Thoughts on the Lightroom announcements

It has been a crazy few days, following Adobe’s announcements about the new Lightroom(s) and the Creative Cloud. There is a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt circulating, but that will die down over the next few weeks, as photographers on Adobe’s Photography plan play around with both the updated Lightroom Classic and the new Lightroom CC. (If you want an encyclopedic overview of everything regarding the Lightroom announcements, The Lightroom Queen is the place to go, to be honest.)

If you’re a user, looking at these announcements from the outside—i.e. you’re not a software developer—it can be difficult to understand why Adobe did what they did with Lightroom. Peter Krogh, an expert on digital asset management (DAM), has a fascinating post over on his website, entitled Lightroom and the Innovator’s Dilemma.

“But the architecture of Lightroom as a desktop application simply cannot be stretched enough to create a great mobile application. The desktop flexibility that has powers such a wide array of workflows can’t be shoehorned in to full cloud compatibility. The freedom to set up your drives, files and folders as you wish makes a nightmare for seamless access. And the flexibility to create massive keyword and collection taxonomies does not work with small mobile screens. After years of experimentation, the only good answer was the creation of a new cloud native architecture. As with the creation of the original Lightroom, this was done by taking the existing Camera Raw imaging engine and bolting it on to a new chassis – this time a cloud native architecture.”

Peter’s post is worth reading, especially if you’re confused or upset about Adobe’s direction. You might not like what Adobe did, but they are doing what any company must do if they wish to remain relevant: juggle the current (and future) needs of their users with the changing dynamics of technology, all while still trying to maintain a stable revenue (and profit) stream.

Subscription fatigue and questions of dead products.

I understand the anger that some people have about subscription software—I have subscription fatigue myself—but there are clear, good alternatives out there right now if you don’t wish to be part of that world: Phase One, ON1, Alien Skin Software, and Macphun, among others. [Disclaimer: I have worked for ON1.] Do you have to make concessions based on which product you use? Absolutely, but you’ve always had to do that, even if you used Lightroom. There is no ‘perfect’ product.

And, while I’ve seen plenty of wringing of hands over the whole “Lightroom Classic is a dead product” meme, let’s be clear:

  • Adobe isn’t going to walk away from a decade’s worth of customers. Yes, it is entirely possible that Lightroom Classic, as we know it today, will some day go away, but Adobe has committed to maintaining and enhancing it for the foreseeable future. And let’s not forget that Classic remains the standard for organizing and editing a large photo library.
  • Those other companies I mentioned above? They are going to work harder than they already have been to knock Lightroom Classic off its perch. In the end, that’s good for everyone, especially the photographer.
  • Your images will remain just that: your images. Adobe isn’t going to hold your photos as hostages for some ransomware scheme.
  • And, to that point, while you might decide to add your library to the cloud, you should always have a backup somewhere else. That necessity doesn’t change with cloud-based storage. If you’ve been using Lightroom for years and are not backing up your photos somewhere else, you have a greater risk of losing your library than you would if you used Adobe’s (or anyone else’s) cloud service to do so.

About Lightroom CC.

Most of us are desktop-centric, and the ‘classic’ desktop (file/folder) architecture is comfortable and familiar to us. However, the growth of smartphones—with their ever-improving cameras—the prominence of social media everywhere, and the increased adoption of tablets and devices like Chromebooks, all set the stage for a world where your photos are everywhere, and you will want them to be editable, sharable, and present on every device you have.

Yes, Lightroom CC is a 1.0 product, but it still is a fine product. It is missing features that many longtime Lightroom pros will require before they can replace Classic, but the core Adobe Camera Raw architecture is there. (And those missing features should come rather fast and furiously over the coming months.) If you’ve been wishing for a true, device-independent, cloud-based photo workflow, Lightroom CC will be hard to beat: even in its initial implementation, it is a better ecosystem for the photographer than anything Apple or Google has tried to do. In fact, I believe that this is what Google tried—and failed—to do a few years ago with their higher-end Google Photos initiative.

It is possible for the two Lightrooms (Classic and CC) to coexist, at least on a small scale. I wish Adobe had communicated this with a bit more clarity in their announcements, but that is part of the reason Lightroom CC is sitting there next to Lightroom Classic in the Photography plan (with 20GB of storage). Play around with it, especially on your phone, tablet, web browser and desktop. You might decide that it’s still not complete enough for you for you to use it as your primary tool, but I think you’ll find that, as a mobile system, it makes a lot of sense, and you can integrate it into your Classic workflow fairly easily.

And, if you could care less about Lightroom CC, and wish that the ‘cloud’ just referred to those things in the sky, you can continue to work with the Lightroom you already have; yes, even the perpetual license version of Lightroom 6. If Adobe doesn’t do the things that you want or need in your photography workflow, you can hold them accountable the best way possible: use something else.

That said, I do believe that they’re going to work pretty hard to keep photographers using their stuff. And in the end, that’s the biggest thing in Adobe’s favor. And yours, to be honest.

Want to share your thoughts on the new Lightroom(s)? Let us know by either sending us an email or reaching out via our Contact page.

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