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How to Buy Lightroom (2020 Guide and Options)

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Adobe Lightroom is a great piece of software for cataloguing and editing your images.

In this article, we’ll give you the rundown of the current Lightroom versions, and your purchasing options.

Photo of a Mac desktop with Lightroom and Photoshop

What Software Belong to Adobe Editing Programs?

Adobe markets many photo editing programs – or at least it seems that way. Most are options in Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

Let’s start with untangling the various photo editing products from Adobe.

Photoshop

In 1990, Adobe released Photoshop as a graphics editor. For over fifteen years, this was Adobe’s main photo editing program. Because the software wasn’t initially designed for photographers, it can be confusing. Also, many of the tools aren’t useful for photography.

In 2019, Adobe released a version of Photoshop for the iPad. This app is still in its early days and is not yet a fully functioning Photoshop.

Photoshop Elements 2020

Photoshop Elements 2020 is a basic version of Photoshop. Adobe markets this program to beginning photographers who are learning post-processing. It is software used for quick edits. There is a lot of pre-programmed functionality and guided edits included in Elements.

For more information, see our article comparing Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

Lightroom (Classic)

In 2007, Adobe released Lightroom with photographers in mind. In many ways, it’s a simpler version of Photoshop. It features the editing tools that photographers need. Adobe also redesigned the user interface to make common photographic adjustments easier.

One major addition to Adobe Lightroom was the cataloguing options. Lightroom acts as a library for all your images. Lightroom was also redesigned a non-destructive editor. Non-destructive editing means that you can always go back to the original image. This is a huge advantage to those who worry about editing over an original file, losing it forever.

For a detailed comparison of Lightroom and Photoshop, see our article “Lightroom vs Photoshop: Which Is Better? 2020 Review“.

With the release of Lightroom CC in 2017, this version was re-branded as Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom CC

Lightroom CC (Creative Cloud) is Adobe’s cloud-based version of Lightroom. This program is like Lightroom Classic. But there are differences in the interface and the tools available. In this article, we compare the programs.

Adobe supports Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic as parallel, but different programs. Updates may apply features to one and not the other.

Confusingly, when you launch Lightroom CC, this program is called “Photoshop Lightroom”.

Lightroom Classic is often thought of as the desktop version. But Lightroom CC also works on your desktop. The main difference is the interface and that your images are stored in the cloud.

Photo of Lightroom running on an iPad
Lightroom on the iPad. Photo by Totte Annerbrink on Unsplash

Lightroom Mobile

There’s a third option called Lightroom Mobile or Lightroom Web. This online-only version of Lightroom comes with your purchase of Lightroom.

It is a simplified, web-based photo editing program. The interface is like Lightroom CC but again has some differences.

All Adobe plans that include Lightroom come with at least some online storage. Lightroom web is useful for publishing and sharing online collections.

A laptop with Lightroom interface open onscreen

Lightroom Purchasing Options

To get Adobe Lightroom, you buy a monthly subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. Many subscription plans are popular with photographers. The plans vary in which Adobe programs you can use and the amount of cloud storage space.

All plans come with at least some cloud space. They also come with Adobe Portfolio, a webpage to showcase your images.

Adobe Creative Cloud apps can be active on up to two different computers.

Let’s talk about how buying Lightroom has changed. And why this has led to confusion and controversy. Then we’ll describe the subscription plans available from Adobe.

Screenshot of Adobe purchasing options

Buy-to-Own vs Subscription

For many years, Adobe sold Lightroom with a perpetual license. You bought the program once and could use it forever.

In 2013, Adobe began phasing in their Creative Cloud subscription model. This created a lot of controversies. Many photographers wanted to buy the standalone program rather than pay a monthly fee to use it. The cost is higher with the subscription.

By 2016, Adobe stopped supporting the earlier, standalone versions of Lightroom. The last standalone version released was Lightroom 6.14. Older versions do not receive updates. So, new camera and lens profiles are no longer updated.

Photographers are still using old versions of Lightroom. But you can no longer buy Lightroom as a standalone program that you can use permanently.

The Creative Cloud subscription fee was the first of its kind and was a controversial act. Many people felt angered by this huge increase in price. And there is still a lot of negativity surrounding this subscription model.

Creative Cloud Lightroom Plan

If you only want Lightroom, Adobe offers a simple Creative Cloud Lightroom Plan. You get Lightroom CC and 1 TB of creative cloud storage space.

As we mentioned earlier, Lightroom CC is sometimes referred to as “Photoshop Lightroom”. But Photoshop is a different program and is not included in this subscription plan.

The plan is currently $9.99 per month or $119.88 per year.

More cloud storage space is available. You can get 2 TB, 5 TB, or 10 TB of storage. Prices are US$9.99/month per terabyte.

