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Every now and again I receive an email from somebody who hasn’t used Lightroom Classic before and would like to know the benefits of using it. So I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of reasons for trying Lightroom Classic.
Let’s see what they are! Whether you’re a Lightroom 6 user wondering whether it’s time to upgrade to Lightroom Classic, or you’re completely new to the Lightroom family, I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. And while you’re here, don’t forget to check out our free Introducing Lightroom Classic email course.
Lightroom Classic Benefit #1: It’s easy to browse your photos
How do you view the photos saved on your hard drive? One option is use the operating system to browse photos. But this is slow, especially with Raw files.
Most photographers use an image browsing application such as iPhoto, Adobe Bridge or Photo Mechanic (PC owners seem to have more options than Mac users for this type of software). These programs let you compare photos as well as view them.
The benefit of Lightroom Classic is that it takes photo viewing up the next level. The science behind it is relatively simple – Lightroom Classic is built around a database (called the Catalog) which contains information about all your photos, including the location they are saved on your hard drives. It builds previews of your photos so that you can browse them quickly and easily.
Lightroom Classic also has advanced options for letting you compare photos and group them into permanently saved selections (these are called Collections). It’s organization tools are better than just about anybody else’s. The closest rival to Lightroom Classic at the moment when it comes to image browsing and organization is Capture One Pro from Phase One. Other applications like Exposure 5, Luminar 4 and ON1 Photo Raw 2020 are catching up, but they’re not there yet.
It does all this in the Library module. This screenshot shows you what it looks like.
It’s also easy to compare near identical photos in Lightroom Classic.
Lightroom Classic Benefit #2: It’s easy to search your photos
Another benefit of building Lightroom Classic around a database is that it contains all the important metadata from your photos. Lightroom Classic uses this information to search your photos.
That makes it easy for you to search your photos using criteria like camera settings. For instance, would you like to see all photos taken with a specific lens in the year 2020? That’s easy in Lightroom Classic. Or how about searching images by location? That’s another easy task if your camera embeds GPS data into your photos (as most smartphones do).
You can also add metadata in Lightroom Classic, such as star ratings, color labels and keywords, and use this additional metadata for searching photos.
This screenshot shows the keywords that I’ve added to a photo.
Lightroom Classic Benefit #3: It’s powerful image editing application
Lightroom Classic doesn’t do everything, but it’s a very powerful image editing application that does most of the things that you probably want from an image editing application. This includes tasks like merging to HDR, creating panoramas, retouching portraits and converting to black and white.
For example, you don’t need to use Photoshop or a plugin to retouch portraits as all the tools you need are right in Lightroom Classic. But photographers who don’t realize that may be tempted to spend money on unnecessary plugins that complicate your workflow instead.
Lightroom Classic Benefit #4: It saves hard drive space
Unlike programs like Photoshop, Lightroom Classic doesn’t make any changes to your photo files. Instead, it takes a different and rather clever approach. Lightroom Classic keeps a record of any developing work you have done in the Catalog, saved as lines of text which take up very little hard drive space.
Here’s an example of what it looks like:
As you can probably see, these text commands indicate the settings of parameters like saturation, sharpness and vibrance – all sliders used in Lightroom Classic to develop photos.
This method of working has two benefits.
Your original photo files are never overwritten. This is especially useful for JPEG and TIFF files and is known as a non-destructive workflow.
It saves a lot of hard drive space. For example, if you convert a 21 megapixel Raw file to a 16 bit TIFF file for developing in a conventional image editing application then you end up with a 120MB file. Lightroom Classic, on the other hand, only requires a few kilobytes of hard drive space to save its text commands. The space savings are exponential for large photo collections and helps keep the size manageable.
Lightroom Classic Benefit #5: It’s the heart of your workflow
Another benefit of Lightroom Classic is that it works well with other image editing applications and plugins. For example, you might like to use a plugin like Silver Efex Pro for converting photos to black and white, or Luminar for adding an orton effect to your landscape photos. In either case, you can use Lightroom Classic to organize and partially develop your photos, then send them to the plugin to finish them off.
In other words, Lightroom Classic is a complete workflow application, not just an image editing application.
