Let’s talk about the differences between Lightroom and Lightroom classic. Many people think when they download Lightroom (usually pictured as Lr) that they are using the professional version of the program, but that actually is not correct. Lightroom classic (pictured as LrC) is the professional version of the program, Lightroom is actually just the cloud-based version of the program. Both of them do many of the same things but they are different in the advanced capabilities within the application—things like presets, versions, and other capabilities of the application—as well as where the images are stored. So it is important to note the differences and use the correct application for your needs. As a professional photographer I have used Lightroom classic [LrC] for many many years. As a teacher I have used Lightroom [Lr] with my students and it is an excellent application because of the cloud-based opportunities. So let’s get into the differences between these two programs and when it might be best to use one or the other.
When it is best to use Lightroom (Lr)
Adobe Lightroom (Lr) used to be called Lightroom CC meaning it is the creative cloud-based version of the program. It is based “in the cloud” and it does not have as many professional capabilities as Lightroom classic does. Lr is best to use if you are always on the go or need to be able to pull up your images wherever you are on different devices and want the edits and changes to be easily accessible in real time. Lr is the only application that is available for your phone, if that is important to you. It also does do an excellent job at basic (and some more advanced) editing and organization of your files. In fact, it may feel more user friendly if you are moving from another program such as Apple Photos or another application where your images were placed in albums. As a trained Lightroom classic user it took me quite some time to get used to Lightroom and be able to teach it really well to my students. But teaching editing and organization on Lr gives them a strong base for editing and a student workflow within the classroom and outside of the classroom. So as a teacher of hundreds of high school students I find this version to be excellent as a starting point. LrC is actually so big with many things the average user just doesn’t need…yet. And I definitely want to put the “yet” in here, because I think LrC is a much better program for professional uses, so if “professional photographer” is your final goal you’ll want to get used to LrC.
When Is It Best To Use Lightroom Classic (LrC)
Lightroom classic is an application that is on your computer itself and is not cloud based. Please note that you can sync to the cloud in LrC but your images are still stored locally. It is a much more robust program and offers more professional capabilities with options for slideshows, keywords, collections, photo books, and many more that I actually don’t even use myself. I find the program to be more intuitive if you are moving from the Adobe Camera Raw program (remember that one?), or from Bridge (not an editing program but a system based browser). Lightroom Classic is like an image browser and robust editor all rolled into one and it still connects to ACR window and Photoshop. It allows you to manage your files that are already on your computer, and make local copies of those files so that while you are editing your images they will never degrade. Let me clarify that Lr also doesn’t degrade your files but the images are in the cloud as opposed to in a system on your own desktop or external hard drive. You import and export into this app very similarly to Lr, but in LrC you have more options during import and export, and far more control over your images as well.
Also since LrC lives on your main computer desktop, you should have full control over the color calibration of your monitor, giving you better color output to print. This is much harder to do with a laptop. My monitor is calibrated to my specific office and lighting conditions so my prints are as close to how I see them on screen as possible. Overall LrC is the better option for professional photographers editing hundreds or thousands of photos a week who need more specific control over imagery, catalog systems, ratings, keywords, and export options.
Should I Use Lr or LrC?
So the question becomes not what are the differences between Lightroom and Lightroom Classic, but which one should you use? If you are starting a business or want more professional control over your images then I would 100% recommend using LrC. It will serve you better in the long term and will give you more options overall. But, if you are only doing this for your own hobbyist purposes and perhaps you need the ease of logging into different computers (or iPads or smartphones) and want access to all of your imagery at one time them Lr will serve you better. It hosts up to 100GB of imagery and so if you are not using up that space photographing one single event (a wedding, for example, takes nearly 100GB in one 8-hour day) then Lightroom will be your new favorite application. Soon I will get into more of the nitty gritty ways to edit in both of these apps (probably with a how to video) and give a more visual rundown of the differences. When you purchase the photoshop bundle you get both programs anyway, and so you might be able to play around with both options and find your own personal workflow.