Adobe also offers a Photoshop-only plan that comes with 100GB of cloud storage. As of 2019, this plan also comes with the Photoshop iPad app.

This plan is $31.49 per month or $238.88 per year.

The Lightroom plan is the simplest, but it is not the best plan for most photographers. It limits you to using the cloud-based version of Lightroom, and you won’t be able to use Photoshop.

Even if you don’t use Photoshop now, it costs nothing more to add it to your plan. The best is the Photography plan that includes both Lightroom and Photoshop.

Close up of a tablet with Lightroom editing on the screen

Creative Cloud Photography Plan (20 GB)

The best Lightroom plan is one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography Plans. The Photography Plan comes with Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC, and Photoshop. As of 2019, this plan also comes with the Photoshop iPad app.

This basic plan comes with only 20 GB of storage. 20 GB   approximately 4,000 JEPGs. This is fine for photographers who store their photos on hard drives rather than in the cloud.

The plan is currently $9.99 per month or $119.88 per year – the same price as the Lightroom-only Plan.

Creative Cloud Photography Plan (1 TB)

This Photography Plan comes with Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC, and Photoshop. It also increases cloud storage to 1 TB. You will have room for approximately 20,000 raw images or 200,000 JPEGs. As of 2019, this plan also comes with the Photoshop iPad app.

This plan is the best for photographers who store a lot of photos in the cloud.

The plan is currently $19.99 per month or $239.88 per year.

More cloud storage space is available. You can get 2 TB, 5 TB, or 10 TB of storage. Prices are US$9.99/month per terabyte.

It’s easy to amass 10 TB in images, especially if you are using one of the newer high megapixel cameras. To get the maximum 10 TB of storage, you’ll be paying $109.99 per month or $1319.98 for the year.

If you only want to backup your images, there are less expensive online storage options. But if you’re editing-on-the-go, this may be the plan for you.

Creative Cloud Premiere Rush Plan

Photographers who also edit videos will often add a Premiere Rush subscription. This is Adobe’s basic video editing program. For more advanced videos, use Premiere Pro.

The Premiere Rush plan includes 100GB of cloud storage. More cloud storage space is available. You can get 2 TB, 5 TB, or 10 TB of storage. Prices are US$9.99/month per terabyte.

The plan is currently $9.99 per month or $119.88 per year.

All Apps Plan

If you want access to all Adobe Creative Cloud apps, buy the All Apps Plan. You will get programs for editing video, audio, graphics, webpages, text, and photos.

This option is good for photographers who publish in many formats.

This plan includes 100GB of cloud storage. More cloud storage space is available. You can get 2 TB, 5 TB, or 10 TB of storage. Prices are US$9.99/month per terabyte.

The plan is currently $79.49 per month or $599.88 per year.

Photo of a monitor on a desk, with a cup of coffee, a laptop, and a mobile phone next to it
Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

Trials and Discounts

Adobe doesn’t have many discount programs that cover photography software. For most products, the price is the same regardless if you pay per month or prepay for the year.

You can get a 7-day free trial for the Lightroom plan, both Photography plans or the All Apps plan.

Currently, you can get a 30-day free trial of the new Photoshop iPad app.

Students and teachers can get special pricing on the All Apps plan. You do need proof of your educational status and a school email account.

The student and teacher discount is $19.99 per month for the first year and $29.99 per month after that. Compare this to the regular $52.99 per month fee.

You may also be able to find a deal offered through one of the online retailers like B&H Photo.

Photoshop Elements

Photoshop Elements 2020 is the only Adobe photo editing program that you can buy without a subscription. It is more like Photoshop than Lightroom. But if you want a photo editing program that you can buy once and use forever, this is it.

The program is currently $99.99 or $149.99 if you also buy the video editing program, Premiere Elements.

Photoshop Elements is great if you are a beginner or only want to do quick edits on your images.

A person searching to buy Lightroom on a laptop

Conclusion

The best way to get Lightroom is by subscribing to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan. With this plan, you get both Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC. You also get Photoshop in both the desktop and mobile versions.

Get the 1 TB version if you want to have your photos in the cloud for sharing and editing.

If you have no interest in using Photoshop but want the extra storage, get the single app plan. You can add a program like Premiere Rush to your plan if you edit a lot of video footage.

You can no longer buy Lightroom as a standalone program and own it forever. To access Lightroom, you must subscribe to a plan. If you stop your plan, you will lose access to the program and the images you have stored in the cloud.

Now it’s up to you to choose the option that fits your needs best!

Want to become a master in editing with Lightroom? Why not check out our course Effortless Editing with Lightroom next!

If you’re interested in trying a Lightroom alternative, check out our Capture one vs Lightroom article!

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