LR CLASSIC Vs. LR (Cloud)
How to decide which version to get (Updated 11/2020):
Adobe Lightroom (LR) has been around since January 2007. Prior to LR there was the big professional “Photoshop” and its little sister “Photoshop Elements” or just “Elements”). There was also a little known product called “Adobe Albums” which was an image management system (keywords and the like). Adobe LR was created by taking the ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) feature set from Photoshop and sticking it together with the image management ideas from Albums and then adding some tools for printing, creating slide shows and web pages and that became LR. It was, and is, designed for photographers who don’t need the power (or complexity) of Photoshop. That power and complexity in Photoshop is instrumental in graphic design and professional retouching but most people don’t need that much or will never learn to use those tools anyway. That was over a dozen years and 9 versions ago.
Since then Lightroom has been upgraded with new features coming along with each release. Up until LR6, it was sold as a perpetual license product as was the tradition at the time. In other words, you plunked down some cash and got a CD or download containing the product which you installed on your computer. Part of that was a PL (Perpetual License) which allowed you to use that version of LR forever. They agreed to fix bugs and add support for new cameras for a period of time (at least till the next version came out). But if you got a new computer or upgraded your operating system after the SW went off support you were on your own – maybe it would work, maybe not. As time goes on newer versions of computer operating systems make changes which older versions of software can't deal with. For example the Mac Catalina OS dropped all support for 32bit programs so if you had a 33 bit version of LR you were totally out of luck.
When LR6 was released in April of 2015 they added a new way to license it. This version they called LR/CC (Lightroom Creative Cloud). The first version was LR/CC-2015 and was the same functionality as LR6 launched at the same time. As in the past, LR6 was a PL type license. However with the LR/CC version instead of buying it, you rented it. You still installed it on your computer as normal but you paid rent for it each month. To sweeten the deal for the LR/CC version they included some cloud storage, a web browser based version of LR and a mobile app that was a stripped down version of LR. In the desktop version you were able to designate groups of photos (Collections) that LR/CC would sync to the cloud and would then be available to the web browser version and the mobile versions (all of which were subsets of the main desktop program). Both the web and mobile versions used those synced cloud images with 2 or 3 way automatic synchronization of changes.
The other sweetener to get you over to the rental CC version was that new features would be added to the rental version as they were ready and you could start using them at once for free without having to wait for, and pay for, the next full release of LR. Unfortunately there weren’t all that many new features added during the life of LR6 (or CC-2015 thru CC-2017).
In October 2017 it was time for the long awaited new version of LR6 (and LR/CC-2015) to be launched and the waters got very muddy indeed.
At this time, in addition to coming out with the next release of LR as we knew it, they also came out with an entirely new product. This new product took over the Lightroom CC name and they abandoned the “LR/CC-2015” naming convention. While it is in the same functional space as LR1 through LR6 it is a completely different product. It is designed to operate with cloud based (not device based) images and to function the same on any device with complete seamless synchronization between devices. This product took over the LR CC name, but was many times called “Cloud Based LR” (as opposed to “Desktop based LR” or “Catalog Based LR”) and sometimes LR/Cloudy to differentiate it from the original desktop centric version.
Simultaneously they came out with the next version of the desktop centric version of LR but they eliminated the ability to buy it under a Perpetual License (as you could with LR6) – you could only rent it. So, this new version was really the next logical release of LR CC (the rental version). But as they used the LR CC name for the new cloud centric product, they could not call it LR CC anymore. Instead they branded it “Lightroom Classic CC” (or just “LR Classic”). However the public quickly started calling it LR7 (which was its internal technical name) and more recently “Desktop Lightroom” or “Catalog Based Lightroom” among other names. So, in essence LR/CC-2015 was upgraded and became LR Classic CC (or LR7, or just LR Classic) and the new product is LR CC. So, in essence the marketing people made a complete hash of the product names and this has caused no end of confusion and complexity in the marketplace.
But make no mistake; this new LR CC product (the new cloud centric one) has no where near the functionality of LR Classic (LR7). It was and is an entirely new animal with greatly restricted functionality in the image management area even though the image adjustment areas of the two products are quite similar to each other. Here's a screen shot from an Adobe web page from that time.
Up through LR9, on your desktop or other devices, you can tell which product an icon represents by the color and shape of the border on the icon. If the border is turquoise with rounded corners it is the new Cloud Centric “Lightroom CC”. If the border of the icon is more a sky blue, almost gray, with square corners, it is the traditional, desktop or catalog based “Lightroom Classic CC” (Aka, LRx where x is the current version number).
CHANGES IN MAY 2019
In May of 2019, they stirred the naming the pot again.
The first thing they did was drop the “CC” from the names. So, “Lightroom CC” (the cloud centric product) became just “Lightroom” and “Lightroom Classic CC” (the desktop centric product) became “Lighroom Classic”
MORE CHANGES IN 2020
In 2020,with the release LR/9.3, they changed the icons again.
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?
