FeaturedLightroom Updates

Today’s Lightroom Update, with its New Masking Feature, is an Absolute Game Changer!

Adobe just announced updates to Lightroom Classic, Lightroom, and Adobe Camera Raw. This brings Lightroom Classic up to version 11.0, Lightroom up to version 5.0, and Adobe Camera Raw to 14.0. There’s an exciting new feature added to all three programs that transforms what we knew as local or selective edits to what will now be referred to as Masking. This is a huge evolution that brings along a new interface, powerful new features, and a significant improvement to how we can adjust specific regions of our photos. While Masking is sure to be the most talked about addition, there are other new features to know as well. Let’s dive in and see what this release has to offer.

Upgraded Catalog – Lightroom Classic

The first thing you’ll notice after installing and then launching the new version of Lightroom Classic is that you’ll be prompted to upgrade a copy of your catalog. This is normal when a completely new version is released (as opposed to a dot update of an existing version). I recommend taking the opportunity presented to give the upgraded catalog a meaningful name (which may not be the default name). Simply enter the desired name in the provided field, then click Upgrade to kick off the process. When the upgraded copy is complete it will open into the new version of Lightroom Classic with all the photos, edits, and work from the previous catalog. You only need to do this once, and in the future, you’ll simply open the upgraded copy in the new version of the program.

You should also be aware that there is a new file that appears in the folder alongside the catalog file. The new file, with a .lrcat-data file extension, contains the smart selection masks created by the new Masking tool as well as 3D LUTs from profiles. It is integral that you keep this file with your catalog if you need to move it to a new location. This file is also now included in the built-in catalog back up function.

Introducing Masking -Lightroom Classic, Lightroom, and Adobe Camera Raw

Look for the new masking icon in all three programs. One click will open the new masking panel that provides access to the newly renamed Brush (formerly, Adjustment Brush), Linear Gradient (formerly, Graduated Filter), and Radial Gradient (formerly, Radial Filter) bringing consistent names to the same tools found in all three programs.

In the previous version we could only add what was called a Range Mask to an existing local adjustment tool to refine what part of the photo was being affected by the adjustment. In this new version of Masking, we can apply Color Range, Luminance Range, and Depth Range masks to the entire photo if desired, or they can be used in conjunction with other masking tools to create more complex masks.

Leveraging the power of AI-based machine learning mask generation, we now have two entirely new ways to create masks called Select Subject and Select Sky, which do exactly what their names suggest. Clicking Select Sky will employ this technology in analyzing your photo to create a smart selection mask based on the sky in the photo.

Which you can then refine using the other tools via Add or Subtract or even Invert the mask to select everything but the sky.

With the mask applied, you can then proceed to apply adjustments to just the desired regions of the photo without affecting the unmasked regions, just as we did in the previous version.

This is just a simple example of how we can begin to use these new tools. Be sure to check out my Under the Loupe column in this issue for a more in-depth look at the new Masking feature.

More Premium Presets – Lightroom Classic, Lightroom, and Adobe Camera Raw

We were introduced to premium presets in the June 2021 release, and Adobe continued to work with photography professionals to expand new and existing categories with over 70 additional presets. Open the Presets panel to explore the new presets under Retro, Black & White, Cinematic, Food, Landscape, Lifestyle, Travel, and Architecture for applying new looks to your photos. These presets can be used as a new starting place, a finishing touch, or just inspiration for what is possible.

Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw also gained these new presets. Note that in Lightroom, the preset group previously named Library is now named Yours to denote that it is where you can find your own presets. The reset of the features covered below pertain specifically to Lightroom Classic.

Redesigned Metadata Panel – Lightroom Classic

While not as exciting as the new Masking functionality, the Metadata panel got a significant redesign. First, you’ll notice that the Default view has fewer metadata fields than you may remember. This is because now you can completely customize which fields you want to display and even customize the order they appear in the panel. Click the Customize button to open the Customize Metadata Default Panel dialog box.

Here you can check the box next to any field you want to include and uncheck the box next to fields you don’t want to see. Keep in mind that the more fields you include the more it can impact performance. Once you’ve decided on the fields you want to include, click the Arrange button to manually place them in a preferred top-down order. Click Done to return to your newly customized panel.

New Additions to the Library Filter Bar – Lightroom Classic

The Library Filter bar that appears above the thumbnails in Grid view is probably one of the most underrated tools for finding and filtering photos within your catalog, whether you apply it to the entire catalog or the contents of collections and folders. In this update, we gained the ability to filter on Month and Day to home in on photos from a more specific period of time.

