With two completely different versions of Lightroom available now, which one is right for you?  Let me answer that question for you and help you to understand the differences between Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC.

Be sure; Adobe will force you to make a choice.  Whether you currently use Lightroom CC or Lightroom 6 or even an older version of Lightroom, you will need to make this decision.  The road a forking in two different directions, and you must go in one or the other direction.  As maddening as that seems, in the end, it is good to split these products in two.  I just wish they would have made the names different.  But what do I know?

Let me go over both Lightroom Classic CC and the new Lightroom CC below.  Then I will help you make an educated decision on which path is best for you.


What is Lightroom Classic CC?


If you have been a Lightroom user in the past, then Lightroom Classic is the version of Lightroom you know.   It simply has a new name.  Everything to which you are accustomed in Lightroom is still here.  You just need to get used to calling by a new name.

Your develop module presets, your export settings, everything you have previously used in Lightroom will be in this new version and transfer over seamlessly as you upgrade.  No muss no fuss.  The way you have used Lightroom in the past will still be how you use Lightroom in the future when using Lightroom Classic.

If you currently have Lightroom CC, when you upgrade, the only thing you will notice is the name change.  Everything will work exactly how you remember.  Your launch screen will look like this:


The loading screen for Lightroom Classic


Lightroom Classic has a powerful set of features that help you get organized, edit and get creative with your images non-destructively.  Lightroom Classic CC, (like the version of Lightroom you currently use,) gives you many more ways to edit your images over the new Lightroom CC.

For example, the new Lightroom CC does not include the Tone Curve panel or the Split Toning panel.  These panels give you powerful ways to edit your images.  You also have many more export options with Lightroom Classic, than you do with the new Lightroom CC.  These are just a few of the ways Lightroom Classic CC is a more robust application than the new Lightroom CC.

There are a few new tools with Lightroom Classic CC that I will cover a little later in the article.  Let me help you to understand what the new Lightroom CC is all about.


What is the new Lightroom CC?


Lightroom CC is a brand new application and doesn’t resemble your current version of Lightroom very much at all.  In fact, it is a clone of Lightroom mobile.  If you ever used Lightroom on your iPad, iPhone or Android device, then you will instantly recognize the new Lightroom CC.  The interface and controls are exactly the same.

The launch screen for the new Lightroom CC looks like this:


launch screen of the new Lightroom CC


Lightroom CC is a FAR LESS robust image editor than the current version of Lightroom you are using and less robust than Lightroom Classic CC.  This is by design and helps to differentiate these two pieces of software immensely.

One of the benefits of Lightroom CC is that it stores all of your images in the cloud, which means that not only are all of your images constantly backed up, but you can edit your images on any device at any time and all of those edits seamlessly appear across all of your devices.  This could be huge for a business environment when several people in different cities want to all manipulate an image together.

The downside of this cloud storage for your images is that if you are a professional photographer shooting thousands of images a week, it can get cost prohibitive very quickly, paying Adobe to store all of your images online.  Cloud storage is not free and adds up fast.  Currently Adobe offers 1TB, 2TB, 5TB, and 10TB options starting at $10 per TB a month.  Because I shoot so many photographs in a year, this is a no go for me.  Especially considering a 5TB hard drive runs around $100.

Another benefit of the new Lightroom CC is that as your images are stored on large computers, you get large computer processing power.  Adobe calls it Adobe Sensei and it is their AI that helps determine what is in your images without you doing anything.  Facial recognition, object understanding, location and season data will all begin to be added to your images without any extra work from you.

This means, in a large gallery of images you could search for images with snow in them, and all of the images that have snow will be displayed.  How cool is that?  When searching large databases of images, this could be a huge time saver.

The final plus of the new Lightroom CC is that it protects you from screwing up.  Ever lost images or lost a catalog?  For photographers, few things are worse.  Because your images are in the cloud with the new Lightroom CC, you are protected from any such error.


Which is Version of Lightroom is Right for You?


This is an important question to ask and one that every user of Lightroom will need to ask themselves.  Which version of Lightroom is right for you?

As it stands now, if you are a photographer who shoots large RAW or JPEG files, then Lightroom Classic CC is right for you.  If you are someone who rarely shoots and uses a camera phone often, then the new Lightroom CC is probably best for you.  This is how I plan to use it.

The new Lightroom CC, with it’s less powerful editing capabilities, but with online storage and the ability to edit on any device, I will use for the images that I take with my phone.  Often, on family outings, I will just take my phone and leave my camera gear at home.  These images will fill my Lightroom CC catalog.  I have long been disappointed with Apple’s iPhotos and now Apple Photos.  Hopefully, the new Lightroom CC will give me better options.

For DSLR images of both my clients and my family, I will use Lightroom Classic CC, which simply means I will continue to use Lightroom as I have been using it for years now.  For me at least, both pieces of software can have a place in my workflow.  Just for different uses.  And I would recommend the same for you.

Having said all of that, I can imagine down the road where everything changes and the new Lightroom CC catches up in editing abilities, the price of online storage drops dramatically, and we all begin to use Lightroom CC for everything.  When the time is right, I would have no problem making that leap.  But that time is not right now, and the new Lightroom CC isn’t ready for that.  And I think Adobe knows that.

