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Can Lightroom work in a pro workflow?

Before I get into my debate here, let me clarify by saying I’m not talking about Lightroom Classic. I’m talking about Lightroom, formerly known as Lightroom CC.

I’ve spent some time using Lightroom the past couple weeks, and I have to say I’m impressed with how far it has come. I’ve always been a fan of its interface, as I find it simpler and quicker to work with than what Lightroom Classic offers. But not all of Lightroom Classic’s features are present (yet) in Lightroom. Is that a deal breaker for pros, or can we work around it?

Initial observations

Interface

Upon first glance, Lightroom has a pretty clean interface that’s easy to understand. It’s additional subway tile-like Photo Grid view is nice and is a great way to see all your photos at a glance. And for those of us who like to see star ratings and more, the Square Grid is an option too.

The Filter and Search is probably some of the best I’ve seen. The Search has been something I’ve longed for Adobe to integrate into Lightroom Classic, while the filters are straightforward without presenting millions of options. Searching and filtering is very fast, and the search — which is powered by AI — is very accurate.

With a few exceptions, all the editing tools you’re used to from Lightroom Classic are present in Lightroom.

Editing tools

For the most part, the editing tools that you’re used to from Lightroom Classic are all here and work pretty much the same way. There are some options hidden behind buttons — Split Toning and the Color Mixer, for instance — but in terms of an editing tool, Lightroom is very close to Lightroom Classic. Presets are there too, albeit they show in a different location that takes some getting used to. Finally, camera and Adobe profiles are present in an interface very similar to Lightroom Classic’s.

Where’s the Red Eye Correction tool?

That said, there are a couple of tools missing. For one, there’s no Red Eye Correction tool, which seems like an oversight to me. While Red Eye is getting better and better with newer cameras, I still stumble upon the occasional red eye in my photographs. Secondly, there’s no Calibration panel, allowing you to set the tint of Shadows, the Red Primary, Green Primary and Blue Primary values. Not necessarily a deal-breaker, as many of these options can be controlled through the Color Mixer tool.

What about history and snapshots?

Finally, the one big thing missing for me is an Edit History. You can easily revert your photo to the original, but other than using the Undo command, there’s no way to step back in time by seeing a step-by-step history of your edits. There are also no Snapshots, though there is a way to make a copy of a photo that may come into play for those that use Snapshots a lot in Lightroom Classic.

The cloud

The big thing with Lightroom is the ability for your photos to be accessible on any device because they live in the cloud. Depending on what plan you select, you can have 20 GB or 1 TB of storage and can add on more if you need to. This can add up if you have a large number of photos, but the ability to see all your photos on your desktop, laptop, tablet and phone is certainly enticing.

What’s missing

Easy local storage

This one is a biggie. As a professional photographer, I rely on my Drobo and 3-2-1 backup solution to store my photos and keep them safe. Sure, there’s a way to save a local copy of your photos in Lightroom, but they’re still synced to the cloud unless you go album-by-album and tell it otherwise. It’d be great to tell Lightroom to ignore the cloud, and just save locally.

Import options

The import dialog is pretty bare bones right now. I’d like the ability to add metadata (like a copyright notice) upon import, as well as batch renaming.

Color labels

For me, this is a must-have. Sure, I can use star ratings and flags. But I use color labels to determine which photos I want to edit (yellow), which ones that are edited (green) and which are exported (blue). And if a photo needs more work, I use the red color label. Not having this functionality is difficult to work with, because it’s not easy to see at a glance which photos I need to work on, and which I don’t. In my opinion, colors are much easier to glance at quickly than star ratings are.

More export options

The “Save To” dialog in Lightroom is pretty weak. You can basically determine the size, and that’s it. Lightroom Classic and other image editing tools like Luminar offer in-depth export options. For me, I at least need more file type options (like TIFF), and the quality slider that’s present in Lightroom Classic’s export dialog.

Printing

While I don’t expect a printing workflow to come, it is a nice thing to have if you print photos regularly for your clients, or even yourself.

Plugin support

While Lightroom Classic fully supports plugins like Perfectly Clear and Luminar Flex, Lightroom does not. This is something that is really needed. While you can certainly export JPEG or RAW images and then open those up in those programs, there’s no seamless integration.

Good enough to switch?

For me, Lightroom just barely misses the mark. It’s a close competitor to its older cousin, Lightroom Classic, but falls a bit short with some of its pro features. But depending on your workflow, Lightroom is a great option, especially if you’re looking for something more on-the-go.

If Adobe can add things like color labels, better local storage, and more export options, I’ll probably switch over. But until that point, Lightroom Classic will live in my Mac’s dock and will be what I use to edit and manage my photographs.

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