(Updated October 20, 2017 to address additional missing features in Lightroom CC.)

Today Adobe is announcing big updates to its Lightroom software and photography plan. Are you ready? Take a deep breath, read through the options below and – here’s the important thing – know that you all of your options are good.

What is Lightroom CC 2017?

Lightroom CC 2017 is a brand new offering. Adobe created it for the evolving needs of today’s photographers. We need editing software that:

  • you can use to edit anywhere
  • is intuitive to use
  • runs on the most powerful image editing technology. The same technology behind Lightroom and Photoshop powers this new anywhere app.

Lightroom CC 2017, Lightroom CC Classic

Lightroom CC 2017 is substantially the same whether you use it on your computer, your phone, or your Android or iOS tablet. If you use it, your photos will be stored in the cloud – and you have the option to download them to your computer also. In addition to offering a desktop app, you can also use a browser-based app – simply log in to Lightroom from whichever computer you are using.

This option works for me for so many reasons. I love that I can load photos onto my iPad when I’m not home, edit some, and then pick up where I left off when I get back home to my desktop – all without needing to synchronize, export, or do anything.

Just like the “old-fashioned” Lightroom, you can organize your photos using stars, flags, and folders. In addition, you can create albums to subdivide your folders.

As far as editing, Lightroom CC 2017 offers most features you are used to seeing in desktop Lightroom. Curves, Split Toning, and Camera Calibration are some that I’ve found to be missing. Also, if you use the mobile version for tablets and phones, you won’t find the Healing Brush or Upright tools.

The photos stored online are full resolution and automatically backed up. This solves many problems for those of us who are short on hard drive space and are concerned about off-site backups for our photos.

A cool new feature is its Sensei keyword tool. Lightroom will automatically keyword your photos with common terms like cats, mountains, ocean, house, etc.  (Facial Recognition technology isn’t a part of Lightroom CC yet, but I suspect it will be coming soon.) You do need to be online for this tool to work.

Sensei is a helpful tool for sure, and it’s also fun to play with. Here are the results from my photos after searching for “cat.”

Lightroom CC 2017, Lightroom CC Classic

And here I searched for “water.” See how it picked up rain also? My ocean search brought up a completely different set of photos.

In addition, you can create an online gallery to show off your photos. This is a great option for budding professionals.

Lightroom CC 2017, Lightroom CC ClassicFinally, you can easily take photos from Lightroom to Photoshop CC for further editing.

One major drawback to this program is that you can’t (or I haven’t found a way to) export photos with watermarks. That’s a dealbreaker for me. The workaround is to open a photo in Photoshop from Lightroom, size the photo, and apply the watermark there. However, that’s a lot of steps for something that you can do much more easily in CC Classic.

What is Lightroom Classic CC?

Lightroom Classic CC is the version we are all used to. Your photos live on your computer. In addition to the Library and Develop modules, you also have Map, Book, Slideshow, Print & Web.

Lightroom Classic CC’s big news with this release is that’s its faster. In particular, you can generate previews to view photos much more quickly. This feature alone is a huge timesaver! To take advantage of it, Select “Embedded and Sidecar” from the Build Previews selection of the File Handling panel when you import your photos.

This option didn’t slow down my import process. And, when I clicked on each photo to view it in Loupe view (zoomed in), I didn’t get that annoying “Loading…” message while waiting for the image to snap into focus.

This new version of Lightroom also opens more quickly.

Finally, the Local Adjustment brush’s AutoMask feature, which was already good, can now be configured to create its mask based on color or on tone. This is a great level of control. To select the hands in the image below, I used the eyedropper to click on the color I wanted to select.

Lightroom CC 2017, Lightroom CC Classic

What About Standalone Lightroom?

Lightroom will no longer be available to purchase outright after an unspecified but limited amount of time. Lightroom 6 is the current standalone version and it will be gone soon. Support for it, including support for new cameras, will end in 2017.

