Lightroom CC vs. Lightroom Classic CC: For photographers, what’s the difference?

Lightroom CC vs. Lightroom Classic CC: For photographers, what’s the difference?

Adobe Lightroom is no longer one program — photographers can now choose between the mobile-focused Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC, a split announced on October 18. But what’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC? Lightroom CC was redesigned to maintain consistent features across mobile and desktop platforms, and to create a seamless workflow regardless of the device you’re using — what Adobe defines as mobile or cloud-based editing. Lightroom Classic CC maintains all of the photo-editing power meant for desktop systems — like the Lightroom that existing users have known.

While both share common features, there are a handful of tools that don’t cross over between programs. Here’s what photographers need to know about Lightroom CC vs. Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom Classic

Lightroom CC

Apply preset on import, add metadata X
Smart collections X
Search X
Organization X X
Slideshow X
Prints and photobooks X
Geotagging map X
Learn tool X
Presets X X
Exposure control X X (Excludes Tone Curve)
Color control X X (Excludes HSL and Split Tones)
Sharpness and noise reduction X X
Local brushes X X
Gradient and radial filters X X
HDR merge X
Panorama stitching X
Backup original files X
Mobile app X
Export with watermark or custom size X X
Price $9.99/month with Photoshop $9.99/month with 1 TB storage or $19.99/month with storage and Photoshop

Importing photos

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Lightroom Classic’s import options aren’t changing with the latest version. The import window includes options to add to collections, adjust metadata, add keywords, change the destination, and even apply presets while importing.

lightroom cc vs classic ccimport

Lightroom CC, on the other hand, has just the option for adding to an album. This creates a simplified screen that’s easier for beginners to get started with, but skips out on time-saving options like adding a preset to all photos on import.

Winner: Lightroom Classic

Organizing photos

lightroom cc vs classic classiccollections

Lightroom Classic organizes photos into collections and collection sets, and includes an option to navigate using the folders on the desktop. “Smart Collections” lets users create groups of photos instantly by setting parameters, such as selecting photos taken with a specific lens or images with a specific rating.

Lightroom CC switches to an album nomenclature, but albums work similarly to collections. Folders can be used to organize albums. Images are also automatically sorted by date and are accessible that way as well, without any extra steps to set up the dated albums.

lightroom cc vs classic ccalbums

Lightroom Classic has Smart Collections to create custom automatic collections that Lightroom CC doesn’t have. But Lightroom CC uses artificial intelligence (Adobe Sensei) to search through your photos, a feature Classic doesn’t have. Using object-recognition technology, Lightroom CC can search for objects and popular landmarks, which means even if you don’t organize your photos, you’ll probably still be able to find that photo you are looking for.

Both versions include the tools to rate and flag individual photos. Lightroom CC will even choose your best photos, but the feature isn’t yet built into the application. Users have to use the online version of Lightroom CC for the Best Photos tool, which chooses the best photos using Adobe Sensei.

Winner: Lightroom CC

User interface

Despite a new name and a few new features, Lightroom Classic is the same program photographers have been using for more than a decade. Users familiar with the previous version of Lightroom won’t have to relearn controls in Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom Classic is organized into different modules, each organizing all the options for that particular task. While the Develop and Library modules are the most used panels, Lightroom Classic also has options for building a slideshow, printing a photo book, viewing geotagged photos on a map, making prints, and creating a web gallery. You won’t find those features in Lightroom CC.

In creating Lightroom CC, Adobe asked a few questions about why the options were located where they were and couldn’t come up with a good answer as to why the exposure sliders were located in between options for white balance and saturation. In Lightroom CC, the Develop side panel is entirely redesigned and organized by the type of adjustment.

For example, adjusting exposure, contrast, and highlights and shadows are all under the Light section, while white balance, vibration, and saturation falls under the Color panel. The organization scheme will be easier for beginners to learn since everything is grouped together, but those familiar with earlier versions of Lightroom may have to do some hunting at first.

