Is Lightroom CC Classic?

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Jeff Harmon goes over the details about the two new Lightroom programs now available to Creative Cloud subscribers, the costs of the various Creative Cloud options, and a healthy number of bugs that have been reported making his recommendation be that photographers who need to get work done using Lightroom wait to update.

Not Ready For Professional Use

I know there are many of you who hold off updating your software until you get the “good to go” from me, so let me state it right up front in this episode that as of early November 2017 my advice is that anyone who relies upon Lightroom for their business delay updating because there are a lot of bugs that have been reported for both Lightroom Classic CC and the all new Lightroom CC.  Neither is ready for professional use. It saddens me that I have to give it a “wait to upgrade” rating because there are some promising things in the update, but it isn’t ready. Now let’s start with what changed.

Did We FINALLY Get a Rewrite of Lightroom?

Adobe had their Max conference at the end of October 2017 where they released changes and launched new software for all types of creative content makers.  Lightroom updates were among those announced.

Many in the photography industry, including myself and my idea of adding a Cull module to Lightroom, were asking/hoping Adobe would focus their efforts on performance improvements over adding any new features to the product.  We really wanted them to do a full rewrite of the software from the ground up as it is pretty clear that the dated technology at the foundations of the software were limiting the performance possibilities. After all, you have software like Photo Mechanic showing us what is possible with regard to how blazingly fast culling can be done.  

It turns out we got the rewrite of Lightroom, just not the way we wanted it.

What is Lightroom Classic CC vs. Lightroom CC?

Since the announcement of the products I have been buried by questions from listeners, many who are hobbyist photographers like me and have been running Lightroom 6 stand alone, or what Adobe calls perpetual license.  So let’s start with what Adobe has changed and how it is Creative Cloud works. 

Adobe now offers two Lightroom programs you can run on computer and staying true to form the naming of the programs is confusing. There is Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC, which to make sure you keep them straight in this episode I will call “the all new Lightroom CC”.  

Lightroom Classic CC is the same desktop program we have all been using on our computers for years now. It has been updated to version 7.0 and with the name “Classic” there is a lot of worry the Lightroom we are all very used to is now on life support where at some point in the not too distant future Adobe will pull the plug on. I will talk more about that in a moment but let’s finish up with the changes that have been made.  

The all new Lightroom CC, which replicates the Lightroom Mobile experience on your desktop, is the rewrite of Lightroom we wanted. It is built on current technology, delivering those significant performance advantages we all wanted, and it is very specifically built to leverage the Internet. Many are feeling that it is built too much around the Internet. It is pretty clear to me and all the others who follow Lightroom closely that this is where Adobe sees the future of post processing going.  I have a lot of thoughts on this topic of the future for Lightroom, but there won’t be time in this episode to go through them because I know you are all counting on my review of the updates to Lightroom Classic CC. So I will save that for a future episode.

Subscription Only!

One of the notable changes Adobe announced, that I know has caused a lot of concern with my fellow hobbyist photographers, is that the perpetual licensing option is no longer available.  There will never be a Lightroom 7 that you can pay for one time. If you want the new features of Lightroom you have no other option than paying the $10 per month Photographer’s plan of Creative Cloud that gives you the latest Lightroom (both versions) and Photoshop.  

You can still buy a perpetual license to Lightroom version 6 but there will be no more features added to Lightroom 6. So far, Lightroom 6 has had updates to the cameras and lenses supported by the software, like version 6.13 that added support for the Nikon D850, but it isn’t clear if how long that will continue.  The next question after understanding that has been about how Creative Cloud works so I wanted to quickly go over that for those who don’t really know.

Does Creative Cloud Mean Browser?

The first thing I hear a lot of photographers confused about is how exactly an Internet connection is involved with the Creative Cloud subscription. Rather than bring up the confusion people have let me state as plainly as I can how it is this is supposed to work.  I say supposed to work because I have personally seen some issues with this and it is incredibly frustrating when it has an issue because you can’t run the software you are paying good money to use.