This means that you will have to subscribe to Lightroom from here on unless you want to stick with Lightroom 6 for the foreseeable future.

I know that some of you will balk at this, and I understand. However, keep the price point in mind. $9.99 isn’t much, especially given all of the subscriptions that we pay for these days: Netflix, Spotify, etc. With all of the features you get, the price is worth it for photographers of all types. Remember that Photoshop itself used to cost hundreds of dollars. You’d have to subscribe for three or four years to equal that cost.

Also, you won’t need to purchase Elements after this. There’s no sense in using Elements when you have full Photoshop at your fingertips. And yes, I am working on a Photoshop class for you! Not to mention an update of my Lightroom class.

The Lightroom Mobile Camera

The mobile version of each of these versions comes with a fabulous camera. In the camera’s Pro mode, you can:

  • Shoot in Raw on iPhone 7 and up (DNG format)
  • Access exposure compensation
  • Change shutter speed
  • Change ISO
  • Change white balance
  • Control the depth of field in your photo
  • Take HDR photos
  • See exactly which parts of your photo will be in focus
  • See an overlay for blown out areas

The green overlay in this photo shows me the parts of the image that will have the sharpest focus. The dotted lines show me the blown out areas.

Lightroom CC 2017, Lightroom CC ClassicMy only complaint about the Lightroom camera is that it takes an extra click to access than the device camera app. I wish I could make a shortcut from the Home screen on my phone for easy access. I haven’t taken a photo in any other app in the past two weeks!

Lightroom CC 2017, Lightroom CC Classic

What is New with Photoshop CC?

Along with these Lightroom updates, Photoshop CC has some new features also. The one that I’m most excited about is that you will be able to access Lightroom photos from the Start screen in Photoshop – no need to open Lightroom first.

Lightroom CC 2017 vs. Lightroom Classic CC

 Lightroom CCLightroom Classic CC
Photo StorageIn the cloudOn your desktop
Where to accessDesktop, browser, phone, tablet.Desktop
What you can doOrganize and editOrganize, edit, map photos, create books and slideshows, print, create web galleries
Editing featuresEverything except Camera CalibrationEverything available in prior version of Lightroom
Automatic cloud backupYesNo
Full resolution filesYesYes
Automatic keywordsYesNo
Facial recognitionNoYes
Edit photos in external programsPhotoshopWide variety, including Photoshop & Photoshop Elements
Price for Basic Subscription$9.99$9.99
Storage included with basic Subscription1 Terabtye20 Gigabtyes
Subscription Also IncludesLightroom for Mobile & Web, Photoshop CC, Adobe Spark, Adobe PortfolioLightroom CC, Lightroom for Mobile & Web, Photoshop CC, Adobe Spark, Adobe Portfoloio
What?!Everything except Lightroom Classic CC and a lot more storageLess storage, but you get Lightroom CC AND Lightroom Classic CC
Option to purchase more storage space on the Adobe Creative Cloud?YesYes

What Am I Going to Do?

I WANT to use Lightroom CC 2017. I love the idea of the speedy cloud-based interface. However, I’ve got to be able to export photos with watermarks. Also, I’m not in love with the way you download photos to your computer. I’m going to write more about that tomorrow.

For a while, I’ll use both Lightroom CC 2017 and Lightroom Classic CC. The benefits of using LR CC across devices are fabulous. I suspect that at some point, we won’t have a choice between the two, and we’ll all be using the cloud version. In the meantime, I predict that LR CC will grow to be as full-featured as LR Classic CC – it will have all the editing options, hopefully. And I hope that the downloading and exporting options expand also.

If you want to use them both also, you’ll need the Lightroom Classic plan.

If you want to be completely on the cloud, give the Lightroom CC 2017 plan a try. 1 terabyte of storage can hold many photos!

What will you all do? You know that Lightroom is a necessity for me. It’s not a question of whether I’ll upgrade, but which program I’ll use long term. But that isn’t true for everyone. I’m especially curious to hear from those of you who have been resistant to upgrading to CC so far.