Fresh off of Monday’s updates to Lightroom and Lightroom Classic, I sat down with Tom Hogarty, Senior Director of Project Management for Lightroom, at Adobe MAX. We discussed the latest updates, the differences between Lightroom and Lightroom Classic, artificial intelligence and more. We also asked him a few questions from you, our readers!

For Hogarty, he’s most excited about what Adobe is doing for Lightroom users who are just jumping into the ecosystem.

“The biggest story for me this year is we’ve really continued to expand beyond what people consider the core of Lightroom. I always call it the core of editing, surrounded by management and sharing options,” he said.

“The thing we started doing last year and really invested in this year is creating a fourth category, which is educating and helping photographers get better. Lightroom is a fine purveyor of great kitchens, but there’s no cookbook in that kitchen. You are on your own. We’ve gone a step further with guided posts and contextual help, where it’s like having a professional chef of your choosing in the kitchen with you, helping you get better. I’m really excited about all the quality content that’s getting put together.”

Automating a workflow

Just like last year, there was a lot of talk during the Adobe MAX keynote about artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies. And the Lightroom ecosystem was no different, introducing features like Panorama Fill Edges, which uses Content-Aware Fill technology to automatically fill the edges of merged panorama images.

“There are a couple different vectors for AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine-learning) advances. If you’re into photography there are all these things we can do to make your life easier. It’s on the management side and on the editing side,” said Hogarty. “Editing we’ve been very clear on from the beginning — if you’re a Lightroom rated product you have the same editing stack regardless if you choose Classic or Lightroom. That will stay the same.”

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While artificial intelligence tools are often thought about at the editing level, they’re making waves in terms of photo management as well — specifically with Lightroom.

“We are seeing more advances in the management AI and ML with the new Lightroom because it’s cloud native, so that’s where you can start to see a divide.”

One of the biggest pain points for photographers that use Lightroom is the culling process. When I brought up Photo Mechanic to Hogarty, he mentioned that they kept Adobe “on their feet,” and then hinted at a few different ideas in terms of how AI could help with the culling tasks in the future.

“We talk about performance almost every other day. It’s the ability to rip through a set of images and separate the good from the bad — a lot of that is dependent on performance,” he said. “There is an opportunity with the AI and ML stuff to get people started, and get them to a better starting point by using something like the Best Photos tech preview that we have on We will both invest in brute strength performance and we will also invest in other areas where we can maybe give a little bit of assistance.”

Smaller updates?

Adobe has come out with a handful of updates for the Lightroom ecosystem over the course of the past year, but this year’s updates at Adobe MAX were deemed by users as being pretty light, especially for those that used Lightroom Classic. The updates focused more on workflow opposed to bringing in new editing capabilities into the program. Some Photofocus readers were concerned about this, specifically with the lack of feature additions in Classic.

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But Hogarty says there’s a specific reason behind that.

“We’ve changed our delivery model from a behemoth launch every 18-24 months to just continuously dropping updates every couple months. If I look at the list of all the things we did for Classic before we got to MAX, the Classic list is pretty long,” he said.

“It’s also because of the stages of where the product is in its lifestyle. Lightroom is still relatively new, it doesn’t have all the capabilities of Classic. It has a lot of catching up to do.”

Lightroom vs. Classic

Earlier this year, Adobe dropped the “CC” moniker on its Lightroom family of products. With Lightroom and Lightroom Classic now leading the charge, Hogarty made certain to touch base on the differences between the two applications, and how they serve different audiences.

“We never want to have a photographer pick one solution versus the other. It should really be separated based on desired workflow,” he said. “We’re on this journey with photographers for a long time. No one’s drawing any hard lines in the sand. We’ve got a laundry list of things we need to get done, and we just work with photographers on what needs to happen next.”

What about printing?

One of the biggest gaps in Lightroom is the lack of a print module. While Monday’s update provided the ability to send photos to White House Custom Color (WHCC) for printing, Hogarty notes that more work needs to be done, and committed that a print module would at some point come to Lightroom, similar to what’s currently available with Lightroom Classic.

“Yes. I don’t have a timeline on it, but a print means a lot to photographers. We know that. We wanted to do a pilot program with WHCC … but that doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility of adding local desktop printing to the new Lightroom.”

What about plugins?

Another gap with Lightroom is the inability to use any plugin you want. Instead, Adobe is curating plugins, picking out specific third-party tools that fit inside their ecosystem best.

“When we developed the extensibility of Lightroom Classic, we were picking out very narrow workflows. Publish plugins, preset extensibility, tether plugins. Over the years it’s seen as a very rich extensibility story. In reality it’s just been very focused,” he said.

“We like to add extensibility where we don’t think we’re the best at doing that job. While I love the Book module in Classic, maybe we do extensibility in Lightroom to connect the product to a book vendor that has its own authoring tool that people prefer. It’s things that are outside that we can’t be the best at, then we connect to another service or solution.”

Enter Photoshop

A few questions came up from readers about Photoshop’s new AI tools, as well as other tools currently only available through Camera Raw. Will these ever make their way into Lightroom or Lightroom Classic? Hogarty couldn’t say for certain, but certainly didn’t close the book on them.

“We don’t want to copy and paste things. Lightroom on both iOS, Android and desktop is a real opportunity for us to rethink workflows and what we can do to innovate and simplify even further. We have a list of color samplers and other topics [to add]; we just need the design, energy and time to think about it,” he said.

“I’m a little jealous of Photoshop’s object-based selection tool. We’re definitely eyeballing that. Because the AI and ML advances are moving so quickly, we have to look at our model and figure out how to plan for the future on that.”

Could the Object Select Tool make its way into a future version of Lightroom?

And like the current desktop versions, he definitely sees Lightroom being integrated with Photoshop on the iPad, sooner rather than later.

“I think without a doubt, we’re going to need what we’ve done on all the other surfaces, which is if I’m in Lightroom and I want to take it further than Lightroom can go, I want to edit it in Photoshop. [The Photoshop team has] an amazing 1.0 product out the door; we want to let them catch their breath, and then we’ll start knocking on the door.”

The future

What’s next for Lightroom in the next year, five years or even 10 years? Hogarty has big aspirations for the entire ecosystem, but instead of focusing on what the software can do technically for photographers, he’s focused more about influencing and inspiring photographers.

“If I do my job right, [Lightroom has] a really large group of photographers passionate about capturing images and getting better all working together interacting within the app, trading notes back and forth, etc. Like the old school photography clubs where people would meet, critique and talk about new approaches to photography. That’s what has me pretty excited. We already have so many great customers; how can we connect them in a community-like atmosphere?” he said.

“I think the most exciting thing after the in-app learning and great content is that we keep moving the bar on editing controls. Texture is a huge one, and we just keep coming out with amazing ways to get what a photographer wants out of an image, with just a simple slider. That, plus the pipeline of innovation around AI and ML editing, and passive categorization … the future is bright. There’s always one more piece of value we can give to photographers.”

Adobe certainly has big plans in the future for Lightroom and Lightroom Classic. It will certainly be interesting to see how those plans play out; I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.