Lightroom is Adobe’s professional-level all-in-one photo cataloguing, editing and sharing application, and it’s the ideal complement to Photoshop. But as of October 2017, the Lightroom lineup has changed.
Lightroom 6, which you could buy as a ‘perpetual licence’ rather than via a subscription fee, was effectively discontinued at the end of 2017.
At the same time, the ‘old’ subscription-based Lightroom CC splits in two. The name is now used for an all-new Lightroom CC application designed around Adobe’s new online storage scheme. The ‘old’ desktop-based Lightroom CC gets a name change and carries on as Lightroom Classic.
So which should you choose? To help you decide, here’s a list of 10 key differences…
1. Lightroom workflow (interface and modules)
Straight away, there’s a big visual difference. Lightroom Classic is split into a series of different ‘modules’ for different stages of the workflow, from the Library module (for organizing) and the Develop module (for editing), right through to Map, Book, Slideshow, Print and Web modules.
In Lightroom CC, this is all gone. All your organizing and editing is done in a single window, and all the other modules are missing. This is great news for those who found Lightroom too clunky and fussy before (which is us), but bad news for photographers who rely on these extra modules.
2. ‘Cloud-first’ vs ‘desktop-first’
The differences are way more than skin deep. In Lightroom Classic, all your images are stored on your computer or connected hard drives, and while you can synchronize them with Lightroom on the web and on mobile devices, you’re only sharing lower-resolution Smart Previews, and only specific Collections within your photo catalog.
But in Lightroom CC, all your photos are stored online by Adobe. You can choose to store them locally too, but Lightroom CC is based around online storage. The good news is that all your photos are available everywhere at their full resolution and in their original format. The bad news is that this storage costs money – see our breakdown of the new Adobe subscription plans at the end.
3. Synchronization and editing
Lightroom Classic can synchronize images with Lightroom mobile and Lightroom web, but there are the restrictions mentioned above which we should spell out. First, it shares a lower-resolution DNG Smart Preview rather than the full-resolution image. Most of the time this will be absolutely fine – the resolution is easily good enough for on-screen viewing, and editing too – the point of Lightroom’s Smart Previews is that your adjustments are synchronized back to the desktop version.
However, if you’re working on your mobile device or on another computer via Lightroom web, you can’t download the original, full-resolution image, and only the lower-resolution Smart Preview is available. And while synchronizing Collections is fine as far as it goes, not being able to synchronize smart collections or have remote access to your full image catalog is actually rather a nuisance.