I’ve always been a Photoshop girl. When I first set out with a digital camera in hand, I taught myself Photoshop, and over years of trial and error, I built up a solid bank of editing skills.

I knew about Lightroom (Lightroom Classic, but in those days there was only one), but I didn’t understand what it was for. My sister tried to explain it to me once.

“It’s just for applying Instagram filters, though, right?” I replied to her attempts. “I don’t want my photos to look like that.”

Oh, Jemma-from-the-past, how naive you were.

Right until my eldest son’s first birthday, I kept editing my photos in Photoshop. One by one. Without actions (because I didn’t trust it to get it right). I wanted to take my photography from a hobby to a business, but the time involved! How did professionals edit hundreds of photos to deliver to clients in a matter of weeks?

Everyone’s using mobile these days. Was it time for me to jump on board?

Lightroom Classic gets the job done fast

I don’t remember how I realized that Lightroom Classic was what I needed. I think it was a slow dawning of understanding, as I consumed content to level up my camera skills: I need to learn Lightroom. Everyone’s using it. There must be a reason …

So learn Lightroom Classic I did. Being a public school teacher, I have the great fortune of incredibly affordable access to the entire Creative Cloud suite, so all I had to do was open the program, find a tutorial, and start. I mean, I didn’t even have the excuse of not owning the program. Sigh.

I couldn’t believe it. Virtual clones and non-destructive editing? No more dozens and dozens of copies saved in case I wanted to go back to another version? Batch editing without untrustworthy actions?! Are you kidding me?! I practically sobbed into my cup of tea over the literally hundreds of hours I had wasted of my life.

Why use the cloud-based Lightroom?

Fast forward a few years. I’m solidly a Lightroom Classic girl now. Cloud-based Lightroom, formerly known as Lightroom CC? Isn’t that just for syncing your photos to the cloud …? Why would I pay a separate subscription to Lightroom, when I already have my catalog so gloriously perfect in Lightroom Classic? (Just to clarify: most people have Lightroom included in their Adobe all apps or photographer plan. As a public school employee, my subscription through work only includes the desktop apps.)

I never know what’s good for me until after the fact.

It’s December 2019. My second son has just been born. I am suddenly confronted with something I’ve forgotten in the years since my eldest was a baby: Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s impossible to get to, or use, my computer when you are breastfeeding 32,432 times a day.

For those of you who can’t relate, let me explain further. Imagine you are wearing a straitjacket, and it’s buckled up, so that your hands are in the classic crisscrossed, wrapped-around-your-stomach, can’t-possible-use-them position. Now wiggle one hand free and hold a melon in the crook of your elbow. OK, go do your entire life with that one hand. Don’t drop the melon.

He’s a precious little melon. I edited our first photos from the hospital on my phone, once I downloaded the RAW to my computer and added them to Lightroom.

I’m the kind of person who loves to create. I love the idea of relaxing on the couch breastfeeding my baby while watching endless Netflix, but in reality, I get bored quick. So, with my one sort-of free hand and my trusty (beloved) phone, I downloaded Lightroom. I just need to edit. Even if I can just edit my phone photos … I just need something!

I import my first few photos and start editing. Actually, really, editing on my phone. It’s not color calibrated like my monitor. But at this point, I don’t care. And just like last time, I am struck by what Lightroom brings to the table. You mean I can add photos on my computer, and then edit them later on my phone, and then go back to my computer and export them when I’m ready?!

I even managed to edit a family minishoot from my couch, one-handed, on my phone. It was of my sister and her family, so low stakes, but still gave me the creative outlet I needed.

In the free version, there are some critical things missing. On the mobile version, I can’t create virtual copies (but it’s possible on desktop). For me the biggest gap was the absence of batch editing, my beloved, dear, precious batch editing. I’ll just start with the free trial, I think, as I enter my credit card details. Just until I can get back to Lightroom Classic …

Six months later: I’ll cancel my Netflix subscription before I cancel Lightroom.