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 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:
- Adobe Photoshop.
- 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 (formerly Lightroom CC)
Lightroom 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.
Limitations of Lightroom
It’s also important to understand that, compared to Lightroom Classic, Lightroom has lots of limitations. Here are a few.
- Limited export functionality. You can save your photos as JPEGs, and you can save Raw files as DNG files, but that’s it.
- There’s no Maps, Print, Book, Slideshow or Web module.
- You can’t print photos from Lightroom.
- You can’t export photos directly to apps such as Exposure or Luminar (only to Photoshop).
- You can’t install plugins to extend its functionality.
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.
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Lightroom 6 is the last of the standalone versions of Lightroom that come with a perpetual license. Adobe no longer sells Lightroom 6 on its website 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 Map module no longer works as the licensing agreement between Adobe and Google has expired. 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 (unless you live in the United States, see the note below). 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.
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, Adobe Photoshop and the new Lightroom, is the only subscription plan most photographers should even consider buying or upgrading to.
Upgrading to Lightroom Classic
Don’t forget that if you’re using an older version of Lightroom and would like to upgrade to Lightroom Classic then you should read our tutorial How To Upgrade To Lightroom Classic.
You can also go straight to the Adobe Lightroom Classic page and sign up for the appropriate plan there (but please read the tutorial first so that you subscribe to the correct plan).