Adobe’s announcement last year that it would offer two different Lightroom products sparked many a question and no small amount of frustration. While experienced Lightroom users can choose between the programs with not too much difficulty, people who are just beginning to use Lightroom don’t have enough experience with the software to understand how the differences will affect their workflow.
I’m writing this article with you new Lightroom users in mind, but I’m also providing info that will be helpful to those who are on prior versions of the software and haven’t decided whether to upgrade.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase after clicking on these links, I receive compensation at no cost to you. Thank you for helping to make these free tutorials possible!
I’ll cut to the chase and say that most of you will want to use Lightroom Classic. Those of you that I talk to on a regular basis, those of you who send questions, and those of you who take my classes want to store your photos on your computer rather than the cloud AND you have terabytes of data – more space than is affordable to store at Adobe. However, I’m going to go over the details below so that you can make the choice for yourself.
(All photos courtesy of Adobe.)
Adobe’s Current Lightroom Products:
- Lightroom CC is the new cloud-based software. You can access the software from any computer – without installing the program – by logging in to Lightroom Online. You can also install a program on your computer to use when you can’t be online. Finally, you can install Lightroom CC apps on your phone and tablet. Lightroom CC isn’t as full-featured as Lightroom Classic and the mobile apps have even fewer features. If you choose this version, all of your photos and the edits you make to them live “in the cloud.” You can choose to also store your originals on your computer; however, any edits you make won’t be applied to the photos you store locally. This product is available by subscription only.
- Lightroom Classic is the “old-fashioned” version of Lightroom. Your photos live on your computer and any external hard drives connected to it. Lightroom Classic is the most full-featured of the Lightroom variations. This product is available by subscription only.
- Lightroom 6 – The most unpopular announcement relating to Lightroom is that Adobe is discontinuing “perpetual licenses” of this software. This means that you can no longer buy it outright. Lightroom 6 is the legacy version of Lightroom, meaning that it doesn’t have the most recent updates and that Adobe will no longer update it. For a limited (but unspecified) time, you can still buy this product. You should know that this version might not support new cameras. If you have a new camera or plan to buy one soon, check this page to see whether Lightroom 6 will work with your camera. Look in the column that says “Minimum Lightroom Perpetual version required.” While all cameras listed are supported by the most recent version of Lightroom 6, it’s likely that cameras released later in 2018 will not work in LR6.
Lightroom Buying Options:
As if it’s not confusing enough to sort through the different products, the buying options aren’t exactly straightforward. You can purchase:
- The Creative Cloud Photography Plan for $9.99 per month. It includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop CC.
- The Lightroom CC Plan for $9.99 per month. In includes only Lightroom CC and 1 TB of cloud storage for your photos. (This is the cloud-only option.)
- The Creative Cloud Photography Plan with 1 TB of Cloud Storage for $19.99 per month. It includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop CC, and 1 TB of storage.
- Lightroom 6 for $149
- Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite for $49.99 per month. This includes Lightroom Classic, Photoshop CC, plus about 20 other programs including Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat. I only recommend this for experts who are graphic designers, web designers, publishers, etc.
Functional Differences Between Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Lightroom 6:
The following table is a comparison of the Lightroom Classic features I use the most often, with a few other features thrown in. It’s not a complete list of the differences between Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Lightroom 6.
|Feature||Lightroom CC (Cloud)||Lightroom Classic (Desktop)||Lightroom 6 (Desktop)|
|Apply Keywords while importing||No||Yes||Yes|
|Apply Presets while importing||No||Yes||Yes|
|Import JPG, Raw, PSD, etc.||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Store originals in cloud||Yes||No||No|
|Store originals on hard drive||Optional||Yes||Yes|
|Use Pick/Reject flags||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Use stars to rank||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Use color labels||No||Yes||Yes|
|Apply keywords to multiple photos at once||Yes*||Yes||Yes|
|Use survey & compare views||No||Yes||Yes|
|Organize photos in folders||No||Yes||Yes|
|Organize photos in collections and albums||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Facial recognition keywording||No||Yes||Yes|
|Insert copyright into metadata||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Artificial intelligence search without keywords||Yes||No||No|
|Search for keywords||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Filter by stars and flags||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Search by date||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Filter by metadata||Some||Yes||Yes|
|Crop & straighten||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Exposure Edits (Exposure, Contrast, Whites, Blacks, Highlights, Shadows)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|White Balance (including presets & dropper)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Presence (Clarity, Vibrance, Saturation)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Parametric Curve, Point Curve, RGB Curves||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Curves Targeted Adjustment Tool||No||Yes||Yes|
|Hue, Saturation & Luminance Color Adjustments||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|HSL Targeted Adjustment Tool||Not on the desktop version, but it is in the mobile apps.||Yes||Yes|
|Split Toning||Yes (make sure you’re using the current version for this feature!)||Yes||Yes|
|Sharpening, Noise Reduction||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Chromatic Aberration, Lens Correction||Yes, but not as many options.||Yes||Yes|
|Vignettes, Grain, & Dehaze||Yes||Yes||Vignettes & Grain, but no Dehaze|
|Install & use 3rd party presets||Yes*||Yes||Yes|
|Local adjustment brush, gradient tool, radial filter||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Local editing options||Everything except color tint||Complete||Complete|
|Spot Removal tool||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Edit in Photoshop CC||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Edit in Photoshop Elements or 3rd party programs||No||Yes||Yes|
|Export with watermark||No||Yes||Yes|
|Export with new name||No||Yes||Yes|
|Export to file formats||Original & JPG||Original, JPG, PSD, TIFF, DNG||Original, JPG, PSD, TIFF, DNG|
|Resize on export||Limited||Yes||Yes|
|Sharpen on export||Limited||Yes||Yes|
|Share photos online with people who don’t have Lightroom||Yes||Yes||No|
|Print to home printer||No||Yes||Yes|
|FTP to website gallery||No||Yes||Yes|
*Available in desktop CC, but not in mobile apps.
If you’ve used Lightroom before, you’ll notice that many of these tools are organized differently in Lightroom CC.
How to Choose
It really comes down to this. If you are subscription adverse, have a camera that Lightroom 6 supports, and don’t plan on purchasing a new camera anytime soon, you can purchase Lightroom 6. It’s missing only a couple of features that Classic has.
The rest of us should choose between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic. And if you purchase the Creative Cloud Photography Plan, you still need to decide which program you will use most of the time: CC or Classic. These two programs do not talk to each other or synchronize – if you want to store all of your photos together, you need to choose one or the other.
Lightroom CC is best for: people with small hard drives who are comfortable storing all of their files in the cloud, and who have consistent internet access. It’s also good for people who need to edit on multiple computers or devices. Keep in mind that 1 TB isn’t much storage – I currently have 6 TBs of photos. If you decide to use LR CC, you’ll need to be ruthless about culling your images. And if you ever cancel your Lightroom subscription, you’ll need to remember to download your photos for safekeeping.
Lightroom Classic is best for: people who want their photos to live on their computer. People with terabytes of photos to store. People who want all of the editing features that Lightroom has to offer. People who want to use Photoshop Elements along with Lightroom.