Adobe Lightroom Schizophrenia

Adobe Lightroom is an application designed to catalog and organize your collection of image files like digital photos, scanned images, or even just all that porn you keep downloading. There are two versions of the program these days. The first is Adobe Lightroom Classic. This is essentially the modern version of the original Lightroom v1.0 from 1997. The other is Adobe Lightroom (originally known as “Lightroom CC“), and there are some hugely important differences. In fact, I personally think the name handling is a big mistake on Adobe’s part. The newer version should be called Adobe PhotoCloud or something like that. It would more accurately describe what’s going on and reduce confusion.

The Original Lineage

One of the really cool things about Lightroom back when it first came out was that it was designed around the idea of non-destructive editing, You could import a bunch of images from your digital camera, select one, and then apply your basic color and exposure adjustments as desired. T he program was well integrated with the RAW image formats used by better digital cameras, so you could dial in your adjustments and save a preset development setting with that information. For example, you might have a group of pictures which were taken on an overcast day and you want to adjust the color balance and contrast. Once you’ve done that with one image and created a preset, you can easily select another 50 images, or 200, or even 2000, and then select that preset to apply your color balance and contrast settings to the whole batch. Instead of the old fashioned method of actually going into each image file and adjusting the pixel values o each one, which could be possible to undo later, Lightroom simply makes annotation in the catalog of the adjustments that have been made. From that point on, whenever the image is displayed, printed, exported for web output, etc., those adjustments will be applied. You can make further adjustments at any time, or even reset everything back to the original version.

Classic also had a bunch of other cool features like the ability to create web galleries from the images in your catalog. It would generate HTML files, thumbnails, resized images, and then either save the whole thing out to a specified location or upload it directly to a website.

It could print contact sheets for you. Select a batch of photos, and it could print sheets of images ranging from full page down to the size of a slide. You could also connect to photo sharing sites like Flickr and upload images.

Common questions in those early days included , how is Lightroom different from Photoshop? Which one is right for me? The answer is that Photoshop is for advanced editing of individual images, while Lightroom is designed to manage collections of images and provide some basic work-flow oriented editing. In addition to the things we’ve mentioned, Lightroom has functions for removing redeye, and basic touchup for skin blemishes, but it doesn’t let you get down and dirty and edit thigs pixel by pixel. It doesn’t give you access to all of the filters and special effects add-ons. .

One major problem with this dichotomy between the two versions of Lightroom is that if you started with the original v1.0 and then upgraded until you got to Classic, you’ve trained your brain to think in certain ways that don’t apply if decide to start using CC, and which you can easily trip over an when you do.

Classic keeps track of your images using a database file known as a “catalog” This database stores all of the information about what images have been added, what adjustments have been made to each one, and metadata like keywords or image ratings. You can have one catalog file for all your images, or you can have multiple catalog files.

Your image files are not stored as part of the catalog. When you add images, Classic adds a link to the original file location. You can also optionally have it copy new files to a designated location but even if you do this, the images are only pointed to by the catalog, not contained in the catalog.

Earlier versions kind of encouraged the use of multiple catalog files because the program had a tendency to become sluggish as more images were added to a catalog, but it’s been many years and many program revisions since this was an issue. With the modern version, I’ve got catalogs w with upwards of 60000 images and you don’t see slowdowns unless you do something like edit the keywords for all the images at once, or if you force it to rebuild image previews, but those slowdowns are predictable and expected.

One really goofy thing is that Adobe doesn’t allow you to create or use catalog files based on a network volume. The images, yes, the catalog files, no. The reason usually cited is that it uses SQLite as its database engine. SQLite is an SQL database library which you can embed directly into your program and therefore avoid the need to have another database installed like SQL Server or MySQL. However, SQLite isn’t designed to be multi-user.

The problem is that Adobe is erroneously equating “network-based file” with “multiuser” which are two entirely different things. It’s reasonable to decide that you don’t want to support multiuser functionality where different users on different stations on the network would all be accessing the file t the same time. However, if you’re worried about that, it’s very easy to restrict a network-based file to being used by one user at a time, I it’s a mystery as to why Adobe has a blind spot on this. But I do know it’s a pain in the butt because it means I can’t keep my catalogs on my NAS box.

With the new “Lightroom” it’s all designed around “the cloud” and it leaves behind the notion of having multiple catalogs or having your files located wherever they happened to start out. There is a single catalog file and when you add images, they’re copied to your local image cache and then synced to your Adobe Lightroom cloud account so they’re shared with your other devices using Lightroom CC.

Lightroom is superficially similar to Classic if you cross your eyes and don’t look too hard. A lot of old features are gone, like printing contact sheets, creating web galleries, or accessing photo sharing sites. What’s left over is the ability to browse through your catalog and do basic editing tasks.

If you have images you don’t want synced to the cloud, do not add them into your Lightroom CC catalog.

Conversely, if you’re primarily interested in syncing photos to the cloud across multiple devices, and won’t miss the various features of Classic, Lightroom may be what you want. But before you start trying to switch, I strongly urge you do research everything to make sure it’s what you want.

Lightroom CC has the ability to import Lightroom Classic catalogs. On The Mac, it also has the ability to import images from the Apple Photos app library (aka iPhoto). However, if you’re already into the Apple ecosystem and are using iCloud for photo sharing, I don’t really see any strong reason why you’d want to switch

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