I’ve been using Lightroom on my smartphone and computer for about six months. There’s a lot to love about Adobe’s cloud version of Lightroom: The ability to import on my computer, then edit and export on my phone being the major draw card for me.
But it’s not all good news. I’m also a big fan of Lightroom Classic, and there are a few notable absences in Lightroom which frustrate me.
Lightroom can’t add color labels to photos
First off, my editing workflow involves three major sorting steps: Flagging picked photos, star-rating the ones to go to clients and green-labeling when they’ve been edited and are ready to export and deliver.
Lightroom has no color labels. Stars and flags still exist, but no colors. In my Lightroom Classic catalog I know that green means ready, yellow means black and white, red means it needs editing in Photoshop, and so on. Without color labels in Lightroom, I have to use stars as a substitute system, and retraining my brain hurts.
Lightroom on mobile can’t create virtual copies
This is the biggest missing feature for me. I create virtual copies as part of my standard workflow to develop black and white copies, or to try out different looks without overwriting my signature edit. This function is completely missing from Lightroom for mobile.
It exists in Lightroom on desktop — the copies can later be edited on mobile — but for some reason, I can’t create a copy when editing on my smartphone. Why, Adobe, why?
Opening multiple photos as layers in Photoshop is not an option
There’s an “Edit in Photoshop” button in Lightroom for desktop, but the rest of the “Edit In” options found in Lightroom Classic are missing.
I use “Open as Layers in Photoshop” a lot, for things like head swaps. When I’m working in Classic I can quickly mark two photos with a red label, then come back to them later to stitch them together in Photoshop. The absence of “Open as Layers in Photoshop” makes it a manual job involving tracking down and loading up the original source files, which defeats the purpose of Lightroom as an organizational and sorting tool as well as an editing one.
It doesn’t exist at all in the mobile iteration, but that’s for obvious reasons: The Photoshop apps for mobile are such a far cry from the desktop titan that there’d be no point.
Removing chromatic aberration is a yes or no situation
On the mobile version of Lightroom, removing chromatic aberration is a tick box: Yes or no. There’s no fine tuning, or whether I want to target purple fringing, green fringing or both. I tweak this often in Lightroom Classic when working with intricate detail against bright skies, so it’d be nice to have a finer-grained control over this when editing on my phone.
Editing metadata has to be done one-by-one
Lightroom is missing the ability to sync metadata from image to image. Worse, it doesn’t seem to be able to store and apply metadata presets.
Again, this throws a big spanner in my client-delivery workflow. It’s a fundamental step for me because I run three different photography brands, so I set my copyright, title and captions to reflect which brand the photos are being delivered under.
Exporting options are limited and can’t be batched
When the time comes to bake edits into a JPEG, Lightroom’s export options are lacking. I number client files with a four digit number (e.g. 0001, 0002, 0003, etc.) because my album design software thinks 1, 10, 11 is the correct order. I don’t want to spend hours manually reordering hundreds of photos from a full-day wedding. I can’t do this in Lightroom.
Also, Lightroom Classic has batch exporting. I love batching: Export multiple file sizes (for example, full resolution and web resolution for my business clients), all into their own folders with custom names, with one click? Yes, please.
Lightroom for personal, Lightroom Classic for professional
While I love the cloud approach of Lightroom, the absence of these key workflow features makes it hard for me to envision switching completely. Lightroom has the feel of a consumer product, while Lightroom Classic remains the professional workhorse. For now, Lightroom will be my playground, rather than my office.