If you are just jumping into LR, or have been using LR for awhile, as of this update (November 2020) you have 3 basic choices.
- You can only buy this version, not rent it, and after 12/31/2017 you can no longer even buy it from Adobe. However you may still be able to get it through B&H photo, Amazon or other 3rd party suppliers.
- LR6 is many years old and does not have many newer features (e.g., color range masking, improved auto tone, new profile system, dehaze tool, texture slider, and ability to use Map Module (which died in the older versions when Google changed their licensing model)
- Went off of support 12/31/2017. Can still be used, but no tech support, no new features, no bug fixes and no support for RAW files from new cameras that came out after 12/31/2017. The camera support only matters if you shoot RAW (which is recommended). But there is a free workaround for RAW files that just adds one extra step in the import process (look on the Adobe website for the Free Adobe DNG Converter)
- Does not include LR/Web, LR/Mobile, or any cloud storage
- Other than that, just as good as the newer “Classic” version but of course without new features that have or will come out
- Less and less likely to run on newer and newer operating systems
- The purchase price is around $129 but by the time you read this may be significantly lower as newer and newer releases of “Classic” come out.
LR Classic (As of this writing up to LR10)
- You can only rent these versions
- This product has several names depending on who you talk to. If the name includes the word “Classic” or “LRx” (where “x” is a number greater than 6 with or without a decimal point – e.g., LR7, LR8.2, Etc.) then that’s this one and is the logical continuation of LR6. I’ll just call it “Classic”, but the name “Catalog” or “Desktop” Lightroom is sometimes used as well.
- This is basically the next series versions after LR6 , LR/CC-2015, and Lightroom Classic CC
- These versions of LR have new features not available on LR6 so there is an advantage to upgrading from LR6 to these newer versions but you’ll have to start paying rent ($9.99/month at this writing). On the other hand if you’re on LR CC/2015, then you are already paying rent which includes this version so you might as well just get the newest version.
- When you rent LR Classic (so far) you also get Photoshop, the “Lightroom” (cloud based product) suite of products as well as some cloud storage. With the cloud centric Lightroom that is included you can designate groups of images in LR Classic for participation in the Cloud Centric LR and be able to perform many functions on those images from any standard web browser or mobile device with seamless synchronization between them (for most things).
- LR Classic will continue to be supported for some time, will get bug fixes, and will get support for RAW files from new cameras
- Enhancements to the Develop Module will come along regularly (the Develop Module is where you change the look of the images)
- Enhancements to the Library (and other) modules will probably be less frequent and so far have been minor improvements.
- At some point in the future “Lightroom” (cloud based LR) may evolve enough that Adobe may choose to discontinue the Classic product. Adobe has never said this but many LR experts thought this was the plan when the new LR/Cloudy ecosystem was announced - albeit this idea seems to have lost steam as time has gone on and even it was originally the plan at Adobe may have changed since then. However, even now they do not seem to be putting as much resources into improving the Classic version as they are the Cloud version (other than the Develop Module which is also used in the Cloud version)
Lightroom (Cloud Based LR)
- Again, many names – the most used though are the official “Lightroom”, but also “Lightroom CC”, “The New Lightroom” or "LR/Cloudy". If you don’t see either the word “Classic” or “LRx” in the name then it is this one. This is also called “Cloud Based Lightroom”
- This is a 100% different product than LRx or Classic.
- It is a ground up redesign of LR with Cloud based access from anywhere, and seamless synchronization between all platforms and devices for most changes.
- Images you choose to put in the Adobe Cloud with Classic automatically become part of the cloud based Lightroom system with multiway sync.
- The interface (screens) are stripped down so they will fit on a phone or tablet but modern phone app users will find that approach familiar. Desktop holdouts (like me) may find it limiting, cumbersome, or non intuitive.
- While what they have is admirable it is a far cry from what you currently get with LR Classic or even the older LR6.
- It requires that all your original images be stored in the Adobe Cloud (cost of space will be issue for prolific shooters).
- However, if you are a casual, low volume shooter who just wants a quick tweak or two before posting on social media and rarely try to make noteworthy images this may be all you need.
- It should be noted, that on the web and on mobile devices, if you use LR Classic as your desktop app and choose to sync some or all photos to the Adobe Cloud and then go to the Adobe LR web browser app or the Adobe LR mobile app on a tablet or phone you will be using the cloud centric Lightroom apps on those devices.
- Photos synced to the cloud based ecosystem from LR/Classic DO NOT COUNT against our storage limit.
PLANS, PLANS, PLANS
In all the offerings mentioned here, with the exception of the older LR6, you must rent the SW. But there are several different plans you can get.
Go to this URL and press “Choose a Plan” for the list of plans shown below.
Adobe keeps changing this web page so options may differ than what is shown below. The bottom portion of the web page contains features in and missing from each plan.
For individuals there are basically 4 plans for LR to choose from (one is not shown above). The fourth plan is an "everything Adobe" plan. There are other plans that come and go as well such as ones that include one or two other Adobe products like stock photos, movie editing and several others but if you are just interested in LR there are the 3 above.
