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Is Lightroom Classic Going Away? (This same headline, yet again)

Lightroom Magazine comes out later today, and I wanted to share my Editor’s Note from the current issue (my Editor’s Note is called just ‘A note from Scott’ in each issue), so this is essentially an excerpt from the magazine, but a really timely one at that.

In the past week or so a blog post titled, “Adobe, why have you forsaken us?” freaked out a lot of Lightroom Classic users. The author of the post essentially said that he didn’t think Adobe cared about Lightroom Classic anymore and it was probably going to go away based on the fact that he felt there were so few new features added to Lightroom Classic in the most recent update. He felt Adobe was concentrating their efforts on the cloud-storage based version of Lightroom instead, and so Adobe was leaving Classic behind. That was pretty much the gist of it, and understandably it got some Lightroom Classic users rather concerned. He wasn’t sharing inside info; he didn’t say Adobe told him it was going away — this was just his theory, his opinion. 

Here’s what he failed to mention

Lightroom “cloud” didn’t get that many new features either.

In fact, of the new features the desktop version of Lightroom ‘cloud’ did get, some of them were just playing ‘catch’ up to features that have been in Lightroom Classic since day one. For example, one of their big new features to Lightroom ‘cloud’ (as I call it) desktop version is that you can now finally drag your images in a Collection into the order you want them as we’ve always been able to do in a collection in Lightroom Classic. If you’re a Classic user, you’re probably shaking your head now, “You mean you couldn’t just drag your thumbnails into the order you want them?” No, not until just last week. That’s a feature that absolutely should have been there since day one, and they are just now getting it. Even weirder is that you could actually reorder thumbnails in Lightroom mobile (though the process to do so is still kinda clunky), but at least you could do it.

So, overall, no matter which version of Lightroom you are using (cloud, classic or mobile), none of them got a ton of new features, so I think it’s a stretch to try and make that comparison or draw that conclusion. 

So, what would have been a real warning sign that Lightroom Classic was going away?

If it hadn’t gotten any new features. That actually would be alarming.

If Adobe decides to abandon a product, it disbands the team of developers and reassigns them to other products. The fact that Lightroom Classic got any new features at all shows that there is still a team working on it and making it better. In fact, take a look at this list at what they’ve added to Lightroom Classic in just the past year or so: 

  • Color Labels for Collections
  • PNG Export Support
  • GPU Accelerated Editing
  • Library Module Improvements
  • Flat Field Correction
  • Massively improved Tether Performance & Stability for Nikon & Canon Cameras
  • Customize the order of panels in the Develop Module
  • Auto-import directly to a Collection
  • Grid Snap in the Book Module and a host of Book Module improvements
  • Performance & Stability Improvements
  • Texture Editing Control
  • Enhance Details feature for RAW images 
  • Index numbers are now included in the filmstrip
  • New Import button for adding profiles via the Profile Browser 
  • You can now Upload Presets in Bulk
  • .zip files can now be directly imported.
  • Single Step HDR Pano Merge 
  • The text engine in the Book, Print, and Slideshow modules, as well as the Watermark editor, were all updated 
  • You now have the option to hide any pack of presets
  • The PDF exporter in Book and Slideshow both got performance boosts
  • The ‘Auto” tone feature was updated to improve overall performance
  • Ability to Batch-process HDRs or Panos
  • Pano Fill Edge (content-aware for panos)
  • Multi-Batch Export
  • Develop Preset Export
  • Clear History option
  • The ability to Filter Collections by Color Labels
  • Filter Images by Depth Map
  • Crop Preview Improvement w/Vignette
  • Keyword Performance Improvements
  • Sync stability improvements
  • And support for lots of new cameras and lenses

So, Adobe is clearly adding new features to Classic

Lightroom Classic keeps getting better and better, but it’s not just features with sliders and buttons — Adobe has put a LOT into enhancing overall performance. From the dots, I’ve connected and people I’ve talked to, Classic will be around for many years, and if I thought there was something to raise the alarm flag about, I would be among the first to do (and very loudly).