Lightroom CC also has new hover-over icons that explain each feature. If you’re not sure what temperature is in photography, leave your mouse over the name and a pop-up icon will not only explain what temperature is but animate a sample photo as the slider moves to show the effects on a photo.

Winner: Lightroom CC

Editing photos

As the program designed for desktop computers, Lightroom Classic contains the widest assortment of tools and edits. The visual tone curve and split toning options are not found in the mobile-focused Lightroom CC.

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While Lightroom CC has the sliders for adjusting highlights, shadows, whites and blacks, Lightroom Classic also has a tone curve chart that allows users to select a point on the line and adjust those tones. The tool is more customizable than the exposure sliders and could be a big reason why many stick with Lightroom Classic.

Another big feature missing in Lightroom CC is the split toning and HSL panel. The HSL panel tool inside of Lightroom Classic gives each color in the photo their own slider to lighten or darken only that shade. The tool is helpful for reducing the redness in skin, as well as creating custom color profiles, such as imitating a film look. The tool also makes a dramatic difference when converting images to black and white by controlling which shade of gray each color converts to. While Lightroom CC allows users to adjust color elements like temperature and vibrance, you can’t control each color separately.

Both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic also have tools for editing specific areas of the image, including the healing tool, adjustment brush, and the radial and graduated filter tools, though CC is also missing the red-eye tool.

lightroom cc vs classic ccdevelop

While previous users won’t notice any significant differences in the targeted adjustment tools, both the radial and graduated filter tools have a new option launched with Lightroom Classic not included in the CC version, a color and luminance masking tool. The new tool allows users to select color or luminance ranges to include in the mask. That means that, if you are using the graduated filter to brighten up a boring sky, you can use the eyedropper tool to select the color (or colors) in the sky so you don’t have to manually go in and erase the mask from the trees, buildings, or other objects that jut into the skyline.

Both programs include sharpening options, noise removal, a dehaze tool, vignetting, chromatic aberration and lens corrections. Cropping and straightening tools also cross over to both programs.

Both also allow for creating or uploading Lightroom presets. The location of the preset options is different, and Lightroom CC will move the corresponding sliders when you hover over the preset, making it easy to see what each one does. Adobe says that existing preset collections can be imported into Lightroom CC — and that even though Lightroom CC doesn’t have the tone curve or HSL panel, presets using those adjustments will still apply those changes.

Classic also includes HDR merging and panorama stitching, while bothboth features absent in Lightroom CC.

Lightroom Classic has more features in more place, which is great for photographers already familiar with the program, but a bit more daunting for newbies. Compared to Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic has a steeper learning curve because there are more controls and more panels to work in.

Once those edits are finished, Lightroom Classic also has a few more export options. Lightroom CC only asks for the destination, file size, and whether you want the file type to be a JPEG or the same as the original. Lightroom Classic, in comparison allows you to rename entire albums on export, add custom watermarks, add presets, and save in multiple file types.

Winner: Lightroom Classic


Speed has been a chief complaint from Lightroom users in the past, but Lightroom Classic gets a speed boost in the latest update, though Adobe says they are continuing to work on speed improvements. After using the previous version of Lightroom, even in a brief test with the new Lightroom Classic, previews seemed to load faster and I didn’t have the lag time when zooming in for detailed healing brush edits on giant 45 megapixel photos.

Note: Speed varies based on a lot of factors outside of the software, including computer specs and, when the cloud is used, internet connectivity. These results were produced using a Macbook with 16 GB of memory and a 20 Mbps internet connection.

Importing 10 photos — large 45.7 megapixel RAW files from the new Nikon D850 — on Lightroom Classic took less than 20 seconds. But importing those same photos on Lightroom CC took half that, giving CC the edge in import speed.

Images imported through Lightroom CC are saved to the local hard drive — but part of the beauty of the new mobile-focused program is that it includes 1 TB of cloud storage to access photos from anywhere. That anywhere access is great and an excellent solution to prevent image loss from a hard drive failure. But if you want to access cloud photos not on the local hard drive, those photos will need to download. On a wedding album with just over 1,000 RAW photos previously synced but not stored on my local hard drive, I waited more than 45 minutes for the download icon to stop swirling (to be fair, I passed the time by watching Netflix, which made my 20 Mbps internet speed even lower). You can work on other photos while the cloud images are downloading. The search tool also seemed a bit slow on my machine.