Lightroom Classic Benefit #6. You don’t need to have your photos with you to browse or develop them
As long as you have built Smart Previews and synced the appropriate Collections you don’t need the hard drive where you photos are saved to be connected to your computer to use Lightroom Classic. This is useful if you install Lightroom Classic on a laptop. It means you can take it out with you but leave the hard drive containing your photos at home. This brings great peace of mind as you don’t have to worry about losing your hard drive.
You can also access the photos in those same synced Collection on the Lightroom for mobile app or by logging into the Adobe website from anywhere in the world.
Lightroom Classic Benefit #7: The Creative Cloud ecosystem is awesome
We’ve covered this in recent tutorials, but don’t forget that as part of your Creative Cloud subscription you can make your own websites with Adobe Portfolio, put web galleries online with a single mouse click using Lightroom for web, use Adobe Spark’s premium features and access thousands of fonts through Adobe Fonts. Adobe even throws in Photoshop! These “hidden features” add great value to your subscription.
Lightroom Classic Benefit #8: It’s popular
The popularity of Lightroom Classic ensures you’ll never be short of resources to help you learn how to use it. There are lots of websites, forums, books, ebooks, video tutorials and YouTube channels dedicated to helping you. Another result of Lightroom Classic’s popularity is that you can buy Develop Presets to creatively develop your photos.
If you’d like to give Lightroom Classic a try then the best thing to do is download the free trial from the Adobe website. This should give you enough time to evaluate it and see if you like using it. You’ll also find our free Introducing Lightroom Classic email course very interesting and useful as it teaches you how to use Lightroom correctly from the start. And if you’re upgrading from Lightroom 6, we have a tutorial to help you with that as well (link below). Finally, if you want to learn more about the various features mentioned in this tutorial then you can view our full list of Lightroom Classic tutorials here.
Why should Lightroom 6 users upgrade?
If you’re a Lightroom 6 user you might be looking for reasons to upgrade other than the Creative Cloud ecosystem (Lightroom for web, Adobe Spark etc.) and the inclusion of Photoshop with your subscription. I’ve listed the main additions to the Develop module below. Don’t forget that Lightroom 6 is no longer supported by Adobe, the Map module no longer works and that Raw files from newer cameras aren’t supported.
- Dehaze slider added to Basic panel (and to local adjustments).
- Texture slider added to Basic panel (and to local adjustments).
- Auto button in the Basic panel gives much better results.
- Profiles moved to Basic panel. Profile Browser added plus greater selection of profiles (including creative ones).
- Color and luminance Range Masking added to local adjustment tools (plus depth Range Masking for photos taken with recent iPhones).
- Transform panel added with extra tools for perspective adjustments.
- Use of Smart Previews to make the Develop module faster officially supported in Preferences.
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I’ve used Adobe Lightroom for ages but I’ve always used Photoshop for the most of my editing workflow and Lightroom mostly for organizing. This has changed during the last years though as Lightroom is getting better and better. Most my workflow is now done in Photoshop.
Good article, Andrew!
Yes it’s true that some landscape photographers like to work in Photoshop, especially if you use luminosity masking or like to add an orton effect. Interesting to hear you’re using Lightroom more now though! Glad you liked the article.
Hi Andrew, for the cost of the subscription to Lightroom Classic, after reading your article above, it seems to offer what I already get in Lightroom CS6, apart from the storage on Creative Cloud and all that the Creative Cloud offers (Spark etc). I know Photoshop is thrown in for the price of the subscription to Lightroom classic, but I already have Photoshop CS6. So how, apart from the improvements in the new Photoshop and the benefits of Creative Cloud, does Lightroom classic differ from Lightroom CS6. For the additional cost, there would have to be a lot of differences. Can you just tell me the differences of Lightroom CS 6 to Lightroom Classic?
Hi Janette, good question! There have been a lot of improvements to Lightroom Classic over Lightroom 6. Also bear in mind that Lightroom 6 is no longer supported by Adobe and the Map module no longer works. Off the top of my head these are the main improvements in the Develop module: Dehaze added, Texture slider added, Profile Browser plus more profiles added, Range masking added to local adjustment tools (this is hugely useful), Transform panel added, ability to use Smart Previews to speed up developing. There may be others that I’ve forgotten about as it’s been a long time since I used Lightroom 6. Plus lots of little additions and improvements to Library, Develop and Book modules. Hope that helps!
P.S. I updated the tutorial with the answer to your question so it’s clearer for other readers.