A thinly veiled attempt to turn photographers into monthly subscribers, but it’s been pared back too much
Lightroom CC might prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Having shoved its reluctant Creative Suite customers onto a monthly subscription plan, Adobe is now trying to do the same to photographers – by taking their photo collections hostage.
Lightroom is practically a staple among photography enthusiasts and professionals, despite Adobe allowing the application to stagnate over the past few years. Meaningful updates have been few and far between and performance has grown stodgy. Now we know why: Adobe has been working on a new app.
Lightroom CC is effectively a cloud version of Lightroom – with the desktop original now ominously rebranded Lightroom Classic CC. It’s more akin to the mobile/tablet apps that have been on iOS and Android for some time than the full-blown desktop app, and that’s reflected it in its trimmed-back feature set.
The key difference is Lightroom CC wants nothing to do with your local photo collection. You can import an old-school Lightroom catalogue into Lightroom CC, but those photos will be sucked up to Adobe’s cloud. Depending on the plan you choose, Adobe is offering photographers up to 1TB of cloud storage, an indication that it wants you to smash all your photos onto its servers – although even 1TB will likely prove insufficient for most photographers’ collections.
If you’ve carefully curated a library of presets over the years, you’ll have to manually copy those over to Lightroom CC, too. Nothing is imported automatically – all you get is the pared-back selection of presets that comes with Lightroom CC.
Adobe Lightroom CC review: Editing tools
Lightroom CC’s editing tools aren’t a patch on those in Classic, either. Advanced controls such as split toning have gone AWOL. The handy histogram revealing where highlights and shadows have been clipped is gone. Adjustment brush presets such as dodge, burn, soften skin and teeth whitening are no more – you’re merely left to adjust the various exposure, highlights, whites and blacks sliders manually. And once you’ve finished editing a photo and want to “export” it, well… your options are to save it to JPEG in one of three preset sizes. Nothing like the vast array of export options you get with Classic.
To be fair to Adobe, this isn’t an either/or scenario. You can use Lightroom Classic in conjunction with the new CC app and get the best of both worlds. You can sync a Classic Collection with “Lightroom Mobile” and have those photos available to edit in CC, be that on the desktop, mobile or tablets. You could twiddle with photos on your smartphone in between shoots, for example, and have them synced and waiting for you when you get home to your PC. That said, I did encounter one or two delayed syncs when I tweaked a photo in CC and then opened Classic, which doesn’t bode well.
There is one very good feature that is unique to Lightroom CC: search. Enter a term such as “dog”, “car”, “red” or “boy” and Lightroom CC does a pretty impressive job of sorting through your collection, without any need to tag the photos with those particular attributes first. If you were hunting through your collection to find a specific photo for a client, that could prove to be a belter of a feature.
Adobe Lightroom CC review: Verdict
So what’s the game plan? Much as Adobe protests it has no plans to do away with Lightroom Classic, I don’t believe it. The “Classic” designation is not the kind of label you put on a product with a long-term future.
In the meantime, photographers have four options. There are now two versions of the £10-per-month Photography pack. The Lightroom CC plan includes only that app with 1TB of cloud storage. The revamped Photography plan includes CC, Classic and Photoshop, but only 20GB of cloud storage. Or £20 per month buys all the apps and 1TB of storage. Full £50 Creative Cloud subscribers also get all the apps, but only receive 100GB of storage – a needless kick in the teeth.
Can I see myself moving to Lightroom CC only? Not a chance. Uploading batches of hundreds of RAW files to the cloud is painful, the editing tools are too basic, and I’d rather have my photo collection where I can physically touch it. Will Adobe deprive me of that choice eventually? I’d bet my mortgage on it.