Can Lightroom CC Enhance Your Lightroom Classic CC Experience?

Does it have to be a fight between the two Lightrooms?

Does it have to be a fight between the two Lightrooms?

I'm a Lightroom Classic CC kind of guy.  I don't care for presets or rubber stamps or automatic looks.  I don't want every image to look like every other image.  I guess that makes me a control junkie.  Oh well.

I recently took a class by my friend Scott Kelby on Lightroom CC.  I went in with low expectations.  I found the renaming of Lightroom CC to Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom Mobile to Lightroom CC to be well past and around the corner from stupid.  Like the mc marketing weasels ran into traffic without talking to customers.  Very Apple like.

Lightroom CC is plainly designed not for me.  It is for folks who make a lot fewer photographs, folks who are probably happy with the pictures that they take on their smartphones, but who want to play at photo editing to some extent.  In that stead, Lightroom CC joins the ranks of Polaar and the herd of other smart device editors.  But after watching Scott go through his class, I gave myself a project to see if Lightroom CC could be useful to me, as an add-on to Lightroom Classic CC but not as a replacement.

If you sign up for the CC plan, you get Lightroom CC and 1 terabyte of cloud storage for your images.  You can actually have local copies, but the main storage is in Adobe's cloud.  Each additional terabyte costs you $10 USD per month, which if you are a volume generating photographer will ensure that you are eating cat food and living in a refrigerator box in no time.

However, if you sign up for the Photography Bundle, you get Lightroom Classic CC, Photoshop, 20GB of cloud storage (because you will be storing your images locally) and you also get Lightroom CC.  Since I get it anyway, I thought I would see if and how Lightroom CC could help me given my decision to keep my images on my own storage, not in the expensive Adobe cloud.

The first thing you see, is that Lightroom CC has a very different user interface.  You can call it simpler and cleaner, and as such is well suited to engaging with users who have not been or are not serious photographic editors.  Most of the sliders have the same names, but are organized somewhat differently, and while it is a mental exercise to learn what is where in CC since it is different from Classic CC, I will say that the organizational grouping, is to me at least, more logical.  I suspect Adobe would see fire and pitchforks if they did such a rearrangement in Classic CC, yet I find having two products with similar names that are laid out differently, disappointing.  There has already been a push from users new to Lightroom Classic coming from CC to make Classic CC look like Lightroom CC.  While I could learn to deal with that much of a UI change, I do not think it would be well received.

It strikes me that the Lightroom CC team and the Lightroom Classic CC team did not spend any time together on interoperability, because these are two very different tools.  Classic CC is built on modules.  Lightroom CC is not.  You do not have the web or slideshow modules, you do not have the map module, there is no print modules and what passes for the library module, well it passes at some great distance.  Lightroom Classic CC's comprehensive DAM does not exist in Lightroom CC.  Lightroom CC is very much a big bucket of images, with minor organizational facilities.

Those who love keywording will not like Lightroom CC.  You can load keywords, but they do not have any of the power that they do in Lightroom Classic CC.  I find keywording to be tedious and a waste of time, so I am missing nothing, but if your approach is keyword heavy, you're going to be underwhelmed.  What Lightroom CC does have that Lightroom Classic CC needs desperately is a rich adoption of Adobe Sensei, their AI toolset.  Searching in Lightroom CC does not require keywords and is very strong, with the AI only weakening the further you go down into the search results, which while sometimes funny is not really different from other search engines.  If I have an image of a red barn in Lightroom CC, I can type "red barn" into the search bar and Lightroom CC will find it without any keywords having been created.  This is great stuff.

Further evidence of a lack of commonality between the two development teams are differences in core nomenclature.  In Lightroom Classic CC we have the idea of folders in the Library module being physical folders/sub-directories on real disks, but these folders are not available in any other module, and for this reason Lightroom Classic CC cognoscenti use Collections and Collection Sets.  Users of Lightroom CC do not have these names.  Instead a collection is called an album and a collection set is called a folder.  Plainly, the design assumption has been that Lightroom CC was designed for people who do not use Lightroom Classic CC.  This renaming, while frustrating for Lightroom Classic CC users, is the same style as the bucket of web based low power editors.

It has been said that Lightroom CC does not have all the functions of Lightroom Classic CC's Develop module.  This is true but as Lightroom CC is getting a lot of internal attention from Adobe, new versions show up regularly.  Unlike Lightroom Classic CC where each panel when opened shows you everything, in Lightroom CC, each panel may also contain additional disclosure triangles or the web standard of the three dot ellipsis.  Clicking the ellipsis will reveal more functionality via popups.  I miss the logic of some of the functions buried deep in Lightroom CC, such as having to dig for the Histogram.  Perhaps the new customer wants to move sliders without seeing the real impact on dynamic range.  Seems dumb to me.

