Finding Your Fit: Lightroom Classic or Lightroom CC?

Finding Your Fit: Lightroom Classic or Lightroom CC?

Finding Your Fit: Lightroom Classic or Lightroom CC? with Dustin Lucas

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As a photographer with a workflow built around Adobe Lightroom, the major changes released back in October 2017 got my head spinning. This industry is full of surprises, and we have to move forward instead of staying stagnant. Do these changes affect my efficiency, and am I paying more for a product I have to have? Before we jump to conclusions about Adobe taking us down a rabbit hole of lackluster enhancements, let’s talk shop. What the hell is going to happen to desktop-oriented Lightroom as we know it today?

Many users of desktop-oriented, or “classic,” Lightroom are put off by cloud storage. If your Internet speed cannot handle networked drives as a source for Raws, how is cloud storage going to be the future? I just answered my own question: It’s not in my future.

So what use can I get out of this cloud-based version relaunched as Lightroom CC? Before diving into Lightroom CC, let’s run through the basics of Adobe’s new plans.

First of all, as stated in October’s launch, Adobe is no longer offering standalone options for Lightroom users. Lightroom 6 is where they stop, and they will continue to support updates through the end of 2017. You can still purchase LR6 licenses, and there is no official end date for purchasing them. Lightroom users who want the latest version have to pay a membership fee to access their programs. Check out all of their pricing plans at

Adobe’s Photography Plan has three tiers: Desktop-oriented users can get 20 GB storage for $9.99 per month; mobile-based cloud users wanting a less complicated editing interface can get the Lightroom CC plan with 1 TB of storage $9.99 per month; and a plan for both workflows comes with 1 TB of storage for $19.99 per month. Most of us previous subscription users naturally migrated to the Photography Plan with 20 GB storage.

Lightroom CC (Mobile-Based Users)

So what’s all the fuss about? Lightroom CC looks like a relaunched version of the web-based Lightroom and mobile app versions rolled out as a new cross-platform application of Lightroom. For mobile-based users, the ability to use Lightroom virtually anywhere while connected to the Internet is a very appealing upgrade. Adobe created a more simplistic editing and sharing application to apparently remove the complicated Lightroom desktop application, or Lightroom Classic.

Let’s open it up and review the workflow.

After opening the desktop Lightroom CC, you see a clean and simple interface. The simplistic design of ON1’s Photo RAW application comes to mind. We no longer have Lightroom modules; instead, we have a simple workspace with a panel on the left for adding and browsing images, a panel on the right for editing, a search field at the top and options to sort and apply attributes at the bottom. Think of Lightroom CC as a master catalog where everything you choose to import lives. Yes, you still need to import images into Lightroom CC to store your files on the cloud.

In my first attempt to import over 5,000 Raws in Lightroom CC, it froze while attempting to review images for import. A few tests later revealed that 1,000 Raws from a Canon 5d Mark IV took no less than two minutes to prepare. The next step would be to import these Raws, but I do not want them living only in my cloud storage. Not to worry: You can access Lightroom CC preferences, choose the Local Storage tab and check the box next to Store a Copy of ALL Originals Locally. This is useful if you are downloading from a memory card or haven’t assigned a primary destination for your files. I do not recommend going from memory cards directly to the cloud—why risk your data?

Let’s move into a real-world scenario for most current Lightroom users.

Integrate With Lightroom Classic (Desktop-Based Users)

Instead of culling in Lightroom CC, treat it as a secondary editing tool for when you are on the go or want shareability between multiple devices. Here’s how to sync the kept images automatically into Lightroom CC, which is the same process for syncing to Lightroom mobile. Turn on the sync setting. Click the Lightroom logo and click Start. Filter to your final selection, add to a new Collection and choose to sync with Lightroom CC. It’s really simple.

This allows me to make adjustments inside Lightroom Classic, and it syncs to my Lightroom CC app instantly. This is just a small workflow insight into a more mobile and sharable editing capability. A step further in mobility is opening our newly synced images directly into Lightroom Web. I recommend using Google Chrome, which seems to be universally accepted between Macs and PCs. I tried Mozilla Firefox, and it was quite slow to sync slider adjustments to my images. Beware that you have limited editing features in Lightroom CC and Lightroom Web.

Speaking of limitations, here are some comparisons between the editing interface of Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC and Lightroom Web. Lightroom Classic, like previous versions, has quite a lot more editing capabilities, from the Basic to the Camera Calibration panels as well as local adjustments. This was standard for Lightroom desktop-oriented applications. In Lightroom CC, the panel on the right has six categories to choose from: Edit, Crop & Rotate, Healing Brush, Brush, Linear Gradient and Radial Gradient. The Edit panel has some tools we’re used to in Lightroom, but they are categorized and ordered differently: Light, Color, Effects, Detail, Optics and Geometry.

Light consists of the exact same tools under Tone in the Basic Panel of Lightroom: Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, White and Black point. You should start your post-processing in this order, then move to the Color panel, where White Balance is broken down into Temp, Tint, Vibrance and Saturation. This panel includes a White Balance Selector tool, B&W conversion and HSL.

