It’s been two years since Adobe shook the photography world with Lightroom CC, a cloud-based take on its Lightroom photo editor. The decision to rebuild the app from the ground up with new workflows, new library management ideas, and — in many areas — fewer features, was a polarizing announcement.

To help ease the transition, Adobe has continued to maintain and update Lightroom Classic with new features and fixes. Supporting both apps is a service to customers who rely on existing workflows and local file management, but adds complexity to the Lightroom ecosystem. So what’s next? I asked Josh Haftel, product manager for Lightroom.

“We’re actually getting to the point now where it’s like, outside of panorama and HDR, all of the features are there on both platforms — mobile or desktop,” says Haftel. “You don’t have to worry about where you are.” Two years of feature updates have unified Lightroom on the Mac with Lightroom on the iPhone and iPad, which once paled in comparison to the desktop experience.

Major additions announced this week at Adobe MAX include batch editing of photos on iPad, available now, and advanced export settings, coming in the next update. Advanced exports will use the same image processing engine and file compression schemes used on the desktop. For iPhone photographers, iPhone 11 lens profiles have been added, making correction of ultra-wide lens distortion one click away. Haftel says he completes the majority of his edits between an iPhone and iPad, so the changes are exciting.

But what about Lightroom Classic? As its Creative Cloud counterpart catches up in features, does the legacy tool still have a place in Adobe’s lineup? Haftel says Classic isn’t going anywhere — yet. 

“It looks like there are people who want to have control, and that control they want to have is over the exact organizational systems that they use, like who’s doing the backup. That’s where Lightroom Classic comes into play.” Both apps will remain in development for the foreseeable future, but Haftel expects that Lightroom CC will eventually make more sense for just about everyone.

“We really want to get to the point — and we’re slowly getting to that point — where there are fewer and fewer reasons that you if you want to use Lightroom, you have to go back to Classic to do it. We want to get to that point where there’s no feature or capability between the two of them that causes you to choose one versus the other. It’s less that one is going to replace the other but more that they’re both going to be available, and they’re going to continue on, because we have a huge number of users using Lightroom Classic today. And we also have a huge number of users using Creative Cloud.”

As Lightroom CC matures and develops its own identity, Adobe is starting to consider features that never existed in Classic to begin with. Haftel says the development he’s most excited about in Lightroom is a feature to help photographers become better at using the app and be inspired to go out and shoot more photos. 

“For a very long time, as a company, we’ve been building the most powerful, professional, precise editing tools out there,” says Haftel, “but we haven’t really spent that much time trying to help people become more successful with them.”

In May, Adobe introduced new interactive tutorials and inspirational photos to Lightroom. Unlike regular tutorial videos you might find on YouTube, interactive tutorials allow you to walk through editing a real photo shot by a pro. Haftel hopes that the tutorials will be helpful to beginners, but also serve as inspiration to pros in search of a new technique or editing style.

“Even professional photographers get value out of these kinds of tools, because they might see a way somebody else approaches using the exact same tool that they’re using, and how they do something differently. It’s the same way that we as artists go to museums all the time to get inspired by how other artists approach their kind of creative expression.”

Adobe has about 100 tutorials live in Lightroom right now, but over 400 are in the works. Each tutorial is localized to the 18 languages supported by the app. The Lightroom team is also experimenting with the Home tab in an effort to make it more visible and accessible.

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Michael Steeber

Michael is a Creative Editor who covered Apple Retail and design on 9to5Mac. His stories highlighted the work of talented artists, designers, and customers through a unique lens of architecture, creativity, and community.

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