Common Lightroom Myths BUSTED | Lightroom Everywhere Newsletter: Issue 2
I've used Lightroom's cloud-based apps on my desktop and mobile devices exclusively since a few months after it was released to the world in 2017. I've stuck with it through the buggy days and the lean-feature days when the list of what wasn't in Lightroom was longer than what was.
But, I decided to put my trust and photos in Adobe's hands as I uploaded my entire library to the cloud all those years ago. Now that Lightroom Desktop is at v7.0 and Lightroom Mobile is at v9.0 (at the time of writing this article), I can look back and say with complete certainty that I made the right choice by leaving Classic for "cloudier" skies.
Also, this is a perfect opportunity to leave this disclaimer: anytime I refer to Lightroom in this article, I'm referring to the cloud-based desktop and mobile version of the app. I'll explicitly refer to Lightroom Classic as that or simply as "Classic." 👍🏼
In fact, I am so bullish about Lightroom's future that I created the first and currently only course fully dedicated to Lightroom Desktop and Mobile called Lightroom Everywhere. I've also pivoted my entire business to this new brand called Lightroom Everywhere, which includes:
- a free newsletter,
- a new upcoming podcast,
- and a new upcoming series of free and premium livestream events.
So, you can say that I've got a lot of faith in this platform.
However, as with most things these days, there is a lot of myth, misinformation, and misunderstanding about what Lightroom is and is not. I'm going to address some of the most common and impactful myths because I really believe that Lightroom would serve so many existing Classic users better once they get a full, educated, and unemotional perspective.
But before I jump into some good old myth-busting, I'd like to give you a brief backstory about how I came to use Lightroom.
How my head got stuck in the cloud
When Adobe first announced Lightroom on October 18, 2017, my immediate instinct was to toss it aside like bad news. Why in the world would I ever want to give up Lightroom Classic, a powerhouse of an app, for something far less capable? After all, Lightroom v1.0 had a laundry list of Classic features that weren't currently available. Also, why would I want to copy all my photos to the cloud when I had 2 x 24 TB Thunderbolt 3 RAID drives that already stored everything?
It turns out that the answer to that second question explains exactly why I eventually left Lightroom Classic in favor of its leaner, sleeker, and everywhere-present sibling just a few months after it was released. Well, let me back up a few steps. It wasn't like I woke up one morning and decided, "You know what? I'm going to completely change my entire photo workflow strategy by moving it to a cloud-based ecosystem." No, it wasn't that at all. Rather, it was me enabling the cloud sync option in Lightroom Classic that ultimately sealed its fate for me. Once I turned that on and saw all of my Collections and Collection Sets sync to the cloud—as Smart Previews, mind you—and I had access to manage, edit, and share each of those photos from my iPhone and iPad, I immediately knew things were changing.
I also knew that I wanted access to all of my original RAW files no matter where I was or which device I was using. So, I turned off the cloud sync option in Classic, wiped my current library of photos from Lightroom via the LR web app (you know there's also an awesome LR web app, right?), and used the Lightroom Classic catalog migration tool to bring EVERYTHING over to Lightroom. It took about two weeks to upload my entire library to the cloud. Actually, I remember going to my local Starbucks for a big chunk of those two weeks because they had really fast Wifi, and I didn't have to worry about the cable company throttling my Internet speeds at home. Don't worry, though. I bought plenty of coffee and snacks while I was there. I also remember when that last photo synced, and Lightroom reported in as "Synced and Backed Up." That was an awesome feeling.
I'm not just talking the talk
I want to bring up one more point before diving into the myth-busting. As you read through these myths and my dispelling of them, ask yourself this question: "Would Brian intentionally use, recommend, and build an entire business model atop a photo software platform that he doesn't fully believe in, or that doesn't give him the functionality he needs to manage, edit, and share his photos?" Remember this, my friends: I have been a working photographer for a long time. In no way would I ever willingly put myself in a suboptimal position when it comes to how I work with my photos, and that includes how I take them.
