How To Migrate From Lightroom To Lightroom Classic

by Andrew S. Gibson
How To Migrate From Lightroom To Lightroom Classic

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A few weeks ago I received the following question from a reader:

“I did a Lightroom Classic tutorial section today with a couple of friends from my photo club who are new to it. To my dismay I learned that one of them has not been using Lightroom Classic, but Lightroom (desktop version). She now sees that she should have purchased Lightroom Classic and that’s what she’s going to do.

But…before she does…I want to check on how to ensure that all the adjustments she has made to her images in Lightroom will carry forward to Lightroom Classic once she sets it up. This is especially important right now as she is preparing for a photo show next month and still needs to export and print her images. 

How does one upgrade from Lightroom desktop to Lightroom Classic without losing all the work done in Lightroom?”

Her question made me realize that there must be lots of photographers who start with Lightroom desktop and then realize that Lightroom Classic is the better option. 

The Lightroom desktop app has come a long way since it first appeared, but it still lacks many of Lightroom Classic’s useful features, like the Print and Book modules. 

The Lightroom desktop app also costs you more money in the long run as you have to pay extra for the cloud storage space needed for your photos.

Another factor is that many photographers, myself included, feel more comfortable storing photos locally (i.e. on their own external hard drives) and using a service like Backblaze to back up their photos and other documents.

Note: If you’re unclear about the differences between Lightroom’s various versions and Adobe’s photography subscription plans then I suggest you read our tutorial Which Lightroom Version Do I Need?

The good news is that it’s easy to migrate from Lightroom desktop to Lightroom Classic. Once you set it up properly then Adobe takes care of most of the work for you. 

Are there any downsides to migrating?

The main downside to migrating from Lightroom desktop to Lightroom Classic is that Lightroom doesn’t sync all the information it contains about your photos. These are the things that don’t sync:

  • Keywords entered in Lightroom desktop.
  • People names you’ve entered using Lightroom Cloud face recognition.
  • Lightroom Cloud folders (the equivalent of Collection Sets in Lightroom Classic).

Photographers most likely to be affected by this are those that use keywords to organize their photos. The simplest way to deal with it is to re-enter the keywords in Lightroom Classic. It’s a lot of work if you’ve used keywords extensively, but better in the long run as Lightroom Classic uses a different keyword structure. 

What syncs from Lightroom desktop?

Fortunately, most of what you need syncs between Lightroom desktop and Lightroom Classic:

  • All photos imported to Lightroom desktop or Lightroom for mobile app.
  • All edits made in Lightroom desktop or a Lightroom for mobile app.
  • Title, Caption and Copyright metadata fields.
  • Any metadata added to a photo before you imported it into Lightroom desktop. This includes keywords added in Adobe Bridge or Lightroom Classic.
  • All Lightroom desktop Albums (they become Collections in Lightroom Classic). 

How to Migrate from Lightroom to Lightroom Classic (step by step)

When you’re ready, follow these steps to start the migration process.

1. Open Lightroom desktop and make sure that all your photos have synced to Adobe’s servers. To do that click on the cloud icon at the top right and look for the Synced and Backed Up checkmark at the bottom.

Lightroom desktop app

2. If you haven’t done so already install Lightroom Classic on your computer. 

To start, check which subscription plan you have as Lightroom Classic isn’t included in the Lightroom (1 TB) plan. In this case you need to speak to Adobe’s support team to help you switch plans. The Photography (20 GB) plan is the one you need. You can click here to check out the plans on the Adobe website.

Adobe photography plans

If you have the Photography (20 GB) plan or Photography (1 TB) plan then Lightroom Classic is included. Open the Creative Cloud app on your computer and install it.

Adobe Creative Cloud app

Note: If you subscribed to the Photography (1 TB) plan then you can switch to the Photography (20 GB) plan after you’ve completed the migration. You no longer need the 1 TB storage and you’ll save money as the Photography (20 GB) plan is half the price. Again, speak to Adobe’s support team to arrange this.

3. Open Lightroom Classic and go to Lightroom Classic > Preferences > Lightroom Sync (Mac) |  Edit > Preferences > Lightroom Sync (PC).  

Check the Specify location for Lightroom’s Synced Images box and click the Choose button to select the folder on your hard drive where you want the photos that you’ve uploaded to Lightroom desktop to be downloaded and saved. Make sure your hard drive has enough space to save the photo files.

It’s also a good idea to check the Use subfolders formatted by capture date box. When checked Lightroom Classic adds date based subfolders to your selected folder. It’s neater and better organized than dumping all synced photos into a single folder.

Lightroom Classic preferences

4. Click the cloud icon at the top right of Lightroom Classic and click the Start Syncing button. Note that if you’ve previously synced photos from Lightroom Classic the button says Resume Syncing or Pause Syncing.

Lightroom Classic syncing

Now Lightroom Classic takes over. It downloads the photos you’ve imported into Lightroom desktop from Adobe’s servers, saves them in the folder specified in step 3 and adds them to a Collection called From Lightroom. How long this takes depends on the speed of your internet connection and the number of photos you’ve imported into Lightroom desktop.