1) Photography Plan (20gb $9.99/mo)
- This plan gives you the most software but not as much storage.
- It includes LR Classic desktop for either Windows or Mac. It also includes cloud centric Lightroom Desktop, Lightroom Web, Lightroom Mobile for tablets and Phones, Adobe Photoshop (Mac or Windows), and 20gb of Cloud storage
- It is designed for people who desire the traditional, tried and true, desktop centric LR for their desktop application with the option of playing with the new cloud centric Lightroom products with selected sets of images from their LR Classic desktop system.
- You can buy more storage if you need (watch your wallet)
2) Photography Plan (1tb, $19.99/mo)
- Same as plan #1 but with 1tb of cloud storage instead of 20gb
3) Lightroom Plan. (1tb $9.99/mo)
- This plan gives you less software but more storage at the same price as plan #1
- This plan includes cloud centric Lightroom desktop, Web, Mobile for tablets and phones and 1tb of Cloud storage. It does not include LR Classic or Photoshop
- It is designed for people who just want to jump into the new version and never deal with the original Classic version.
- Typically these would be people who have never used the older versions of LR or really want to be purely mobile
- You can buy more storage if you need (watch your wallet)
4) Creative Cloud all Apps ($52.99/mo) – no longer being shown on this screen
- This plan gives you the most software and most storage but twice the price.
- It is the same as the #1 plan in this list in terms of Lightroom, but also includes all the other Adobe CC apps such as Illustrator and XD bringing the total to around 20 different applications. It also includes 100gb of cloud storage.
- It is designed for people who really need or want it all. Typically, to warrant this plan you would pretty much have to be someone who earns a living in the field.
- You can buy more storage if you need (watch your wallet)
In all these plans you can buy up to 10tb of additional storage if and when you need it.
The interaction between these products needs a bit of explanation.
- If you were using the old LR/CC, or the new LR Classic (LR7 or above) on your desktop, you can designate collections of images in your Classic desktop application for LR to replicate in the cloud. These are not your original images but are small jpg copies of your images called “Smart Previews”. Your originals stay in folders on your desktop computer.
- These images in the cloud from old LR/CC or the new LR Classic can be seen, edited, and maintained through the cloud based Lightroom products (Desktop, Web or Mobile). Any image adjustments you make on any of these platforms automatically shows up a few moments later on the other platforms.
- However, much metadata such as Keywords do not sync between the desktop (Classic) ecosystem and the Cloud Based Ecosystem.
- Likewise you can bring images you take with your mobile devices into the “Classic” world as well. Once set up, if you take a photo with, say, your phone, it will sync to the cloud and a few moments later will show up in your desktop version of LR Classic.
- The "Smart Preview" files saved in the Adobe Cloud do not count against your 20gb or 1tb storage allocation.
- Changing gears, if you just get the new Cloud centric Lightroom suite – OR – you tell LR to convert your entire old LR Classic (or older) catalog to the new cloud centric version - you are in a different situation.
- Now, LR will put ALL your original images that were in LR Classic (or its predecessors) into the cloud. In the other mode you designated which LR Collections you wanted to sync with the cloud. In this mode it is all images. These are the full size original images (not Smart Previews). And, those cloud based images are now considered as the originals - not the ones on your desktop. This may or may not be desirable depending on your situation and needs.
- I have not taken this step, so it is not clear to me, if these images also sync back to LR Classic or not. However, the purpose of taking this step is to basically jump into the new cloud centric offering with both feet with no intention to go back to the older LR interface and tools.
- The full size original images files stay in their original file format in the cloud and the do count against your storage allocation.
SO, WHAT DO I RECCOMEND?
1) If you don’t mind rental SW, get the $9.99/mo photography package with 20gb storage. This plan gives you Lightroom Classic, the gold standard Photoshop, 20gb of cloud storage for sharing/syncing, and cloud centric Lightroom (desktop, web, and mobile). I do not recommend having it convert your entire LR Catalog to Cloud centric Lightroom which is an option you will have if you’ve had LR before
2) If you hate rental SW, and don’t mind not getting new features, being out of support and having to use a workaround for Camera generated RAW files for cameras hitting the market after the end of 2017, then get LR6. It, or parts of it, may or may not work on your current or future computers and operating systems and the Map module will not work no matter what you're running it on. Since 12/31/2017 you can't get it from Adobe. You'll have to look for it from 3rd party venders. But you won't be paying rent on it.
3) If you are sure you are never going to spend much time on photography and are happy with limited image management and output capabilities then look at the $9.99/mo Photographers 1TB plan. This gives you most storage but does not provide LR Classic or the Big Photoshop product.
4) If you are a pro and also need other Adobe CC apps for purposes beyond basic photographer then look at the “Creative Cloud All Apps” plan
All URL’s in this post worked at the time of writing the March 2019 update to this blog. I cannot keep up with how often Adobe changes their web site, so if one doesn’t work, poke around and you’ll probably find something similar.