Adobe MAX is always a big time of the year for photographers, but this year's announcements and updates are the company's biggest since the introduction of Lightroom. Going forward, the now-old desktop-run Lightroom CC is called Lightroom Classic CC. But there's nothing classic about it when it comes to its performance improvements. This time, it's for real. Lightroom CC is now a completely new, 100-percent cloud-based product that works on any platform: desktop, mobile, and web. And Photoshop CC improvements help tie everything together no matter what you're using.
We're going to take this announcement on an app-by-app basis. But the first thing we have to get out of the way is some clarification when it comes to the new Lightroom branding. Even I'll admit, it's confusing. But it'll make sense soon.
First, Lightroom 6 will be the final standalone version of Lightroom. There will be a Lightroom 6.3 update that will provide Nikon D850 support (which is here now for Lightroom Classic CC, Lightroom CC, and Photoshop CC), but that's all that we can expect. There will be no further updates after this year to Lightroom 6. While Lightroom 6 will still be available for an unspecified amount of time, going forward, there will simply be two new subscription-only desktop versions: Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC.
That desktop application that you're so familiar with and that you've been calling, "Lightroom," for more than a decade — that is now called Lightroom Classic CC, not Lightroom CC. It has some nifty updates we'll get to soon. Meanwhile, Lightroom CC is a new Lightroom product that uses a completely new (but similar) user interface based on the original Lightroom. The major difference is that everything with Lightroom CC is powered by and lives within the cloud. This also has some amazing implications and features. But now you know the difference. Thankfully, Photoshop CC is still Photoshop CC.
Lightroom Classic CC
This is the big one. For every professional photographer that doesn't need or want a major user interface upgrade, that just wants everything to work better, that just wants to keep shooting and do less editing with a speedy editor — this is the release for you. Lightroom Classic CC is deceptively important update to the Lightroom desktop application (previously Lightroom CC) with just two new features: some Develop Module updates and major performance improvements.
While there are more specific details on this in a review coming later today, performance is definitely improved. To this day, on my system, images large and small have often taken as long as ten seconds to load when switching to the Develop Module. In early tests of Lightroom Classic CC, this dropped to fractions of a second, even with my usual 200+ tabs open across 20+ Safari windows running alongside Mail, six various cloud storage applications integrated into my operating system, and multiple smaller applications such as Calendar faithfully standing by. Even some exports took nearly half the time. Adjustment brushes and other performance-draining edits all felt much more fluid.
Of course, nothing can ever be fast enough. There were some small glitches (likely because of the pre-release version I have been using). But on the other hand, this is so far the most stable first-release I've used, and it's not even technically the first release that just came out today. My advice: move around quite a bit and give the application a little time to "warm up." After a few minutes, everything worked rather smoothly for me.
Develop Module Updates
The Develop Module doesn't have many updates, but it does introduce a few new features and changes. While there is now better noise reduction when using Auto Mask, new Color Range and Luminance Range masking features allow for even more powerful masking options within any of the filters or brush adjustments.
Lightroom CC was born of Adobe's Project Nimbus, which heavily used Adobe Sensei's machine-learning framework to enable automatic identification and subsequent tagging and searching of images according to subject matter without any user input whatsoever. This technology has been combined with a completely new version of Lightroom that looks like a very lightweight version of Classic CC, but in reality supports nearly every edit that its sibling does, except for the recently introduced Color Range and Luminance Range masking tools. The automatic tagging and search features are incredibly powerful. Search, "Mountains," and receive an entire grid full of any photo you've ever taken with a mountain in it — no previous tagging (keyword, location, or otherwise) required.
Still, Lightroom CC is likely to serve as a pro-sumer or hobbyist tool for at least the foreseeable future, as the lack of desktop file organization in the form of any central "Library" will leave professionals used to the Classic CC wanting to go back. Instead, CC puts absolutely everything into the cloud and ties it all to your Adobe ID. While the drawbacks of this include the lack of organization across multiple catalogs, that's equally part of the beauty of the new system as well.
Since everything is uploaded in full-resolution (and original file format) to the cloud, every computer, web browser, or mobile device can now be your Lightroom editing platform. Images can still be organized by Collections (known as and translated to "Albums" in CC), but every image across your entire editing experience is at your fingertips in one place.
This, in fact, is something amazing that professional users might actually want. To have the ability to essentially have your personal Lightroom experience synced across any device has been something that's been lacking, but more because syncing all that data is more of a technical hurdle than it is something that lacks the support of the people. Logically so, the cloud is the only real and smart way to do this. And now it's been done.
For those wondering, all changes except for the advanced machine-learning-enabled auto-tagging and search functionalities made in Lightroom CC will transfer to any images you have synced with Lightroom Mobile in Lightroom Classic CC. So you absolutely can go back and forth between the two systems. The only issue would be if you wanted access to more images than those in your main catalog that is synced with Lightroom Mobile, since only one catalog at a time can ever be synced this way.