That all being said, I could picture a time when using Lightroom ‘cloud’ would become an option for me and a lot of Lightroom Classic users. It would start with Adobe’s pricing for storage coming down to earth.  For example, I pay $5 a month to Backblaze for unlimited storage, rather than $10 a month per terabyte from Adobe). At Adobe’s current pricing my yearly cost for storing my library in Adobe’s ‘cloud’ would be approximately $1,200 per year (rather than $60 a year unlimited cloud storage with Backblaze, and of course, the $120 for for my Adobe Photographer’s bundle of Lightroom and Photoshop, so a total of $180, but that’s a heck of a lot more reasonable than $1,200).

Also, while Adobe does keep adding features to Lightroom Cloud, it still has a long way to go just to catch up to the features already in Classic. Features like the ability to use plug-ins, or create Smart Collections, and I would need a print module, and tethering, and slideshows, and Quick Collections, and two monitor support, and a “Previous” button, and survey mode along with dozens of other features that are still not available in the cloud version, and I would need those before I would consider moving to it. 

At this point, even a 90% feature parity seems years off at best. Of course, all that could change; the pricing could get more realistic; the features could appear quicker than I expect, and we all might get to the point where Classic no longer makes sense sooner than I think, but I feel we are still a long way off from that. That’s OK because as I mentioned, I think Classic will be around for quite a while and having a choice between which version of Lightroom that fits our personal needs best is a good thing. 

Anyway, I wanted to address this as I saw some folks in our online community expressing their concern, and I wanted to let you know we believe the concern is totally unfounded (just for the record, Photoshop didn’t get a ton of new features at Adobe Max either. A lot of little things and one kinda headline feature, but not a ton of new features). 

I hope that helps you sleep a little better tonight. 🙂

-Scott

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31 comments

  1. Jesper 26 November, 2019 at 23:41 Reply

    I don’t think they’re abandoning it. There is another option that is much more likely. Namely, that Classic and the cloud version merge into a single product over time. That is what is going to happen once Cloud is in feature parity with Classic. Then there will be one Lightroom with a better mix of local and cloud storage than today. I would personally love such a product.

    The scenario of abandoning Classic could only come into play if Cloud is starting to get features which are not in Classic and today the situation is quite the reverse.

  2. Tom 23 November, 2019 at 11:57 Reply

    “He wasn’t sharing inside info; he didn’t say Adobe told him it was going away — this was just his theory, his opinion.”

    In the same vain, you haven’t said that you have any inside info and this is just your theory/opinion.

    The real issue is that Adobe is doing it’s best to lock us in and it has done a good job of it. It is pushing us into a situation where they can hold us hostage and force us to pay money or lose our work. All the big boys are doing it.

    I get that I am not a customer that Adobe cares about. I don’t generate a lot of cash for them. It just means I need to extract myself from their web and protect my assets. It is why I didn’t go with Aperture back in the day. I thought I was so smart. Oh well.

    • Rob Sylvan 25 November, 2019 at 10:26 Reply

      It’s not true that Adobe us pushing anyone into a situation where they can be held hostage. That’s overly dramatic and demonstrably false. All any Lightroom Classic user has to do is switch to Bridge and Camera Raw at any time. It is even included in the same Photograph Plan subscription that Lightroom Classic customers are currently paying. It would be a very seamless transition. No need to involve the cloud at all.

        • Rob Sylvan 27 November, 2019 at 09:05 Reply

          Hi Paul, Anyone transitioning from Lightroom Classic to Bridge/ACR would need to do a few things to make the info stored in the classic catalog visible in Bridge/ACR (as Lightroom Classic does not write to each photo’s metadata by default). However, there are also a few things that exist in Lightroom Classic that cannot be written to a photo’s metadata, and those things would require some additional solutions to replicate in Bridge/ACR. Collections would be one of those things, as Lightroom’s collections only exist within the Classic catalog, so some manual work would need to be done to re-create those in Bridge (possibly using keywords applied in Lightroom Classic). If we ever were truly faced with making the decision to either go to Lightroom cloud or Bridge/ACR I would happily write up a tutorial on all of the steps needed to go from Lr to Br/ACR.

