While I was in Morro Bay, Adobe made a bunch of announcements about Lightroom and Photoshop, and I first heard about them when Twitter exploded. I’ve been digging into this to try to make sense of it and how it impacts me, and let me try to summarize what I think right now.

  • Lightroom 6, the standalone/shrinkwrap version, is end of life, which means if you’re still using it or an earlier version of Lightroom than Lightroom CC, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to use instead. It’s dead, Jim and joining Aperture out on the old software farm where it’ll be able to play in the meadows with the other retired software tools like Freehand and Pagemaker.
  • Lightroom CC has been renamed to Lightroom CC Classic, mostly because I think Adobe wanted to confuse us and get us arguing about the name change rather than the underlying product strategies it implies.
  • Lightroom CC is the new thing they’re doing that sucks in Lightroom Mobile and creates a new image processing platform that is very mobile aware and cloud centric.

My take, but I admit to just starting to dig into this as I dig out from the trip I just finished, is that other than the name change, if you’re using an Adobe product, nothing really changes (with one exception). So if you went to bed using Adobe Lightroom CC, you’re now using Adobe Lightroom CC Classic. If you had no real interest or use for the mobile stuff, you still don’t, even though it’s now rebranded to be “the” Lightroom.

But this clearly makes Adobe’s plans obvious, but not really a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to their Mobile endeavours: the future is cloud. which I fully think is the right strategy in the long run, but in the short run, I just returned home with 1300 RAW images (68GB!) and no, the cloud isn’t my answer any time soon.

The one thing that changes is if you chose not to buy into the cloud and are still using Adobe Lightroom 6. That’s now formally end of lifed, and it’s time to start considering what you intend to do. I realize many will do the “until they claw it from my cold dead hands”, which is fine, except when it breaks, you’re in for a lot of pain and I’m a big proponent of doing these kind of major shifts in technology on a planned basis rather than an emergency one. And I realize a lot of photographers will ignore that and then complain bitterly about the pain later. If you really really don’t want to pay a subscription fee, I think my first suggestion is Capture One, which in my limited experiments was pretty good and I know lots of people who like it a lot. z

Mostly I think this is setting Adobe’s intentions for the next five years, with a weird set of renaming/rebranding just to give everyone something to be confused over and argue about. And that’s how I’m treating it for now.

If you want to start figuring this out, here are a few links to help you sort it out. And the Adobe press release explaining all of this, of which Adobe had to issue a release explaining the first release the next day, which tells you what most people think about the product renaming.

Feedback by Adobe users has been uniformly enthusiastic!

Well, um, no. There’s a lot of screaming and yelling. A lot of the yelling is of the “get off my lawn” variety.

I get that. Some people who had automatic update on their IOS devices woke up to a version of Lightroom Mobile with an entirely different app with new UI, and I can understand being annoyed if you were going to depend on that and had it ripped out from under you with no warning. That was a clear mis-step by Adobe.

There are people and a good example is at DPReview, who are upset that the shrink-wrap version is going away, but it was clear a long time ago it was on life support and this should surprise nobody.

One of the better discussions of this is the first hour of On Taking Pictures #286 with Jeffery Saddoris and Bill Wadman. It does a good job of digging into this from the point of view of the professional photographer who is seeing their workflows disrupted, while at the same time being so deep into Get Off My Lawn territory to be funny, especially since they’re aware of this and to some degree running with it. I really enjoyed and appreciated the discussion.

As a photographer who is very much in the larger sensor serious DLSR/Mirrorless traditional group, I look at what Adobe is doing and feel like they’re moving my cheese, too, because they are. But these changes aren’t for me, not directly.

Adobe is stupid like a fox here

Here’s my take on this.

Lightroom 6 going end of life is a no-brainer. The only reason Adobe didn’t do this when CC was first released was the outcry. Today, all you need do is look at Adobe’s quarterly financials to see that their move to Creative Cloud worked and that the shrink-wrap is no longer necessary for their product strategy — and in fact, I expect it now is getting in the way of their upcoming plans.

Lightroom CC being renamed Lightroom CC Classic, and a new, mobile/cloud centric tool being installed as Lightroom CC is a fascinating change for Adobe. It seems confusing to start, but what Adobe is really doing is positioning its product line for the next five to ten years.

Lightroom CC is clearly oriented towards mobile/phone images. That’s the future of image creation and Adobe is putting a stake in the ground to own a piece of that market. It’s been estimated that 1.2 trillion images will be created in 2017 and 85% of those will come off of mobile devices, not traditional cameras.

Lightroom CC is clearly aimed at the prosumer/professional part of that market, and if Adobe pulls this off well, that’s going to be a really lucrative market to be in. Most of those mobile users will be happy to use whatever comes free with their phones, but the smaller group of serious user will want tools and be willing to pay for them: and that’s Lightroom CC. I think Adobe is really smart creating tools for this and doing it now when they can perhaps take a dominant role in this emerging area. Mobile photography is growing up, and Adobe wants to be the default platform there.