As a lighter-weight version with a few less tools, Lightroom CC loads photos faster than Lightroom Classic. Accessing images already imported is quick, but cloud-stored photos will take some time to download, particularly with large albums. For users that need the expanded tools in Lightroom Classic, the update offers a noticeable speed improvement over earlier versions, enhancing speed in several areas.

Winner: Lightroom CC


One of the biggest differences between Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC is accessibility and cloud storage. While Lightroom has synced Smart Previews between desktop and mobile versions for years, the Creative Cloud has never doubled as a backup service because the original RAW files aren’t saved on the cloud — just the adjustments.

In Lightroom CC, however, the original RAW files are saved to the Creative Cloud, with a large 1 TB storage limit. The ability to use the Creative Cloud as a storage option without separately exporting to back up to a different cloud service is a nice expansion of Adobe Creative Cloud’s abilities and one of the biggest perks to choosing Lightroom CC over Lightroom Classic. Downloading full RAW files from the cloud is time-consuming, but syncing across mobile devices and having that backup is a big perk for many photographers.

Lightroom CC’s rebuild also includes a rebuild of the Lightroom CC Android and Apple apps. The change means that switching from the mobile apps to the desktop of Lightroom CC is even more seamless, with the same features and a similar user interface. The mobile versions expand on the desktop platform with a built-in camera mode with manual control, as well as an HDR mode that still shoots in DNG.

Photographers that opt for the Classic subscription will still have 20 GB of storage included, but Classic still only backs up the Smart Preview, not the original files. Users have to switch programs in order to back up original files.

Lightroom CC is a better program with an internet connection, but you don’t need a signal to edit photos that are already saved to your local hard drive. An internet connection is required for both accessing cloud-stored photos and using the search tool.

Winner: Lightroom CC


Choosing between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic means a $9.99 monthly subscription either way, but there are a handful of differences between each option to keep in mind. First, the Lightroom Classic subscription includes Photoshop while the CC package does not. In fact, the CC version is included with the Lightroom-Photoshop subscription. The difference? The CC package includes 1 TB of storage while the Classic only includes 20 GB.

Of course, Adobe created another option for photographers that want it all — a $19.99 subscription includes all the photo programs and the 1 TB of storage. Current photography plan subscribers can get that extra 1 TB of storage for  $14.99 a month for the first year. Mobile-only users can also pick up the Lightroom CC smartphone and tablet apps for $4.99 month, without the desktop version.

Adobe continues to offer a free trial download for new users.

Winner: Lightroom Classic

So, who wins?

Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC have very different focuses, which means the best program for one photographer might not be the right choice for the next.

Lightroom CC is ideal for photographers that want to edit anywhere, with 1 TB of storage to back up original files, as well as the edits. With a simplified user interface, it’s also ideal for beginners with fewer daunting controls and an organization that makes a bit more sense. Uploads are also faster using Lightroom CC, while accessing cloud-stored files takes longer, depending on the internet connection.

Lightroom Classic, however, is still the reigning champ when it comes to features. The loss of the tone curve and split-toning tools will keep many photographers sticking with the Classic. A speed increase and new controls for the radial and graduated filter tools are also nice to see. Personally, since I use the HSL panel on most of my edits and also use Classic’s watermarking tool on export for internet-destined images, I will be sticking with Classic workflow and occasionally using CC for backing up original files.

Adobe says that they will continue developing both programs — and that bringing features like the tone curve and split toning is on the list for future Lightroom CC updates. The Lightroom split creates a mobile-focused platform without alienating advanced users that need the more powerful desktop tools — and we’re eager to see what Adobe does next for both programs.

Published at Thu, 19 Oct 2017 00:57:45 +0000

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