  1. Lightroom and Photoshop are still desktop apps.  As a Creative Cloud subscriber you download and install Lightroom to your local desktop computer.  You aren’t running Lightroom in a browser. If you have been using the standalone Lightroom 6 then if you choose to become a Creative Cloud subscriber and run Lightroom Classic CC you will see very little difference other than the features that Adobe has put in there that you didn’t have access to in Lightroom 6.  This is also true with the “all new Lightroom CC”, though there are some licensing things we will go through there that are confusing.
  2. Don’t have to ALWAYS be connected.  Running Lightroom Classic CC or Lightroom CC does not mean you have to be connected to the Internet the entire time you use it.  You can run the software on your computer without an Internet connection. Lightroom Classic CC works exactly like Lightroom 6 cataloging photos from your computer hard drives and you can run the software even if you are in the middle of the ocean with no possible way to connect to the Internet.  That said, Lightroom Classic CC will attempt to validate you are a currently paying subscriber to the Creative cloud every time you open the program. If it can do that, you get the full features of Lightroom. I won’t go through the details of how Adobe pesters you to give it an Internet connection but you can actually run Lightroom Classic CC for 129 days without it having an Internet connection and still use the software.  Adobe calls this a grace period.
  3. Read-only mode.  After that times runs out then Lightroom Classic CC, or any other version of Lightroom CC prior to that like CC 2015.12 version I recommend you continue using at this point, will still let you look at your photos but only the Library, Slideshow, Web, Book, and Print modules will work.  It essentially becomes read-only as far as processing photos. Photoshop on the other hand just won’t launch, you can’t run Photoshop at all after the grace period expires.
  4. If you stop paying.  The other thing to note here regarding the Creative Cloud subscription is that if you end your membership and Lightroom DOES get a connection to the Internet it will go into that read-only mode immediately and you will no longer be able to run Photoshop immediately.  You only get those 129 days grace period running the software with full functionality if Lightroom is unable to get that Internet connection to check your membership status.

Lightroom CC

The all new Lightroom CC does work differently than the Lightroom we are all used to running on our computers.  The UI is very different but if you have used the VERY good Lightroom Mobile application on a phone or tablet then you are already familiar with it.  It doesn’t have all of the features Lightroom Classic does, but that will come. It has a few features Lightroom Classic does not, and Adobe has already made clear will NEVER have in things like Sensei that Jim raved about in the IP podcast that makes search work like search should.  Adobe has also made it clear that the cloud syncing features in Lightroom Classic will remain but they will not be added to at all from this point on. If you want to do a long of syncing with the cloud then the all new Lightroom CC is how you are going to do that.

I really want to use the all new Lightroom CC but I can’t.  At least not with how it works with photos today. Currently the all new Lightroom CC syncs every photo you have to the cloud and as I’ll explain in a moment, that won’t work for me.  Here is the quote directly from Tom Hogarty, the director of Product Management for all things photography at Adobe:

“For this 1.0 release, everything imported is intended to upload to Creative Cloud. We clearly understand that there are situations where a customer would not want all of their images uploaded to Creative Cloud so let’s talk about those situations and how we can address them. In the case where a customer doesn’t want any images in the Creative Cloud, Lightroom Classic is and will continue to be an excellent workflow choice.”

Creative Cloud Options

To understand why that won’t work for me, and I suspect anyone who actually does much at all with photography, we need to go over the creative cloud options.  There used to be two simple choices with Photographer’s Plan at $10/mo giving you Lightroom and Photoshop and All Apps at $50/mo that gave you all the Adobe apps. You know have 4 different Creative Cloud Photographer plans available.

  1. Photographers Plan 20GB.  It is the closest to what you have had if you were already a Creative Cloud Photography plan subscriber.  You get Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop CC. You can also run the all new Lightroom CC but you only get 20GB of online cloud storage. I’ll get to this in a moment.  This plan stays at the $10/mo you have been paying and you can buy more cloud storage up to 10TB at $10/mo/TB.
  2. Photographers Plan 1TB.  It is the same as the first plan but you get 1TB of cloud storage for your photos and the price doubles to $20/mo.  Again, you can buy more storage up to 10TB by paying $10/TB/mo.
  3. Lightroom CC Plan 1TB.  It allows you to only run Lightroom CC. No Lightroom Classic CC or Photoshop.  It costs $10/mo and you can buy up to 10TB of cloud storage by paying $10/TB/mo.
  4. All Apps Creative Cloud. Gives you access to all 20+ creative applications Adobe offers for $50/mo and 100GB of cloud storage.  You can add up to 10TB at $10/TB/mo.

I plan to stick with option 1, the Photographer’s Plan 20GB and here is why.  Even as a hobbyist my library won’t fit into any of the plans without paying for more storage.  As I record this episode I have nearly 83,000 photos in my catalog that make up nearly 4TB of data.  Under option 1 where I can run both Lightroom Classic and the all new Lightroom CC I would have to pay my $10/mo for the plan plus $40 more per month to get my 4TB of storage for a total of $50/mo.  

