My Future with Lightroom Classic and Thoughts on CC

There’s big news from Adobe this week and it has left a lot of Lightroom users either totally confused or disappointed (mostly both). I’ve had a few days to mull things over, and I’m here to offer up my recommendations that may help you better understand this monumental shift in the Adobe ecosystem.

Wait – what’s happened to Lightroom?

There are many great posts out there that have already covered the specific changes extensively (a few are linked below), so I will not dilute the atmosphere anymore with my own explanation ….but here are the bullet points (in case you haven’t heard):

1. Lightroom CC is now called Lightroom Classic and has received some much-needed performance updates that many are enjoying….as well as a few new features.

2. Adobe introduced their new cloud-based program, which has now been crowned heir to the “Lightroom CC” name (hence the rebranding of Lightroom CC to Lightroom Classic). This program takes advantage of the fluidity and less complicated environment that only cloud apps can offer, but with several drawbacks that are leaving traditional Lightroom users reluctant to move – including me.

3. No more perpetual licenses for Lightroom. A move that is not entirely surprising given Adobe’s unwillingness to update Lightroom 6 with the latest features….but I was hoping Adobe would put this move off until CC was more widely adopted. Lightroom 6 users won’t receive any new updates after the end of the year.

Photographer Piet Van den Eynde has created a very nice overview of the new Lightroom Classic features…as well as briefly going over what Lightroom CC is. It’s very informative and to the point:

And here’s the information directly from Adobe. Our dear guide Julieanne certainly has her hands full with this one. In this video, she compares Lightroom Classic to Lightroom CC.

It’s really not the introduction of this new app that is making users anxious, it’s the subtext (and possible foreshadowing) that accompanies this news….specifically, the future of Lightroom Classic (the folder-based program) and whether or not Lightroom CC (the cloud-based program) will replace it.

I go into further detail below, but here’s the punchline:

Lightroom Classic is not going to disappear anytime soon, so stay put and let’s see how this plays out with Adobe. Whether you’re a CC – sorry, I mean “Classic” – Lightroom user or have a perpetual Lr6 license, there’s really no reason to jump ship right now….especially without an adequate lifeboat to jump into.

I’m not saying that I’ll be sticking with Lightroom forever, or suggesting that you do the same (as explained below)…but there’s no big red switch coming down. Let’s see how this develops…and more importantly, how Adobe responds to its customers’ concerns.

First onto the elephant in the room….the “Classic” rebranding of Lightroom CC.

I’m not sure who at Adobe decided that it was a good idea to rebrand a program currently used by many professionals and serious enthusiasts as “classic” and expect a good reception. Even worse, to simultaneously introduce an inferior cloud-based app and give it the Lightroom CC name. I’m baffled.

Now I understand WHY they moved the CC name over to this new cloud-based program, but surely they saw the potential confusion and possible foreshadowing that could be interpreted here when they chose to rebrand the folder-based application as “classic”.

Does this simply mean that Lightroom Classic is using a “traditional” setup of folders and local storage vs. the more-modern, cloud-based systems….which everything seems to be moving towards lately? Or does “classic” imply that Adobe will be phasing out of their folder-based Lightroom program at some point?

We don’t know what Adobe is planning to do (and perhaps they don’t either until they get more feedback on this bold move), but I’m betting that Adobe’s marketing team is regretting their choice of words.

Not only is this terminology confusing, but it makes “Lightroom Formerly Known as CC” seem archaic and stale, and a program that they will eventually retire…..while passing the CC crown to their new cloud-based app.

Will Adobe stop supporting Lightroom Classic?

I believe that is their current end-game, yes….but it won’t happen for a while (and depending on the performance of Lightroom CC, it may not happen at all).

Professional photographers represent a small portion of the “photography” market, so it makes sense that Adobe – being a business with shareholders – would try to tap into the amateurs.

Lightroom CC is essentially a very fancy, sophisticated app that amateur photographers can step into without being overwhelmed. If you remember, there’s a lot to learn about Lightroom Classic initially – importing, catalogs, keywords…let alone the Develop module. It’s a big barrier coming from a cell phone. Lightroom CC makes that initial learning curve much less steep.

I can’t imagine Classic being pulled until CC is a suitable replacement…and Adobe needs to hit a LOT of marks before that becomes a reality.

It’s also reassuring that Adobe has greatly improved the performance of Lightroom Classic (and added some nifty new features that Piet goes over in the above video), so they do plan on keeping Lightroom Classic around for a while.

However, with the unveiling of CC, it means that fewer resources are being diverted to Classic support and development….which can be worrisome for us who will most likely never use a cloud-based program as our main image organizer/raw processor.