I have also been beating the iPhone/smartphone photography drum very hard. Do you think I'd do that if I felt that I'd lose out on being able to take beautiful photos? Absolutely not! The same principle applies to Lightroom. If I thought that Lightroom was a hindrance to my photo management and editing workflows, I'd never migrate to it, advocate for you to use it, or build an entire course and business model atop it.
Fortunately, Lightroom is an exceptional platform, and I've used it on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad to import, manage, edit, and share thousands of photos. And now, I'd like to explain why by busting some of the most common Lightroom myths.
Myth #1: You need WiFi to use Lightroom because all of your photos have to be synced to the cloud.
This is false. Even before Lightroom Desktop added Local Browse—what I consider to be its biggest feature since it was announced—you could use Lightroom without WiFi by pausing sync, importing your photos, and doing anything you want to them, including reviewing, culling, and editing them.
With that said, before Local Browse, the goal of Lightroom was to get your imported photos synced to the cloud when you had internet access. That is, after all, Lightroom's primary value proposition: importing your photos means that they get backed up to the cloud and are immediately accessible (along with all of your edits) on all your devices. That was the very feature that drove me to leave Classic.
However, with Local Browse, you can copy your photos from your media card to any drive—internal or external—and use Lightroom to review, cull, edit, and share them WITHOUT requiring an internet connection or even syncing them to the cloud. In fact, Local Browse lets you choose exactly which images and/or folders to sync should you want to access them across all your devices. Here's a video where I explain how Local Browse works and why it's such a big deal.
When push comes to shove, Local Browse will be seen as the defining feature that drives Classic users to Lightroom.
Myth #2: Adobe's cloud server storage is not a reliable backup solution
Before I dive into why this is false, let me give you some context on where I saw this myth. On October 30th, 2023, Scott Kelby shared a blog post titled, "Question: What would Adobe need to add to Lr ‘Cloud’ for you to switch from Lr Classic?" The article is very short, but the comments are a treasure trove of insight into both the reasonable and, let's just call them, unreasonable concerns of Classic users. There is a particular comment by a user that struck me as especially peculiar, given the dramatic visual:
"I am not going to switch anything that involves my photos to some cloud service and that’s because... you can’t control a fire at the warehouse the servers are located..."
While a fire in any structure is generally not a good thing, it's a safe bet to assume that if one of Adobe's server facilities did burn down, any one of the myriad alternate server locations would pick up the slack without you even noticing. Adobe currently enjoys a market cap of $283.8B (with a B) USD. It partners with some of the biggest companies in the world, and its apps have been trusted daily by hobbyists, enthusiasts, and professionals for years. Do you really think that all of the companies, professionals, and end users would entrust their work to a company with a history of major data loss?
I can promise you that Adobe, like most successful global enterprise companies, has exceptional fault tolerance procedures in place to ensure a seamless transition from one server location to another should one go down. Also, I'd imagine that Adobe enforces strict backup procedures for its servers, including the ones that store all its users' images synced to the cloud. To bring the point closer to home, I'd be far more worried about your own home catching fire and the data loss implications that brings, than Adobe. Furthermore, it's almost guaranteed that the hard drives Adobe uses to store its data are enterprise-grade, whereas I'd wager that many individuals store their photos locally on consumer-grade hard drives that are notorious for experiencing catastrophic hardware failures.
I also saw this tweet from a user who was apparently agitated over my predictions about Lightroom Classic's eventual deprecation on my good buddy Matt Kloskowski's podcast.