Auto Save to XMP – Lightroom Classic

If you do not have the Automatically write to XMP box checked in the Metadata panel of the Catalog Settings dialog, then this won’t apply to you. However, if you do opt to have Lightroom Classic write its changes to each photo’s XMP metadata space in addition to the catalog file, then you’ll be pleased to know that this function has been optimized in a few ways. First, it won’t start writing to XMP until after you switch to selecting a different photo (as opposed to writing to XMP while you were editing). Additionally, there is now a way to pause writing to XMP in the Activity Center if you need to for performance reasons.

New Camera and Lens Support – Lightroom Classic, Lightroom, and Adobe Camera Raw

As with every update and new version released, we’ve also gained support for new cameras and new lenses. You should also check out Adobe’s own HelpX pages to learn more about what’s new.

Canon Profiles

Just had to add some good news for Canon R5, R6, 1DX Mk III, and soon to be R3 owners that picture style emulation profiles (aka camera matching profiles) have finally been added to all three apps.



    • lisa 21 November, 2021 at 23:30 Reply

      Adobe is a nightmare to use! Avoiding uploading my cards because it’s just too complicated to learn and understand all of this. A good photograph doesn’t need all this. If your’e such an amateur that you can’t get the photo without all these adjustments then give it up, your photo is a fake, Also there’s just TOO MUCH. There is no joy in working with Adobe. They aren’t even open on weekends if you need support. How disrespectful! Nothing is intuitive to figure out. You have take classes and tutorials perhaps many to understand it all. That’s a bad product. Adobe just cant get the idea of simplicity. Extremely disappointed with this program. For photographers who don’t need all these bells and whistles they should offer a simpler editing and organizing program!

  1. Gary L Chisolm 12 November, 2021 at 08:20 Reply

    Lightroom Bug! – The lack of user Camera Profiles forces me to use the previous version. Proper color is way more important than masking. This will be a game changer once Adobe addresses the user Camera Profiles issue.

  2. mark 11 November, 2021 at 15:07 Reply

    I hate the new update. Who wants to spend hours editing. This is garbage. If I can’t find a way back to lightroom classic, I will just find another editing software. The biggest problem I have is that upon export, NONE OF THE CHANGES OR ADJUSTMENTS go with the export. Why? Do we really have to layer each adjustment? Was that necessary across the whole software packet? I hate it, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

    • Rob Sylvan 12 November, 2021 at 12:39 Reply

      The adjustments are applied to the exported copy just as in the previous version. You can go back to the previous version simply by installing it from the Adobe Application Manager, but that is a step backwards. You’d do better to figure out what is going wrong in your workflow. I’m sure it is a simple and solvable issue.

  3. melisha robinson 11 November, 2021 at 01:21 Reply

    The subject and sky masks are not working for me. It tries for awhile before saying something went wrong. I’ve tried all types of pictures, jpg pics, churning my desktops storage… What am I missing?

  4. Martha 8 November, 2021 at 17:18 Reply

    Thanks for this! Regarding backups, my preferences are set to backup every time I exit LR. When I send my backups to my 2nd EHD and to the cloud, I just send the files created in the default folder created by LR entitled “backups” (the file LR creates called Lightroom Catalog-v11.zip). Am I understanding correctly Lightroom Catalog-v11.zip (created by LR) contains BOTH the .lrcat file AND this new .lrcat-data file?

    And to piggy back onto that, I don’t grab the Lightroom Catalog-v11.lrcat file from the main parent folder and back that up. I’ve always assumed that’s part of the .zip file I get in “backups” folder when LR does it for me and that would be all I’d need if I had an issue and needed the backup. If I’m wrong there, please correct me. Thanks.

  5. Noelle 4 November, 2021 at 19:59 Reply

    I am editing in LR mobile. Upon export, the masking and healing edits are not see, (exposure, color etc look fine) if I export “large” which I need to do. Any advice? Thanks

  6. Henri 2 November, 2021 at 06:43 Reply


    1) How can I switch to next picture in development tab? It used be Right Arrow/Left Arrow. Now they are not working.
    2) How can I just use the same brush (with the same effects) in each picture?? How do I just keep the same brush for eacg picture without clicking anything else, like I could do in LR classic 10?

    Thank you!

