Friday, January 5, 2018

Lightroom: Classic vs. CC

It's been a few months since Adobe released its latest Lightroom update. The fact that they've chosen to bundle several different versions into one release has been a source of confusion for many users. Both Lightroom Classic and CC are available with the subscription plan. If you're on the plan and currently using LR, you now have access to the full version CC as well with an initial online storage allotment of 20gb.

Here's a quick summary of updates and features to help you sort things out.

Lightroom Classic

This is exactly what Lightroom has been all along with a few improvements sprinkled in. As of this release, Adobe will only be updating their subscription version. The shrink wrapped edition may still be sold for a limited time but will no longer receive additional updates.

  • Now noticeably faster than previous versions
  • Some additional selection options in retouching tools
  • Updated support for new cameras
  • Interface is as complex as ever (more of a challenge for new users)
  • Photos, catalogs and edits are tied to a single computer (Mac or PC)
  • Organization requires some substantial planning and attention for maintaining catalog integrity and backups.

Lightroom CC

This is a ground up, nuts and bolts reimagining of Lightroom. Both the Classic and CC versions endeavor to do the same things but other than sharing a common name, they look and feel like different programs.

  • Cloud based storage. This means that your photos are available everywhere on any device Assuming a decent Internet connection, you can edit on your smartphone, iPad or laptop from your beach chair, cafe table or even your train commute home. They've even eliminated the requirement to actually have the app, you can use your web browser for nearly the same set of features. 
  • Enhanced searching. Adobe has adapted their Sensei search engine, the same one used in their Adobe Stock library, for use in your personal catalogs. The software is smart enough that if you search for cars, women, children, airplane, etc. the results will mostly contain what you looked for. It does this passably well with occasionally unexpected (and sometimes amusing) results. Even though it's just one step up from a parlor trick it's reasonable to expect that as the algorithms are improved, so will the results.
  • Shareable content. Leveraging the fact that your content is stored in the cloud, Adobe has made sharing it a one click process. Once your images are in a gallery, just right click on it to get a URL that seamlessly publishes your images.
  • Streamlined interface. The user experience looks like a clean, modern web app as opposed to a ten year old computer based application
  • As of version 1.0, Lightroom CC only has a subset of the features available in Classic. It's a decent image editor but doesn't have the full range of editing tools you may take for granted.
  • No tethering for image capture. This may be a deal breaker for many pros who rely on real time image capture and display as part of their process. While Classic did a mediocre job of tethering, CC doesn't do it all. 
  • Some of the "modules" available in Classic are still available as features in CC but addressed in different ways. You can for example, still generate a slideshow and publish content to the web (with fewer bells and whistles) but notably absent are the map, book and print modules. Facial recognition, compare and survey views are also not available.

Lightroom Classic has had web synchronization for some time now. That feature will now sync your photographs to your Lightroom CC catalog but only uploads the jpeg version (direct import to CC gives you access to the raw version as well) and critically, omits any keywords you may have assigned. That's regrettable as LR Classic does do an excellent job of keywording and metadata manipulation. Adobe may be missing an opportunity here to bridge some of the best features of both.

In introducing CC, Adobe has created some intriguing new possibilities. Access to a specific catalog is still based on user credentials so for any large institution, it's not possible to share a master catalog to groups of users without running afoul of Adobe's licensing restrictions. On the other hand, for users in a smaller work environment it's not clear that they'd be subject to the same limitations. That opens up the possibility of a robust DAM solution for a fraction of what it would cost to implement a traditional software package. I'd guess, and this is purely speculation on my part, that a formal multi user version may be a few upgrades away.

Finally, Adobe quite intentionally labelled this as version 1.0. If you're upset that they released a software package that in some ways may seem limited, you may be missing the point that it also opens the door to a new range of possibilities as well.

Lightroom CC apparently has a sense of humor. When I searched for "lab" it returned what I thought was a pretty good collection of lab photos. And one of my old dog Moose. Who was part lab.

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