Poor and dangerous advice from @MattKloskowski and @BrianMatiash in their latest podcast firstly photos in @Lightroom cloud are stored not & backed up they should be backed up in 3 locations at least secondly there's lots of photographers who need a DAM solution 1/3— Stuart Whittingham (@StuwhittPhoto) November 11, 2023
First, I can genuinely say that I don't remember anyone ever classifying my advice as dangerous. Poor? Maybe. But dangerous? Friends... we're talking about photo storage advice, not advice about whether you should jump out of an airplane. Despite the hyperbole, the beauty of syncing your photos to Lightroom Cloud, especially while traveling, is that you INSTANTLY have a second backup location. You have Copy 1 on your media card, Copy 2 synced to the cloud (which is arguably the most bomb-proof backup solution), and you have the option to make on-site backups to any number of external drives for Copies 3, 4, 5....
I mean, Lightroom even has an option built right into its Preferences, allowing you to store a backup copy of every synced file locally to a drive of your choosing. You can then create incremental backups of that drive as many times as you'd like. I can't think of a more robust backup strategy.
I'll close out this myth with two scenarios that I hope will crystalize why it's thoroughly busted:
Scenario 1: You are a Classic user who stores your photos at home on a primary external drive, and you back that up to a secondary external drive. Your house blows up (but thank God because no one was home). What is the state of your photography when you get home? It's not pretty. Even if you use a catch-all backup solution like Backblaze, it won't be fun spending all that time downloading your entire photo library (or spending the money for Backblaze to send you a hard drive, which can take weeks). If you had the foresight to store another copy of your drive offsite with a friend or neighbor, then you might be in okay shape. But when was the last time you ran an incremental backup on that drive? Also, I've helped A LOT of photographers over the years, and I can tell you with certainty that the vast majority of them know that having an offsite backup is a good idea but do not implement that strategy.
Scenario 2: You are a Lightroom user who stores your photos in the cloud, as well as storing your original files as a backup on an external drive. You even back up that drive to a secondary drive. Your house blows up (but thank God because no one was home). What is the state of your photography when you get home? Easy. You load Lightroom on any of your devices with an internet connection (or connect to the neighbor's WiFi) to get instant access to every single photo, including full-resolution RAW files. As soon as you connect a new, non-blow'd up hard drive to your computer, Lightroom will begin downloading a new backup of your library, and you experience exactly zero seconds of downtime.
Myth #3: "It's Lightroom for children"
Of all the myths that I'm going to bust, this upsets me the most because the educators who implied this should know better. However, I can give them the benefit of the doubt if they said this when Lightroom was first announced in 2017 because it was missing a lot of important features. The problem is that there are many photographers who listen to that sort of rhetoric and are forever swayed to adopt the position that this version of Lightroom is "low-calorie" or "sugar-free" when the exact opposite is true. In fact, Adobe has been admirable in rapidly establishing feature parity with Classic in a short amount of time.
Earlier in this article, I rhetorically asked, "Would Brian intentionally use, recommend, and build an entire business model atop a photo software platform that he doesn't fully believe in, or that doesn't give him the functionality he needs to manage, edit, and share his photos?" Why would I intentionally kneecap myself by using a subpar app? Do you really think I'd so easily entrust Adobe with hosting my life's work as a photographer if I didn't have complete faith that what they're building offers me just about everything I need to do my job?
Let me put this one to rest here. While Lightroom is not perfect and is missing some features that I'd love to have, it is the most capable and effective photo management and editing platform I've ever used. I hope that confidence rubs off on you and helps you dispel the idea that Lightroom is some Happy Meal toy app.
Myth #4: "I'll never use Lightroom because I need [insert feature here]"
Ok, so maybe this isn't exactly a myth, but it is a mindset that many photographers have, and it's something I want to challenge. If I were writing this article when Lightroom was first released in 2017, I'd be a lot more sympathetic to this mindset because there were some very important features missing. In fact, Julieanne Kost did a great job summarizing the Classic features that were missing from Lightroom v1.0:
As you can see, there were some major features missing that made using Lightroom in those early days a chore. Thankfully, Adobe has done a great job with adding almost every important feature from this list. And yet, I still hear the same lamentations from Classic users: "I'll never use Lightroom because it doesn't have X, Y, or Z feature." I know this will probably rile some people up, but let me share some straight talk. You really don't need most of the features that you think you do.