Where does that leave Lightroom CC Classic? Whether you like it or not, in five or ten years people will look at those of us who use DLSRs and Mirrorless cameras the way we look at people who use Film cameras today, and the way Film camera users look at Medium format photographers, and the way Medium format photographers look at large format photographers. The mobile imaging revolution is pushing the “serious” camera into the role of a niche product. This has been happening for a number of years — just look at how the point and shoot markets were decimated as mobile phones grew up — and while I’m not remotely suggesting our “real” cameras are going to go away, they are increasingly turning into enthusiast and professional tools rather than mainstream ones.

You may or may not like hearing that, and if you don’t, join the crowd of fellow cloud yellers, but that won’t stop it.

Lightroom CC Classic is for us old farts. I’ve got upwards of 400 Gigabytes of image files on my system, and that’s not going to be hosted in a cloud any time soon. Even Adobe’s Smart Previews doesn’t solve my problem, and so the new Lightroom CC won’t really solve the kind of issues I need solved any time soon — for my serious imagery. For my iPhone work? I’m intrigued and so when I have some spare time I’m going to dig into it a bit.

Now, over time? This is just the first release. I expect you’ll see functionality that currently exists Lightroom CC Classic moved to Lightroom CC, and over time (2 years? 3 years?) I would expect the new tool to get feature parity with the classic version and then we’ll see the classic version retired.

We’re a long way from that point, and for us dinosaurs who insist on using these big, bulky ancient DLSRs and Mirrorless cameras, our future lies in Lightroom CC Classic for now. So the good news is, you can pretty much ignore the new Lightroom CC unless you’re also doing mobile photography, and you don’t need to dive in unless you want to. For now.

Lost in the noise are some nice new features

Kind of lost in the noise of the renaming and the new mobile tool is that Lightroom CC Classic has a couple of really nice new tools: Luminance and Color masking. In my work, there are really only two times when I’m tempted to drop an image into Photoshop to work on it: one is when I want to use luminance masking on an image, and the other is when I want to do focus stacking. If you were to ask me what I’d wanted in Lightroom, those were the two features I miss.

And now I have luminance masking in Lightroom. I’m really looking forward to digging into it and seeing how well it works, and I’ll write about that once I do.

I think it’s important to note these new features, because it’s a clear sign Adobe hasn’t “abandoned” the Classic tool. It’s still getting enhancements. It has a future. In the long term that future probably involves being merged into this new Lightroom tool, but Adobe’s shown it isn’t going to ignore Lightroom CC Classic in the meantime.

What to do?

Here are some thoughts to think about to help you understand how all these changes impact you and what options you might have:

First, if you’re still a Lightroom 6 user, you need to start thinking about what your next step will be. Will you bite the bullet and sign up for Creative Cloud? Or will you migrate to another tool? Things you might consider include Affinity Photo, Capture One and Luminar. I’ll note that if I were to decide to move away from Lightroom, it would be to Capture One if I did so today.

I know there are people who will hang onto Lightroom 6 as long as possible, just like there are still Aperture users and I know people who still use Photoshop versions from before Creative Cloud. My view of this is that it may be easier in the short term, but what you’re really building to is a day where you wake up and your tools are broken and you can’t fix them, and now you’re in an emergency migration — and these rarely happen at a time convenient to you. So it’s a lot better to plan for and do these migrations when you can and not wait until you’re forced to. Once a tool is end of life, you need to be working towards moving away from it.

I also know a lot of you will ignore this advice, and that sometime in the future, I’ll be getting frantic emails from a few of you because everything’s broken and you need advice. I promise I won’t say I told you so. At least where you can hear me. Also remember that this breakage can be caused by many things, including having your computer fry on deadline and realizing there’s nothing on the market compatible with your old software so you literally can’t replace that computer AND use your old tools any more. I’ve seen that happen and it’s not pretty. I never want that to be me.

If you are a Lightroom, um, Lightroom Classic user, just keep using it. And try to get used to the name change. If you do work with your mobile phones, I’d suggest downloading the new Lightroom and trying it out with your mobile photography and see what you think.

If you’re a serious mobile photographer, then getting to know the new Lightroom makes sense and is worth investing some time. If you’re a more casual user? If you’re happy with what you have, keep using it. No reason to change horses if you like your current horse.

Me? I’m going to explore luminous masks in Lightroom and let the rest of it sort itself out over time. No reason to get too worried or upset about this, and there’s plenty of time to see how this matures and the tools grow up before you have to start making decisions.

So I’m going to relax and go make photos, and that’s what most of us should do.