It’s finally here. Adobe Lightroom 6 and Creative Cloud were released just a few weeks ago after a long wait for some welcome upgrades. The upgrades, some useful and some not so much, include increased performance, Photo Merge software, facial recognition sorting and advanced video slideshow. What do these upgrades mean for your workflow? With the integration of Lightroom and the Creative Cloud app, you gain the flexibility of using mobile devices that sync with your desktop. The question is, should you upgrade based on these improvements? Yes, you should.
The last thing you want to do is buy a new camera and have to convert RAW files to DNG because Camera Raw either hasn’t or won’t upgrade to a newer version. What a terrible workflow. I would know, because I bought a Nikon d750 before Lightroom 5.7 and Camera Raw 8.7 launched. This is a common case for individuals still using Lightroom 4 and purchasing the latest cameras and lenses. Lightroom CC does bring up some interesting compatibility issues with previous versions of Lightroom. We can go into depth later.
Choosing LR 6 or CC
Which version is better for your business? I find the best way to answer this is to use my experience with Lightroom in the past and make the jump to CC. After Adobe completely changed its marketing from stand-alone programs/suites to subscription-based plans, Lightroom CC joins the team. Lightroom 5 was included as well, but the extensive Creative Cloud integration gives Lightroom many added features. The stand-alone version of Lightroom 6 is missing the mobile flexibility of CC. Photographers using Eye-fi cards or Wi-Fi transmitters to send images instantly to a mobile device can automatically add these to a Collection in Lightroom Mobile that syncs with your desktop app. This brings tethering to a whole new level, whether shooting in the studio or not. For Desktop users, you can sync Collections with Lightroom Mobile as well.
The annual subscription photography plan runs $9.99 per month for CC versions of Photoshop, Bridge and Lightroom. That’s a small price to pay for this upgrade. Of course, if you have a subscription, you get a free upgrade to Lightroom CC without replacing Lightroom 5. Adobe charges $149 for Lightroom 6, giving you full ownership. Adobe has ended backward capability between previous version catalogs.
Upgrading an older Lightroom catalog into Lightroom CC is simple to do. Just open it in CC, and the software prompts you to upgrade. In Finder, you will notice a duplicate catalog has been created to keep your Lightroom 5 catalog untouched. Going from Lightroom 4 to 5 was a nightmare because of the color process change from 2010 to 2012. Lightroom CC 2014 hasn’t changed this yet, but there might be an update soon. For more info on this and camera profiles, check out my article “Color Space Part 2: Getting Control With Your Color.” Once the 2015 version of Lightroom CC releases, there is no telling what they might update to. This is not a negative outlook; it just means Adobe has created a more advanced RAW processor for color.
New Features in the Modules
You can’t miss the performance upgrade that Lightroom CC brings to the table. Importing from an external hard drive never worked this smoothly. Culling got a little better, but there are plenty of programs to help, like Adobe Bridge, Photo Mechanic and OnOne’s new Perfect Browse.
Speaking of importing, you can now add images to Collections. This becomes handy for categorization of your files in one fell swoop. I have a few Collection sets already created, like portraits, landscapes, fine art, etc., and I can add different subcategories as well. For this client, I would add these images to the kids Collection under portraits. This feature will be more useful once you get into Lightroom Mobile.
Facial recognition software sorts your images based on people, a huge leap forward for keywording individual photos. You can tag names to the stacked sets of images to organize your entire job. This is a huge workflow boost for keywording individual photos and referring back to images for people to purchase later. If you want to turn off this tool, which prompts when opening a catalog, go into Preferences > Catalog Preferences and uncheck Automatically Detect Faces in All Photos.
Lightroom snuck in a couple more upgrades to the Library module. For global develop settings, hold Shift and click on the single arrows to adjust images. This allows only half the effect to be applied. For example, when you click the 1/3 exposure boost with Shift held down, it adjusts it +.17 instead of +.33, making it a 1/6 stop exposure increase. The same can be done with contrast, highlights, shadows, etc. By filtering images by metadata, one can sort by ratings and flags now. I found this to be very useful when sorting my picked images and viewing the quantity of rated images.
In the Develop panel, Lightroom made some interesting updates as well. Adjustment brushes got an overhaul. For instance, graduated filters finally got the erase mask feature, allowing you to remove the effect in unwanted areas. In the Edit tab, set the parameters of the filter and apply the desired effect to it to see what areas need to be removed. From there, click on the Brush tab and select the Erase option to begin painting away the effect.
Quick tip: Hold down the Option key to toggle the brush in order to add the effect back in. Hotkeys are your efficient friend.
With this feature, I’m now able to tone skies and burn down blown-out foregrounds in a matter of seconds. With the crop tool, you can choose Auto for straightening. I have been researching a way to batch-apply this across all the images, but have not found one yet. A similar setting can be batch-applied in the lens correction panel called Level. Check out my March article, “The Right Tools for the Job: Fixing Lens Distortion in Lightroom 5,” for more info.
Photo Merge Engine
Adobe added another innovative feature for Photo Merge. You now have similar capabilities as Photoshop for HDR merging. In Photoshop, the 16-bit processing power is incredible. In previous versions of Lightroom, you had to be in the Develop module, select the bracketed exposures, navigate to the menu bar, hover the cursor over Edit In and select Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop. So what’s the big deal with that? When using Edit In, Lightroom exports a file (defaults as a TIFF), rasterizes it in Photoshop and saves a duplicate back into the catalog. You lose all the editing power of the Camera Raw engine. There’s plenty of plug-in software that excels at HDR as well, but I give props to Adobe.
Another new feature is that you can combine bracketed exposures without exporting the RAW files, giving you huge flexibility when editing afterward. You can adjust your exposure to +/–10 stops. I will dig into this feature in a later article for high dynamic range photo merging.
Don’t Resist Creative Cloud—Embrace It
At the very least, go to Adobe’s website and download a trial of Lightroom CC. If you completely hate it, move on. Stop the forum and blog searching. After reading this article, see how it fits for you. My driving point always leads to your workflow. Always upgrade your workflow and continue to make it more efficient.