My Thoughts on the Lightroom Changes / by John Clark

This image of the Milwaukee Art Museum was edited using a beta version of ON1 RAW 2018

It’s been a few days now since Adobe announced the changes to Lightroom®, and I’ve had some time to digest the news and think about my plans moving forward.

In case you missed it, Adobe announced that Lightroom CC would now be a totally new and separate program that lives in the cloud. The tried and true version that many photographers love and rely upon has been renamed Lightroom Classic CC. Yes, there are now two versions of Lightroom!

First, as someone with a career spanning more than 30 years in Marketing and Branding, this naming convention never should have left the white board in an Adobe conference room. By having two names so similar just invites confusion in the marketplace and that is clear by reading some of the recent online comments. Lightroom CC is a brand new product geared towards a fairly different market and it would have been a perfect opportunity to brand it separately. But I think I know why the brain trust at Adobe commandeered the  recognized name as you will see soon.

So, what’s going on with Lightroom?

In a nutshell, the “new” program using the old Lightroom CC name is a program that works in the cloud only. The app works across your desktop and mobile and over all types of operating systems so that you get the same feature set no matter where the access point originates. Everything syncs to the cloud – including all your photos! – so you can start editing on the workstation and finish up on your phone. Or vice-versa. It appears as though this program is geared (at this time) mostly for those who use their phone as the primary camera.

On the other hand, Lightroom Classic CC is the same program that we have used for the past decade, with some new features added, of course. You still have the traditional catalog system, and photos are stored in the location of your choice (which would be a local hard drive for most of us).

The good news is that Adobe kept the price at $9.99 per month (for those in the United States) for the Creative Cloud photography program, and added both versions to the bundle that also includes Photoshop CC and 20GB of online storage.

The bad news is that Adobe will no longer offer a perpetual license version of any flavor of Lightroom. Version 6 is still available to buy and use forever (or as long as it is supported by your computer operating system), but it does not have all the current tools nor will that version be upgraded or supported much longer.

My Thoughts on the Future of Lightroom

I don’t have a hot line directly into Adobe, nor a crystal ball that will forecast the future. This section represents my thoughts only. They may come true, and just as easily may not.

While I think it would have been a perfect opportunity to name the new Lightroom CC something totally different befitting the new architecture, I also think it points to the future of the product.

Today the Classic version offers features that the new CC version does not… Yet! I predict that many of the Classic features will migrate over to the cloud, and eventually the Classic program we know and love will be phased out. This means that if you want to continue using Lightroom you will need to have a reliable and fast Internet connection to upload/download images as well as use the program itself. The other thing you need to be comfortable with is having all your images reside in the cloud on Adobe servers.

And speaking of that, it’s clear that Adobe is doubling down on the subscription fees. While they do offer 20GB of storage with the monthly fee, there is no way that this cap will work for the average photographer.

With a camera resolution of 12MB for the upcoming iPhone X, that 20GB of storage equals just 1,666 photos. It’s a very small amount of storage, especially for a product geared towards the mobile photographer. The new DSLR bodies, such as the Nikon D850 shoot a file size of 45.7MB that would only allow for only 437 photos to be stored online. That’s not even a single day of shooting for many photographers!

So what Adobe is counting on is people being forced into paying them for additional storage. The plan that offers 1TB of online storage costs an additional $10 per month, and even that will not hold the library of many serious photographers. Of course, the price continues to go up for the more storage that you might need for your images! Subscription fees have been very good to Adobe lately, and they appear to be counting on digging deeper into photographer’s pockets in the future.

So, what’s your plan Dude?

Honestly, I am not 100% sure. But I am about 95% positive of my plan.

Short term, I will stick with Adobe. I’ve switched once from Aperture to Lightroom and all my images since 2014 are in a Lightroom catalog. But I see no reason a second switch cannot be made.

I think it would make sense starting January 1, 2018 to make a clean break and start fresh. And the program that will take over the bulk of my processing will be ON1 RAW 2018. By starting a new year fresh I can categorize my images by year much easier than jumping horses mid-stream. 

I’ve used ON1 for quite some time as a plug-in for finishing effects both in Lightroom and Photoshop. Earlier this year they modified the program and built out a RAW processer so it is truly a full-service program from start to finish now.

In addition to your basic raw file developing, the 2018 version now includes HDR, Panorama stitching, and versions (which as comparable to “virtual copies” in Lightroom). Their masking options are currently second to none and have been enhanced even further with RAW 2018.

Add edits are non-destructible as Lightroom offers. You have the ability to blend layers using the same type of blending options. You can store your photo files wherever you want and avoid having to take the time for a catalog to build or duplicate the exact same catalog structure in the event of a catastrophe so the program can find your photos.

Now make no mistake… ON1 RAW is not a perfect program. It has been in development for only a year now, compared to the decade that Lightroom has had to date. There are some things that I would like to see such as stacking of multiple files (for example, so I can keep brackets of HDR together in a group rather than seeing each individual photo). I would like to see soft proofing included for those who like to make prints. And I would love some better transform tools like the guided upright feature that Lightroom offers.

I have complete faith that these features, and a lot more, will be added to future versions of ON1 RAW. They had six updates to this year’s 2017 version of the program and all of them increased the stability, added features, and made it more of a viable option for photographers looking for options to Adobe.

So, starting on January 1 I will be making the full-time switch to ON1 RAW. Yes, I will keep the photography bundle from Adobe for a few months at least so I can maintain access to Photoshop for those rare times that I have a need that ON1 RAW 2018 cannot handle. Yet!

By the way, if you want to try ON1 RAW 2018 you can get a free 30-day trial on their web site. There is nothing to lose by trying the program and seeing if it will meet your needs. You might, in fact, have a whole lot to gain by making the switch as well!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.