My advice is this: If you are a Classic user, just wait it out. It will be a long time before Adobe stops supporting Lightroom Classic. Remember: they’re in business, so it would not make sense to kill a product without having an equal replacement for users to move to.

Are you a Lightroom 6 user (with a perpetual license)? I’d wait it out too – at least for the short term. Support ending at the end of the year is not Doomsday. The final support release for Lightroom 5 was back in November of 2014, and there are still many photographers using it (or even earlier versions of Lightroom).

Do I recommend using Lightoom CC then?

Not right now. I don’t believe photographers who are already familiar with Lightroom Classic are going to see any real benefit to adding CC to their workflow in its current state….and I definitely would not recommend Lightroom CC as a replacement for Lightroom Classic.

There are big concerns here for professionals and serious enthusiasts….program stability, file security (storing your trove of images in a cloud managed by Adobe) and of course reliable high-speed internet access for continual downloads and uploads. Since Lightroom CC is in version 1.0, there will inevitably be problems that Adobe will need to troubleshoot – so it’s better to let their team work out the kinks first before making any serious commitments to CC.

Now with that being said…Adobe is banking hard on Lightroom CC being a success. This is their new baby. I believe they will be swift and thorough to address program bugs and roll out features to rival Lightroom Classic. Also, Lightroom CC is a simpler program to use without catalogs, so bugs should be fairly easy to fix and program speed should not be much of an issue.

The biggest bottleneck I see here (and it is a HUGE one for many) is a reliable high-speed internet connection, so I’m curious as to how Adobe is going to address this. The new Nikon D850 has raw files in the 50MB range, so imagine uploading a couple hundred frames over a slow and spotty internet connection.

I’m spoiled here in Boston, but it was not too long ago I was tethering internet through my cell phone on an island (with a monthly limit on usage). This was not fun, and I could never use Lightroom CC for any kind of serious editing if I was still living there. I couldn’t even use Netflix.

In my opinion, internet availability and stability is not there yet for many serious photographers to support a cloud-based workflow.

That’s not to say that Lightroom CC is totally out of the question. If you’re a CC member, you get this program already as part of your monthly plan…so give it a spin. It can be very useful for off-site backup and initial editing/culling before you get home.

However, I personally will not be using it (not yet anyway).

Here’s my honest opinion of Lightroom CC….

I see Lightroom CC as a complementary program to Lightroom Classic and Photoshop…a nice feature for professionals and serious hobbyists to use alongside Classic, and a gateway program for amateurs to enter into the Adobe ecosystem. It’s kind of like how Elements is a stepping stone to Photoshop.

For those who are already invested in Classic and familiar with the program, CC is a big step backward with very little reward.

What will happen if Adobe ends support for Lightroom Classic?

There are alternatives to Lightroom Classic – fantastic alternatives – and I’ve been exploring those in order to bring you the best in digital darkroom education. Your success and enjoyment is my primary goal here at creativeRAW, especially for Lifetime members who rely on my courses. If Adobe ever decides to phase out of Lightroom Classic, that is not going to happen for a while….which gives me plenty of time to find a suitable alternative if needed.

I love using Lightroom and Photoshop cohesively and rely heavily on the synergistic relationship between the two….it’s just so fluid to jump back and forth between both programs. However, I’m not blindly in love with them. If the day comes that Lightroom is not the best choice for image organization and raw processing, and I’ve thoroughly tested a better alternative…I will absolutely switch over and create tutorials for that program.

Workflows change and evolve over time, and I am not afraid to jump into a different program….but not yet. This Lightroom overhaul will certainly invigorate the competition and not allow Adobe to get comfortable….which is great news for all of us.

Even if I do move to a Lightroom replacement, I will definitely be sticking with Photoshop as I highly doubt that Adobe has any plans to shake up their flagship program like they just did with Lightroom. These are their “bread and butter” customers, so I imagine they want to keep them very, very happy.

While Photoshop is still well ahead of its competitors, it would only take a few stumbles for programs like Affinity to lure customers away….so Adobe will probably take the straight and narrow path with Photoshop for a long time.

For now, I will wait and see how this venture develops over the next few months and will enjoy the recent improvements and features added to Lightroom Classic.

Thoughts or opinions? Many of you probably have a question (or twenty)…so please ask away in the comments below and I will get right back to you. Chances are other creativeRAW subscribers are wondering the same thing you are, so don’t be shy 🙂

EDIT 10/22/17 at 8:25 PM EST: Looks like the comments are not currently working. In the meantime, feel free to bring the conversation over to the creativeRAW Facebook Group to share your thoughts on all of this.

EDIT 10/22/17 at 9:03 PM EST: Comments are back up and working!

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