Whenever new software comes out there's a rush followed by consternation about whether the upgrade is worth doing. As a Lightroom instructor of some vintage, I thought it might be worthwhile to get my thoughts down on the subject for readers of the site.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has come a long way since inception and the latest release is a step forward from the proven success of version 5, that appears to end at version 5.7.1 Certainly there was a lot of "leakage" and hype about what we were all calling Version 6, that exploded when the folks at KelbyOne announced a "double secret event" for April 21, 2015.
The first thing that we learned is that there are two versions of the same thing, Lightroom CC that binds completely into the Creative Cloud subscription model, and Lightroom 6, a perpetual license model. Perpetual license means that you own the license, and that it never expires. It also means that you will get patches for that release so long as the vendor provides them and that there may or may not be an upgrade path to the next release. Word is relatively clear that Lightroom 6 is the last perpetual license version of Lightroom that will come from Adobe. At first, there were not even going to be patches, at least according to the Internet, but customers who called Adobe heard differently. There would be patches and minor updates made available to licensees, just like in the past. However the likelihood of there ever being a Lightroom 7 perpetual license is one of those things defined as infinitesimal, a probability rapidly approaching zero.
Before getting into whether buying the upgrade or even downloading the upgrade is compelling, let's take a look at the week's experience in the form of the advertised enhancements and what I've found.
- Lightroom can now use the GPU in your computer to improve processing throughput. Probably. Go to Preferences | Performance to see that the GPU is enabled or can be used.
- Brushes can now be used to augment filters in the Develop module
- There is now background processing that you can see in the Activity Centre in the top left corner
- Lightroom now offers face indexing and and recognition
- Crop tool now has auto mode for use when making panoramas
- Panoramas are built as DNG files natively in Lightroom
- HDRs are built as DNG files natively in Lightroom
- You can now add images to a collection on Import
- Increased support for mirrorless cameras in the Lens Corrections area
- You can now soft proof to CMYK in the Develop module
- Pet Eye provides correction for blown out pet eyes similar to the red eye tool for humans
- The Slideshow module now supports multiple audio tracks in a single show
- The Web module has dropped all the Flash junk and now builds using HTML5
- If you have a Touch PC, you can enable Lightroom Mobile like functionality on your touch screen
- I have not yet seen any performance improvements. In fact in my own pretty boring workflows I find Lightroom CC to be much more choppy and often slower than 5.7.1
- This is a very useful feature to have. It's not really well explained, so head over to the web to search for videos on how this works. If you don't use brushes in Lightroom, you might not care. I do and I do.
- Having spent most of my adult life in software and technology, I love the idea of having foreground cycles available while general tasks run in the background. So far, I have not seen a huge benefit of background processing, probably because my workflow is fairly linear.
- Face indexing works decently well but if you are going to index your library expect it to take a long time. There's also a lot of manual work to do naming the faces and I found that the guessing was only ok on a new image. Face recognition in other software has been around longer, and with this version, still superior. Mind you, if you could care less, you won't use the feature and it won't matter. I do a lot of portraits and have never needed face recognition and still don't.
- Auto crop is not a new idea, although it is new for Lightroom. Handy, but we're not building rockets to Jupiter here.
- I don't do a lot of panos, mostly because doing them in Photoshop always seemed to turn out to be a fair bit of work. This function works very simply, about like on your mobile phone and does a surprisingly good job. That the outcome of panoramas built from a set of RAW files comes out a RAW file in the open DNG format is absolutely the right answer.
- My HDR practice has been mostly using the 32 bit option in either Photoshop or Photomatix because I am less inclined to be fond of images that reach out and punch you in the eyeball screaming about being HDRs. I give Adobe a lot of credit for this function. It works, it's quite clean and while the deghosting needs a bit of tuning, I like that you don't need to go outside Lightroom for basic HDRs. It's not 32 bit HDR but it's good and like the Panorama option, returns a RAW file in the open DNG format.
- This is my number one new feature. I live by Collections. I don't actually care much about the physical hierarchy of the library, and am quite content with the default I have used for years, but always having to remember to create a collection at time of import has been pure nuisance value. Problem solved.
- I'm not a big user of mirrorless cameras, although the evaluation units I've worked on in the last year have been predominantly mirrorless units, so better lens correction support is only a good thing. I still think that Lens Correction should be at the top of the Develop module, not buried near the bottom because it solves so many basic problems quickly, but I have made that point in my Adobe Roundtable Dialogs for years and it has not come to pass. Mirrorless is a big growth area, particularly outside North America so this enhancement is a good step.
- Unlike a lot of users, I use Soft Proofing regularly because I tend to make prints a fair bit. I don't have to soft proof for CMYK separations but it's good to know that Lightroom can do it, should I find myself in a job where I need to provide separation ready work.
- Pet Eye is kind of cool, in a fix the crappy snapshot sort of way. Of course if you don't use an on camera flash, you won't have this problem in the first place, so perhaps learn to work with the flash off camera. Of course if you live to put cat pictures taken with your smartphone up on the web, this will be a killer feature for you.
- I have never liked the Slideshow module, to the point that I found a third party solution for the very rare time I need to build a slideshow any more. One of the sad parts of Apple putting a bullet in Aperture's head, it's slideshow system was brilliant. When I next need to build a Slideshow, I will be sure to add the Slideshow option back to my menu and try it out.
- I have never used the Web module so I cannot say much about it. That Adobe figured out that Flash is a horrible way to do content and replaced it with the more open and less hogging HTML5 is a very good thing. Better late than never.
- I do not use a Touch PC, heck I don't use Windows, so I am not qualified to comment.
Lightroom CC / 6 looks more like an evolutionary upgrade than a revolutionary one. It has so nice functionality that will be very helpful to folks just getting into cataloging and editing who don't yet have a huge investment in plugins. It's still Lightroom, so that means a terrific catalog system and editing system, and the performance hiccups will be corrected in patches and updates, just as they were when Lightroom 5 first landed and the user community was angered. Same scenario here. The big rumour, that I never expected to happen, that of Lightroom getting Layers, did not happen, so at some point in your process, there is still very likely a demand for Photoshop.
If you own the perpetual license of Lightroom 5, your current release is 5.7.1 It works very well and with the exception of pano, HDR and maybe a couple of other additions, there isn't really anything there kicking down your door to buy the upgrade, which I believe is about $79. You'll want to move at some point, but you don't have to rush, particularly if you already own the Nik Collection or On1. Before you spend the money on the perpetual license upgrade, consider that this is the last perpetual license version and that for $9.99USD you can have Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC. The upgrade alone will cover that for eight months, so determine for yourself if this is a good time to go Creative Cloud, particularly if you do not have Photoshop in some variant today.
If you are a Creative Cloud member, well you should install the new version. You've already paid for it with your subscription. Perhaps make a backup of your catalog before letting Lightroom CC upgrade it, in case you need to go back to Lightroom 5 for some reason. I have confidence that Adobe will address the chunky performance and inconsistencies within the next 60 days. If you are a CC member, you already have Photoshop CC and with enormous respect to the Lightroom team, the PS CC pano and HDR options are still richer, even if they do not return DNG files. Or heck, maybe they do now, I have not checked because the new Camera RAW update to Photoshop CC does have pano and HDR in it according to the web. Since I start and finish in Lightroom, my use of ACR is nearly nil so I haven't done a deep dive there yet.
See you out there making the shutter click. Until next time, peace.