Lightroom CC won't edge out Lightroom Classic anytime soon

At the recent Adobe MAX conference, the company touted the advantages of Lightroom CC but offered reassurances that Lightroom Classic--and platform-agnostic mobile apps--are still in the mix.


Image: iStock/recep-bg

The Adobe MAX keynote presentation showed off some great news and features, but it was not without controversy. The photography community began to scream bloody murder at the announcement of Lightroom CC and Lightroom "Classic." Granted, the community had reason to holler, as this announcement suggested changes were coming and raised a lot of questions: Just how much would these changes hurt the community? What about the various operating systems? Would the platforms all be treated equally in app development? So let's compare Lightroom Classic to Lightroom CC, further discussing their differences and potential benefits.

What is Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom Classic is the desktop application that diehard Lightroom users have grown to love and hate over the decade. This is the big, robust digital asset management system that has photo editing capabilities built in. Millions of Lightroom users depend on this app to catalog gigs and gigs of photos. Data is locally stored on internal or external hard drives. Cloud access to this data (via an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription) is minimal, as you have to upload catalogs to a directory available online--but not all your data, because you're limited in the amount of cloud storage you have, based on your purchased plan. It should also be noted that your Creative Cloud storage isn't just your photographs. It also encompasses any other digital assets you store there, such as audio files or even project files from other applications.


What is Lightroom CC?

Lightroom CC is Adobe's initiative to unify the user interfaces and allow photographers access to their full resolution photos from any device. This includes mobile devices and even web browsers in case you're away from your usual devices. You have access to your files at any time because they're in the cloud with Adobe servers. In addition to unifying the interface, speed is a big part of the new Lightroom CC, where performance enhancements have been made under the hood to make the user experience easier and more efficient. Lightroom CC can be installed from your mobile app store or onto your computer via the website.


The controversy

When the name Lightroom "Classic" was announced, you could hear the outcry from the photography community all over social media. "Lightroom is dead!" was a video title I saw as well as comments from creatives onsite at Adobe Max who were biting their lips in anger. Why so angry?

Well, in the awesome, nerdy world of software development, it's a common understanding that when applications are labeled as "classic" or "legacy," the app is about to reach its end of life--or as it's noted in the development community, "sunset." I'll admit, the second I saw the slide during the keynote where my beloved Lightroom was labeled "Classic," I cringed. I almost took my emotions to Twitter, but I decided to hear Adobe out.

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The reality of Classic

Yes, the desktop version of Lightroom is now considered Classic, but it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Adobe understands that the application is more than just an editing option for the millions of photography enthusiasts using it. It's also a great way to organize and store images locally.

Seasoned photographers are not thinking about storing all their photos in the cloud. Yes, there are backups. But when it comes to editing, the traditional understanding is that having a full resolution local on your computer is the only way to go for quality photo editing. The cloud will give you only 2/3-resolution at best.

Then there are storage costs to consider. Let's use Julieanne Kost as an example. She's been shooting for many years. I would safely wager that her photography files total much more than 100GB in size. What options does she have in this scenario?

Adobe mentions on its blog that you can purchase additional storage by the terabyte, with a starting price of $9.99 per moth. So that's an option for the legacy photographers holding terabytes of photos.

The last controversy is the update service level agreement. When apps are updated, the rollout on mobile tends to hit iOS first. In some instances, it ONLY hits iOS. I asked the Adobe executives during a private Q&A session immediately after the Adobe Max keynote about update schedules for all mobile platforms. CEO Shantanu Narayen assured me that Adobe is pushing to keep mobile app updates timely for all platforms (as he pulled his personal Samsung device from his pocket).

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After I publicly voiced my concerns, Adobe was quick to reach out to me after the Q&A. This led to my sitting down one on one with product manager of mobile photography, Josh Haftel. I enjoyed this meeting because general conversation with him proved to me that he's a photographer first. Not just a product manager. He oozed with creative energy and honesty when describing the day-to-day life of a creative artist. And when I asked him about the controversial concerns from the photography community, he was straightforward. As we walked to our meeting room, one of his Adobe colleagues said, "Hey Josh, I have your phone." Now who in their right mind leaves their cell phone lying around? And who just lends it out for it to be used during the day? The colleague had the device because it was one of many test phones Haftel keeps on hand.

Like CEO Narayen, Haftel assured me that Adobe doesn't set a priority for iOS devices when it comes to app development. Adobe wants to support all platforms. In his day to day, Haftel carries his mirrorless camera, an Android smartphone camera, a 360-degree camera, a few mobile tripods, and several other smartphone cameras. Why? Because he's a photographer at heart. And because he cares about the user experience on multiple platforms when it comes to Lightroom. Seriously, he had almost 10 smartphones in his possession when we sat down to talk, ranging from an older iPhone to the latest Samsung device.

Lightroom Classic has been known as a heavy application that will sometimes run rather slowly. Haftel said that the community passionately complained about the speed of Lightroom, so Adobe set forth to address it. In my testing, the app is definitely faster on certain functions. My happiest moment was noticing how fast thumbnail previews loaded in the grid view of my catalog. Speed boost will continue to be a priority, but it's not the only plan.


Image: Ant Pruitt

Mobile demand

The masses consume content on mobile devices more and more each year. This means content creators have to produce content tailored for mobile devices and get it out quickly. Adobe appears to recognize this and aims to make it easier for creatives. Adding tools to the mobile app, such as the adjustment brush and more control with graduated or radial filters, is a big step. These are the tools photographers are used to while sitting at an editing rig. Adobe also seems to understand the need to be platform agnostic and to make sure that it's not just iOS users who get the best app experience, but also the Android users. Sure, the CEO showed me that he uses a Samsung device as his daily driver, but Haftel showing me that he carries multiple devices to evaluate the user experience speaks volumes (to me).

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Your take

Have you tried the new Lightroom products? What are your experiences so far? I'm still playing around with both the CC version and the Classic version. For now, Lightroom Classic isn't going anywhere. Only when the powerful features of Classic show up in Lightroom CC--such as local file management--will I raise concern. Even then, I may not be worried, as it may be time for a change and change may be beneficial for creatives on the go.