Can Creative Cloud Be My Online Backup?

I have heard others point out that this now means your photos will be backed up to the cloud, so whatever cloud backup provider you may be using you could cancel and use this. The problem is that this storage is super expensive compared with my current cloud backup provider, Backblaze, where I get unlimited cloud backup for $50 a year.  The 4TB of Creative Cloud storage I would need to accomplish the same thing is $480 per year, so 960% more expensive as a backup solution than what I have today. That is not a pill I will ever swallow as a hobbyist photographer. Thank goodness I can still run Lightroom Classic on the Photographers 20GB plan or the pricing changes alone would force me to other options.

Now I know some of you are thinking that it is unfair to compare my cloud backup storage with the Adobe storage because the functionality is very different.  You are right, there is a major advantage to being able to have all of your photos available on up to two computers and all of your mobile devices like phones at tables that I don’t get with my cloud backup to BackBlaze.  

A more fair comparison would be to a service like Dropbox, which is how many photographers have done to sort of get this same capability prior to Adobe providing the option. Dropbox offers a very similar capability where it will sync files between your computers as what Adobe is offering here.  Dropbox Plus is $10/mo for 1TB of storage, exactly the same price as Adobe, but you can’t add any more storage to a Plus account, 1TB is the max. You would have to go to a business account, which for $13/mo gives you 2TB. So that is cheaper than you can get from Adobe but that is also the limit there.  

If you need more storage you have to contact Dropbox, which I have done but haven’t heard back yet. So yes, the pricing from Adobe looks comparable to Dropbox for constantly synced cloud storage. But this is exactly why it is I am not using Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive or the like for my cloud backup solution today.  I have complete backups of my growing photo library with BackBlaze for $50/mo and as a hobbyist I don’t need to sync my full library between multiple computers. Even if price weren’t the issue, I couldn’t do that with my MacBook Pro and my Windows desktop because my MacBook Pro doesn’t have 4TB of storage always attached to it.  I guess the bottom line for me is that until I can actually choose which photos get synced to the cloud the all new Lightroom CC is simply not an option for me.

Early Bugs

Let’s talk bugs.  Once again, I can’t recommend any photographer who relies upon Lightroom update to either Lightroom Classic CC or the all new Lightroom CC.  This may be the most buggy release of Lightroom I have seen since I have been using the software over the past 5 years.

My expectation for this episode was to go over the real-world performance improvements in Lightroom Classic CC so I have been trying to do my own testing to give you those hands-on results but have been unable to get through the testing because the software crashes so frequently.  Where Lightroom CC 2015.12 works well on both Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update and macOS High Sierra, both Lightroom Classic and the all new Lightroom CC crashes frequently.

Before you all try to help me troubleshoot my crashing issues, I have been pouring through the Adobe forums since the release following all of the big issues people have found and tried all of the solutions recommended. It hasn’t really changed things overall.  These releases need some work and it is bad enough I have already gone back to Lightroom 2015.13 on my Windows desktop so that I could actually get some shoots finished.

Removal of Previous Version

Speaking of going back to Lightroom 2015.13, this was a bug that was part of the initial release of updates in conjunction with the Adobe Max conference.  If you updated to Lightroom Classic CC then Lightroom 2015.12 was removed. In fact, there were a lot of Lightroom 6 perpetual license users who accidentally got updated to Lightroom Classic CC only to have a problem launching the software since they didn’t have a Creative Cloud subscription.  

If that is you then you can update by opening up the Creative Cloud app on your computer and clicking the little down arrow on the button to the right of Lightroom and selecting “Other Versions” and then choosing Lightroom 2015. You can actually have both Lightroom CC 2015 and Lightroom Classic CC installed at the same time if you want to try them out in parallel.  Use Lightroom CC 2015 for your serious work and try things out in Lightroom Classic CC. You can even have the all new Lightroom CC as well, so I guess I should say you can currently run 3 version of Lightroom on your computer at once.

What you can’t do is use the same catalog between them. Lightroom Classic CC uses a new format of the catalog and once you upgrade that catalog to the new format you can’t use it with Lightroom CC 2015 any longer.  A word of warning if you are going to roll back to Lightroom CC 2015 you will also need to roll back to Photoshop CC 2017 because round tripping from Lr CC 2015 didn’t work with Photoshop CC 2018.

