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Why Lightroom CC Is a Big Step Up from Apple’s Photos

Whenever new photo software appears, it triggers a round of evaluation for photographers. Should you investigate the new app, or is what you’re using now working well enough for your needs? I suspect many Mac users are using the Photos app in macOS and iOS, along with iCloud Photo Library for syncing among multiple devices. (I’m sure there are plenty of people still using Aperture and iPhoto too, but if that’s you, think seriously about switching to something that’s supported before it gets too hard.)

Adobe recently made a significant shift in its Lightroom ecosystem that’s worth considering. “Lightroom” now exists as two separate applications: Lightroom CC is an entirely new app that Adobe built around cloud synchronization, whereas Lightroom Classic CC is the new name of the photo editor and organizer that recently marked its 10th year on the market. (If you’re confused, it’s not you: Lightroom Classic was previously named Lightroom CC.) This move has implications for both existing Lightroom users and those looking to step up their photography without jumping into the pro end of editing and organizing images.

Especially for the latter group, Lightroom CC deserves a look. In fact, I believe Adobe’s change is so significant that I just wrote an entire book about the new app. The 133-page “Take Control of Lightroom CC” goes into detail about how to import, edit, and synchronize your photo library in Lightroom CC. It also includes a chapter devoted to making Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic work together, for folks who currently use Lightroom Classic and want to give Lightroom CC a try.

A Modern Approach -- We’ve seen this before. Apple developed Photos for Mac because it needed an application that put iCloud Photo Library at its center and made it possible to access one’s entire photo library on any Apple device. iPhoto wasn’t designed for that, so the company chose to start over rather than bolt on its iCloud vision.

The difference in Adobe’s approach is that Lightroom users aren’t faced with an all-or-nothing choice going forward. Apple not only stopped work on iPhoto, it also abandoned its pro-level tool, Aperture. Since many Aperture users switched over to Lightroom, Adobe learned from Apple’s unpopular move. Lightroom Classic remains the full-featured, pro version of Lightroom, and Adobe is still actively developing it. Lightroom CC includes most of Lightroom Classic’s core features and is designed to be able to access your entire library from any device.

I’ve used Lightroom Classic for years, but I have to admit that Lightroom CC is less intimidating. For example, one of the features I love about Lightroom Classic is its capability to apply metadata during import, because it can save a lot of time later. You can also rename files, make backup copies, and apply edits (and save all of those options in dedicated presets) during the same operation. But cramming all of that into the Import window makes some photographers wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into. Lightroom CC focuses just on selecting which photos to import, with the option to put them into an album at import. It’s less capable than Lightroom Classic but much more friendly to people who aren’t looking for power features.

Or consider some of the modules in Lightroom Classic, which enable you to create sophisticated slideshows, Web sites, and book layouts. Those are great features, but how many people really take advantage of them?

Lightroom CC is a streamlined appeal to the sort of people who use Apple’s Photos (and Google Photos): those who want to store and edit their photos with a minimum amount of friction.

Of course, the term “streamlined” is often used to mask shortcomings. “This car isn’t missing wheels; it’s just streamlined!” And Lightroom CC is starting out at version 1.0 with some holes to fill. It cannot print. It can currently share only to Facebook or by exporting images. The search feature, which is powered by Adobe Sensei technology, employs machine learning to identify objects and scenes in photos; however, it’s entirely server-based, so you need an Internet connection to perform a search of your photo library. Adobe has said it’s working on incorporating features such as the HDR and panorama merge tools found in Lightroom Classic, so I suspect others will also appear as the application moves beyond its initial release.

Adobe is already starting to fill those holes. Lightroom CC 1.1 added a Tone Curve editing control, a Split Toning tool, and improved the Auto feature by basing it on Adobe Sensei neural network technology.

So what does Lightroom CC bring to the game for someone taking stock of their photo system? I see two main areas that are appealing: the capability to perform local adjustments within an image and the way Adobe has built the cloud synchronization.

Photo Editing Advantages -- When you edit an image in Apple’s Photos, the adjustments you make apply to the entire photo. Increasing the exposure, for instance, makes everything in the image brighter, not just objects in the foreground. Sometimes that’s what you want, but it can also mean the sky becomes entirely white and loses definition as a consequence.