With the powerful Adobe Sensei technology backing tagging and search alongside a robust image editor that syncs across any platform, it's clear that Lightroom CC is, at the absolute least, the perfect all-in-one editor for most people on the planet. Objectively speaking, designers, marketers, PR firms, and vacationers alike should opt for nothing more than a Lightroom CC plan.
The main issue with Lightroom CC as a professional solution seems to present itself when the question arises of how to deal with a body of work that includes tens or hundreds of thousands of images across dozens of years and projects. It's in these cases that the organization and general image management offered in Lightroom Classic CC still seems to reign supreme while the feat and expense of managing all of that with online cloud storage to match seems unreachable.
Photoshop CC comes with its own updates today. There is far too broad of a mix of both incremental and substantial updates to dive into each one, so we'll expand on a few and will leave you with a list form of all the other features below.
First, learning Photoshop is becoming easier with major improvements to tool tips and the introduction of a new Learn panel. Tool tips are now more interactive and display images or GIF animations and directions for how to use certain tools throughout the Photoshop experience. A new Learn panel will help you take truly interactive step-by-step tutorials for entire editing techniques or even simple tool uses (i.e. for the previously announced but new-for-this-release Curvature Pen Tool).
Lightroom Photos is a new feature that will open up in Photoshop to give quick, searchable access to any of your photos in Lightroom CC and synced with your Adobe ID (reminder: this is not for photos in Classic CC catalogs, unless those photos happen to be synced with Lightroom CC). This makes it easy to grab photos with their edits (or not) from Lightroom without having to enter Lightroom and then go back to Photoshop. You get the idea: more cross-application, cross-platform, and cloud integration all around.
Alongside support for Apple's HEIF file format introduced in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, Photoshop CC also gets an upgrade for 360 spherical panoramic image editing. Opening and editing a spherical panoramic image is easier and more intuitive now with new features that allow such images to be rendered and then edited with the same techniques one might use to edit traditional two-dimensional images.
Masks are also easier to select, and features such as Refine Mask are more accurate. Quick mask is also faster, and Lightroom CC's Range masks make an appearance in Adobe Camera Raw (can we finally just refer to this as what it is: a mini Lightroom editor inside Photoshop?).
Brushes also get a huge update with improved brush management, brush stroke smoothing to get rid of those annoying computer-perfect jitters, and enhanced brush presets. Adobe's recent acquisition of KyleBrush.com now allows it to offer the more than 1,400 Kyle Webster brushes completely free of charge to Creative Cloud subscribers.
Photoshop CC also includes a number of performance improvements to the way it handles virtual memory to painting and PNG-saving improvements.
Below is a full list of upgrades and new features in Photoshop CC to cover everything not already covered above.
Painting performance improvements
Import depth maps from HEIF file format
Copy and paste layers
Custom Path color and thickness
Easier to use Adobe Stock Images
Better customization of type and font management
Paste as plain text
Preserve details 2.0, using Adobe Sensei
Quick Share to social platforms
Improved quality of detecting skin tones and faces
• Improved protection of faces
• Improved face detection
Save as PNG quality and performance improvements
Microsoft Dial support
Performance Improvements to several areas:
File New launch time
Common blending and compositing operations
Surface Blur filter
Noise > Median filter
Virtual memory system
Adobe's CC Photography Plan isn't losing any features. In fact, it's gaining 20 GB of cloud storage as well as Lightroom CC alongside the Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop CC updates. A new CC Photography Plan with 1 TB increases the price to $19.99 per month, up from $9.99 per month for the standard plan. Existing users get a $5 per month discount for the first year. A new Lightroom CC plan gives the standalone cross-platform system to users with 1 TB of storage for $9.99 per month. A purely mobile Lightroom Mobile Plan for iOS and Android is also available with 100 GB of storage for $4.99 per month. Additional data amounts are available, although at currently undisclosed prices and capacities.
Of course, the standard 1 TB upgraded capacities are enough for most people's needs. But pending pricing on multiple terabytes of data, it could be unrealistic for professional photographers to rely on Lightroom CC alone to hold their data or even to upload all of it to begin with. And because Lightroom CC uploads every image to the cloud (there's a way to ensure an image is or is not downloaded locally, but no way to stop an image from being uploaded if it's imported into CC), it's unclear if this would be something manageable or if there's another solution or workaround aside from continuing to use Lightroom Classic CC as the main image management and editing workhorse.
One More Thing: Adobe Dimension CC
Adobe's beta product, Project Felix, which debuted at last year's Adobe MAX, is now a full-fledged and much more refined product in the form of Adobe Dimension CC. Dimension CC lets designers create, edit, share, and export (in multiple layers to Photoshop, for example) three-dimensional images with little knowledge of complex 3D design tools. Dimension CC also offers built-in access to Adobe Stock, which offers a large collection of 3D content from furniture to packaging to beverage containers and more.