One of the things that I have always appreciated about Adobe is their commitment to development and innovation in their product line. It’s a smart and profitable business strategy. They have been around for almost 40 years. Adobe Illustrator was their first commercial product and Photoshop was introduced about 10 years later. I started using Photoshop almost 15 years ago and have seen significant, almost annual, improvements in the product. I have also been an Apple user for about the same period of time and 10 years ago when Apple introduced Aperture—a software that offered organizational structure to my growing catalogue of images, I eagerly embraced it. It offered something that Photoshop did not provide—the ability to create a hierarchical structure and organization of my images based on my own preferences coupled with the ability to export my images in a variety of different formats. Adobe must have seen the writing on the wall and rushed to develop a competitive program—Lightroom—that improved on their current photoshop adjunct, Bridge. I became a beta tester for that product and over the next 2 years watched as Apple’s Aperture lost commercial favor and Lightroom succeeded, primarily because Adobe listened to their photographer users and continually strove to produce a product that met their needs.
A few years ago, Adobe did what I considered, at the time, a serious misstep. I think now that perhaps they were prescient. They introduced a whole bevy of products designed to be in constant contact with the internet—a space that Adobe fancifully called the ‘creative cloud’. Lightroom Mobile was designed to be used on mobile devices—iPads, iPhones. Then, they introduced a variation of Lightroom mobile that could be used on a desktop or laptop. They called it Lightroom Creative Cloud (LRCC). This introduced a torrent of confusion that persists to this day over the two Lightroom named products—Lightroom Creative Cloud (identical to LR mobile—just the desktop version of it) and Lightroom Classic.
Adobe, true to form, has been devoting a great deal of development and improvement in their mobile applications and Lightroom Creative Cloud has developed more capability over the past few years. Enough so that it prompted me to seriously look at my workflow to see if there were options available to me that I was not currently utilizing. When Adobe first introduced Lightroom mobile several years ago, it seemed like a skinny down version of Lightroom with few of the features that I needed. The only advantage to Lightroom mobile was that it allowed you to look at photos on your portable devices (an iPhone or an iPad). But you really couldn’t do much to them. If offered little in the way of organization, limited file types for import and export, and limited editing capabilities. I just didn’t see an advantage to it. I was wedded to Lightroom Classic.
But, the last time I decided to reexamine Adobe’s ecosystem, I discovered the HUGE advantage of creative cloud libraries. Currently, I have almost 20 gb of files stored on creative cloud—textures, brushes, sky photos—which came in really handy this past year when Adobe announced the sky replacement feature in Photoshop! I was ready to go because of all the sky photos I had already uploaded to the cloud—but that’s a topic for a future blog posting. Keep in mind that Adobe gives everyone who has a basic photography subscription 20 gb of cloud space. These files are available to me whether I’m using Lightroom Classic, Lightroom Creative Cloud, or Lightroom Mobile. They are available to me even if I’m using another creative software, such as Procreate or Corel Painter. HUGE advantage and I only discovered it when I started seriously looking at the ‘creative cloud’.
I know that I use my cell phone now for image making almost as much as my ‘real’ camera. I’d like to be able to bring those images into my workflow with as little effort as I do with the camera card import from my real camera. My cell phone photos are managed by Apple photos. I can export them to my desktop and then import them into my Lightroom catalogue but that is a clunky way to do that. Why couldn’t I take advantage of Lightroom Creative Cloud and have a more seamless coordination?
Turns out I can. Lightroom Mobile can automatically import photos from your cell phone or ipad and funnel them straight to the creative cloud. In fact, that is Lightroom Mobile/Creative Cloud’s chief advantage—it is an umbilical cord forever tied to the placenta of the creative cloud. Keep in mind that the application is called Lightroom mobile on iPads and iPhones but Lightroom Creative Cloud on laptops and desktops. But the program functions identically and collaboratively by utilizing Adobe’s creative cloud. And if you look closely at the preferences settings in both Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom Creative Cloud, it gives you the option of how much space you are willing to allot on your device to ‘smart previews’ of your images. But the raw, digital negatives themselves are immediately uploaded to the creative cloud by both applications.
And Lightroom Classic now has the ability to automatically import those raw, digital negatives sent to the cloud from Lightroom Mobile/Creative cloud. Here’s the thing to remember: Lightroom Mobile/Creative cloud is a bridge from the creative cloud to your device. Its job is to take your images, create a ‘smart preview’ available to all your devices while placing your original digital negative in the cloud. Lightroom Classic, on the other hand, will only communicate to the cloud if you tell it to do so. And if you tell it to send images to the cloud, it will only send ‘smart previews’ and hold on to your original digital negatives. And if you ask it to synchronize with Lightroom Creative Cloud, it gives you the option of downloading either a ‘smart preview’ or the original digital negative residing in the cloud. Confusing, isn’t it? Both programs are called Lightroom but are entirely different.
Lightroom Classic is tied to your computer, Lightroom Mobile/Creative Cloud is tied to the internet. Lightroom Classic utilizes the raw digital negative, Lightroom Mobile/Creative Cloud primarily utilizes a ‘smart preview’.
This diagram is one that really illustrated the difference for me and I find myself referring to it frequently. It’s not my creation, however. It was developed by Jared Platt, a professional photographer and educator who really clarified the Lightroom ecosystem for me.
I can see a real advantage to using Lightroom CC when I am traveling. I can import from my camera card and from my phone to Lightroom CC and those images (the actually digital files) will be uploaded to the cloud (one copy saved), and a copy of the image retained on my camera card or phone (second copy saved) and a third copy from the automatic download of Lightroom CC to my Lightroom Classic catalogue back at home. My personal mantra while traveling is to always have at least 3 copies of every image I shoot. This addition to my workflow is a very easy way to achieve that goal. In addition, I always have to think about the possibility of something critical happening to my laptop or to my camera cards when I’m on the road (lost, stolen, broken) but the process allows one copy of my images to be safely maintained in the cloud and one copy waiting on my Lightroom Classic catalogue on my home computer (assuming I’ve left it on and downloading from the cloud). How cool is that!
So, why not just commit to using Lightroom Creative Cloud? Why even bother with using both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic? Although Adobe continues to invest development into Lightroom CC, at this point in time it still does not offer everything that I want or need (keywording, more varied options of import and export). More importantly, I am a CONTROL FREAK! I want the more complex, hierarchical structure of Lightroom Classic that mimics my hard drive and is based on my decisions of how I want to structure my catalogue and access my images. I want to be in control of my catalogue backup—who, what, when, and where. The organizational structure of Lightroom Mobile/Creative Cloud is greatly simplified by Adobe in order to be very user friendly (and it is!). But it is Adobe’s design (not my own) and is dependent on what they refer to as Adobe Sensei—a combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence that will assist you in finding whatever image you might be searching for. Yeah, right? As far as I’m concerned, that is a technology that is in its infancy and I will wait a bit longer before I depend on it.
But I do see myself utilizing Lightroom CC as a useful adjunct in my workflow from this point on.