Lightroom CC includes a trio of tools that let you apply settings to specific areas. The Linear Gradient tool defines a broad area where you can apply adjustments. Do you wish the colors in a sunset photo looked more like the moody hues you remember? Creating a linear gradient over the sky gives you a canvas on which to boost saturation, clarity, contrast and the other editing tools; since it’s a graduated selection, the effect fades gently into the rest of the image.

The Radial Gradient tool does the same thing but within an oval shape. If a person’s face is dark in an image, you can add a radial gradient that increases the exposure and shadows values to brighten it, with the effect blended into the surrounding pixels so it doesn’t pop unnaturally from the overall photo. I often add radial gradients to subjects’ eyes to subtly brighten them and enhance the saturation.

If you need more precision, the Brush tool lets you paint adjustments to individual areas.

The Brush also paints or erases areas of gradients, such as when you want to add contrast to a sky, but want to exclude foreground elements like boat masts or distant hills that stick up into the linear gradient area.

For still other adjustments, you can send any Lightroom CC photo to Adobe Photoshop, which excels at more complicated edits. The Healing Brush in Lightroom is pretty good, for instance, but Photoshop’s healing tools are much better.

If you use Photos, these types of local adjustments aren’t built in, but they also aren’t entirely out of reach. The editing extensions framework in Photos allows you to open images in third-party apps. And in macOS 10.13 High Sierra, Photos now includes an Edit With command that doesn’t depend on the extensions. That means you can hand off a photo to be edited in Photoshop, Affinity Photo, Pixelmator, RAW Power, or other apps. When you’re done there, the edited version appears in the Photos library.

Photos Everywhere -- In 2015, shortly after Apple released Photos and Adobe released Lightroom CC 2015, I noted, “What may seem a minor convenience — look, you can take a picture with your iPhone and it appears on your Mac! — is the start of a notable shift in how we treat digital photos” (see “Photos Everywhere with Lightroom CC and Photos for OS X,” 11 May 2015). Lightroom CC’s very existence is the result of that realignment.

When you import photos into Lightroom CC, it uploads your originals to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, where they become available to your devices running Lightroom Mobile or Lightroom CC on one other computer (you can use Lightroom CC on two computers at once). That multi-device support also includes Android phones and tablets, and Windows computers, platforms that Photos ignores.

Lightroom Classic can also sync with Creative Cloud, but it’s limited to just those collections that you mark for syncing, leaving you to deal with the particulars of creating or choosing collections and enabling them for Lightroom Mobile.

What about photos you capture using your iPhone or iPad? Apple’s advantage in owning the default Photos app removes the friction of importing photos as a separate step. Lightroom can do that, too. Lightroom Mobile offers an option to auto-import images from the Camera Roll. Lightroom Mobile even has an advantage here, because its built-in camera feature can capture raw images, something that iOS allows for third-party apps but Apple hasn’t implemented in the Camera app.

I also want to spotlight the way Lightroom CC handles the image files in a library. Like Photos, the default approach on the Mac is to create a package file, which is actually a folder, and store everything there. Our disks are filling up quickly, however, especially with large photo files. A decent-sized photo library quickly gets too big for 256 GB or 512 GB of laptop storage, for instance.

Apple’s solution is to use iCloud Photo Library and give you the Optimize Mac Storage option in Photos, which replaces large original files with small thumbnails to conserve space. Photos then downloads full-sized images from iCloud as needed. If you have a large internal hard disk, that’s usually not an issue.

However, if you have a smaller drive, such as found in a MacBook or MacBook Pro, or if your photo library is particularly large, this option becomes a limitation: you have no local copy of your originals. You could choose to store your Photos library on an external disk, but when that disk isn’t connected — such as when you’re traveling — you lose access to those photos. Plus, relying on just iCloud itself isn’t a solid backup plan. My workaround is to run Photos on an old Mac mini with a large external disk attached, and with the option to Download Originals to This Mac turned on. But that’s not feasible for a lot of people.

Lightroom CC’s approach is more sensible. Like Apple, Adobe considers the Creative Cloud copy of your images as a backup, so Lightroom CC will delete image files in the background to free up space; when you need to work on one, it’s re-downloaded. But, again, that’s not a reliable local backup.

