How To Migrate From Lightroom To Lightroom Classic

How To Migrate From Lightroom To Lightroom Classic


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A few weeks ago I received the following question from a reader:

“I did a Lightroom Classic tutorial section today with a couple of friends from my photo club who are new to it. To my dismay I learned that one of them has not been using Lightroom Classic, but Lightroom (desktop version). She now sees that she should have purchased Lightroom Classic and that’s what she’s going to do.

But…before she does…I want to check on how to ensure that all the adjustments she has made to her images in Lightroom will carry forward to Lightroom Classic once she sets it up. This is especially important right now as she is preparing for a photo show next month and still needs to export and print her images. 

How does one upgrade from Lightroom desktop to Lightroom Classic without losing all the work done in Lightroom?”

Her question made me realize that there must be lots of photographers who start with Lightroom desktop and then realize that Lightroom Classic is the better option. 

The Lightroom desktop app has come a long way since it first appeared, but it still lacks many of Lightroom Classic’s useful features, like the Print and Book modules. 

The Lightroom desktop app also costs you more money in the long run as you have to pay extra for the cloud storage space needed for your photos.

Another factor is that many photographers, myself included, feel more comfortable storing photos locally (i.e. on their own external hard drives) and using a service like Backblaze to back up their photos and other documents.

Note: If you’re unclear about the differences between Lightroom’s various versions and Adobe’s photography subscription plans then I suggest you read our tutorial Which Lightroom Version Do I Need?

The good news is that it’s easy to migrate from Lightroom desktop to Lightroom Classic. Once you set it up properly then Adobe takes care of most of the work for you. 

Are there any downsides to migrating?

The main downside to migrating to Lightroom Classic from Lightroom desktop is that Lightroom doesn’t sync all the information it contains about your photos. These are the things that don’t sync:

  • Keywords entered in Lightroom desktop.
  • People names you’ve entered using Lightroom Cloud face recognition.
  • Lightroom Cloud folders (the equivalent of Collection Sets in Lightroom Classic).

Photographers most likely to be affected by this are those that use keywords to organize their photos. The simplest way to deal with it is to re-enter the keywords in Lightroom Classic. It’s a lot of work if you’ve used keywords extensively, but better in the long run as Lightroom Classic uses a different keyword structure. 

What syncs from Lightroom desktop?

Fortunately, most of what you need syncs between Lightroom desktop and Lightroom Classic:

  • All photos imported to Lightroom desktop or Lightroom for mobile app.
  • All edits made in Lightroom desktop or a Lightroom for mobile app.
  • Title, Caption and Copyright metadata fields.
  • Any metadata added to a photo before you imported it into Lightroom desktop. This includes keywords added in Adobe Bridge or Lightroom Classic.
  • All Lightroom desktop Albums (they become Collections in Lightroom Classic). 

How to Migrate from Lightroom to Lightroom Classic (step by step)

When you’re ready, follow these steps to start the migration process.

1. Open Lightroom desktop and make sure that all your photos have synced to Adobe’s servers. To do that click on the cloud icon at the top right and look for the Synced and Backed Up checkmark at the bottom.

Lightroom desktop app

2. If you haven’t done so already install Lightroom Classic on your computer. 

To start, check which subscription plan you have as Lightroom Classic isn’t included in the Lightroom (1 TB) plan. In this case you need to speak to Adobe’s support team to help you switch plans. The Photography Plan (20 GB) is the one you need.

Adobe photography plans

If you have the Photography Plan (20 GB) or Photography Plan (1 TB) then Lightroom Classic is included. Open the Creative Cloud app on your computer and install it.

Adobe Creative Cloud app

Note: If you subscribed to the Photography Plan (1 TB) then you can switch to the Photography Plan (20 GB) after you’ve completed the migration. You no longer need the 1 TB storage and you’ll save money as the Photography Plan (20 GB) is half the price. Again, speak to Adobe’s support team to arrange this.

3. Open Lightroom Classic and go to Lightroom Classic > Preferences > Lightroom Sync (Mac) |  Edit > Preferences > Lightroom Sync (PC).  

Check the Specify location for Lightroom’s Synced Images box and click the Choose button to select the folder on your hard drive where you want the photos that you’ve uploaded to Lightroom desktop to be downloaded and saved. Make sure your hard drive has enough space to save the photo files.

It’s also a good idea to check the Use subfolders formatted by capture date box. When checked Lightroom Classic adds date based subfolders to your selected folder. It’s neater and better organized than dumping all synced photos into a single folder.

Lightroom Classic preferences

4. Click the cloud icon at the top right of Lightroom Classic and click the Start Syncing button. Note that if you’ve previously synced photos from Lightroom Classic the button says Resume Syncing or Pause Syncing.

Lightroom Classic syncing

Now Lightroom Classic takes over. It downloads the photos you’ve imported into Lightroom desktop from Adobe’s servers, saves them in the folder specified in step 3 and adds them to a Collection called From Lightroom. How long this takes depends on the speed of your internet connection and the number of photos you’ve imported into Lightroom desktop.

Any Albums that you created in Lightroom desktop become new Collections in the From Lightroom Collection. 

From Lightroom Collection

The downloaded photos also appear in the All Photographs and All Synced Photographs Collections in the Catalog panel. 

Once the sync is complete you’re ready to go in Lightroom Classic. From now on, import any new photos into Lightroom Classic rather than Lightroom desktop. You can even uninstall Lightroom desktop from your computer to avoid any confusion.

Further reading


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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.

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