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Lightroom vs Lightroom CC vs Lightroom Classic… what’s up?
The most common support questions we get are from students who are either enrolled in Embracing the Storm, or who see one of Twyla’s videos where she does an edit, and can’t get their brushes to work, can’t figure out how to install presets/plugins that are mentioned, or can’t find the modules they see on the screen. Most common answer – you need the other version of Lightroom.
For those who have been around for a while, Lightroom has long been a desktop-based photo editing/organizing solution. Back in ~2017, Adobe introduced a new product, called Lightroom CC (for Creative Cloud), designed to be a cloud-based “ecosystem of apps” that works across desktop/mobile/web. The original Lightroom product was renamed Lightroom Classic CC. The newer product has since just been renamed to Lightroom. Confused yet?
When you first sign up, you can subscribe to either the Lightroom Plan (Lightroom, plus 1tb of cloud storage), or the Photography Plan (Lightroom, Lightroom Classic CC, Photoshop, plus 20gb of cloud storage). Both plans are the same price (as of the publication of this post – obviously we don’t control Adobe’s pricing structure now or in the future). For a casual user, just the cloud version of Lightroom might be totally fine. For a professional/aspiring photographer, you’ll want the full capability of the Photography suite, and specifically, Lightroom Classic CC.
All of our trainings/brushes/presets are intended for Lightroom Classic CC users.
So, what’s the difference? (for simplicity, I’m going to just mimic the app icons, and call them LrC – for Lightroom Classic CC, and Lr – for Lightroom). If you have the Photography Plan, Lr is the “default” to download. If you go into your CreativeCloud account, you’ll see these three options: you want Lightroom Classic.
You’ll notice immediately that the import screens set the stage for many of the differences – LrC allows you to apply presets and add metadata, keywords, add to collections, change the destination, and more. Lr is simple, no frills, just imports the photos you select, lets you apply a preset if you want and organizes them into albums.
When it comes to organizing images, again, Lr keeps it simple – Albums, which can be organized in folders, and you can also view images by date. Images and Catalogs for Lr are stored in the Cloud (you can choose to keep a copy on your desktop as well). LrC has Collections and Collection Sets, plus Smart Collections, and allows you to navigate to different folders on the desktop. Images and Catalogs in LrC are stored wherever you put them (on your desktop, on external drives, in the cloud, or a combination). Both versions allow flagging and rating, though LrC allows you to search by more metadata.
There’s some argument to be made that the order of editing modules in Lr are more intuitive for a new user – they’re in sections called “Light” and “Color” and are pretty logically grouped. Lr includes built in tutorials and hover-over buttons to explain the features. LrC retains the original layout (that’s been going strong for over a decade), though modules can be rearranged. (in all of these screenshots, LrC is on the left, and Lr is on the right)
Though improvements have been made to Lr over time, LrC still has the most versatility and widest assortment of tools – including color and luminance masking, ability to import brushes, and more advanced adjustment settings. Batch editing also has more options in LrC.
Presets are generally compatible in both Lr and LrC (all of ours are), but Brushes are not – they do not import into Lr. Third party Plugins also generally don’t work with Lr.
When it comes to exporting your images, LrC has many more options, for naming and sequencing and watermarking and file types.
When might you want to use Lightroom?
To be fair, the cloud-based Lightroom is getting better and better- it’s clearly where Adobe is investing the most resources, including AI (Adobe Sensei), which can search through your photos, and shared albums, which can be nice if you’re collaborating. It’s easier to learn for beginners, and keeps all of your images in one place, with an automatic backup. Lr allows presets to sync across devices, which can be convenient if you’re moving from laptop to tablet to phone in your editing. It’s a great option for photographers who don’t need as advanced importing, editing and exporting capabilities, and who don’t need as much flexibility in where files are stored. The Lightroom only plan comes with 1tb of storage (which might seem like a lot, but gets used up pretty quickly if you’re using newer cameras and saving the raw files). I have zero inside information, but I anticipate that over time, Lr will grow to encompass all of the more advanced tools and LrC will be phased out (just as being able to purchase a perpetual license for one piece of software was phased out in favor of the subscription model). But as of January 2021, we do still feel that Lightroom Classic CC is the better option for professional/aspiring photographers who want total control over their editing and their images.