To work around this issue, Lightroom CC lets you specify an external hard disk as the location to store the original photo files, while the database that Lightroom CC uses to keep track of everything remains on your computer’s internal drive. When that external drive is unavailable — such as when you’ve taken your MacBook Pro on a trip — Lightroom CC downloads any shots you need to edit, even if the original file isn’t available locally.

New images you import are stored on the internal disk. Once the Mac is reunited with the external disk containing the local originals, Lightroom CC automatically moves all the new files to the external location. With this setup, it’s easy to maintain a separate backup of the external drive and your photo library stored on it.

If you’re concerned that you’ll end up in a situation where you need to edit photos in your library and won’t have the Internet access required to download originals on the fly, Lightroom CC 1.1 added an option to store a copy of the images as Smart Previews — lower-resolution versions that are fully editable.

Cloud Costs -- Price, of course, is a factor. Lightroom CC requires one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription plans, which start at $10 a month. Apple includes Photos in macOS, which is free.

The next consideration is cloud storage, since in both ecosystems, you’re going to end up paying for additional storage as you add more digital photos to your library. Here’s a breakdown of Adobe’s subscription plans and associated storage:

  • $10 per month: Lightroom CC plan with 1 TB of storage
  • $10 per month: Creative Cloud Photography plan (which includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC, and Photoshop) with 20 GB of storage
  • $20 per month: Creative Cloud Photography plan with 1 TB of storage (existing subscribers can jump to the 1 TB storage tier for $15 per month for a limited time)
  • $50 per month: Creative Cloud All Apps plan with 100 GB of storage
  • Add $20 per month to increase storage to 2 TB.
  • Add $50 per month to increase storage to 5 TB.
  • Add $100 per month to increase storage to 10 TB.

Surprisingly, Apple’s storage upgrades are a better deal, though you don’t get Adobe’s applications as part of the mix (note that these are U.S. prices; Apple gives worldwide pricing on its Web site):

  • Free: iCloud includes 5 GB of free storage, which is also used by other iCloud services, such as iCloud Drive and iOS device backups
  • $1 per month: 50 GB of iCloud Storage
  • $3 per month: 200 GB of iCloud Storage
  • $10 per month: 2 TB of iCloud Storage

I’d like to see Adobe reduce their prices to be more competitive.

Unfortunately, these are separate clouds floating on their own wind currents. I would love to see an option where I could store Lightroom’s library at iCloud (or Dropbox, or elsewhere) and not have to pay more for Creative Cloud storage tiers. However, with a lot of the machine learning and services being hosted on Adobe’s cloud infrastructure, I don’t see that happening.

Looking at Now to Prepare for the Future -- Regardless of how serious of a photographer you are, it’s good to reevaluate how you manage our photo libraries every so often because we’re dealing with memories, not just files. What you don’t want to do is hang on to something too long and then discover an abrupt shift is needed. Aperture and iPhoto users, for example, are living on borrowed time. If you find Photos to be sufficient for your needs, carry on, and we’ll likely chat about this again next year.

But if you wish you had more editing control over your photos, or if you’re already in the Creative Cloud ecosystem because you use another Adobe product, I suggest you give Lightroom CC a try. Although I still use Lightroom Classic, I now open it far less often than I used to, because I’ve been using Lightroom CC instead. It’s fast, uncluttered, and is working well for the types of photography I’ve been doing lately, which includes nearly 3000 images shot during a workshop and two family photo shoots.

And if you do take Lightroom CC for a spin, I hope you’ll consider doing so with my book at your side. “Take Control of Lightroom CC” is available now for just $15. And if, despite everything I’ve just said, you plan to stick with Photos, I’d encourage you to pick up Jason Snell’s just-updated “Photos: A Take Control Crash Course.”


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Comments about Why Lightroom CC Is a Big Step Up from Apple’s Photos
(Comments are closed.)

As if "Lightroom Classic" and "Lightroom CC" weren't confusing enough, there is still the stand-alone, desktop add called "Lightroom". While the two other apps are subscriptions, the latter is a purchase once (while you can) app. Most doubt that it will ever be updated, unless there is some kind of security problem, and it will be left behind sooner than later.

You might want to review/consider ON1 as a substitute for Lightroom. Or at least a plugin for the, (all versions). It's latest iteration is not quite equal to LR, but its devs promise to never go the subscription route.

