Adobe Lightroom: A Year in Review
A year ago, we were all using Lightroom 5 or perhaps even an older version. Creative Cloud existed, but Lightroom was exempt from the brave new frontier of software rental. A lot has changed since then.
By the spring of 2015, rumors about the next version of Lightroom began circulating. Users looked forward to previous upgrades, but somehow this one seemed potentially different. Would Adobe convert Lightroom licensing to fall under the Creative Cloud subscription model, or were we Photographers somehow fortunate enough to avoid that change. Some photographers reasoned that Adobe recognized their unique situation of needing to use the program while traveling, when internet access might be limited and that Lightroom would remain standalone. Others reasoned that their time had come and that cloud based licensing was the inescapable wave of the future.
Those of us that use Photoshop had already been forced to come to terms with the Cloud subscription model back in the middle of 2013. At least at first, most of us weren't all that happy about it, but there seemed little we could do. Photoshop CS6 was the end of the Creative Suite licensing model and there would be no more. Photoshop CS7 morphed into the Creative Cloud. There would be no more upgrades unless we braved the Cloudy weather of what the licensing changed entailed. No longer could we purchase Photoshop outright. Creative Cloud was licensed under a subscription model that meant we had to continue to pay in order to continue to use.
Back then, photographers who used Lightroom but not Photoshop were safe in ignoring all this turmoil going on regarding Photoshop. Nothing had changed for them. But among Photoshop users, it was an interesting time indeed. Would we be able to use Photoshop without an internet connection? What would happen to all our PSD files if we someday discontinued our subscription? The questions went on and on. I should know since I had those same questions and more myself. Depending on how many Creative Suite applications you used and how often you traditionally upgraded them, the new plan was either considerably more expensive, or it worked out to about the same as you had been paying over the years. It was a world of unknowns.
All that excitement among Photoshop users worked its way out, one way or another though. In the middle of 2014, Adobe announced their Photography Plan for Creative Cloud that made it more cost effective for those sitting on the fence to take the plunge, but other than that, you didn't really hear too much about the new subscription model during 2014. The Photography Plan provides a convenient way to license Lightroom and Photoshop together. Everyone made their choice. Some people stuck with CS6, others upgraded.
The year 2015 for Lightroom kicked off with the release of Lightroom mobile for Android in January. If it seems odd to run Lightroom on your mobile phone (or tablet), welcome to the future. There once was a time when your phone was a phone. Now they have enough computing power to rival home computers from not that many years back. Adobe made a number of tweaks and updates to Lightroom mobile throughout the year, so it appears they are indeed committed to this new platform. You must have a Creative Cloud subscription to use the mobile version.
In April 2015, Adobe made the big announcement regarding the successor to Lightroom 5. Apparently Adobe knew the quandary their customers were in. They tried to make everyone happy by offering both the Creative Cloud 2015 version of Lightroom and the traditionally licensed Lightroom 6 boxed version. Of course, we photographers being human, what ended up happening is that Adobe confused everyone by offering choices without fully explaining how to decide between them. Oh well.
June brought the official release of the new Dehaze feature for Photoshop, with the same thing being added to Lightroom in October as part of the CC 2015.02 update. This is a great feature for outdoor photographers where atmospheric conditions sometimes get in the way in the late afternoon.
All throughout the year, Adobe has issued a stream of point upgrades to add support for new camera models. In July, Adobe announced that Camera Raw 9.1.1 would be the last release that would work with Photoshop 6. They have long used Camera Raw dependency as a wedge to coax reluctant users into upgrading Photoshop versions so this didn't really come as that much of a surprise. But users hoping to avoid the Cloud by sticking with Photoshop 6 were thereby given yet another reason to take the leap to CC.
Some long time users remained reluctant to upgrade nonetheless. As the year progressed, it became increasingly clear that attempts to avoid the cloud was akin to trying to swim upstream. One sticking point was the fear that once you started paying for the subscription model, you would be locked into paying forever or risk losing the ability to access their existing collection of image files. Thankfully, Adobe clarified how they intended to handle the situation where a customer decided to cancel their Cloud subscription. In such cases, you would still have full access to the Library module but would be prevented from using the Develop module to make additional changes. That struck most users I've talked to as being a fair arrangement.
And Adobe didn't take the holiday season off either. In November, Adobe released the Lightroom CC 2015.3 / 6.3 update, and December brought the Lightroom Mobile 2.1 update. One advantage of this new Cloud world is that these updates are really just a few mouse clicks away. The software tells you the update is available and you tell it to go ahead and do its thing. Simple as that.
So it's been a busy year for Lightroom. Overall, Adobe seems to have really been listening to the Lightroom community in order to understand their concerns and take them into account as they work their software magic. I'm hoping for more of the same in this new year. Welcome to 2016.