Lightroom CC vs. Lightroom Classic: The Death of the Perpetual License

Jason Bradley



There’s been a lot of chatter all over the interwebs since Adobe announced its newest versions of Lightroom, which provide the options of either Lightroom Classic CC or Lightroom CC. However, these are two distinctly different versions of Lightroom, and after reading comments about all of this, many of you are scratching your heads, wondering what it all means. How will this affect you? Do you have to use both? If not, which version should you use? And without fail, there will be a percentage of you wondering what the hell Adobe was thinking. The disgruntled fear change. I get that; change terrifies me. Taking this all into account, I want to first address the head-scratching stuff, because I think once you get past that, there are some very cool things about these new releases and the future of Lightroom.

Lightroom Versions: The Basics

If you are a veteran Lightroom user, the name of your program will change from Lightroom CC to Lightroom Classic CC. And Adobe has announced a new product called Lightroom CC. Confusing, right? Lightroom CC isn’t what current Lightroom users will be using going forward; Lightroom CC is now something else: a brand new cloud-based product. In other words, existing Lightroom users will now use a version that’s branded as Lightroom Classic CC. When I first heard this, I made justifiable comparisons to the marketing genius of Classic Coke vs. New Coke, but found that there are silver linings beyond just the name.

For starters, the lives and workflows of existing Lightroom users won’t change. Lightroom Classic CC (a.k.a. Lightroom-As-We-Knew-It) remains unchanged; it’s the Lightroom you’ve grown to depend on. So, that’s good news. And even better news? Lightroom Classic CC will work more flawlessly than ever. 

Adobe’s primary focus for upgrades for Lightroom Classic CC has been performance, not sparkly new tools or sliders. It’s a long-needed upgrade for Lightroom, and overall, it works much faster (although “much faster” is a relative term). Different users have different hardware with different resources, so Lightroom’s speed is relative to the system you are using. But that aside, I feel confident that most everyone will experience a noticeable performance boost.

Here’s what’s changed in Lightroom Classic CC:

  • Faster application launch time
  • Preview generation includes Standard, 1:1, and Minimal previews
  • Import selection workflow with Embedded & Sidecar preview options
  • Faster switch time between Library and Develop module
  • Faster Spot Removal, Brushes, and localized corrections
  • Luminosity and Color Range Mask tools are now in the Develop module

Who Should Use The New Lightroom CC?

Who Lightroom CC is for is yet to be defined. I suspect that there will be as many answers to the question as there are photographers. Personally, I jumped right in and am using it right away, but not to replace my existing catalog or workflow, because I can’t. I have terabytes and terabytes of data, and Lightroom CC is not for the pro or semi-pro user with sizable image archives

Lightroom CC includes 1TB of cloud storage, with the ability to upgrade to 10TB. But Adobe's cloud storage plans are quite expensive: 10TB is $99.00 per month or $109.99 per month for Lightroom CC bundled with Classic and Photoshop. (Not to mention the problems of trying to sync so many terabytes of data to the cloud, where bandwidth issues will occur.) On the other hand, if you have 1TB or fewer images in your archives, Lightroom CC is your best choice. It's for those of you who want something more robust than Apple Photos or Photoshop Elements, and something designed to seamlessly work across your device chains. And I mean seamlessly; Lightroom CC easily integrates how you tag and keyword your photos and how you develop or edit your photos between your computer, your phone, and other portable devices. While Lightroom As-We-Knew-It could also sync to the cloud, it wasn’t like this. Lightroom Classic allows you to sync Collections you create to your mobile devices, but Lightroom CC is a complete cloud-based ecosystem.

Lightroom CC is designed for the user who wants a simpler experience that is easily integrated into their lifestyle. And Adobe knows there’s a whole new demographic of photographers out there who want that, but don’t have the patience for a program as robust as Lightroom As-We-Knew-It.

The Potential of Lightroom CC

When Lightroom was first released in 2007, it solved the ongoing problem of photographers using multiple applications in their workflow. At that time, I used Photoshop, Bridge, Photo Mechanic, and a slew of Photoshop plugins. My images bounced from application to application, and my folder system was an ever-growing mess, and Lightroom fixed all that. Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom gave me the ability to manage, develop, and share my work through an all-encompassing application that was specifically designed for the workflow of a photographer. Ten years later, it’s at another industrial crossroad. People aren’t buying SLRs like they used to and the vast majority of photography is made with portable devices. Our culture is creating on-the-go images, and the need to be plugged in and connected while out and about is exploding. Lightroom CC is Adobe’s attempt to meet that need.  

Imagine if there were a version of Lightroom CC designed for the pro user with terabytes and terabytes of data. I believe this is the next step. Whether Adobe eventually merges Lightroom CC with Lightroom Classic as its functionality evolves, or whether Lightroom Classic CC changes to also meet this growing need remains to be seen. But I feel certain it’s in the works. 

