Today we’ll be looking at the differences between Lightroom Classic and the new Lightroom in as few paragraphs as possible. I will try to keep it as short as possible, and yet I’ll try to cover the basics and more advanced features each individual application offers. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.
I will be keeping my wording consistent throughout this article. Lightroom Classic, which used to be called Lightroom, will be referred to as, you guessed it, Lightroom Classic. The new Lightroom will also be called by its official name, which is simply Lightroom.
Lightroom Classic is a desktop application for Windows and Mac computers. Lightroom on the other hand has desktop applications, apps for smartphones and tablets, and even a web app. Using Lightroom you can continue your edits on any device, no matter where you left off.
Storage and back-ups
When using Lightroom Classic you are responsible as to where your image files are located. You’ll have to stick them on an internal or external drive or keep them on a Network Attached Storage. The same goes for your all-important catalog. Lightroom on the other hand stores all of your image files in the cloud. All of your files in the cloud are automatically backed up and should never be lost. With Lightroom Classic you are in charge of keeping your files backed up.
Lightroom is meant to be used by those that want to edit images taken with all their devices. All of your photos can be stored in the Adobe cloud and each app will have access to them. Not just photos they’ve shot using their larger cameras but also those shot using a smartphone or iPad camera.
Because Lightroom stores your photos in the cloud Adobe can leverage their machine learning to automatically tag your photos. Lightroom Classic does no such thing. Here, once again, you are in charge of tagging and organisation.
So Lightroom is better than Lightroom Classic?
So far pretty much everything I’ve mentioned made it sound like Lightroom was the clear winner and the decision as to which application you should be using an easy one. Well, the deeper we delve into the differences the murkier the waters get.
Let’s start off with the price. $9.99 a month will get you Lightroom Classic and Photoshop or Lightroom without photoshop and a single terabyte of storage. $19.99 will get you Lightroom (plus the terabyte of storage) plus Photoshop.
Lightroom Classic still has more features
Let us take a look at the features each of these applications offer more in-depth. Because Lightroom is built not just as a desktop application but also a web and smartphone app, many features have had to be reduced to the basics. This starts off with the import interface. Whereas you can select metadata presets in Lightroom Classic, Lightroom has fewer options. You can only add a photo to an album and apply presets.
You are the boss of Lightroom Classic
Lightroom Classic puts you, the user, in charge of organisation. That can be a good or a bad thing depending on your use-case. I personally like to be in charge of my collections and smart collections. Lightroom on the other hand uses Adobe’s Sensei technology to search through photos. Using object-recognition it can find objects and popular landmarks without you having to lift a finger. But, as you might currently still expect with such technology, it isn’t perfect.
Old vs. new interface
Lightroom Classic’s interface hasn’t yet seen any major updates in the years I’ve been using it. Yes, new features have been added but it still looks and functions in the same way as it always has. With Lightroom, Adobe has given the interface a major face-lift. Things are also organised in a much more logical sense. For example exposure, contrast, highlights, and shadows are all located in a section aptly named Light. White balance, vibrance, and saturation are all in the section titled Colour. For newcomers this will make the “getting-used-to-things” phase a lot quicker. However, those switching from Lightroom Classic might have a hard time retraining their muscle-memory.
Lightroom did start off life missing some very important features. And I feel like many are still avoiding it based on the first hands-on reviews that they might have read. Today Lightroom features things such as the tone curve tool and the HSL panel. But Lightroom does not yet feature the Color and Luminance Masking. Which by the way is a reason I don’t use it.
A Question of speed
Where Lightroom Classic falls behind compared to this newer and completely rewritten application is speed. Once your image files are synced, Lightroom is far and away the faster application. Because Lightroom Classic is still reliant on aging technologies, this is an area that would need a lot of work to be able to compete with Lightroom.
Lightroom or Lightroom Classic – Who wins?
There is no clear winner between the two applications. Each serves its purpose. However the gap between Lightroom and Lightroom Classic is shrinking with every update. I personally wouldn’t be too surprised to see Adobe give up on Lightroom Classic to focus only on Lightroom once the difference between the applications is negligible. I could of course be completely wrong but to me it seems that that will be the most likely outcome. It’s not the outcome I want though. I definitely want Lightroom Classic to remain. But it feels like large parts of the applications would need a complete rewrite. And nobody except Adobe knows whether they are willing to make that happen.
Lightroom is perfect for beginners as well as experienced photographers that want to edit anywhere and on any device. It has a simplified interface and is easier to get into. Lightroom can’t quite match the features offered by Lightroom Classic yet though. The job of backing up and organising files is no longer something you have to be concerned about when using Lightroom. Many will see that as a big bonus.
Lightroom Classic does still serve its purpose. It still offers more features and more customisation for import and export settings. Lightroom Classic is also helped by its deep integration with the fully-featured desktop Photoshop. It is thus the best option for photographers that need the most tools and easy access to Photoshop.