Adobe Lightroom CC review

A thinly veiled attempt to turn photographers into monthly subscribers, but it’s too lightweight

  • Powerful search tools; Handy syncing
  • Lacking in features; Not enough cloud storage offered; Importing presets is a hassle

Lightroom CC might prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Having shoved its reluctant Creative Suite customers onto a monthly subscription plan, Adobe is now trying to do the same to photographers - by taking their photo collections hostage.

Lightroom is practically a staple amongst photography enthusiasts and professionals, not that you'd know it by the way Adobe's allowed the application to drift over the past few years. Meaningful updates have been few and far between and performance has grown stodgy. Now we know why: Adobe has been working on a new app.

Lightroom CC is effectively a cloud version of Lightroom - now ominously rebranded Lightroom Classic CC. It's more akin to the mobile/tablet apps that have been on iOS and Android for some time than the full-blown desktop app, and that's reflected it in its trimmed-back feature set.

The key difference is Lightroom CC wants nothing to do with your local photo collection. You can import an old-school Lightroom catalog into Lightroom CC, but those photos will be immediately sucked up to Adobe's cloud. Depending on the plan you choose, Adobe is offering photographers up to 1TB of cloud storage, an indication of how it wants you to forget about local storage and smash all your photos onto its servers - although even 1TB will likely prove insufficient to house the full collection of most photographers.

If you've carefully curated a library of presets over the years, you'll have to manually copy those over to Lightroom CC too. Nothing is imported automatically - all you get is the pared back selection of presets that comes with Lightroom CC.

Lightroom CC's editing tools are not a patch on those in Classic, either. Advanced controls such as split toning have gone AWOL. The handy histogram revealing where highlights and shadows have been clipped is gone. Adjustment brush presets such as dodge, burn, soften skin or teeth whitening are no more - you're merely left to adjust the various exposure, highlights, whites and blacks sliders manually. And once you've finished editing a photo and want to "export" it, well... your options are save it to JPG in one of three preset sizes. Nothing like the vast array of export options you get with Classic.

To be fair to Adobe, this isn't an either/or scenario. You can use Lightroom Classic in conjunction with the new CC app and get the best of both worlds. You can sync a Classic Collection with 'Lightroom Mobile' and have those photos available to edit in CC, be that on the desktop, mobile or tablets. You could twiddle with photos on your smartphone in between shoots, for example, and have them synced and waiting for you when you get home to your PC. Although we did encounter one or two delayed syncs when we tweaked a photo in CC and then opened Classic, which doesn't bode well.

There is one very good feature that is unique to Lightroom CC: search. Enter a search term such as "dog", "car", "red" or "boy" and Lightroom CC does a pretty impressive job of sorting through your collection, without any need to tag the photos with those particular attributes first. If you were hunting through your collection to find a specific photo for a client, that could prove to be a belter of a feature.

So what's Adobe's game plan with Lightroom CC? As much as Adobe protests it has no plans to do away with Lightroom Classic, we simply don't believe it. The "Classic" designation is not the kind of label you put on a product with a long-term future and some of the Adobe support materials hint at a future without Classic. Take the instructions for exporting your presets to Lightroom CC, which suggest you can move rather than copy them from the Classic folder "when the presets are no longer needed in Lightroom Classic CC".

In the meantime, photographers have four options. There are now two versions of the 10 per month Photography pack. The Lightroom CC plan includes only that app with a whopping 1TB of cloud storage. The revamped Photography plan includes CC, Classic and Photoshop, but only 20GB of cloud storage. Or you can have the best of both worlds for 20 per month: all the apps and 1TB of storage. Full-blown 50 Creative Cloud subscribers also get all the apps, but they only receive 100GB of cloud storage, which as subscribers ourselves, feels like a needless kick in the teeth.

Can we see ourselves moving to Lightroom CC only? Not a chance. Uploading batches of hundreds of RAW files to the cloud is painful, the editing tools are too basic, and we'd rather have our photo collection where we can physically touch it. Will Adobe deprive us of that choice eventually? We'd bet our mortgage on it.

Verdict

Adobe is clearly trying to move photographers to Creative Cloud, but this feature-poor and unwieldy substitute for the old Lightroom software isn't the way to do it. A disappointing and frustrating update to a beloved program, this is one to avoid

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