The October 2023 Lightroom update brought an important change to the way Lightroom (that’s the ‘web’ version, not Lightroom Classic) handles your files. Now you can browse and even edit photos on your local drives without having to import them into Lightroom and its cloud storage.
This does make a lot of difference. Now you browse your images before deciding which of them you want to upload to your cloud storage. And since Adobe’s Cloud storage is both finite and quite expensive, the chance to be a bit more selective is welcome.
Depending on your Adobe plan, you might have 1TB storage (lucky you), 100GB (the All Apps plan) or 20GB (the basic Photography Plan). Now with 1TB of cloud storage you’ve got room for manoeuver, with 100GB you might have to be a bit more selective and with 20GB well, to be honest, that won’t get you very far at all.
But Lightroom now has ‘Cloud’ and ‘Local’ tabs in its left sidebar. The Cloud tab shows you all the photos you have stored on Adobe’s servers, while the Local tab shows you folders and images on your own local drives. You can choose which images you store in the Cloud.
Don’t get too excited just yet. You still need photos to be stored in the Cloud to get the full range of image organizing and search tools, and the Local tab offers none of these. It works more like Adobe Bridge, showing you nothing more than what’s in your local folders.
But it might prove very useful for working out exactly which images you want available in the Cloud. You can select them individually in the new Local tab or you can select entire folders. Whichever you do, these images will then be synchronized with your Cloud storage and catalog. (Annoyingly, though, it doesn’t currently show you in the Local tab what’s been synced.)
It’s also possible to edit images in Lightroom without having to import them and use up your Cloud storage when you do it. But while the Local storage tab does offer the opportunity to add metadata like keywords to local images, it does not offer Versions. For this and other reasons, it is clearly offered as a convenience to Lightroom users deciding which images to add to the Cloud, not as an alternative ‘local’ organizing tool.
The fact is, Adobe is clearly very keen to get users on board with its Cloud storage. Given that this earns Adobe another £10/£10 per month revenue in Cloud storage, it’s not hard to see why.
So while the new Local storage tab is definitely going to be useful to Lightroom users, it does seem as if Adobe has been careful not to undermine its own cloud storage proposition, and users will still be left with a Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic dilemma – in other words, the convenience of having all your images available everywhere versus the economy and control of keeping your images on local drives.
Incidentally, Adobe is hardly facing any technical hurdles here. Capture One, ON1 Photo RAW and Exposure X7 are all perfectly capable of indexing and searching local folders without an import process. Adobe’s approach to image storage and management is, perhaps, based more on what Adobe wants photographers to do than what photographers themselves might want. Of course, that’s just an opinion.
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