Welcome to the New Lightroom in the Clouds
I knew it was coming. You did too, even if some of you really didn't want to admit it. This week, Adobe has officially released Lightroom CC. Yes, Lightroom is now part of the Creative Cloud family. And if you've been on the fence about life in the clouds, it's time to take a second look.
First of all, nobody is forcing you to upgrade. Just as with folks who stayed with Creative Suite 6 or an even earlier version of Photoshop rather than taking the leap to Photoshop CC two years ago, you can stay with Lightroom 5.x now. It's a great program as you probably already know. But if you're waiting for the boxed version of Lightroom 6, there won't be one. If you want to upgrade to the next version of Lightroom, it's called Lightroom CC, and you need to sign up for a Creative Cloud plan to get it.
Or so Adobe would like you to believe. There does appear to be a link on Adobe's website to purchase a full version of "Lightroom 6" for $149, and an upgrade from 5.x for $79 but it's not clear what this really means. I suppose you get the same thing as Lightroom CC but under a different name. Only time will tell whether updates to "Lightroom 6" maintains parity with those for the CC version. But for those of you who don't want or need the latest Photoshop, it seems you can hold out at least a little bit longer.
Having taken the CC plunge myself some while back and installed Lightroom CC, I can confirm that CC is Lightroom 6, at least in part. I've already come across two dialog boxes that call it that so you can tell their development team called it that at some point. At this point then, it would appear that the product goes by two names.
If you do reach for the clouds then, don't worry about finding yourself in unfamiliar territory. Indeed, apart from the change of licensing models, you'd be hard pressed to know you've joined the cloud generation. Just as with Photoshop CC back in 2013, we're not talking anything radical here. If you've still not happy with what Microsoft did to the user interface in the move to Windows 8, this isn't it. Photoshop CC is still Photoshop, and Lightroom CC is still Lightroom. You'll feel right at home.
As for that licensing change, that too isn't really that big of a deal so long as you do use both Lightroom and Photoshop. A lot of the initial concerns regarding Creative Cloud licensing proved to be based more on fear of the unknown than on actual issues. And Adobe has pretty much addressed those few kinks that did exist. No, you don't need to be connected to the internet in order to use Adobe CC applications, and no, you won't lose access to your images and Lightroom catalog if you decide to cancel your plan. Do note however that Lightroom 6 now requires online activation.
You can pay for the Creative Cloud Photography plan for $9.99 monthly or prepaid annually for $119.88. Rather than saving a few bucks by paying a year at a time, both payment options work out to the same total. But if you assume you're going to pay for upgrading Photoshop and Lightroom periodically anyway, the CC Photography plan isn't overly painful. It still costs, but not as much as the original Creative Cloud offerings did.
What the Creative Cloud does get you is easy and more frequent feature upgrades. You don't need to pay for upgrades because you already have paid for them. Just click and upgrade.
But whether you call it Lightroom CC or Lightroom 6, what you really want to know about is the new features you get, and these are sweet indeed.
Brushes Come to Radial and Graduated Filters
If you're an Adobe Camera Raw user who already has Photoshop CC (ACR 8) you should already know about this feature. If you still have CS6, you owe it to yourself to find out about it. You can now fine tune the mask with a brush. This is a huge improvement in my workflow. One of the main reasons I previously had to go to Photoshop was for better masking. You can also drag and move brush strokes created with the Adjustment brush.
HDR and Panorama Photo Merge
Third party HDR and pano merge applications still beat what Lightroom can do, but it's great having these built into the program nonetheless for those situations where it does work. The merged files are stored as floating point DNG files suitable for further tweaking in Lightroom or via import to other applications.
When Creative Cloud launched, Apple users gained access Lightroom on their iPads, but this new version extends that to us Android users. I have installed this but haven't played with it much yet. Still, it's nice to know Adobe cares about us too. Lightroom Mobile for both operating systems can be downloaded for free from the respective App Stores. You must have a Creative Cloud plan for this one, not just Lightroom 6. Android Lollipop supports DNG capture, so the timing of this is perfect.
It's all the rage. And now you can do it directly in Lightroom. For photographers who photograph people more often than wildflowers and mountain peaks, this is great news. Once Lightroom indexes your images you can work directly in the People view assign names and catalog images Lightroom couldn't figure out by itself. The names become special keywords. If you're concerned about privacy, the name indexing is done directly on your computer and doesn't go to the cloud.
More GPU Acceleration
Make sure your hardware drivers are up-to-date to avoid surprises, but assuming they are, this will contribute to significant performance improvements during editing and general navigation. Lightroom will detect if your system supports GPU acceleration and enable it by default but you can take control yourself under Preferences. Other performance enhancements also exist subtly throughout the program.
Other New Features
Lightroom will now be saved in a compressed zip format to save space. This also makes backups faster since Lightroom has to write less data.
A new Activity Center provides visibility and control for background tasks including face recognition indexing, syncing to Lightroom mobile, and other lengthy processes.
Lightroom now supports touch-enabled displays. Up until now, I haven't really cared much about touch screens but this could change my mind.
Flash galleries in the Web module are now a thing of the past. HTML 5 rules the day.
The Slideshow module now gains the cool "Ken Burns" effect combining both pan and zoom. This was great when it first started showing up in various web presentations but isn't overly radical now that everyone's seen it. It's still nice to be able to do it in Lightroom though. You can also now include up to 10 music tracks in a slideshow.
Soft proofing with CMYK profiles is now supported. Keep in mind that most of us actually print with RGB printers despite what the ink sets appear to be.
The Develop module now includes a handy "Pet Eye" feature that should also work for wild animal eyes to correct eye shine. Think of this like red eye reduction but for other eye colors.
Of course you always get support for new camera models and some improvements to existing ones.
There are countless more new features throughout the program that I haven't touched on here or haven't even discovered yet myself. This is a major release of Lightroom. I like it.