Dropping down to the Effects panel, we have our Presence sliders like Clarity, and Effects sliders like Dehaze and Vignette. The highly regarded Details panel packs a lot of editing options for Sharpening, Noise Reduction and adding Grain. Optics has our Chromatic Aberration as a single checkbox, and Lens Correction has customizable distortion and lens vignetting adjustability. Last but not least is the Geometry tool, or better known as Transform in Lightroom.

I love that the Auto Mask feature was brought into Lightroom CC from Lightroom Classic. This makes workflow faster. Another major plus is the fact that local adjustment pins sync between images edited in Lightroom Classic and vise versa. Why is all this syncability important if I am going to just run with Lightroom Classic? That is a great question, and hopefully I can better clarify how to navigate the new Lightroom ecosystem.

Where Do I Fit, and What’s My Best Workflow? 

Now that I have given a general overview for how to start using Lightroom CC, what about all of your old Lightroom catalogs? No problem—you can migrate Catalogs into Lightroom CC easily. Just open Lightroom CC, choose File in the menu bar and click on Migrate Lightroom Catalog. Before migrating catalogs, be aware that you can only migrate a catalog once and sync capabilities will be turned off for previous versions of Lightroom—i.e., LR CC (2015), LR6, LR5, etc. Upgrade those catalogs first if you plan to still work in them across the Lightroom ecosystem.

Another major consideration when migrating catalogs is to be sure you have the original files connected; otherwise, you will get migration scan errors. I tried a catalog with smart previews, and these were unable to migrate altogether. It makes sense because Lightroom CC has to work from an image source versus previews. Once the catalog is fully migrated, your images automatically become synced to your cloud storage. This becomes problematic because I have only 20 GB of storage total.

A better option for Lightroom Classic users is to sync your Collections in the Master Catalog versus migrating it into Lightroom CC. Doing so doesn’t require the images to be uploaded to cloud storage. In fact, this way, Lightroom CC treats the source files similar to adding files in Lightroom Classic. No extra hard-drive space is taken up by having to copy them. Once they are loaded, you can access your Lightroom files from anywhere with Lightroom Web. It’s simple to do: Just select the cloud icon in the upper right corner and click Lightroom Web.

You’ll notice that Lightroom Web seems to be geared toward browsing images and making slideshows. That is a big part of Lightroom Web, but you can still edit and rate images. It’s simple to do: Click one of the photos, and you can cycle image to image, changing your star ratings or adding flags. Strike the D key to enter the editing module. There are major limitations to editing because you can edit just one image at a time and must save in order for the changes to sync across the Lightroom ecosystem.

Looking at the same image edited in Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC, Lightroom Web is different. This could be tied to the fact that Lightroom Web’s editing panel is limited to Light, Color, Effects and Split Toning. This gives you the flexibility of a glorified Basic Panel with Black and White conversion, HSL and Split Toning. You have presets that I find to be less useful than the supplied presets with Lightroom CC and cropping capabilities. All in all, I would stick to editing in the Lightroom Classic or at least in Lightroom CC for full editing capabilities. At the end of the day, Lightroom Classic hails as a full-functioning Raw processor.

I am interested in the search features introduced in Lightroom CC and Web. This seems to be a continuation of the Facial Recognition software from Lightroom 6. With this new search option, instead of searching metadata, keywords, files names, etc., I can search by content—and the new Adobe Sensei Technology finds my images rather quickly. Type in “bride,” “groom,” “church,” “sky” or “arch,” and you get a decent selection of images.

Another new technology is the Best Photos search option in Lightroom Web. To turn on the feature, click the Lightroom icon in the upper left corner, choose Technology Previews and check the box for Best Photos. To activate this feature, select your album and click the Best Photos button above the grid of images, which has a trophy icon next to it. Once it finishes analyzing images, you enter a new sorting screen. Your images are selected at default in the middle of the Fewer and More range. One hundred twenty images were automatically selected out of 840 total. I can change the total by sliding the bar to the left for fewer or right for more. I can also click the minus button on each photo to manually remove it from my selection. Overall, it’s not a bad automated level of selection, and it may be useful for a blog or album design.

What to Expect in the Future 

With change, there will always be disgruntled users, but I do not fear the future for Adobe Lightroom. Like for many other users, Lightroom is key to my photo workflow. Lightroom Classic is here to stay, and I hope to see the many improvements to performance Adobe has promised, as well as the Raw processing engine. Lightroom CC will get better and be better equipped to handle a real-world all-Raw workflow, but it just isn’t there today.

Mobile workflows are not for everyone, but from what I can tell, this a major market to tap into for Adobe. I roll my eyes when I see people editing on an iPad, but that may be all they need. There will always be a need for heavier lifting in post-processing, and Lightroom Classic’s new masking features proves that. Lightroom Classic is a real competitor in the Raw processor market.

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