Navigating Adobe’s Continued Push Towards The Cloud as A Working Photographer

State of the Union

Adobe just announced the revisions and additions to their Lightroom suite of product. The desktop version of the software has been rebranded from being called ‘Lightroom CC’ to ‘Lightroom Classic CC’ (I’m just call it ‘Lightroom Classic’). Yeah classic Adobe. This rename caused some confusion as the company has also released a new product called ‘Lightroom CC’. The choice of ‘Classic’ as a prefix also creates an impression that Adobe will at some point, in the not too distant future, cease support and development of Lightroom Classic in favour of pushing customers to adopt Lightroom CC wholly.

This possibility got me to pause and reconsider how to best navigate Adobe’s latest push towards the cloud. As a working photographer, I have used Lightroom for much of my photography work since version 3. Which is to say, as a customer, I am deeply invested in the product, and changes Adobe make to it can have a significant and lasting impact to my workflow.

I came up with a tentative framework outlined as such below. It is by no means the most polished or sleekest of solutions but I believe it can serve as a point of reference for anyone wanting to navigate Adobe’s software plans with some degree of safeguard for their workflow.

Legacy Kit

For Lightroom Classic, it is mandatory for the software to periodically connect to Adobe’s servers for authentication. This has been the case since Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud/subscription based version of Lightroom in 2014. As a user, this creates questions about reliability and legacy support. Because this “handshake” process must occur, it opens up the possibility that customers may find themselves locked out and unable to fully process their images (it should be noted that users still the ability open the software, view images, and do some limited image processing). Possible causes for this might include Adobe’s future decision to discontinue Lightroom Classic, Adobe’s business closure, the user experiencing protracted periods of being without internet connectivity or inability to make continued payment, or technical issues preventing successful authentication.

One possible safeguard against this situation may be to purchase a perpetual license for Lightroom 6, and retain the installation files and license keys as a possible option to fall back on in the event that Lightroom Classic fails to authenticate. Anyone considering this option should look into making the purchase in the near future as Adobe has said that it will keep Lightroom 6 available to customers for an undetermined period of time before remove, and that its final firmware update will be release soon.

While it does mean that you have to use older software, the final firmware update for Lightroom 6 will reportedly support cameras like the Nikon D850, which I believe should still be a perfectly viable camera for most photography assignments even within the next 6 years. If you wanted, you could even consider putting together a legacy kit of sorts containing pieces of equipment and software that you know will work together. That way you can hit the ground running with something even if you are met with unrecoverable failure on your main setup. The chances are slim but if the new Lighroom Classic catalog system file is actually backwards compatible with Lightroom 6 (I haven’t been able to verify this yet), it would be a huge added bonus because it would then mean you could just convert it to a Lightroom 6 catalog, and continue working seamlessly from there for the most part albeit missing any new features and optimisations.

Looking At Alternatives

Another option may be to seek other alternatives to Lightroom and make the move over. One possible alternative is the Phase One’s ‘Capture One Pro’ software, which does also offer some performance and usability advantages over Lightroom. Phase One has gone on the record that it will not move to a subscription based business model, which will assure users continued access to the software to keep working even in the event that Phase One faces business closure.

As with most cross platform changes (like moving from iOS to Android, MacOS to Windows etc. and vice versa), it will necessitate a transitioning period. But if there is ever a more timely period to make the move, it might just be right now.

What About Lightroom CC?

Just to avoid confusion, we are talking about the new Lightroom CC here. The new fully cloud based version that integrates between desktop, web and mobile platforms under the same UI.

From what I can tell in reviews and information about the software, it does not seem to be quite ready or robust enough for professional photographers who already have a multi year, mult-terabyte archive of images. In that regard, it may not warrant this subset of customers to consider switching to Lightroom CC.

Where I think the software can potentially shine even in its current form and feature set is for photographers who are working in a collaborative environment on a per project basis. If you are outsourcing image processing to an offsite freelancer, or are working alongside a photo editor, it could allow them to access all the images related to the assignment and project, on any of their devices. If download rights can be managed, it could allow the photographer to give full processing access to their offsite editor while preventing them from downloading and distributing the RAW files. If the completed Lightroom CC project can then be seamlessly integrated into Lightroom Classic’s catalog file, it could allow Lightroom CC to become an invaluable extension to Lightroom Classic; addressing the desktop version’s existing inability to allow for seamless multi user collaborative workflows.

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That wraps up my thoughts relating to the new announcements Adobe made for Lightroom. What do you think? Leave your comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts and perspective!