Which Lightroom Version Do I Need?

Which Lightroom Version Do I Need?

A few years ago buying Lightroom was easy as there was only one version to choose from. Now there are two current versions of Lightroom – Lightroom Classic and Lightroom (three if you include the no longer available to buy Lightroom 6).

Then there's the name changes. Adobe changed the name of Lightroom CC (2015) to Lightroom Classic CC in October 2017, then to Lightroom Classic (dropping the CC) in May 2019. Lightroom CC appeared in October 2017 and was renamed to Lightroom in May 2019. No wonder people are confused!

The simple answer – with few exceptions, Lightroom Classic is the best version to buy or upgrade to. Don’t even think about migrating your Catalog to Lightroom unless you fully understand all the implications, both practical and financial.

Let's expand on that.

Lightroom Classic (formerly Lightroom Classic CC)

Lightroom versionsLightroom Classic is the newest desktop version of Lightroom. In October 2017 Adobe improved the speed of Lightroom, added a few new features and changed the name. Lightroom Classic is paid for on a subscription basis that currently costs $9.99 per month in the United States, and a similar amount in other countries, depending on exchange rates and local taxes. For that, you get the following:

  • Photoshop CC.
  • Full use of Adobe Lightroom for Mobile and other CC apps, such as Adobe Spark.
  • Lightroom for web.
  • Adobe Portfolio.
  • The new Lightroom (formerly known as Lightroom CC – see below).
  • 20GB of cloud storage space for storing photo files.

You also need to make sure your computer meets the minimum system requirements to run Lightroom Classic. This Adobe help page lists the requirements for Windows and Mac OS computers.

Verdict: If you're new to Lightroom then Lightroom Classic is the version you should buy (or more accurately, subscribe to). The only reason not to choose Lightroom Classic is if you use a smartphone for ALL of your photography (in which case Lightroom might suit you better).

Continual internet access not required

It’s important to note that Lightroom Classic works the same way as earlier versions such as Lightroom 6. You don’t have to be connected to the internet to use it. You save your photos and Catalog files on your own hard drives, not in the cloud. Internet access is only required to install updates, synchronize Smart Previews and for Lightroom to check you have an active subscription.

Lightroom splash screen

Lightroom (formerly Lightroom CC)

Lightroom versionsLightroom is a completely new application introduced by Adobe in October 2017 and made available to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan subscribers alongside the renamed Lightroom Classic. It's cloud based and, unlike all other versions of Lightroom, stores your photo files on Adobe's servers. Storage is relatively expensive, and Lightroom is not as fully featured as Lightroom Classic.

The following point is important so please pay attention – Lightroom is aimed at photographers who use smartphone cameras. If you're a Lightroom Classic or Lightroom 6 user, don't migrate your Catalog to Lightroom unless you understand all the implications! There’s no need to upload your photos to Adobe’s servers unless you have a really compelling reason to do so and don’t mind paying for the storage space (which costs $10 per TB per month). You also need a good internet connection as Lightroom continually communicates with Adobe's servers to synchronize your photos.

Verdict: Try it out if you're a Lightroom Classic subscriber – you might find a place for the new Lightroom in your workflow. But don't sign up for one of the Lightroom CC photography plans unless you take all your photos using a smartphone camera and understand the financial implications of paying for cloud storage space.

Lightroom 6

Lightroom versionsLightroom 6 is the last of the standalone versions of Lightroom that come with a perpetual license. Adobe no longer sells Lightroom 6 so you can't upgrade to it if you're using an older version of Lightroom (Lightroom 4, Lightroom 5 etc.) But if you already own Lightroom 6 you can keep using it as long as you want, or at least until updates in your computer's operating system mean that it no longer works.

Lightroom 6 is no longer supported by Adobe and doesn't receive any major updates, including compatibility with Raw files from new cameras (but you can convert them to DNG using Adobe’s free DNG Converter). The gap between Lightroom Classic and Lightroom 6 continues to grow as Adobe adds new features to Lightroom Classic.

If you're looking to upgrade to Lightroom 6 from an earlier version of Lightroom in order to avoid subscribing to Lightroom Classic then I have some bad news for you – you're out of luck. Don't buy Lightroom 6 from Ebay, it's not an official version (Adobe doesn't support Ebay as a reseller). The serial number may not work and, worse case, it may have malware embedded in the software.

Verdict: As the gap between Lightroom 6 and Lightroom Classic grows, more photographers will upgrade to the Creative Photography Plan. If you really don't want to do this then your only option is to explore the alternatives, such as Luminar, ON1 Photo Raw and AlienSkin's Exposure.

Key points

Hopefully this article clears up any confusion created by Adobe’s recent name changes to Lightroom Classic (formerly Lightroom Classic CC) and Lightroom (formerly Lightroom CC).

Bottom line – the Adobe Photography Plan, the one that gives you Lightroom Classic, Photoshop CC and the new Lightroom, is the only subscription plan most photographers should even consider buying or upgrading to.

Further reading


Introducing Lightroom Classic free email course

Learn more about Lightroom Classic by signing up to our Introducing Lightroom Classic free email course. We’ll send you five lessons by email to get you started in your Lightroom Classic journey.


Mastering Lightroom Classic: The Library Module

Our new ebook Mastering Lightroom Classic: The Library Module is available now. This massive 283 page ebook is the ultimate guide to Lightroom’s Library module. It covers everything you need to know, from import to export to organizing and searching your photos.

