Adobe Lightroom is not one program but three. You could easily call it an ecosystem. At heart, it’s a tool for both organizing your photos and editing them. So how do you get it, what does it cost, and which version do you need?
It has non-destructive editing tools, so that you can easily go back later and change your mind about the adjustments, and it works with both RAW files and JPEG files, editing either of them seamlessly alongside each other, with no need for any separate RAW processing.
Perhaps the key thing about Adobe Lightroom, though, is its cloud-based ecosystem, which potentially lets you view, edit and share your images everywhere, on any device.
The system and the choices aren’t quite as straightforward as all that, though, so let’s go through the options.
Adobe Lightroom: what is it?
• Adobe Lightroom is Adobe’s ‘web first’ version of Lightroom. It’s a desktop program, but all your images are actually stored in the cloud, on Adobe’s own web servers. This opens the door to other tools in the Lightroom ecosystem.
• Adobe Lightroom mobile is an app for Android and iOS devices that offers most of the same tools and look and feel of the desktop program. Lightroom mobile can access your photos and albums in the cloud and lets you carry on viewing, editing and sharing your photos from a mobile device. Lightroom mobile also has its own Camera mode for capturing photos straight into your photo library.
• Lightroom web is another way to view, organize and edit your photos, this time in a regular web browser. This way, you can view and edit your photos on any computer that doesn’t have Lightroom installed.
• Adobe Lightroom Classic is the ‘old’ Lightroom. It’s a desktop program that stores photos in the traditional way, on your computer, and while it can syncrhonize with Adobe’s cloud storage, it’s on a more limited basis, and does not actually need the cloud storage to work.
- Read more: Adobe Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic
Adobe Lightroom: where do you get it?
Adobe Lightroom is only available on subscription. This applies to Lightroom Classic too. You take out a subscription on the Adobe website, choosing a Plan that best suits your needs and budget.
The most cost-effective plans for photographers are the Adobe Photography Plan and the Adobe Lightroom Plan. There’s more detail on costs and what’s included in the next section.
Adobe Photography Plans
• Adobe Photography Plan: $9.99/month
• Adobe Photography Plan (1TB): $19.99/month
Lightroom Plan (1TB): $9.99/month
A trial version lasting just a few days is available
Adobe Lightroom: what does it cost?
• Adobe Photography Plan ($9.99/£9.98/month): This includes both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Lightroom Classic, AND Adobe Photoshop. There are other add-ons included, but let’s keep this simple for now. At $9.99/£9.98 per month, this plan is extremely good value.
NOTE: While this plan does come with 20GB cloud storage, this will be nowhere near enough for Adobe Lightroom’s cloud-based image storage, except for a quick try-out. If you want to use Adobe Lightroom long-term, you will need the next step up, a plan which includes 1TB storage.
• Adobe Photography Plan (1TB) ($19.98/£19.97/month): This is the same as the regular Photography Plan, but includes 1TB cloud storage, which should be enough for some time into the future. As you can see, this 1TB storage comes with its own cost of around $9.99/£9.98/month).
• Adobe Lightroom Plan (1TB) ($9.99/9.98/month): If you ONLY want Adobe Lightroom, this could offer the best of both worlds. For the same cost as the regular Photography Plan, you can get Adobe Lightroom and 1TB storage, which should be all you need for quite some time. It includes Lightroom mobile and Lightroom web, but NOT Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom Classic.
So which is the best option? If all you want is Adobe Lightroom, the Lightroom Plan is a good, affordable start. However, if you need Photoshop too, or Lightroom Classic, then you should consider the more expensive Photography Plan (1TB) option.
• Lightroom mobile can be downloaded free from the Apple App store in iPhone and iPad versions, or Google Play. Lightroom mobile is free, BUT unless it’s connected to an Adobe subscription plan, its features are limited, so realistically it’s simply a different route into an Adobe subscription.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Adobe Photography and Lightroom Plans are ANNUAL plans paid MONTHLY. Be aware that you are signing up for a whole year, even though you are paying for your subscription month by month. You cannot just drop out at any time. At the time of writing, if you are just two to three months away from the end of your subscription, you can leave without a penalty. If you want to leave earlier, you will be charged a cancellation fee which will be a proportion of your subscription time remaining.
Adobe Lightroom links: find out more
- Lightroom, Lightroom mobile, Lightroom web… and how it all works
- Adobe Lightroom review (2022)
- Adobe Lightroom Classic review (2022)
- Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic: same name, very different workflow
- Lightroom FAQ: how Lightroom works, which version to use and more
- Lightroom vs Photoshop: which program should you use and when?
- Is Lightroom free? The mobile app has a free mode, but not the desktop version
- How to use Lightroom online: work on your photos in your web browser
- More Adobe Lightroom articles…