Any Albums that you created in Lightroom desktop become new Collections in the From Lightroom Collection. 

From Lightroom Collection

The downloaded photos also appear in the All Photographs and All Synced Photographs Collections in the Catalog panel. 

Once the sync is complete you’re ready to go in Lightroom Classic. From now on, import any new photos into Lightroom Classic rather than Lightroom desktop. You can even uninstall Lightroom desktop from your computer to avoid any confusion.

If haven’t downloaded any version of Lightroom yet and want to give it a try then click this link go to Adobe’s website and sign up for the Photography (20GB) plan (or the free trial) to get Lightroom Classic.

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Steve December 28, 2021 - 8:08 pm

hi. I’m considering using lightroom. I actually have a Synology NAS and was thinking about using the photos app on there but I don’t get the impression there are too many features available and I’m unsure how well I can fully migrate my apple photos library (1.91tb including duplicates currently) into it. I understand it is possible to import the library into lightroom though, but not sure if it is only lightroom CC (what you refer to as desktop?) that I can import to and then will have to migrate across to classic using this guide or can I just import my apple photos library straight into classic now? (it wasn’t possible last year when researching).

additionally, I’d like to know if the process of uploading my photo library to the adobe cloud is slow or quick? plus, because my library is massive would I need to somehow upload, sync across to classic, delete the cloud files, then upload more of the library (in a staged process?) thanks for your guides, they are always some of the best on the net!


Andrew S. Gibson December 29, 2021 - 10:04 am

Hi Steve, if you intend to use Lightroom Classic then just to be clear your photos aren’t saved in Adobe Cloud, they’re saved on a hard drive of your choice. The Lightroom app (formerly called Lightroom CC but now just Lightroom) is the one that uses Adobe cloud for photo storage. There’s no easy way to import a Photos library into Lightroom Classic, although you can import it into the Lightroom app. So yes, the best way to do that would be to migrate your Photos library to Lightroom, then from Lightroom to Lightroom Classic. There’s no way to segment the migration, so you’re going to have to migrate your entire Photos library. Upload speeds are impossible to estimate because it depends on the speed of your internet connection. Hope that helps!

Jaime Hernandez July 29, 2022 - 5:14 am

I’m part of the group of persons which have realized I must switch to Lightroom classic from Lightroom.
This is really useful information, thank you!

I’m downloading and syncing my cloud files to my local computer, but I have a question. How do I keep editions and image edit versioning history? It looks like lightroom is only storing original files in my local computer

Andrew S. Gibson August 1, 2022 - 11:38 am

Hi Jamie, as far as I know editing history and editions are two things that don’t sync between Lightroom and Lightroom Classic. Editions you can probably work around by exporting your editions as new photo files that you can import into Lightroom Classic. There’s not much you can do about the edit history.

I suggest you ask your question in the Lightroom Queen forum (link below). It has a lot of experienced users and it might be that somebody knows of a solution I’m not aware of.

Hope that helps!

Gosia August 6, 2022 - 4:18 am

I started migrating to Lightroom Classic from CC before I found this tutorial, but it looks like I’ve arrived at the same settings for the import. One thing I noticed which isn’t mentioned here is that Lightroom Classic mushed together my sub-collections that were inside Lightroom CC “Folders” (which AFAIK are different from Lightroom Classic Folders). So basically I have a flatter structure now, all Collections (which previously were in Folders) under one “From Lightroom” Collection Set. It even renamed my Collections if it detected conflicting names, e.g. “01” repeated a few times, so now I have “01”, “01 2”, “01 3”. I guess I’ll have to spend some time cleaning this up, but I believe it’s worth the effort.
Thank you for the tutorial!

Andrew S. Gibson August 16, 2022 - 7:13 pm

Hi Gosia, that’s good to know, thanks for sharing and glad the tutorial was useful!

Brianna Avila September 5, 2022 - 3:20 pm

I’ve hit a weird wall. My Lightroom cc is fully synced and backed up, and Lightroom classic (when I click on the cloud) says it is importing 241 photos. However, when I click the sync settings it shows that there is NO sync activity.

It’s been three hours and it still claims 241 photos are being synced. Am I doing something wrong?

Andrew S. Gibson September 7, 2022 - 3:22 pm

Hi Brianna, try restarting Lightroom Classic and see if that clears the synced photos.

Chad September 16, 2022 - 6:40 pm

After syncing. My Albums that I created in Lightroom, become new Collections in Lightroom Collection. Should I leave them as collections or make them into folders?

Andrew S. Gibson September 19, 2022 - 8:37 am

Hi Chad, leave them as Collections. You can’t turn a Collection into a Folder anyway as a Folder in Lightroom Classic mirrors the folders on your hard drive where you imported photos are saved.

kay September 28, 2022 - 7:17 pm

Hello! What’s the best workflow for an external hard drive. Should I specify the synced images to an external hard drive or should that be on my laptop? Ideally, I’d like to have my laptop running lean and using more external hard drives, but also want the best performance. I’ve been using a Lightroom (cc) and I feel like I’m re-learning everything!

