Lightroom CC vs. Lightroom Classic CC: Which is Right for You?

Adobe Lightroom’s marries several powerful photography tools inside of one integrated suite: a single app to import, convert, organize, edit, and export image files. Lightroom brings together just about everything you need to process your photos.

Lightroom launched in 2006 and drew many users away from Photoshop. For most photographers, it was Lightroom’s speed advantage. Lightroom’s ease at batch-process images is a major advantage.

Lightroom CC
Meet the new Lightroom, same as the old Lightroom but with a cloud twist.

But last year, Adobe made an interesting decision: it split the program into two unique branches of Lightroom: Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC. These are now commonly called “Lightroom Classic” and “Lightroom CC” respectively.

Lightroom is a popular app and splitting it into such distinct halves was a bold move. And it left many users wondering which version they should go with going forward. Would Classic be shelved in favor of the new kid on the block, Lightroom CC?

Maybe you’re a longtime user of Lightroom, wondering if you should switch to the latest version. Or you’re looking to start organizing your images and are choosing the platform to use.  In this article, we’re going to see the difference between the two versions of Lightroom and which version you should choose, depending on your needs.

Choose Your Flavor

First of all, you don’t have to choose between the two editions of Adobe Lightroom. As part of a monthly subscription to the Creative Cloud Photography plan, you have access Photoshop and both versions of Adobe Lightroom. These three tools can combine to give you all the features you need to manage and edit your images.

In practice, however, you’ll want to choose a Lightroom version and get comfortable in it. You’re going to be importing, managing, and editing your images in it, so it helps to have a single source. Splitting your images between versions of the app is only going to cause confusion.

What Do Both Versions of Lightroom Do?

While Classic and CC are unique apps, there are many basic features that they share. The basic idea is that Lightroom is a tool for managing images at scale. It brings together a suite of tools inside a single app that helps you make sense of a large set of images.

Here are some features that you’ll find in both versions of Lightroom:

  • Both versions handle a variety of image formats, like RAW, JPEG, DNG, and more
  • Both apps let you control the look and feel of an image, adjusting factors like exposure, white balance, contrast, and other visual settings
  • Both versions of Lightroom give you tools to manage and organize images, like keywords, tagging, albums, and more

Each app also has its unique features as well. Let’s take a look at what sets the two versions apart.

Old Familiar: Lightroom Classic CC

If you’ve been using Adobe Lightroom for several years, this is the version that you’re familiar with. It’s the traditional version of Lightroom that uses a catalog on your computer to store information about your image adjustments and corrections.

When you think Lightroom Classic, think about it like a traditional desktop app. Lightroom Classic stores information about your images in a catalog file that is separate from your image files. You can store your original image files anywhere, whether that’s on your computer’s hard drive or stored on an external drive.

Lightroom Classic CC

Lightroom Classic features everything you might need to manage a massive library of images. With separate modules that help you work with images in different ways like Library, Develop, and Print, it’s a full stack solution for working with your images.

Lightroom CC: Goes Anywhere

Lightroom CC has continued to evolve since it’s launch, and Adobe has
steadily added new features. Altogether, they’ve refined the software to give you more and better tools to work with your
image files, including more and more features from the Classic edition, so that it is now a much more robust alternative.

Software as a Service

Lightroom CC takes the increasingly popular approach of storing everything on a server: by default, your images are stored in Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

You can still use your computer to import and upload images, but it’s clear that the goal is to get images off of your device and into the Creative Cloud. If you’re frequently working on a laptop or mobile device this a a real plus because it means you access high-quality versions your images without downloading the original, probably pretty large, files.

Mobile Focused

Lightroom CC also has mobile-first apps. The iOS and Android apps
feel almost exactly like the desktop version of the app to provide
continuity in working with your images.

You’ll find most of the
essential features from Lightroom Classic inside of CC. There are tools
to organize, edit, correct, and share images. It just simplifies these
features so that it takes less effort to work with your images.

Lightroom CC image edit example

Lightroom Classic CC vs Lightroom CC:

So far, we’ve looked at the two versions and reviewed some of the defining features of each platform. You might be wondering which is the right choice for you. The answer, as usual, is “it depends.” Let’s look at two scenarios that might lead you to choose each version of the app.

Best Lightroom for Pro, Amateur Photographers: Lightroom Classic CC

If you’re a serious photographer who needs access to all of the robust correction and editing tools you’re accustomed to, there’s no doubt that Lightroom Classic CC is the choice for you.

Lightroom Classic CC gives you tight control over your files and images. I’m very careful with how my images are stored and backed up, and this is a key advantage in Lightroom Classic’s favor. My images are stored on a NAS and carefully archived, and I trust my systems more than letting them disappear to Adobe Creative Cloud.

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Lightroom Classic also has the best tools for batching images. Lightroom CC doesn’t currently allow you to edit multiple images at the same time, which is a real deal breaker for busy photographers that need to speed through edits.

Lightroom Classic still has the most features and tools. When you need features like HDR merging or stitching together panoramas, Lightroom Classic is a must, as these features are missing from Lightroom CC.

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