I'm not sure it's even fair to compare any of those apps to Photos, however. YMMV. ;)
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-15 19:25
Lightroom 6 is still available (for $149), but you need to search Adobe's site to find it. Adobe has said publicly that it won't be updated beyond 2017, so it's effectively dead.

I haven't looked at ON1 Photo Raw yet. There's also Capture One Pro, Luminar, and a bunch of others. You've got to hand it to Adobe: although I'm sure the subscription model has been good for them, it's also been a stimulus for development of alternatives by other developers. ;)
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-12-20 13:52
Very true. But don't forget Affinity Photo, highly rated $50 photoshop substitute that promises never to go the subscription route. And you can get Affinity Designer to replace Illustrator.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-20 14:38
Yep, Affinity Photo is very good (I reviewed it at DPReview). And Serif is working on a DAM (digital asset management) component to it, which would make it more directly competitive with Lightroom and it's library organization features. No estimated ship date, but they've said they're working on it.
Garry Royle  2017-12-15 19:57
I’ve found Affinity Photo (on Mac and iOS) eliminates Adobe and its associated high costs with the added bonus of a super responsive and powerful program. Plus the video tutorials are relevant to common usage and well presented. With the HIgh Sierra added features of Apple’s Photos app for editing, I go less frequently to an external editor (Affinity) . Mostly it’s for complex masking and layering and cloning.
Michel Hedley  2017-12-16 01:03
I don't understand why people need to have their photos shared across their devices. Once you have shared your photograph on social media that's it. Then you are keeping photographs for your own benefit and the sharing function becomes needless.

I dont trust Apple's cloud abilities to put my images/vids in iCloud. But I can understand the need for some storage if you only have an iDevice or small laptop. But Photos and iCloud are still flakey.

Folders in DropBox work just as well without the cost and concern and DropBox works everywhere and photos can ben shared without needing an iDevice or laptop.

One app that was left out of this story is Photoshop Organizer. For the consumer photographer, that works well as a basic organiser and it is possible to store the images in DropBox so they are available online.

The story should have mentioned the issues with image formats with Photo and High Sierra and backwards editing.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-18 11:35
You share your photos across devices so you can access them everywhere. Just last weekend, I was showing a friend some pictures from Macworld Expo in 2001 on my iPhone, courtesy of iCloud Photo Library.

Many people prefer not to share many, if any, photos on social media.
Alexander Walter  2017-12-16 03:32
As a semi-professional photographer I'm working with Lightroom Classic and Photoshop as a full CC member for years and the former approach of Adobe integrating a cloud sync of Lr mobile into Lr Desktop was a disaster. So it was the right choice for Adobe to launch a separate app which is now Lr CC.
With its armada of mobile apps for iOS, Adobe is telling us that we're able to work simply everywhere and don't need to return to our desktop computers at all. The major disadvantage to this approach is that you're in the need of many different apps, see Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Fix to name only a few. Photoshop Touch was a pain and is no longer developed because Adobe couldn't work on an app like Serif's Affinity Photo for iPad which is a full Photoshop substitute.
The same applies to Lightroom CC. I've tried it and after a few editing steps I was missing key features from its older brother, e. g. color profiles for my calibrated cameras, upright tools, split toning to name only a few. And that's the problem with all these mobile apps: if you want to work seriously with what one creates, you have to return to the desktop and use the bigger apps: Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, InDesign and Illustrator.
Besides, I'm not able to get Lightroom CC running on macOS 10.13.2. It works just nice with Sierra on my other Mac but refuses to connect to my CC account. I've opened a ticket on Adobe help months ago and it wasn't even answered or fixed in Lr CC 1.2. So I'm doing what I'm always doing: relying on my desktop and its external RAIDs of 20 TB without the need of sync working properly or not on cloud drives and forget about these mobile apps not integrating fully into the CC environment.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-18 12:33
Adobe isn't saying that you never need to return to the desktop. Lightroom is becoming an extension, not a replacement. You're right about the annoyance of many mobile apps, and I suspect Adobe is learning from that. Hence Lightroom mobile, which incorporates a lot of the features of Lightroom desktop. Not all, but they're getting there. And up until recently, iPads couldn't do everything that the separate apps did altogether; Affinity Photo for iPad has proved that wrong, but the hardware has only been capable in the last year or so.
Rob Russell  2017-12-16 04:05
One day, fast internet might be pervasive (good luck with that with your current FCC), but it's not.