  3. Paul Cotter 23 November, 2019 at 10:58 Reply

    A key question for those of us with large archives and catalogs built up over the past decade and stored on external drives: will Lightroom Cloud ever be able to support the file organization we’ve so carefully established with many cascading levels of folders, subfolders, etc. If not, it doesn’t matter how many other features they add to LR Cloud, or how affordable they make the cloud storage or backup. We’re cooked if we can’t keep our full catalog organization. Also: if we choose to migrate to a competitive platform like Capture One, will our DNG files be fully compatible? I’m seeing different answers on this.

    • Rob Sylvan 25 November, 2019 at 10:13 Reply

      Because Lightroom cloud stores all photos in the “cloud” your file organization locally is not used. You would have to manually replicate the organizational structure using Lightroom Cloud’s “Folders” (like collection sets in Classic) and “Albums” (like regular collections in Classic). So you can keep it, but you’ll have to build it. Likewise, you can’t extract your organizational structure from Lightroom Cloud without a fair bit of manual labor. These are two reasons why I don’t think Lightroom Classic is going away. If Lightroom Classic should meet an untimely death for reasons I don’t foresee, then Bridge/Camera Raw would be a better alternative for someone like you than going to Lightroom Cloud (which is another reason why I don’t see them removing Lightroom Classic unless they also kill Bridge/ACR, which won’t happen). I can’t speak to Capture One’s DNG support, but my understanding is that it has some limitations concerning converted DNGs.

      • Paul Cotter 25 November, 2019 at 15:55 Reply

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Rob. I used Bridge and Camera Raw many years ago, before Lightroom — and then I stopped using them because LR combined them both so well. It’s good to remember that we have those original Adobe tools to fall back on, if necessary. Like you, I believe that LR Classic will survive alongside Bridge and Camera Raw. But it’s good to know that if it does go away, our work can survive seamlessly — and, as you point out, at no added cost, with Bridge and Raw.

  4. Craig 22 November, 2019 at 19:41 Reply

    If you really think about it, what else do you need? It would be nice to add some feature that make things easier/less time consuming, but it works great now.
    What I would love:
    1. Ability to search for Collections on import
    2. Ability to add a photo more than one collection on import
    3. Ability to tag Favorite folders on import
    4. Have a drop-down arrow for previous files names when renaming and then the ability to edit them rather than remember what to type each time.
    5. Ability to create a Smart collection on importing from the last hour. – (Having several cards from a shoot display at once once they have all been imported).
    6. Ability to have a Smart Collection to show which photos do NOT have keywords so that I can add them in my free time.
    7. A working spot removal tool like Photoshop or TouchRetouch iphone App.
    8. HSL on a local adjustment tool.
    9. An easy way to simply print one photo.

  5. Vince 22 November, 2019 at 16:55 Reply

    Classic has been dead software walking from the moment it was named “Classic”. The new LR is what Adobe wants you to think of when you think of LR. And what Bryan said about two code bases is absolutely true—they’re spending twice as much on development as they need to, and they don’t want to do that any longer than they absolutely have to. And they won’t. And it won’t take feature parity, either, just what they determine is “close enough”.

    So, “Classic” is a goner. WHEN is it a goner? The specifics are unknown, but given the above, it will be sooner rather than later.

    And no, the fact that neither LR’s received many updates does not make me feel better. It’s exactly why I’ve never signed up for renting their software. Because now they don’t have to actually provide value to collect their money.

