The web version of Adobe Lightroom (now just called ‘Lightroom’ by Adobe), is a very compelling tool for photographers who want to view, edit and share their images across a range of different devices, and to have all their images available everywhere.
It has the same editing tools as Lightroom Classic, so there’s no disadvantage there, and it also leverages Adobe’s Sensei AI for image searches based on subject and image types, reducing the need for a lot of manual keywording.
On top of that it has a much more streamlined, efficient and modern-looking interface than Lightroom Classic – if only Lightroom Classic looked like this!
But before you take the plunge and swap to Adobe’s cloud-based version of Lightroom, there are six things you need to be aware to avoid nasty surprises.
1. Lightroom cloud storage is not optional
Your entire photo library has to be stored in the cloud, and on Adobe’s own servers. You can cache some or all of your images to your desktop computer, but the full set still has to be in the cloud. This means that the free storage you get with a regular Photography Plan won’t be enough and you will have to find another $10/£10 per month for 1TB cloud storage.
2. No external editors except Photoshop
Lightroom does not support plug-ins or third-party external editors. You can round-trip images to Photoshop alone, and you could of course run plug-ins from there. This means for any kind of external editing, Photoshop is essential. There is a $10/£10/month Lightroom-only plan which includes 1TB storage, but it does not include Photoshop.
3. There are no folders
Lightroom stores images in one giant searchable ‘pot’ without any definite storage structure. Instead, you find images according to their properties, not where they are located. This is fine until you want to ‘move’ images from one album to another. In fact you have to add them to one and delete them from others if you want them visible in one place only.
4. No Virtual Copies
This is a very useful feature in Lightroom Classic because you can create multiple ‘looks’ for the same image file and have them all visible at once. That’s not possible in Lightroom. It does offer image ‘versions’ but these are saved within the image and not displayed separately. They are more like saved snapshots than extra versions.
5. No Smart Albums
Lightroom has regular Albums and it has some fairly powerful search tools, but it does not offer Smart Albums based on search criteria (Smart Collections in Lightroom Classic). Instead, you have to figure out how to phrase your search using the main search tools and do it every time, even for ‘searches’ you rely on constantly.
6. No image grouping/stacking
In Lightroom Classic you can group or stack images together, such as bracketed exposures for HDR merges, burst sequences or panorama frames, but in Lightroom you can’t.
In short, Lightroom is a very slick and streamlined cloud-based alternative to Lightroom Classic that does indeed make all your images available everywhere, on any device. But it comes at a cost in financial terms, the closed nature of its editing ecosystem and its relatively unsophisticated image organizing options.
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