It's not hard to shoot a few gigabytes of photos. If you don't have good upload speeds or have small data caps, then Lightroom CC probably won't work for you.

I agree with the earlier comment that Adobe's squeeze on subscriptions is pushing competitor development - which will only be good for consumers.
David Redfearn  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-12-16 14:20
I really dislike the subscription model for software but more than that, more and more I think these editing applications are overkill for most (non-Pro) photographers. I am using Photos as my library tool and have separate libraries for my iPhone shots and my "serious" A7RIII photos (I don't import these huge images - the are on an external drive). Modern cameras take such good JPEGs now (assuming you have good light and proper exposure) that extensive editing is not needed, and if you shoot RAW+JPEG you have the RAW images as backups.

I find that Photos has all the (JPEG) editing tools I need and the very inexpensive RAWPower extension is all I need for RAW editing.

One limit to Photos that doesn't seem to be ever mentioned is that the "Edit In" functionality creates a JPEG version of RAW images and sends them to the external editor - extensions still sends RAW when that is what you want to edit. That's why RAWPower is an extension (only) and doesn't support the Edit In function. I really don't understand this limitation - photographers interested in more sophisticated editing software are most likely also shooting RAW.

But still, Photos has improved a lot and is very usable.

Frans Moquette  2017-12-16 15:21
I'm a hobby photographer still using Lightroom 6, but will replace it with something similar (or better) when it stops working. I will never let myself be locked into Adobe's subscription model with which I lose access to MY content when I do not want to continue paying Adobe. Also, Adobe cannot be trusted. They said they would not stop with the standalone perpetual license version of Lightroom just a few years ago. Who knows when they'll change their mind again with Lightroom CC Classic?
Mario C  2017-12-17 11:14
I'm in the same situation. I'm already evaluating my alternatives in the form of Luminar 2018, and Affinity Photo. Luminar will probably do most of what I use Lightroom for currently. However, they're both so inexpensive that I didn't mind paying for them while I'm just trying them out.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-18 12:38
You won't lose access to your content if you end your subscription. There's a utility that lets you download all your material. So you'd lose the online component. And Lightroom Classic continues to work; you just can't import new photos, but you can still edit your existing library.

I'm not arguing against your opinion about the subscription model. Just pointing out that you wouldn't lose anything.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-12-20 13:57
Except that you do. Can you access your Lightroom Classic Catalog with Lightroom 6? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect the answer is no. There's no getting around the Adobe subscription lock-in. Which is a deal breaker for many of us.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-20 14:31
You're right about Lightroom 6, but I was talking about Lightroom CC or Lightroom Classic, both of which are on the subscription model. If you end your subscription, you can download all your photos and still retain the edits.

As for accessing a Classic catalog with Lightroom 6, I haven't tested it, but I don't see why you wouldn't. They both read the same catalog file, and since they're both desktop-based, the cloud aspect isn't applicable. Now, with Adobe ending Lightroom 6 this month, it means you're taking a risk that it will stop working at some point. But that's the same as Aperture users who still use it.
Frank Shirk  2017-12-17 16:00
I'll continue my giant pass on any software that is subscription. I want to own my software and Adobe isn't going to bully me into a situation where they bleed bucks away from me periodically. No Thanks to the ripoff subscription model.
John Cooper  2017-12-18 11:57
The cons and pros of the subscription model are off-topic and the debate generally has all the measured reasonableness of a religious war. But I will just say that I am mostly in favor of subscription models, with Adobe being the best example. In the old days I could never afford Photoshop or InDesign (the latter being a product I actually helped develop): each product cost the equivalent of five years of subscription payments, and each would generally need to be upgraded every two to three years to keep up with operating system developments. When a software product is expensive, a fixed monthly cost is easy for me to budget, and I'm sure also benefits developers by regularizing the flow of income.
Tommy Weir  2017-12-18 14:43
I've so many little bits flying out of my bank account each month... it's dizzying. No stake in the sub/paid war, I do both.
I didn't like Lightroom and after Aperture was discontinued, I moved to Capture One, fantastic software and glad I made that move.
If I was not a professional and looking at a step up from Apple Photos I'd be looking at the upcoming Luminar for photo management and basic edits with Affinity Photo or Pixelmator Pro for more advanced editing facilities. A much cheaper and very high-functioning option over LR or C1 with PS option.
Phil Seymour  2017-12-18 22:06
Photos includes my favorite editing Apps like Intensify, Lucid, Pixelmator, Polarr, Photoscape X and others, while editing in Apple Photos.