    (What Adobe execs shout from the back, or front, of the room is completely irrelevant. They’re obviously never going to say it’s going away until the minute it is. They’re not going to say it to anyone, including (especially) Scott.)

    • Rob Sylvan 25 November, 2019 at 10:22 Reply

      Vague vagueness. Meh. Yes, we’ll all die someday. I’m sure Lightroom Classic, Bridge, Adobe, and everything else will too, but “the specifics are unknown.” That’s not the point. I do think it matters what a Lightroom product manager shouts from the back of the room, as he was not asked the question and had no reason to answer. No one in the room knew who he was (except me and the other TAs). He had more to lose by shouting an incorrect answer than just remaining quiet and letting me respond to the question asked. So, yes, at some point in the undetermined future (possibly even in my lifetime), Lightroom Classic will either evolve into something else that meets the needs of that future time or it will fade away (just like everything else).

      • Vince 25 November, 2019 at 17:55 Reply

        “Sooner rather than later.”

        He had nothing to lose. They will deny it’s going away until the day it goes away. (This is not unique to Adobe. What *any* company says about the future viability of its products is irrelevant.)

        You don’t have any better or worse information than the rest of us. We just choose not to ignore what Adobe has already done to move “Classic” to the side. Actions speak louder than words, and their actions scream that Classic is second-string. (And note they don’t have to remove it from sale to kill it, they can just stop making any updates to it.)

        • Scott Kelby 25 November, 2019 at 21:05 Reply

          Rob is a beta-tester for Lightroom Classic and he’s in direct contact with Adobe’s Lightroom product managers and other insiders at Adobe on a regular basis, and he has frank discussions with them on all sorts of topics. He teaches Lightroom at the biggest conferences and is regarded as a leading expert on Lightroom. Rob is a Lightroom insider in every sense of the word. Just sayin’.

          • ButchM 26 November, 2019 at 09:27

            Well, I have all due respect for you and Rob, but any decisions to cease development of Lightroom Classic or restructure their offerings would not come from the product managers. Regardless of how frank the discussions on such matters are with anyone involved. That final decision would come from much higher up the chain … and you know that. You have written extensively about many of the bone-headed decisions Adobe executives have made over the past decade. The ‘Team’ would likely be in the last group (along with we customers) to discover the decision has been made.

            The evidence has been clear, the executives who would make such a decision shoot first and aim later as directed by the accounting department. They’ll all get their bonuses for sure … we’ll get whats left over. If anything.

  6. Jennifer Arzt 22 November, 2019 at 13:26 Reply

    Can you store photos in backblaze and work with them in Classic or Cloud? That’s what I’ve been struggling with the most. I would love to store a copy of everything in Adobe’s cloud but there’s just no way at the current price point.

    • Scott Kelby 22 November, 2019 at 16:09 Reply

      Unfortunately, no. My Backblaze account is for my entire photo archive (12 terabytes of data) backed up for just $60 a year. It’s not for storing daily working files – it’s my 3rd backup (one on-site on a hard drive, one off-site on a hard drive, and this 3rd one for worst-case scenarios).

  7. Derfrankie 22 November, 2019 at 12:18 Reply

    Actually they are not abandoning Lightroom (I asked them) … There is a steady team and they churn out regular features, just like we saw this year.

    But they also highly concentrate on XD and rush and the mobile apps. That’s where most innovation has still to happen and they know that.

  8. callmebob 22 November, 2019 at 11:54 Reply

    So, learning all the keyboard shortcuts hasn’t been in vain after all ???

    🙂

    Seriously, I’m still hoping someone will get focus stacking in there as an option along side HDR and Panos…

  9. Rob Sylvan 22 November, 2019 at 10:04 Reply

    I completely agree with you Scott. Back in 2007, when Lightroom (now Classic) was released it was a response to the inefficiencies for photographers with the Bridge/ACR/Photoshop workflow. Over the last decade+ Lightroom has only gained strength and features, as well as a new name, as has Bridge, ACR, and Photoshop. Along the way Adobe responded to the way mobile computing has impacted photography (and our lives), and a new branch of the Lightroom family was born, and all along the way the other programs continue to be updated with new features.

