This is Your Lightroom. This is Your Lightroom on Clouds.
There has understandably been a lot of discussion about Adobe's recent announcement regarding Lightroom and the Cloud. And yes, a lot of confusion, too.
Times were simple over the first several iterations of Adobe Lightroom. It was what it was, and if you wanted it, you bought a copy and installed it on your computer, naturally in conformance with the terms of the license agreement. When Adobe released an updated version, you had to decide whether the new features contained were worth the price of the upgrade. If so, you proceeded accordingly. If not, you kept on with what you had been doing. When Adobe moved from the earlier Creative Suite licensing for Photoshop and other applications to the Creative Cloud branding in 2013, Lightroom was curiously left out. Users may have felt a tad nervous, but for a while at least, they were spared from the new subscription model. As I wrote at the time, it seemed a temporary reprieve. And the day has now come for Lightroom licensing as we knew it to change.
But now that we are here, exactly what that change is isn't all that clear. The "CC" suffix on Photoshop CC meant "Creative Cloud." It meant users had to pay a subscription to maintain their license to use Photoshop, enforcement of which was controlled by the application periodically "checking in" with Adobe to make sure your copy was legal and your subscription current. Yes, this scheme does make it easier for Adobe to add features without having to wait for a full upgrade cycle, but I think most would agree the Cloud moniker was mainly about licensing.
Subscriptions and ongoing fees have long been a fact of life in a modern world. From magazines and newspaper subscriptions (or the online paywall equivalents), to cable TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime and all the rest, the subscription model is simply the way things are. But recently, with Microsoft Office 365 and others, the move toward "software as a service" has been making inroads. Software makers view this as a way to ensure a predictable revenue stream while at the same time making software piracy more difficult.
A year into the Creative Cloud era, Adobe introduced the "Photography Plan," bundling the latest version of Photoshop with the latest Lightroom version, together under a subscription based license. Users who wanted to could stick with licensing Lightroom 5 and then 6 under the traditional "perpetual" license where they paid a larger price just once for the privilege of using that version as long as they wanted to. If they wanted the next version, they paid for it, and continued on as before. Adobe priced the Photography Plan though in such a way as to temp a great many Lightroom users to go with the Cloud model.
So now Lightroom users have a new choice to make. At first glance, it would seem reasonable to assume that "Lightroom Classic" is more or less what we have been used to, and that "Lightroom CC" is the brave new world equivalent to what happened with the launch of Photoshop CC and the rest of the Creative Cloud program a few years back. But that's not the choice Adobe is actually presenting us with. The only way to retain a "perpetual" license at this point is to choose simply not to upgrade at all. If you are currently a Lightroom 6 user, you can continue to be one, choosing to forgo any features Adobe releases after that. Some may be OK with that, but many won't. Given this, you may decide to investigate alternatives from companies other than Adobe. But if you want to stick with Adobe, and you want new features added to Lightroom in the future, you have to go the way the Clouds go. Both Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC are Cloud subscription products.
If you already are a Photography Plan subscriber though, its reasonably accurate to consider yourself already a Lightroom Classic user. Although it seems like just yesterday that Adobe forced you into a change in how you paid for Lightroom, your plan is already dubbed "classic." Things change quickly in this digital world it seems. It was just three years ago that the Photography Plan was born.
Lightroom CC is a new thing entirely, more an evolution of Lightroom Mobile, introduced for iOS and later Android, than it is a successor to what Windows and OS X users have long known. It's basically a web based application, not a desktop application that occasionally interacts with the web. All your images get stored on Adobe's servers in the cloud, although you can optionally store them locally as well. That's a huge change. Instead of just trusting Adobe with your license activation, you will have to trust them with your image collection as well. That does make them easier to share, but it does tie you more closely with Adobe as a business partner. Over time, you may accumulate so many images stored at Adobe that it could be extremely difficult to copy them all back again. Sure, you could do it, but it might not be easy, at least not within a reasonable time frame. The feature set for Lightroom CC probably isn't what you'd expect either. Gone are the "classic" Library, and Develop modules. Everything is merged into a single view with a pared down list of features.
Basically, Adobe is giving us three choices. If you stick with the Photography Plan, you get both Photoshop CC and Lightroom Classic for $9.99 per month. With it though, Adobe is also throwing in Lightroom CC so you can give it a try, and 20GB of cloud storage. For $19.99, you can get the same Photography Plan bundled with a full 1TB of storage. If you do want to jump headlong into the Cloud, you can select the Lightroom CC Plan including just Lightroom CC itself together with a terabyte of cloud storage for $9.99 per month. Note that the Lightroom CC Plan is just that. It does not include Lightroom Classic nor does it include a license for Photoshop. Think long and hard before choosing this option. Notably, Lightroom CC supports exporting only to Photoshop as an external editor, not to Photoshop Elements or any other third-party editor, even though the Lightroom CC plan doesn't include Photoshop. That seems kind of weird to me.
So just who is Lightroom CC for? The truth is, I'm not really sure. It does give you automatic cloud backup and the ability to edit anywhere and sync your changes to the cloud. One potentially cool feature regards keywording. Adobe will use their "Adobe Sensei" artificial intelligence machine learning to "automatically" identify objects in your images and apply searchable keywords for you. This might point to a potential that the future holds for all of us, but it's not an overriding basis on which I'd choose an image editor today.
No doubt Adobe is introducing Lightroom CC, in large measure, in an attempt to woo casual photographers a way to step up from Google and other cloud services rather than as a way to offer serious photographers a better tool than they have today. But as things continue to change, it's hard to predict what may happen in another few years.
So this is Your Lightroom. This is Your Lightroom on Clouds.