Adobe's Lightroom: changes

 Adobe serves an enormous part of the image-editing market, whether photographers like it or not. They are  an industry leader in graphic design, photo editing and photo management software---the standard in the industry for many people. 

Lightroom,  the photo processing software, has professional-grade editing and organizing tools,  but still maintains its usability. The Creative Cloud of Lightroom version is part of Adobe’s annual subscription-based Photography Plan, which includes  Photoshop CC, so you’re getting two photo-editing applications designed to work alongside each other. 

Adobe's recent upgrade to Lightroom  has seen the emergence of two Lightrooms--Lightroom Classic CC (an updated version of the desktop Lightroom that we know--its Lightroom 7)  and Lightroom CC (an entirely redesigned app designed to work alongside Adobe’s equally new cloud-based storage system)--a cut down version (Lightroom Mobile?),  that is a shift to a more mobile-first workflow which  allows you to manage your photos wherever you are and whatever the device. 

The current subscription model  for Lightroom CC  means that we rent Adobe’s apps rather than buying a licence--permanently renting the tools we  use to create. The shift is from software to rental ware.  I have been using the stand alone Lightroom 5  (desktop) up to now,  but I recently purchased Lightroom 6 (desktop) as part of my film order from B+H.  I realize that I am  essentially getting a two-year-old version, feature wise, as compared to the subscription version.  I appreciate that the differences between the subscription version Lightroom Classic  and and the standalone version of  Lightroom 6 are becoming significant, but I don't really need all the updates or the extraneous options. 

With the more mobile orientated Lightroom CC---Lightroom in the cloud---we are also being asked to rent storage space when we are used to buying desktop storage outright. This does suggest that the future of Adobe products looks to be increasingly cloud based--their cloud storage. Lightroom Cloud  enables you  to access your files from anywhere,  but it locks you into Adobe and this is what they are aiming for. 

It also looks as if Adobe  has killed the Lightroom standalone version that I have been using.  Lightroom 6.3 will be released on October 26 with support for the Nikon D850 and  no additional camera support will be added beyond 2017. Lightroom 6 is still hampered by its outdated architecture with hampers the ability  to use it in a network environment for personal or collaborative use--eg., you can only use the Lightroom catalog on one machine. 

While Lightroom  6 will still be available for an unspecified amount of time. There will be no Lightroom 7.  Adobe is really forcing me  to switch over to the annual subscription model of  Lightroom Classic CC when I upgrade my Sony NEX-7 to a latter model (eg.,  a Sony A7rIII when, hopefully, it is released in 2018). Secondly, sure enough a  day will come  soon when an operating system from Apple will be introduced  that the stand alone LR 6 won't work with. So I will have to eventually shift to the monthly subscription model, and as a consumer I will be paying more for the subscription model  just for Lightroom than buying the software outright.    

Many have made the shift to the subscription model for good reason, especially with the Lightroom/Photoshop package.  The monthly subscription model is very cost-effective, you get  automatic ongoing updates, new features and new camera support as soon as they arrive, and it brings Creative Cloud synchronisation tools which some find  more and more useful. My problem here is the loss of the use of a full product if I ever get off the subscription wheel. 

The cloud based version of Lightroom CC (Lightroom mobile) is not for me. I find the  closed nature of Adobe's  cloud based service  most unwelcome. I will certainly avoid  buying into this  model--ie., storing my  catalog in Creative Cloud on Adobe's servers  and I'll continue to stick with  traditional hard drive storage.  Secondly, the  cloud-centric CC  future of Lightroom (Lite for Mobile)  is for users  who tend to take a lot of their photos on their phones.    Adobe  is trying to find a way to compete with  Google or Apple Photos (for both the everyday users, and the enthusiasts/pros). It's essentially a mobile app for the phone  with  built in AI features that will help users  organize, search, curate, and maybe even edit faster by learning their  tastes.

Adobe's conception of the future is one that is increasingly defined by  mobile phones and the cloud.   Mobile phones  have caused the decrease in PC/laptop sales, the decrease in camera sales, the increased expectation that your media is accessible anywhere, and the increased expectation that digital assistants understand your needs to help you navigate, communicate, and share with ease. Since traditional cameras now constitute a small minority of the photography market (2%?) that is not enough revenue to keep Adobe growing. 

So that leaves me as professional  photography,  currently with working locally on my camera based photos with the desktop standalone Lightroom  6 as the main image management and editing workhorse,  in a small niche market.    I go into the “digital darkroom” everyday and look at new ways of processing images old and new alike. I just want to work on my photos,  and I still find that Lightroom is great for keeping my catalogue. True, performance slows down with a large catalogue of raw images and the more manipulations made in the Develop Module. 

Even shifting  to the desktop Lightroom Classic CC  with its annual subscription model option  keeps me in  the dinosaur camp. That is not the market that Adobe is  interested in for the future. The future for Adobe like  Apple and Google  is  a  world where most images are captured with smartphones,  shared via Internet services,  and processed with A1. Lightroom Classic suggests that  Adobe's interest in  desktop software  is fading in favour of putting everything into the cloud. They're basically doing what Apple and Google have done, ignoring  professionals and power users and focusing  on the mass mobile phone market.

This looks to be a good time to rethink my workflow.  Maybe it is time to explore alternatives to Adobe's  Lightroom Classic CC and  its subscription model.  Is there a current replacement to Lightroom Classic CC? Have Adobe's competitors built a  serious alternative as a centralised all-in-one photo management application?

The real problem  is that there is currently no alternative to Adobe's Lightroom---eg., Apple's lack of support for Aperture means that it  has  forgotten  about the professional photographers who helped build their platform. Some have suggested MacPhun's Luminar --an editing platform.  Though Luminar  can currently operate as a plug in  for Lightroom,   Luminar  currently lacks an image-cataloging service, such as Lightroom’s Library module.  Lightroom Classic CC is  still the most robust, fully-featured, and well-integrated DAM we currently have, and the fear is that Lightroom Classic CC (Desktop) could well have  an end-of-life in a couple years. We don't know--it  depends on the emergence of the alternatives--but Lightroom Classic CC is not the priority for Adobe.       

It will be small steps of change to my workflow at this stage.  I'm taying with Lightroom 7 because I really dislike what happens when you stop making subscription payments  to Adobe ---I can open the files t but I cannot modify them.  I  will replace Silver Efex Pro (it is no longer supported by Google) with  MacPhun's  Tonality for my digital,  black and white  photography.  Lightroom 6 works fine with the film images on my Mac-Pro running the El Capitan O/S. It's the future of my digital photography that is the problem-ie., when I buy a new camera.  I will  stay with  the recently purchased classic standalone Lightroom 6 until I can find a long term alternative for the images produced using my digital camera.

Change is going to come because Apple has stated when announcing High Sierra, that  32-bit apps will no longer be supported in the future (2019)--only 64 bit apps. Most photo processing software,  including Adobe's,  is 32 bit not 64.