Times they are a-changin’. And so is Adobe Lightroom. Before the creative cloud, we had Lightroom 6. This was its own stand-alone program.
One download, one payment and that was it. Now, it has become a little confusing. I was used to version 6, and then along came two new additions.
So what exactly are the newest versions? What are the differences between them? Which one should we use?
The truth of the matter is that the two new options, Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC, are quite different from one another.
What’s With the Naming?
Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC were both available at the same time for the past few years. The only difference was that Lightroom 6 was a perpetually owned program, and Lightroom CC is only attainable through Adobe Creative Cloud.
That’s where the CC part comes from, and comes at a cost per month, not a one-off payment. Lightroom 6 costs $149 for a full license and CC costs $9.99 per month, but you also get Photoshop or 1TB of cloud space alongside it.
Over this period, Adobe started adding tools and features to Lightroom CC that didn’t (and still don’t) exist in Lightroom 6. The dehaze tool and local adjustments to the “whites” and “blacks” sliders are just a few.
In February 2018, Adobe announced a new Lightroom product. Enter Lightroom Classic. It has the same exact interface as the other two versions and still uses the same camera raw tools, yet it’sstill completely different.
It’s meant as an update to the Classic and 6 versions.
Differences Between Lightroom Classic and CC
So what exactly are the differences between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic? Importing images is one area where the CC version has changed.
Lightroom Classic has the interface you are most familiar with. The import window includes options to add to collections, adjust metadata, add keywords, change the destination, and even apply presets while importing.
The CC version only lets you add to an album, which makes it easier and simpler for beginners but stops those time-consuming features.
Lightroom classic allows you to organise your images into collections, collection sets and allows you to navigate using the folders on the desktop.
Smart collections organise your images for you when certain parameters, such as rating, flags, or keywords, are set.
Lightroom CC uses albums instead of collections, but they are very similar. They are automatically created and named by image creation date.
One feature that Lightroom CC outshines the classic sibling is in its use of AI. This version searches through your images, using facial and object recognition.
This means it can spot famous landscapes in your photography and organise them accordingly, without you even needing to raise a finger.
Lightroom Classic is the same program that we have been used to for many years. This is great for those of us who don’t want to re-learn how to use Lightroom for post-processing.
Sure it has a new name and a few added features, but the old stuff stays too. Everything is done through the Lightroom modules.
They did move the Exposure sliders and revamped the entire Develop side panel.
For example, adjusting exposure, contrast, and highlights and shadows are all under the Light section. While white balance, vibrance, and saturation fall under the Color panel.
The organization scheme is easier for beginners to learn since everything is grouped together.
Those familiar with earlier versions of Lightroom may have to do some hunting at first.
One of the best features in Lightroom CC are the hover-over buttons. If you are unsure what a feature is or does, it will tell you when you place your mouse over the area.
Not only with text, but by using images too.
At first, Lightroom CC didn’t include a tone curve tool, split toning, or HSL panel. Adobe has since added those features in.
Lightroom Classic has created a slider for each colour, to lighten or darken. These are great for coloured tints on the skin and helping you to create coloured profiles.
Even black and white becomes more dramatic as you can control each shade of grey your image is converted to.
All three Lightrooms (CC, 6 and Classic) can perform local adjustments with the healing tool, adjustment brush, and graduated filters. Only Lightroom CC is missing the red-eye removal tool.
Lightroom Classic has had their radial and graduated masks revamped, while every other adjustment tool stays the same. Now, you can use the filters for colour and luminance masking.
If you applied a graduated filter to bring details from the sky, you can now select the sky, skipping the trees and buildings. You can then apply the colour range mask.
All three programs include sharpening options, noise removal, vignetting, a dehaze tool, chromatic aberration and lens corrections. Cropping and straightening tools are also there.
One of my favourite areas in Lightroom CC is its helpful presets. Here, just hovering over the desired preset will show you the effect on each adjustment.
There is also no problem importing pre-existing preset collections, so you can start where you left off.
Lightroom CC is missing the HDR merging and panorama stitching. Both features are present in Lightroom Classic.
The Classic version proves it is the bigger brother in exporting possibilities. Lightroom CC only allows you to choose the destination, between JPEG or original and to rename the file.
Lightroom Classic allows you to name and sequence images and albums on export. You can save photos in multiple file types and add custom image-based watermarks.
Controlling the level of JPEG compression is under your control and you can also create and save and even export settings through presets.
The speed of any Lightroom program comes down to many factors, most of these come from outside of the software. Your computer specifications are important.
Also, where you place your scratch disks, and how many other programs you are using also affect the speed of Lightroom.
There are other factors that happen within Lightroom. How full your library or catalog is could slow down your editing.
Having smart previews alongside your images is an area that is optimised for performance, not speed.
Importing images into CC seems to be twice as fast as those imported into Lightroom Classic.
(Adobe has since launched an update that can improve import speed up to 20 percent in Lightroom Classic.)
Images that are imported through Lightroom CC are initially saved to your hard drive. They are then uploaded to the cloud.
This gives you access to your images from anywhere and creates an automatic backup for your peace of mind.
If you want to access cloud photos, not on the local hard drive, you will need to download them first.
Talking about smart previews, Lightroom has been syncing these for years, making them accessible for desktop and mobile versions.
The creative cloud has never doubled up as backup service because only smart previews were stored there, not raw files.
In Lightroom CC, the original RAW files are saved along with their adjustments. This is very handy indeed.
For this reason, you will need more than the 20gb they give you as part of their photography plan. You might need closer to 1TB.
You will get the terabyte in the package, but you will need to drop Photoshop and select Lightroom CC instead for the same, yet alternative, price.
Storage is just one area where creative cloud has really taken off. Allowing the syncing of images across platforms is a wonder.
Downloading raw files from the cloud is time-consuming, but hey, at least it is possible.
For me, I couldn’t stand Lightroom CC, and it doesn’t matter how much free storage you throw at me, I won’t leave classic.
I feel the lack of import settings and the ‘dumbing down’ of other areas make the CC version feel like a beginner’ tool.
By all means, it makes a great first Lightroom tool, but for me, it makes ME feel like a beginner photographer.
Maybe I am just stuck in my ways and used to things being complicated (Photoshop!), so when it does become easier, I feel my images lose out.
Ok, you are right. Both programs (version 6 is just a slightly older version of classic) have different features, aimed at different people.
Lightroom CC is for the photographers who want to edit anywhere, as the 1TB cloud storage will let you access your raw images across all platforms.
It is simpler, has fewer controls that make you want to scream and tear your hair out. Yes, the gap is closing between the two Lightroom programs, but not enough for me.
I like having more features to use as my photography can range from artistic and abstract, to documentary. And I love my collections too much to let them go.
As you will see, Lightroom will continue to update each program, looking at developing the settings to help you create the best images possible.
Don’t have Lightroom? Check out our article on Lightroom alternatives here.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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