A few days ago, Adobe launched its latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop. Strangely, this was done with little fanfare, and came as a complete surprise to me when I first saw the updates.
It’s been a long standing complaint that Adobe Lightroom is frustratingly slow to load and display images, particularly previews on import or previews when switching from Library to Develop. Adobe promised to deal with this issue, going so far as to release a statement from photography product manager, Tom Hogarty in July. The statement acknowledged user concerns and committed Adobe to working harder to address them.
I guess this week they delivered, but not in any way that anyone expected. Far from being pleased, many users are puzzled and even angry at what the latest releases imply.
Adobe has released 3 new photography bundles, all of which are subscription based and all of which include cloud storage. More importantly, Adobe has introduced a brand new version of Lightroom, Lightroom CC, not to be confused with the version of Lightroom previously included in the Creative Cloud subscription plan and now called Lightroom Classic.
Closest in resemblance to the previous Photography Plan, the new Photography Plan has one new addition: a web-based version of Lightroom. It sits right alongside the “classic” desktop version, the latter of which has been improved to address some of the performance issues, along with providing a few new/updated features.
The other two plans are variations on a theme: a plan for the same monthly cost as the Photography Plan that includes only the new Lightroom, plus 1TB of online storage; and a plan that extends the Photography Plan by adding 1TB of online storage (and doubles the monthly cost).
First, puzzlement: why two versions of Lightroom? It seems the web-based version provides a whole new interface, simplified but still familiar. Looks kind of cool, actually. But when you dig deeper, you discover two things:
- the web version is not yet fully built out; it does not do everything that the desktop or “classic” version does
- the web version interacts only with an online collection of images, stored in the cloud; images are “imported” from existing sources and placed in the cloud before being accessible in the interface
Adobe’s design philosophy (discussed in a previous post) had been to layer on new functionality over existing, allowing users to make their own decisions about how to interact with the software. This continues with Photoshop CC 2018, which was released this week with several improvements, but all existing functionality intact.
It seems, however, that the challenges of improving the speed and functionality of Lightroom, plus the need to service two platforms (Mac and Windows), plus the desire for even more profit by offering paid online storage, has caused Adobe to decide to abandon its desktop version of Lightroom (they emphatically say no, but…).
Supporting that likely demise is the fact that the standalone version 6 of Lightroom (non-subscription) will be the last, despite opposite assurances previously. Unless users keep their existing computer and their existing camera, with no updates to either, standalone users who want to continue to use Lightroom will (I predict) have no choice but to eventually convert to an online application with online storage, all for a subscription fee. Subscription users, I predict, will also be forced online.
My puzzlement then changed to annoyance: the speed improvements supposedly included with Lightroom Classic have not materialized for me. It is as slow as ever. Supposedly there are settings I can play with, but no instructions have been provided as to what those settings should be. Apparently there was a startup screen with information that flashed once after installation but has never appeared again.
And with a less than functional web-based application to test and one that requires converting to online image storage even to test it, I’m left disappointed and now determined to find an alternative to Adobe’s Photography Plans. The only thing holding me back is the challenge of converting a Lightroom catalogue of image enhancement instructions that no other tool guarantees will be converted wholly or perfectly. But maybe I don’t need to convert everything. And maybe there’s a better way to organize my images. And maybe it’s an opportunity to cull. It will be a long and complicated task – let the journey begin.
Those that have blogged about this latest Adobe release suggest that Adobe isn’t concerned about losing market share. That wouldn’t surprise me. But the lack of fanfare in announcing these latest changes does suggest that Adobe knows they will take a hit. We’ll just have to see how big it will be.
Footnote: I’m going to keep an eye on developments as I look at other options. I’ll put any news in the comments section of this post.