This makes up for the Apple editor lacking brushes, masks and more precise editing tools.

I don't want anything to do with monthly payments for Apps that are on my MacBook Pro already. I am surprised that some services have convinced people to add another monthly expense for storage that they can have on a hard drive for a fraction of the cost.

As for having my whole library of images available on my iPhone and other devices, a few carefully edited and selected images airdropped in advance, are all I need. If someone wants to see more, my images are view-able online on several sites.

At one time, a few years ago, I liked Lightroom because it had a fully editable vignette feature. The rest of the program, including image library organization seemed unnecessarily convoluted, so I stopped using it.

Thank you for reading my observations.
I'm not sure why Adobe doesn't let Lightroom CC on the desktop make use of extensions, as Photos does. That would be killer for those that have already invested in those extensions. It allows many of the same apps to work as plugins in Classic, but allowing extensions would reach a broader audience.

And CC needs better metadata capability. Why not hierarchical keywords? a way to save say a Sensei search for "beach, sunset" as keywords? Or the locations it finds into location metadata? It's pretty good at finding stuff, and that would be a real motivation for even a mostly Classic user like myself to store more online.

All in all, a good comparison. I think the comparison favors Lr CC over Photos even more when you get into using the app in iOS on an iPad Pro. Adobe needs a version of Photoshop there to complete the package. CC on mobile is improving very quickly, so maybe soon?
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-19 15:05
I'm hoping that extensions and especially better metadata capabilities arrive in subsequent updates. Remember, Lightroom CC right now is a 1.0 product, built from scratch. I don't think we'll see hierarchical keywords, though. If you migrate a Classic library to CC, those are converted to flat keywords. I suspect that the number of people who genuinely use them is quite small.

And yes, I'd love to see, and hope Adobe is working on, a real Photoshop app for mobile. Affinity Photo for iPad shows that it's possible. But I don't know if Adobe is actually going in that direction.
Michael Lever  2017-12-20 02:46
I have been using LR since version 1 and just because it is now called Lightroom Classic doesn't mean I am going to stop using it. As for no more updates so what? Even if there were to be any more updates from the LR6 (latest release) likely none would be worth having, (apart from new camera support and future OS) LR6 is a mature product and its

customer base I reckon is now finite. Whereas LR CC is targeting a new and different market of people who wouldn't know what they are missing and which has I shall probably get Capture One 11 and use both the potential to be more profitable for Adobe than the desktop version. until I am sufficiently confident with CO to ditch LR.
David Tanner  2017-12-20 04:04
Can’t see if it’s been mentioned above but presently CC doesn’t work with a NAS only a directly connected external drive. A deal breaker for me, coupled with my slowish internet connection.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-20 14:36
I need to test this (anyone have a NAS they want to let me borrow?), but I think the issue is that you can't reliably store the library file on a NAS. You can set the NAS as the storage location for originals, which the library file on the internal disk refers to.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-12-20 14:35
Thank you for describing the differences between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic. That's more than Adobe does.

That said, Lightroom was not until recently called Lightroom Classic. You confuse the issue by referring to the standalone versions of Lightroom that way. The standalone version of Lightroom was Lightroom 1 thru 6 (the earlier versions included Photoshop with the name, but that confusing convention was dropped).

So, the desktop version of Lightroom, sorting through the confusing new labels, is Lightroom Classic (or Classic CC - how confusing was that?) And the web focussed, dumbed down version is Lightroom CC. Adobe tried once before to simplify the import dialog and got their head(s) handed to them by long-time users who actually understood and used its complexities. So now they're taking another swing at it—without explaining on their web site anything about the differences between CC and Classic (not that I can find anyway).