It will take about an hour's dedicated poking and playing for the Lightroom Classic CC user to be able to find their way around Lightroom CC to the point where it becomes usable.  I recommend this time investment because it will help you if and when you engage Lightroom CC as an addition to your Lightroom Classic CC workflow.

The real benefit of Lightroom CC is that it works on computers, tablets and smartphones, and has the same user interface on all of them.  For Lightroom Classic CC users, it uses the Smart Previews that get loaded into the Adobe Cloud, when you choose to sync a collection with the cloud.  Unlike Lightroom CC on its own, your originals are on your own hard drive, thus you do not need terabytes of space in the cloud.  Smart Previews are small and very efficient, and as you may already know from Lightroom Classic CC, when you have a smart preview, the original can actually be offline while you edit, with your edits syncing transparently in the background when the images become available. 

I found that capability handy with Lightroom Classic CC when on airplanes.  As Lightroom CC uses the same smart previews, now I can work on images anywhere with only my smartphone or tablet.  That, in and of itself is very useful to me.

Only one of my mobile devices has a RAW capable camera, and despite the enthusiasm for smartphone cameras, they do not come close to a real camera for serious image quality.  However, I can now attach a card reader to my iPad, or upload images from the card via laptop and add them to Lightroom CC even if Lightroom Classic CC and my photo library are not present.  The full images will be uploaded to the cloud, and then downloaded to Lightroom Classic CC into a collection set called by default, From Lightroom Mobile.  The naming is yet again goofy, but you can change the download collection set if you wish.  That collection set contains collections with the same names as the Lightroom CC albums that contain images that you have added to Lightroom CC.  Once downloaded, you can move the collections wherever you like in Lightroom Classic CC.  The linkage to Lightroom CC is maintained so images edited within, or added to the collection on Lightroom Classic CC get synced back to Lightroom CC.  This too, is very handy.

It should be noted that while Lightroom CC's folders act like collection sets, there is no relationship between a Lightroom CC folder and a Lightroom Classic CC collection set.  CC created albums will sync back to Lightroom Classic CC collections, folders will not.  I find this silly but it's the way things are as I write this.

When working in Lightroom Classic CC, you make a collection available to Lightroom CC by marking it for synchronization.  This ensures that the smart previews show up in Lightroom CC in albums whose name matches the collection in Lightroom Classic CC.  Any changes that you make to the image (or more correctly, the recipe for the image) get synced back to Lightroom Classic CC when it goes online. 

You may also be using Adobe Portfolio for your online portfolio.  Since Adobe Portfolio uses Collection Sets and Collections from Lightroom Classic CC, remember that while the collection set does not map to Lightroom CC, all the collections map as albums.  Once they are synced to the Adobe Cloud to enable the images to be used in Adobe Portfolio, they are also available for editing and augmentation in Lightroom CC.  Adobe Portfolio is not included as part of the Lightroom  CC bundle, but is included as part of the Adobe Photographer's Bundle with Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop.  This lack of mapping of Lightroom Classic CC collection sets to Lightroom CC folders is particularly annoying in this case. 

One of the important questions to ask about Lightroom CC is will it work when the device being used is not connected to the Internet.  I checked this in several ways.  First, I just turned off the Internet connection on my iPad and iPhone and found that yes, I could in fact still work on the images.  When connection was resumed, the changes were synced to the cloud and then back down to Lightroom Classic CC on its next launch.  This is as one would expect it to be.  On my computers, I made one change in the preferences for Lightroom CC, which was to maintain local copies of all the Smart Previews in Lightroom CC.  Then when I disabled network access on the Mac, I was still able to launch Lightroom CC, work on images, make copies and see them all sync to the cloud when the internet connection was enabled, and see them come down to Lightroom Classic CC when it was next launched.

Your Lightroom Classic CC catalog ends up holding all the change information, although there is a separate version of it on the cloud containing the data for all images synced to Lightroom CC.

Given Lightroom CC's target audience of less engaged editors, it places a lot of emphasis on presets.  You can create a preset with the click of a button, that records to the preset all the changes that you have made, however, unlike Lightroom Classic CC, you have no facility to choose which changes get saved and which get ignored.  Perhaps this function will arrive in a future version.

I've been beating the back and forth between the two very hard as part of my testing and so far, I'm impressed.  The different naming and different layout are irksome.  That I have to dig in many levels on Lightroom CC to find what I consider to be basic functionality is annoying.  I have no intention of dropping Lightroom Classic CC for Lightroom CC, but I am no longer seeing them as an either-or conversation, but more as an either-and.  To that end, I am embracing Lightroom CC as an extension to my Lightroom Classic CC workflow, not as the primary tool, but like a useful add-on.  Which, is what Lightroom Mobile was when it first came out, albeit a lot slower and a lot less useful.

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