Another possibility for Lightroom CC is its potential to work in multi-user environments (problematic since the beginning of Lightroom). Sharing catalogs with colleagues to distribute workloads doesn’t work well. Adobe currently allows you to add Lightroom CC to two devices at a time, but there is potential for that to expand. As Adobe continues to answer the growing need for device integration, I’m excited for the future of this technology.

The Fate of Perpetual Licensing

With so much good news, how could there be bad news? Well, for those of you holding on to your ability to own your software outright, those days are gone. Lightroom 6 will have a few more updates to handle bugs and camera compatibility, but that’s it. It’s time to take a deep breath, suck it up, and accept that you have to move to CC. I know many of you won’t like this, but take comfort in knowing that Lightroom Classic CC works the same way that Lightroom 6 does, except it’s better. You’re NOT forced to use the cloud service, and for $9.99 a month, you get Lightroom Classic CC, Lightroom CC, and Photoshop. That’s a smokin’ deal.

Knowing Adobe and Lightroom the way I do, I knew this change was inevitable. I’m surprised it came as quickly as it did, but Adobe sees the urgency in solving the many problems that creating and managing software with perpetual licenses creates. So for now, trust those of us in the digital-deep state: CC is better.

Lightroom CC / Classic CC Resources and Pricing

Pricing is still reasonable for Lightroom, and there are a few approaches. You can get Lightroom CC only, or Lightroom CC bundled with Classic CC and Photoshop. For cloud storage, you can get either 20GB or 1TB (but I believe these choices will expand as CC evolves; see Figure 2 for details).

Below are links to videos that Adobe has released to further explain what’s in these two programs. I'm also making some videos and posting them on my blog, so stay tuned for those. Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have, or shoot me a message at Happy Lightroom-ing! 

Adobe's video on Lightroom CC vs. Lightroom Classic CC

Adobe's video on what’s new in Lightroom CC 

Adobe’s video on the new Embedded Preview workflow

Jason Bradley is the owner and operator of Bradley Photographic Fine Art Print Services and the author of Creative Workflow in Lightroom. A nature and underwater photographer based in Monterey, California, Jason also leads photo expeditions both above and below water. To see more of Jason’s work, please visit his website, check out his printing services, or find him on Instagram and Facebook

Adobe Jason Bradley Lightroom & Photoshop

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  • Time to check other solutions.
    I just can’t accept Adobe to decide for me and make me use what they want and how they want.
    I just hope to watch a massive change from Adobe software to others like Luminar, Dxo, etc.
    Adobe acts without respect for their Customers. It is time for Customers not to respect Adobe.

    PJS on
  • I own Photoshop cc6 + Lightroom 6 + Affinity so why should I contemplate giving Adobe money forever?? What is strange is for the author of this article to ignore completely the alternatives that are already available or will be very soon to fill the vacuum Adobe created.

    Tony on
  • As Tim said, no need to suck it up. I’ve been using LR 5.7 and continue to be happy with its performance, its ability to call plugins much newer than itself, and my workflow. It works well in Windows 10, which will be around for quite awhile. And the big plus is I’ve missed out on all the problems many folks have experienced with the frequent updates and incompatibilities with OS updates and plugin updates. I’m very happy I never switched to CC, and I’m fairly certain I never will.

    Scott on
  • Unfortunately pricing is not reasonabe… just like the plans… at least for me and (IMHO) others who are not PROs and who does not really make money from photography.

    I cannot find any motivation to pay $10 for Lightrom CC (which is very f**** sophisticated piece of crap) + Photoshop CS (which i have in box version – CS6 but i can imagine people who don’t need that) + finaly Lightroom Classic CC + 20GB of unneeded cloud storage.

    LR box version cost (if you look for it you will find it, i bet) is equal of 10 months of paying subscription. I’m using LR6 since it was launched in 2015 (as an update to LR4, what was even cheaper than base version)… you do the math what really pays off and how much i was able to save.

    If they really need to stay on subscriptions why there is no single LR Classic CC subscription plan without any additions? for let’s say 1/3-1/2 of existing plan price – this would be more reasonable.
    They are monopolists…hey saw great numbers recently on their revenue… that;s why they made the decision to go for subscriptions so fast… :/

    Luckily there is no need to update from box version. Luckily Affinity is working on LR anternative… they already did great PS alternative software (on perpetual, very cheap, licence)… now it’s time for LR. Personaly i will stay as long as i can with my box v6.12 version (have Canon 50D so there is no worries about support, there will be problem with new bodies… but there is DNG still). When Affinity come i’ll look at that again…

    Michal on
  • No, as a perpetual license owner I don’t have to “suck it up” and give Adobe money forever. I can switch from Lightroom to a competing product. And that’s what I’m going to do.

    Tim on

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