Slower Imports With Large Catalogs

So the bugs are actually too numerous to mention in full detail for all of them.  I have picked a few that were the most concerning to highlight here. The one I want to start with is an issue that really concerns me.  While the testing people have done with Lightroom Classic CC of the new import process has been fairly positive, providing a nice speed boost as the software continues to expand on the usage of the JPEG previews embedded within RAW files, many photographers with large catalogs are reporting that the import process has taken a turn for the worst and it is significantly slower than it was in Lightroom CC 2015

The people reporting the issue had catalogs with over 100,000 photos in them and I was able to replicate the issue with my catalog that has nearly 83,000 photos. There are also users reporting that there is a significant slowdown for them when they get about 20 images into editing their photos. It is pretty good, maybe even a little faster, until they get to that 20th image when everything slows down.  They have to close and restart the application in order to get it working well again, and then after 20 images it slows down.

Crashing on Exit

Many are seeing Lightroom Classic CC crash on launch or on exit.  It seems most of the trouble there has been related to the graphics acceleration option that I have long advised to disable in the software.  Seems those issues with GPU acceleration remain in Lr Classic. Very disappointing that Adobe has yet to make meaningful progress here.

Crushed Blacks/Shadows

Many are also seeing problems with showing the images in the Develop module.  Some see the blacks or shadows being crushed really badly even though they were fine before the update and others are seeing noise reduction not showing on the photo even though it has been applied.

Develop Module

There are also problems in the Library module where many are seeing a grey screen where there are no photos only grey with all of the panels around it or ghosting where some of the photos that were in the grid view in the Library module still sort of show through when you go to a single photo in the Library module.  There are also some issues where the grid in the Library module gets out of sync with the strip view at the bottom, which has led to people rating or deleting the wrong photo because the two are not on the same photo.

Some of these issues I have mentioned have some workarounds detailed in the links I will include in the show notes.  They do require the ability to download and replace a config file in the Lightroom app folder on your computer and they are only temporary workarounds where you are turning off things in Lightroom Classic CC that were done to try and improve performance.  

Photo Merging

Unfortunately we aren’t done with the bigger bugs that have been reported, I still have 2 more I thought were worth of mention. Issues have been seen with photo merging like doing HDR or panoramas. They start the merge and it just stops making any progress.  

Finally, the last issue to mention is one that is really impactful to me. The ability to import from another catalog has had issues. The biggest seems to be if you are trying to import from a catalog over a network. If you choose import a catalog and then point to a catalog on another computer over your network then Lightroom Classic CC says that catalog doesn’t seem to be a valid Lightroom catalog.  

If you copy the catalog local to the computer it works. I have done it over the network occasionally in the past, but it is so much faster for me to do it using a USB drive I choose that route most of the time, but still kind of a notable bug for me as that is my preferred method for getting photos and edits from my MacBook Pro while on the go over to my Windows workstation when I am back home.

Performance Improvements

The last thing to bring up in this episode is the speed improvements in Lightroom Classic CC.  I wish I could have completed some serious testing myself but the bugs saw to it that I couldn’t do what it was I wanted to here.  Still, my friends over at Puget Systems somehow managed to get through things and do some testing. They have a great blog post over at their site outlining the performance testing they did with the software that I will put a link to in show notes.  

Their testing showed between 15-90% faster performance importing, exporting 100 images 28% faster, generating smart previews 230%-370% faster, generating 240%-420% faster, scrolling through photos in develop without previews 30%-75% faster, and scrolling in develop with previews 14% slower.  So some good things there. I sure hope Adobe is able to squash the bugs with Lr Classic CC in a hurry and make it so that I can use it for the performance benefits that should be there.

Other Photo Taco Resources:

Vote for Jeff’s “Cull” module idea to be added to Lightroom: http://bit.ly/cullmodule

Photo Taco Archive: https://phototacopodcast.com/category/phototacopodcast/

Improve Photography Podcast Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ImprovePhotographyListeners/

Photo Taco Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/phototacopodcast/

Photo Taco email: phototacopodcast@gmail.com

Jeff’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/harmon_jeff

Jeff’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/jsharmonphotos/

Jeff’s Portfolio: http://jsharmonphotos.com

Jeff’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/harmonjeff/

MacPhun Luminar: http://macphun.evyy.net/c/362006/185399/3255

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