic to get the best of both worlds.
What about Photoshop?
Photoshop is also included in Adobe’s subscriptions and not for nothing. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to choose between Lightroom and Photoshop. These two programs are designed to work hand in hand.
Here’s how it works: when you come back from a shoot, you import your photos into Lightroom Classic, sort out which photos you want to keep and which you want to delete, and then edit your photos.
Photoshop is much more powerful and allows you to do some editing that Lightroom is unable to do. When you come across a photo that requires advanced retouching, you can easily open it in Photoshop (from Lightroom you right click on the Photo > Edit in… > Edit in Adobe Photoshop). Once you have finished editing in Photoshop, simply save the file and the changes will appear in Lightroom.
Then resume your classic workflow in Lightroom which will allow you to organize your photos and then export, share or print them.
Is it mandatory to use Photoshop? Absolutely not. Personally, I rarely use it, but it depends on your practice. A fashion photographer for example will use it every day.
If you’re just starting out, start with Lightroom. Once you have mastered it, you can tackle Photoshop.
Today, you can’t do anything else than to subscribe to Lightroom.
Lightroom 6, the latest permanently licensed version released by Adobe, is no longer developed or maintained by Adobe. Avoid it.
If you are interested in photography, prefer Lightroom Classic which is more powerful and complete than Lightroom CC – this could change in the next months or years, but for the moment Adobe’s policy is not clear about this.
Lightroom Classic should be your go-to software for managing your workflow and organizing your photos. If you are just starting out, focus all your efforts on this software. This is what I explain in my book “Learn Lightroom Classic CC”.
Lightroom CC and Photoshop are both wizards. The first one will allow you to synchronize your photos in the cloud, the second one will allow you to do more advanced retouching than Lightroom. You don’t have to use them, but they are included in the subscription, so why not take an interest? – but only once you have mastered Lightroom Classic.
(Lightroom’s strength lies in its ability to handle the photographer’s entire digital workflow. From retrieving photos from a memory card to publishing them on a social network to editing your photos, you can do it all with Lightroom. If you want to improve your photos, save time and work more efficiently, share your photos with your friends and family or on social networks, you absolutely must learn how to use and set up Lightroom. To help you, a set of resources is available on this site.