  7. Juerg Hostettler 1 November, 2021 at 11:29 Reply

    Thanks for the article.

    I updated Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and wanted to export my pictures. The adjustments in the exported jpgs are SINCE THE UPGRADE missing.

    How can I fix this? Any help welcome. Thanks!

    • Rob Sylvan 30 October, 2021 at 09:08 Reply

      Click the new Masking button/icon to open the panel that contains all of the masking tools, then choose the Brush. Presets are found under the Effects drop-down menu.

  8. Ole Klein 29 October, 2021 at 02:26 Reply

    The new masking feature is a great feature but maybe its me, why are my Presets sorted bottom up ? aka User presets first

  9. mel 28 October, 2021 at 20:12 Reply

    After the update the export with lightroom adjustments dialogue box isnt coming up and I can no longer export to PS with adjustments made in LR How do I fix this please? Getting very frustrated!!

    • Rob Sylvan 29 October, 2021 at 08:13 Reply

      Hi Mel, You’d only ever see that dialog appear with a non-raw photo selected in LrC. If you have a raw photo selected in LrC there is no dialog box as the photo can only open in Ps with Lightroom adjustments, so it just does that. Make sure you’ve also updated the Camera Raw plug-in in Ps to ensure full compatibility of edits from the latest LrC.

  10. Mark 28 October, 2021 at 04:36 Reply

    After updating to the new version and creating a new catalog I find my old photographs have no ratings and it looks like none of the adjustments from the past are showing up? Is this right? Do I need to load my old catalog for shots taken before the upgrade?


    • NotoriousRLS 28 October, 2021 at 08:20 Reply

      Moving mouse over presets will display their effect temporarily on the image being edited. It’s fast.
      Are you referring to something like a grid display of all of them you can scroll through and see them side-by-side ?

  11. Jen Jensen 27 October, 2021 at 14:30 Reply

    I just updated and I’d like to find out if there’s a way to add the brushes I used before, they were all designed and I use them often in my workflow. Yikes! I don’t have time right now to learn how to recreate them all as masks. Any help would be appreciated!

    • Rob Sylvan 27 October, 2021 at 15:45 Reply

      In Lightroom Classic, a brush preset is simply a text file containing some slider settings. All of your previous local adjustment presets should still be available under the Effects drop-down menu just like they were before.

  12. labro 27 October, 2021 at 11:26 Reply

    I like the new update, really fun, competing with capture one, plugins…
    It would be very nice now if Adobe could add a manager, as for presets, for “effects” in local tools.
    I have lot of effects (brushes…) from Kelby, mattk, ramelli, sem, prettypresets… and at least creating categories would help.
    Today the long list with a small slow scrlling arrow on bottom of panel is really tedious to use.
    We post this request for years on adobe forums but without success.

  13. The Keeper of the Garden 27 October, 2021 at 01:57 Reply

    On a positive note:

    1. The one-year-old bug concerning the Zoom-To-Fill option in the Print module seems to have been taken care of now.
    2. I’m impressed by the masking possibilities.
    3. The change in when LrC writes to XMP, was long overdue as it caused massive fragmentation of my 4TB LaCie external drives. And defragmenting each of them takes more than 12 hours…

    On a negative note:
    The different masks in the Masking panel are by default named “Mask 1, Mask 2, Mask 3… (etc.)”. I can’t understand why it wasn’t possible to have the default names called after what kind of tool is being used in each of them (e.g. Brush Mask 1, Linear Gradient Mask 1, Brush Mask 2, etc.). As it is now, it’s very difficult to see what kind of masking tool was used, even right after editing the photo. Imagine re-editing it after a year, or two years… And to add insult to injury, also the steps marking the Masking edits in the History panel no longer reflect in any way what kind of masking tool was used, even if using only one. They are simply named “Masking edit”, whilst previously one could easily see and recognise the steps as they were named after the tool (Brush, Gradient, etc.)

    And even though masking is a game changer, the way it has been integrated into the software makes the User Interface and the technology (a separate file next to the catalog file…!) behind it, less consistent and more complicated overall.

    I’m just trying to help the programmers by pointing to a few things that strike me, from the perspective of a long-time, and die-hard user… 🙂

    • Scott Kelby 27 October, 2021 at 10:27 Reply

      I am totally with you on the naming for masks. It would reduce the need for naming masks at all if they, by default, had the names of the type of mask that was used. Great idea – hope they take your advice. 🙂

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