Thanks so much.

Andrew S. Gibson September 29, 2022 - 7:03 am

Hi Kay, this article has the info you need. Save your files on the external drive and import them into Lightroom Classic. No need for syncing. Ask again if you have questions after reading it.

Pieter Visser November 6, 2022 - 9:52 am

Hello! I’m using lightroom at the moment, but I want to change to lightroom classic, to be able to store my photo’s locally. Is it possible to import and use all the presets I made in lightroom, to lightroom classic, and how should I do that?
Thanks a lot!
Pieter Visser

Andrew S. Gibson November 7, 2022 - 9:25 am

Hi Pieter, yes it’s easy to do. Right-click on one of your presets in Lightroom, select Export from the menu and save in a folder on your hard drive. You’ll have to do this for each preset, as you can only export single presets, not a preset group. Then in Lightroom Classic you can import the presets (File > Import Develop Profiles and Presets, or click on the Plus icon in the Presets panel and select Import Presets).

Pieter Visser November 15, 2022 - 3:58 pm

Thanks a lot!!

Dave November 30, 2022 - 10:10 am

Hi – great article, thanks.

I also would like to move from Lightroom to Lightroom Classic. I already have all of my RAW files saved to an external HD as backup (using the ‘Store a copy of all originals’ preference). If I specified this folder as the location for Lightroom’s Synced images in step 3 above, would it recognise those files and thereby not need to download everything again (800 GB)?


Andrew S. Gibson December 1, 2022 - 8:15 am

Hi Dave, good question! I don’t know the answer without testing it but I suspect Lightroom would still download your synced photos, perhaps saving them with a different name. But as I say, without trying it I don’t know for sure.

Hope that’s helpful,

Betty Lee December 27, 2022 - 9:10 pm

Hi- I currently have Lightroom (1st time user) and do all my editing on my desktop and I like that it syncs up to my mobile devices. If I switch over to Lightroom Classic, will Classic still sync to my mobile? I like being able to show my photos on my mobile and occasionally edit on my phone.

Andrew S. Gibson December 28, 2022 - 1:40 pm

Hi Betty, yes it will. The difference is that you have to select which Collections to sync. All photos in synced Collections can be edited and displayed in the Lightroom for mobile app.

Betty December 28, 2022 - 10:36 pm

Thanks for answering my question and confirming that. I’m debating about switching my Lightroom 1TB plan to the Photography Plan but wasn’t sure about still having mobile access. Another question, will all my existing edits and settings I made in Lightroom also migrate over to Classic? I assume it’s yes but just want to be certain. I would hate to re-edit everything that I’ve already done!

Andrew S. Gibson December 29, 2022 - 1:45 pm

Yes they will, you won’t have any problems. 🙂

Kelly April 2, 2023 - 2:09 pm

I thought this would be so difficult and it was super easy thanks to your tutorial! Thank you!

MJ Musolino August 7, 2023 - 4:39 pm

Thanks, this is very helpful. I am planning to migrate about 12000 photos from Lightroom to Lightroom Classic. I do intend to continue using both versions. I am on the road a lot, so I will be using Lightroom on an iPad for some importing and editing, and then Lightroom Classic when I return home. Will the two programs sync in both directions as long as I set them to sync everything all the time? Is there anything tricky about that? Also, most of my images are NEF (Nikon’s proprietary format). Can I/should I convert to DNG when I do the main migration? I believe in another article you mentioned that DNG saves space and makes things quicker as compared to RAW. Thanks.

Andrew S. Gibson August 8, 2023 - 10:00 am

Yes, you can use Lightroom Classic and Lightroom for mobile together. All you have to do is make sure the Collections you want to use in Lightroom for mobile have been synced in Lightroom Classic. Don’t convert your NEF files to DNG when you do the migration. If you want, you can convert your NEF files to DNG in future imports, which will save a little hard drive space and help the Develop module run faster.

Dane January 1, 2024 - 2:48 am

Hi Andrew, thank you for the help!
My issue is that I used to have the 1TB Lightroom subscription, cancelled it and moved to the 20GB Photography plan, not realizing that I had 71 GB stored on the Lightroom cloud. So now it’s telling me that my storage cloud is full.
If I follow the above steps, will it only sync 20GB of the 71GB to the Lightroom Classic?
If so, is there another way to get all my photos onto Lightroom Classic and stored locally? Could I somehow save all my edited photos to my harddrive and then upload them to Classic? Then delete the ones I don’t need in the cloud from Lightroom to get me back under 20GB.

Andrew S. Gibson January 1, 2024 - 10:00 am

Hi Dane, there’s nothing to worry about here. Adobe keeps your photos on its servers for a year after you cancel or change your plan, so there’s no immediate risk to your photos. I haven’t tested it myself, but I see no reason why Lightroom Classic wouldn’t download your entire 71GB of photos from Adobe’s servers (following the steps in the article). You can also open Lightroom desktop to download your photos, or use the Lightroom download app (link below) to download your photos directly to your computer’s hard drive. If I were you, I’d start by using the Lightroom downloader, for peace of mind.

Hope that helps, Andrew


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