Adobe’s new Lightroom CC product has generated lots of excitement – and many questions too! Given that all of your images are stored in the Creative Cloud if you use the new Lightroom CC, one important question is whether you can download your photos onto your desktop or another device.

And the answer is “Yes, you can!” However, the process isn’t perfect, so let’s discuss exactly what happens when you save photos in Lightroom CC to your desktop.

People want to save photos from Lightroom CC for many reasons.

  • Lightroom CC comes with either 100 GB or 1 TB of storage space, depending on your plan. I have 6 TB total of photos. I took half a terabyte of photos last year alone. It wouldn’t be difficult for photographers to blow through 1 TB quickly. Relying on 1 TB of total photo storage would require you to ruthlessly cull your photos. And yes, I’m sure that Adobe will offer additional storage space for purchase, but I don’t know how much that will cost.
  • All of the digital subscriptions we purchase add up. When times are tough, canceling subscriptions is an easy way to save money. If you cancel your subscription, you’ll need to download your photos before Adobe deletes them.
  • Many people feel more comfortable knowing that they have their digital files in their “digital” possession.
  • You can share photos directly to Facebook from Lightroom CC. You can also share albums like this. But if you want to do anything else with your photos (print, post to Instagram, email, etc.), you’ll need to save them. I imagine that Adobe will add additional sharing options in the future.

How to Save Photos in Lightroom CC

To save photos in Lightroom CC, simply right click on one photo, or select a group of photos and right click on any of them. Select “Save To” from the resulting contextual menu. You can also select “Save To” from the File menu.

From here, you choose to save your file as a JPG (with your edits flattened or “baked in”) or you can save your original file plus its settings. See the table below for how information is saved with each of these choices.

Save Files in Lightroom CC

If you choose to save your file as a JPG, you can choose the file size for that photo.

save photos in lightroom cc

This saving process puts all of your files saved at the same time into a folder of your choosing. This folder defaults to a new folder called “Lightroom CC Saved Photos” in your Pictures folder. And yes, this means that the saving process will not carry forward the album structure you set up for Lightroom CC, unless you save your albums one folder at a time.

I suggest using very detailed keywords as a workaround to transferring your album structure. For instance, if you would normally create an album called “Mary’s 7th Birthday,” keyword each photo with these terms. For me, this will take a major change in the way I find photos. I’ll need to rely solely on keywords rather than navigating folders (As I’ve done ALL MY LIFE!).

What Exactly Does Saving Photos from Lightroom CC Save?

I’ve saved JPGs, DNGs and CR2s from Lightroom CC – the results were the same for each file type.

When you save a Raw file as an original plus settings, you create a separate “sidecar” XMP file that allows you to undo or adjust your edits by opening the photo in a raw editor. DNGs and JPGs don’t need this sidecar file, however. The settings are embedded into the files.

 JPGOriginal + Settings
Ranking StarsYesYes
Pick FlagsNoNo
Can adjust editsNo (image "flattened")Yes

I’m not sure why stars would save with files but not pick flags. I’m a set-in-my-ways flag user.

Conclusion: Saving Photos in Lightroom CC 2017

Adobe did not intend to make photos flow seamlessly from Lightroom CC to Classic CC. Ideally, I’d use Lightroom CC primarily, but download photos from Lightroom CC to Lightroom CC Classic from time to time in an organized fashion. I would do this to ensure that I’m always in control of my photos and that I could cancel my subscription whenever I needed to.

That’s not beneficial to Adobe though, is it?

As I mentioned in my review of Lightroom CC, my personal suspicion is that Adobe will phase out the “Classic” version at some point. After all, the term “classic” isn’t something we apply to technology in a complimentary way, is it?

So I’m going to start preparing now. You should too if you want to continue using Lightroom. This means that we all need to get used to the idea of working on and storing our photos in the cloud. We need to be better about keywording our photos (you can search for keywords in many places besides Adobe products). And we should all consider the future storage of our photos each time our photo management software changes or upgrades.