- Do you really need IPTC metadata support? If you do, then please know that you are in the vast minority of Classic users.
- What about color labels? Do you know that Lightroom has both "star' and "flag" rating systems already? You can also assign a color label keyword to your photos, as well as search AND filter by those keywords.
- Can't live without virtual copies? You don't have to. Lightroom has its own flavor of virtual copies called "Versions," and for the most part, I find it vastly superior for several reasons. I've even got a video explaining why.
- How about slideshows? While you can't create one within Lightroom, you can use its outstanding private gallery-sharing mode and play the slideshow through a web browser.
- I'm not even going to get started with the Book module.
Here's my point. When Adobe set out to build Lightroom, my belief was that their aim was to introduce a cloud-centric photo management and editing application that offers the broadest demographic of photographers a streamlined app with all of the most useful and important tools they'd need. Another way to look at it is that Lightroom is meant to be far less bloated than Classic, and less bloat is a good thing.
I am sure that there are probably some readers who will get insulted or flustered because I'm coming across as flippant about features that they find important. If that's the case, then I apologize. But please understand that Adobe's goal with Lightroom is not to build another version of Classic. How would that make any sense? Adobe is also not in the business of intentionally upsetting its user base, and I imagine that the decision to introduce Lightroom was not made lightly. I've worked at some of the biggest tech companies in the world. There are many heuristic approaches to determining whether to launch a new app or determine which features are most important to implement.
All I ask is that you take a hard look at the tools and features you use most often when managing, editing, and sharing your photos. I suspect that if you're honest with yourself, you'll find that Lightroom offers just about everything you need. Sure, the app may look different, and you'll have to learn some new keyboard shortcuts, but please take it from me: it is totally worth it.
And one last thing: I've already said that Lightroom isn't perfect. There are features that I WISH it had. I'll actually list those features at the end of this article. But I can tell you that despite not having those features, I have been 100% productive with how I organize, edit, and share my photos.
Myth #5: "I can’t afford to store terabytes of images in the cloud"
This is the one myth that I could completely empathize with. Before Adobe MAX 2023, having to pay for cloud storage to sync your library beyond what was included with your Creative Cloud plan was a legitimate concern because it was the only option for Lightroom users. Well, it was either that or you'd have to manually determine which folders to sync and which to manage locally. I'd argue that the potential increase in cloud storage fees was the #1 limiting factor preventing Classic users from giving Lightroom a try.
The fantastic news is that you can now take advantage of virtually every single editing tool Lightroom offers without syncing a single image to the cloud, thanks to Local browse. It's as if Adobe took Bridge and smacked it into Lightroom. You now have a full-fledged file browser in Lightroom that allows you to view, edit, and share photos from your internal and external drives, all locally. And instead of having to sync all imported photos to the cloud, you can choose which images and folders to sync.
In other words, Local browse single-handedly eliminates this #1 limiting factor by removing the need to use even a single byte of cloud data. With the exception of stacking support, Versions, AI search (one of Lightroom's best features), and People View, you can take advantage of Lightroom's entire editing panel... even the amazing adaptive masking tools, the new AI-powered denoise tool, and HDR/Pano photo merge!
Myth #6: Adobe is going to force me to use Lightroom and pay more money
I've heard this myth a lot, and the simplest way to address it is to simply say that this is not true. As of writing this article, every single Classic user can continue to use the app to their heart's content. You can build as many catalogs as you want and import limitless numbers of photos. In fact, new customers still get full access to Classic when they sign up for either of the Photography plans (20GB or 1TB)!
Now, I am not a fortune teller nor do I have any insight into Adobe's product, sales, or marketing strategies related to the future of Classic. However, I do know that Classic users can continue to enjoy the app without being forced into using Lightroom. In fact, Adobe has continued adding all of its new features and tools to Classic as well as Lightroom.