I was actually considering subscribing to Lightroom Classic, until I realized that I would lose access to my catalog it I dropped my subscription. You point out that the catalog remains accessible, which might be a good thing, accept that you can no longer import new images. Lots a' luck with that. At some point I will probably move to Affinity Photo for new work. Unfortunately I will lose my Lightroom edits if I try to access existing images outside of Lightroom. Those I've saved as Jpgs or Tiffs will be OK, sort of. But I often find myself going back to images I edited many years ago and updating them as I've learned more about Lightroom.

Yes, the price of a Lightroom Classic subscription is more or less reasonable. And you get Photoshop CC as well in the Creative Cloud Photography plan, a real bonus (and now I know why they also include Lightroom CC as well—it's not really the same app). But what if at some point a cannot afford the monthly fee? Sometimes $10 is a lot of money.

Maybe a workaround would be to archive my Lightroom 6 catalog so that at least access to those images would not be lost—before upgrading. I'll think about that.

Anyway, thanks again Jeff for the in depth review. Once more TidBITS to the rescue.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-20 14:41
Oh, Adobe's marketing about this whole thing has been, um, less than ideal.

Okay, it's been pretty terrible and confusing.

The good news is that there are plenty of other options. It's good to hash this stuff out occasionally.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-12-20 21:58
I agree. Thanks for the hash. ;-)

On a related topic, sort of, can you tell me if there is a way to apply a setting to a batch of photos? For instance, can you update the process version for more than one image at a time—for photos already in the catalog?
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-12-21 10:58
Never mind. I looked it up on the web ( Select an image; in the histogram click the arrow icon in the lower right corner which shows up if the image is not up to date; the dialog box it launches will have the option to update all the items in the filmstrip. Depending on the number of items in the filmstrip, Lightroom will take a little or a somewhat longer time to update the images. In previous versions of lightroom the process version warning showed up as an exclamation point by the image the image. This is gone in Lightroom Classic; it's now only in the histogram—which is fine if you know to look for it there.

In previous versions of Lightroom the process version update could make obvious changes in an image. This time around the changes I observed were negligible. Which means I don't have to go back and edit my old photos.
William Thompson  2018-02-02 11:22
One of the things that attracted my attention to Lightroom (5, at the time) was that the originals were the originals, in their location, and LR had imports that I could tweedle. This was distinct from (then) iPhotos ginormous (depending on your collection) all-in-one database organization .

Could anyone comment on how Affinity, Luminar, and some of the other referred-tos manage the database portion of things? Did Photos change its database scheme relative to iPhoto?
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2018-02-02 13:03
Right now, Affinity and Luminar (and Pixelmator Pro and, well, almost everything) offer zero library management. They're image editors in the style of Photoshop.

However, the companies behind Affinity and Luminar have announced that they're working on DAM (digital asset management) components to manage one's library. Luminar's is supposed to arrive sometime this year; I don't know if Affinity has pegged any timeline. I think On1 Photo RAW also has a library feature coming.

Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC both treat originals in the same way as Lightroom 5: they're non-destructive, so the originals aren't affected.

Photos shares the same structure as iPhoto: everything is stored in a single database (a package file, so essentially a folder that macOS sees as a single file). You can reference images outside the database, but only if you import them from disk, not from a memory card, and you have "Copy Items to the Photo Library" turned off in preferences; however, only photos inside the photo library are synced with iCloud Photo Library.

Capture One Pro does library management and editing, and a lot of photographers like it. I reviewed it for Macworld a few years ago and found it wanting in some areas, but I haven't checked out the latest version.
ELLIOT STERN  2018-02-11 13:53
Great article. Very informative. I am one of those people who is constantly in search of the best software, the best camera bag, all of which is a continuous path of trying evrything.

I have Lightroom CC and Lightroom Mobile and was a user of Lightroom (now classic). I also own Luminar, Polarr, Raw Photo, Enlight Photofox, etc.

Personally for my IPad Pro while I have LR cc I find Polarr packed with a lot more creative features and that in turn has led me to use Polarr on the Macs I own. What Polarr does not have is there own way of dealing with images from one Platform to another as they do make their software available on all Platforms. ALL PLATFORMS. I can also go from Apple Photo directly into Polarr to edit. I cannot go directly from Photo to Lr cc for some reason and that makes not sense because I can go from Photo to Photoshop Express on the IPad Pro. I can also make use of Drop Box which is also nice. Adobe cloud is to $$$