One note for those using Lightroom 6 or an older version of Lightroom.  This is close to the end of the road for you.  Adobe will no longer offer Lightroom as a stand-alone application.  You will receive one more update that allows you to edit image files from current cameras like the Nikon D850, as well as existing lens profiles, but that’s it.  No more updates will be coming for you.

The version you have will continue to work for a time, but eventually you will need to move to the subscription-based Lightroom Classic CC or the Lightroom CC.  Or, move to a new editing program altogether.

Now that you know which path is right for you, and if you’re on my website I am going to assume that you are a photographer who takes lots of images, keep reading to learn what is new in Lightroom Classic CC and why it is a good idea to upgrade.


What’s new with Lightroom Classic?


1. Lightroom CC Speed and Performance Improvements.

First, and foremost speed improvements.   Over the last few years, Lightroom has slowed down considerably.  Almost unbearable.  The first thing you should notice with Lightroom Classic is the speed.  Speed in everything from moving from module to module, to increased performance in editing in the develop module.  For me, the largest speed increase comes when using the local adjustment tools.  Often I would use the adjustment brush and wait for a few seconds before my changes were rendered on the preview.  The spot removal tool also benefits from these performance improvements.

As always, the speed increases you see may depend on the age and type of computer you use.  I do think you will see some improvements, but the speed gains will be far more noticeable if you are running a newer computer with plenty of RAM.

Lightroom Classic gives performance enhancements in the following ways:

  • Application load time
  • Faster importing
  • Improved speed with Smart Preview generation
  • Switching between modules, especially between the Library and Develop modules
  • Rendering of images in the Library and Develop modules
  • Scrolling through images in the Library and Develop modules
  • Improved slider movement
  • Improved rendering while using brushes


2. Quick Selections with Color and Luminance Range Mask options.

The new Range Mask option allows you to quickly select specific areas you wish to change when using a local adjustment tool (radial filter, adjustment brush or graduated filter.)  Use the Range Mask to effect only certain pixels based upon either luminance (brightness) or color.

Let me show you an example.  In the image below, I want to darken the sky to bring out the detail but maintain the brightness in other areas of the image.


an image of a group of posed cheerleaders


To begin, I drag a graduated filter down that darkens the top area of the image by one stop.


Image in Lightroom classic showing the graduated filter darkening the sky on an image with the range mask turned off


Notice that everything that the graduated filter covers is darker.  In the past, I would use the brush setting of the graduated filter to go in and erase the dark areas that cover the cheerleaders.  This process could take a lot of time to mask it carefully and make it look good.

The Range Mask changes all of that.  Click the drop-down menu next to Range Mask and select Color.  This will bring up the option to pick the Color Range Selector.  Once you select the Color Range Selector, click and drag on the area you want the graduated filter to affect, and it will only adjust those colors.  Watch the gif below to see it in action.


a gif showing the range mask in Lightroom


That’s it.  Now, I may have darkened the sky a bit too much to show you what it can do, but hopefully, you can see the power of the Range Mask in Lightroom Classic.


an image of cheerleaders with the sky darkened by using the range mask with the graduated filter in Lightroom Classic.


3. Begin Selecting Images Faster with Embedded Previews.

Have you ever tried to start selecting or keywording images while they are being imported into Lightroom?  It would’nt work, and inevitably you would have to wait for all of the images to finish importing and all previews built before you could begin working with the images.  If you are importing hundreds of images, this could take a very long time.  I got around this by using auto import and having my images import overnight.

With Lightroom Classic, this is no longer a problem.   In the import dialog box, simply select Embedded & Sidecar and the embedded preview will be used allowing you to begin work on the images right as they are importing.


Image of the file handling panel in the import dialog box in Lightroom.


By selecting this option, you can scroll through large sets of images much quicker.  Lightroom can also go back and create larger previews later during idle time by choosing this option in the preferences.


preferences dialog box in Lightroom classic showing the new replace embedded previews option.

4. Update to Camera Calibration.

There is also an update to camera calibration that allows for better masking and noise reduction.  Notice the naming is different than previous versions of Lightroom.

image showing the camera calibration panel in Lightroom and Lightroom Classic


5. Other Changes.

Some smaller, changes happened as well:

  • Catalog upgrade and compression upon import and export
  • Faster import with Minimal, Standard, 1:1 Previews
  • Filter Criteria in Smart Collections: TitleIs Empty or Not Empty and Lens ProfileApplied or Not applied
  • Metadata preset for the export dialog – All Except Camera Raw Info. This helps you to conceal the settings or changes you had made from being exported.
  • Filter Criteria in the Import dialog – File Type. This helps you to quickly remove certain file types if needed.
  • Better handling of multiple batches of merge operations (HDR/ Pano) improving GUI response.



With two pieces of Lightroom software to choose from, you now have two great options.  If you’re like me, use Lightroom Classic CC for your DSLR work and use the new Lightroom CC for your iPhone photography.

With Lightroom Classic CC, even though the name is changing, the software is the same as older versions of Lightroom and is still getting better.  This is a worthwhile update, one that I know you will be happy with!  The performance updates alone are worth the upgrade.  Throw in color and luminance range masking and quicker scrolling and editing of imported images, and you have an excellent upgrade.


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