What I'd love to see added to Lightroom
Earlier, I mentioned that I'd include a list of features I'd love to see added to Lightroom. Some of them are already available in Lightroom Desktop but not in Lightroom Mobile. And they're not listed in any particular order. However, let me reiterate that despite currently not having these features, I am still totally capable of editing all of my photos and getting outstanding results.
- 3rd party plugin support - OK, so this is probably the most important feature that I'd love to see added. While Lightroom can do just about anything I need, there are 3rd party apps that do some things it can't, or they can do the same thing even better. A great example of that is upscaling. Here's a video explaining what I mean:
- HDR and Pano Photo Merge in Lightroom Mobile - I wonder if this is one of the most requested features that the Lightroom Mobile team gets from users. I know that applying a tone-mapped or pano-stitched photo merge locally on a smartphone or tablet is resource-intensive. But if I'm already syncing my photos to Adobe's cloud, why can't I leverage its immense server processing power to handle those tasks and deliver the merged DNG? I know that the latest version of Lightroom Desktop and Mobile introduced true HDR editing, but we're still in Wild West days with that, and I wouldn't encourage people to use it... YET.
- Photo Merge: Focus Stacking - This feature technically doesn't exist in any version of Lightroom, but it should. I'd love to select a batch of focus brackets and have Lightroom merge them together instead of having to rely on Photoshop or a 3rd party app.
- Sending multiple photos to their own layers or as Smart Objects in a Photoshop document - As I just mentioned, focus stacking is important to me, and until Lightroom can do that in-app, I have to use Photoshop. Unfortunately, there is no way to send multiple photos to Photoshop as their own layers within Lightroom. This feature would also be handy for anyone looking to composite multiple images together using Photoshop's layer and masking system.
- Stacking parity between Desktop and Mobile - This trips up a lot of new Lightroom users. With Lightroom Desktop, you can stack multiple images together. However, on mobile, not only can you not stack or unstack, but you can't see any stacks already created in Lightroom Desktop.
- Point Color Tool in Lightroom Mobile - I'm hoping it is only a matter of time before we get the Point Color tool in Lightroom Mobile because it is absolutely amazing. Fortunately, any edits made using the Point Color tool in Lightroom Desktop will be visible in Lightroom Mobile when the image syncs. Not sure what the Point Color tool is? No worries! I've got you covered:
- A more robust map view - While Lightroom Desktop does have basic geotagging support and displays a map thumbnail of the tagged location, it feels inadequate. Classic's Map module is the one feature I miss most about the app because I love analyzing my movement patterns while on a shoot. It's handy to see when I spend too much time in one location, or I can set a mental reminder to visit a different area while studying the map.
- Any geotagging support in Lightroom Mobile - This one also confounds me. There may be a perfectly valid reason why Lightroom Desktop has basic geotagging support, but Lightroom Mobile doesn't. In fact, it has zero support to speak of. You can't even see any geotagging data in Lightroom Mobile, much less edit it. I'd love to see this added.
- More robust export options - This actually isn't a very big deal to me because Lightroom offers pretty much everything I need when exporting. However, I do miss having the ability to save export presets. It's weird because Lightroom comes with a few Export presets... you just can't save your own.
- Print support - To be honest, I'm only including this here because a number of my students have brought it up. I hardly ever print, but when I do, I export the image and use the printer manufacturer's dedicated software. It does the job perfectly 100% of the time. Regardless, Lightroom should have even basic print support.
Have I changed your mind?
I hope so! As I've said several times, I believe that Lightroom is the journey that Adobe is taking photographers on. Whether Classic is eventually put into maintenance mode or deprecated outright is not something I have any insight into. Every claim and prediction I make is grounded in equal parts speculation and industry experience. I've worked at several big photo software companies, and I understand the business impact of having to manage two apps that basically do the same thing. That's why I think now is an excellent time to familiarize yourself with Lightroom. Fortunately, I've got a course called Lightroom Everywhere that'll teach you everything you need to know to become fully immersed in this sleek and powerful photography app. I hope you check it out!