Click here to buy or learn more about Mastering Lightroom Classic: The Library module

Mastering Lightroom Classic Library module ebook

About Andrew S. Gibson

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer, publisher, traveler, workshop leader and photographer based in the UK. He started writing about photography while traveling in Bolivia, and has been published in many prestigious photography magazines including EOS magazine, where he worked as a Writer and Technical Editor for two years. He is inspired by meeting new people, seeing new places and having new experiences. Check out his photography ebooks here.

Comments

  1. Thank you Andrew! Now I know what kinds of LR are available.
    I am still using my LR 5.7 and it gives me all the tools I need for successful post-processing. However, after reading your article on LRs, I became aware that my version of LR might stop working. So my question is that can I just update (instead buying the whole version) to LR 6 stand alone version from my LR 5.7? I think it should save me some money as I am not a professional photographer but just a passionate hobbyist.
    Thanks again!

    1. Author

      Hi Michael, what a good question. I don’t honestly know if Lightroom 5 will stop working before Lightroom 6. But upgrading to Lightroom 6 will give you the best chance of maximum longevity from your software. Lightroom 6 has some nice tools that you’ll appreciate, like the ability to refine Graduated and Radial filters with the Adjustment Brush, and merge to HDR and panorama. And yes, you can still upgrade to Lightroom 6 now although it won’t be available forever. Adobe hasn’t given any indication as to when it will be removed from sale. Follow the link in the article to see the buying instructions. You’ll be given the choice of buying an upgrade on Adobe’s website.

      1. Hi Andrew,
        I was able to update my current version of LR 5.7 to LR 6.0 from Adobe site. The price was $79.99 that is $70.00 less than buying a whole new LR 6.0.
        Thank you for your recommendations.

  2. Nice succinct clarification of the differences. So what is your recommendation for those who are currently Lightroom 6 users and have no interest in getting locked into a subscription model? Should we start looking for a LR alternative? Do you have any suggestions? I understand that Luminar is considering adding some Asset Management to their product.

    Thanks.

    Rick

    1. Author

      Hi Rick, it’s a tricky question to answer. If you find a viable alternative to Lightroom now, who’s to say that it won’t evolve in a direction that you don’t like in the future? There’s no way of knowing. Some photographers have switched to PhaseOne’s CaptureOne, but the perpetual license isn’t cheap at $300 and PhaseOne is also pushing people towards a subscription model ($20 a month). MacPhun are going to add digital asset management to Luminar, whether it’s any good or not only time will tell. AlienSkin have Exposure 3, which I haven’t tested. ON1’s software has rudimentary digital asset management. You can download trials to see if you might like to use any of them.

      If you’re happy with Lightroom 6 then I’d stick with it for the time being and only consider moving if you find another application that has features you want or need. Give the other applications some time to evolve so you can see which suits you best. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Adobe bring back a perpetual license for Lightroom if there’s enough demand. Or maybe a reduced subscription (say $5 a month) for Lightroom without Photoshop CC. It’s only conjecture, I have no inside information.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Indeed it does help. It would appear to be sound advice.

    Thank you, Andrew.

  4. Thank you, Andrew. I discovered that you have to at least have El Capitan or later on a MAC to use Lightroom Classic CC. When I got Lightroom CC 2015, I had to buy a new computer to be able to handle it, which came with Yosemite, so I’ve been nervous about doing upgrades to a new OS X lest I find myself in the same boat again. My old computer could not handle the upgrade to the newer system….it was extremely slow for starters. You might want to mention this to people considering the upgrade to Lightroom Classic CC, although they’ll find out soon enough. I appreciate your careful explanation.

    1. Author

      Hi Karen, that’s a good idea. I’ve added the link to Adobe’s help page that sets out the minimum system requirements for Lightroom 6 and Lightroom Classic CC. How old is your computer now? If it’s fairly new it should be able to handle the OS upgrade. It’s also possible to upgrade to El Capitan rather than High Sierra. The instructions are here:

      https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT206886

  5. Hi Andrew,
    I have LR 3.6 and my camera is an Olympus OM-D E-M5. So, unfortunately with this LR version I have to convert raw files using Adobe DNG, painful; as I upload to my PC via Olympus software first, then convert . (Also my computer system is not that new -9 years ) . I often shoot in both Raw and JPG. to avoid the process. I’m a hobbyist but would like to upgrade to LR 6. I don’t want the subscription method. I’ve read that LR 6 takes much longer to convert to DNG would I be better off getting LR5? I also use Photoshop CS2 for some editing, mainly clone and heal tool (I know I’m a dinosaur) .
    Thank you
    Connie

    1. Author

      Hi Connie, I never noticed any difference in speed between Lightroom 5 and Lightroom 6 when it comes to DNG conversions. If there is a difference I’m sure it’s negligible. Lightroom 6 has more features than Lightroom 5, and I would go for that. Your only problem might be that your computer is too old to run Lightroom 6 properly. You can test it by downloading Lightroom 6 and using it as a trial. Here’s a link to the download page:

      https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/lightroom/kb/lightroom-downloads.html

      You can check the minimum system requirements for Lightroom 6 here:

      https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/lightroom/system-requirements.html

  6. Hi Andrew,
    many thanks for your quick reply and suggestions re download of LR 6 . I’ll give it a go.

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