    While I absolutely feel that the name changing decisions continue to be a complete fiasco that I deal with every day when trying to help customers use either product, I do not believe Lightroom Classic is going away any time soon because it serves a workflow that just can’t be replaced by the new cloud-based software. A lot of other factors would have to change in Adobe’s business model for them to abandon customers who require what Lightroom Classic offers. I just don’t see it happening.

    Anecdotally, while I was teaching a lab on the cloud based Lightroom at Adobe MAX, Josh Haftel (Sr. Product Mgr on Lightroom team) was helping out attendees as a Teaching Assistant, and someone in the lab asked a similar question about “will Lightroom Classic be going away” and before I could answer, Josh shouted from the back of the room, NO!”

    • Keith Swindell 22 November, 2019 at 19:04 Reply

      I am a product manager too and I can say unequivocally, Josh was lying…
      Sorry, but everything Adobe has done over the past year points to it. Once mobile and cloud are good enough classic is done. It will probably take another couple of years but either prepare to change to a different LR usage model or, like me, start looking at the competition.

      • Rob Sylvan 25 November, 2019 at 10:16 Reply

        While I find your conclusion about Lightroom Classic flawed on many levels, I’m mostly struck by your decision to flat out call someone you don’t know a liar. That says all I need to know about your decision making skills, and can safely ignore your input in the conversation.

  10. ButchM 22 November, 2019 at 09:35 Reply

    While I do doubt that Adobe is going to abandon Lightroom Classic in the short term, I am troubled by many of the poor decision making errors Adobe managers and executives have made in the recent past. There have been enough of those unforced errors to set a pattern that does little to instill confidence to the point where end users can be assured that the longevity of a product line is indeed not a factor. Adobe has proven, they will do whatever they choose, whenever they choose and end users concerns fall near the bottom of their list, way below stock holder dividends and executive bonuses.

    Sadly, even though I have been using Lightroom since the very first pre v1 public betas (and Photoshop since v2, 1992) I am not a user of Lightroom Classic because of the faith I have in Adobe as a developer or view them any longer as a forward thinking corporation that put their customer’s concerns at the top of the list. I use Lr, primarily as their is no other viable option that can accomplish my volume workflow with as much ease of use. If there were alternate options available, I would give those options all due consideration.

  11. Bryan 22 November, 2019 at 08:29 Reply

    Can’t say I agree. As a long time software engineer (20+ years), I can tell you that anytime something is tagged with the “classic” label, it isn’t long for the world. Also, no company (nor engineers) want to maintain 2 code bases of the same app. In nearly all cases it doesn’t make finance sense. My guess is as soon as LR CC is near 1:1 feature parity with LR Classic, Classic will be gone.

  12. Chris Lee 22 November, 2019 at 07:43 Reply

    They are definitely abandoning it. I have no doubt about this. Most of those features are software eye candy. A few are significant, but not enough as if there were really developing the product. Cloud storage as primary way to manipulate photos has all kinds of problems. While I love your channel and books, I think that given this is rented software, and given the decision to go with the classic name and most of these ho hum features since they went with rented software model and still outdated UI and performance, Classic will finally earn its name in a few years just like how they abandoned the stand alone versions.

    Take a look at what capture one and luminar are doing these days. The only area Adobe is ahead of them is in the cataloguing and that’s soon to change.

    • Son Nguyen 4 December, 2019 at 15:52 Reply

      I’m have been trying out Exposure X5 lately and it is very similar to LR. So similar to the point that there is really no learning-curve with a few things to keep in mind. They’re still a few features behind but their layers behaves like Photoshop open a lot of powerful editing capability. I wish LR could do that so we can use all adjustments in the develop module instead of a few like right now.

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