Lightroom CC vs Lightroom Classic: What is the difference?

Matthew James Oxlade
Updated on

What is the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic? Here are the comparisons between Lightroom CC vs Lightroom Classic and which is right for you. When I started photography, Lightroom CC didn’t exist. There was no CreativeCloud, no subscription, and very few options.

Lightroom was just called ‘Lightroom’. I started with Lightroom 3 and moved through to Lightroom 6 until Adobe pushed the subscription model down our throats. It became the only way to use the products, and the company moved the product range into a new era, then to be known as Creative Cloud.

But Lightroom CC was undercooked, and Adobe knew it. So they kept around Adobe Lightroom in the form that we know it, and renamed it ‘Lightroom Classic’.

So two versions? Lightroom CC vs Lightroom Classic?

That meant that Adobe had two versions of Lightroom available for use – Lightroom CC vs Lightroom Classic. Each were notably different from one another, and they still offer both versions in 2020 that are similar but not quite the same.

So how are you meant to choose between Lightroom CC vs Classic? Fortunately they connect in some ways, but let’s take a look in how they differ and why one might be more suited for a photographer than the other.

Lightroom CC syncs with the cloud, meaning your photo library is up-to-date on all devices

You’ll need fast internet, but Lightroom CC syncs all of your photos to the Cloud – the Creative Cloud so to speak – making them available on all of your devices.

This means that if you import photos on your computer, add some metadata, maybe mark a few photos to a shortlist, the photos will upload to the cloud with all of that intact. You can then pick up your iPad or mobile device and you can edit from your bed or anywhere else you need to.

If cross-device usage and catalogue sharing is important to you, go with Lightroom CC.

Lightroom Classic is more familiar, meaning it can be quicker to edit for those that have used a previous version of Lightroom

Lightroom Classic has the same look and feel as Lightroom used to feel when it was known as version 2, 3, 4 etc. While Adobe tried to make Lightroom CC more intuitive than Adobe Classic, ultimately there are a number of features that are available but are done a little differently to how they have always been done in the past.

It’s not the biggest issue in the world, but if you are a long-time user of Lightroom, Classic’s interface will feel like home to you. Over time, searching for how to do things differently than you have always done in the past, only to find out that it might not even be possible to do in Lightroom CC yet means that Classic will be much faster to use for you.

Time savings over a long period of time means less time editing, more time shooting, so Lightroom Classic is the best choice for long-time Lightroom users.

Lightroom Classic uses photos store on the hard drive, meaning larger libraries are easily managed

I have spent a long time categorising my photos over the years. They’re all stored on my hard drive or external hard drives. There are terabytes of photos that would take a long time to upload even on the fastest internet around. You also need to consider the storage that your photography plan offers. 1tb is no where near big enough for me to store my entire library of photos over the years, so local storage will continue to be a reality for me.

I’m not interested in giving myself a headache, but if you’re new to photography, your photo library will be small. As you complete each new photoshoot, you can upload the photos to the Cloud. Many small uploads make it a lot less painful.

Lightroom CC is good for those that don’t have a large existing photo library, and are starting from scratch. Lightroom Classic is still the king when it comes to managing photo libraries using locally stored files.

Keyword data is manually managed in Lightroom Classic

Lightroom CC tries to do you a favour by automatically tagging your photos with keywords it thinks are relevant. It is quite accurate, but it isn’t perfect.

Imagine you go to undertake a photo shoot with a client where you need to photograph their new menu. Lightroom CC tags the photos with ‘burger’, ‘drink’, ‘cafe’, ‘restaurant’ and other high-level terms. That’s helpful, but maybe not helpful enough.

Lightroom CC vs Lightroom Classic
Photo by Sina Piryae

Later that year, Coca-Cola come knocking and asking if they can buy the rights to that awesome photo of your meal someone was about to drink with a Coke. But was it a Coke? Or was it a Pepsi? You better be sure.

That’s not the best example, but you can get the idea behind automatic tagging being a little too short of what is required. Lightroom Classic can easily let you edit the words that are meaningful to you. While this is a manual step, it can help you think about your keywords in a more meaningful way.

Where do I stand with Lightroom CC vs Classic?

Personally, Lightroom Classic is the weapon of choice for my photo editing. I can imagine a world where Lightroom CC is the only product I use, but it’s not ready yet. There are too many trade-offs and simplified (or dumbed down) ways of doing things, I just find CC more trouble than its worth.

As a long-time Lightroom user, the familiar aspects of Classic’s interface makes it too easy for me to leave in favour of CC or other competitor product entirely. My photo library is also far too big to have me even consider sitting there and waiting for it all to go in the cloud, let alone *fit* in the cloud.

Having said that, if I was going to start my photography journey today and had a clean slate with no photo library baggage, I would choose Lightroom CC. It’s the future, and you don’t miss what you never had.