(This article first appeared on my photo website, www.mikeworleyphotos.com)
While there are a number of applications on the market for categorizing and editing photographs, my choice is Lightroom Classic CC 2018 by Adobe. Lightroom is a complete package, combining storage, categorization, and powerful editing tools all in one program.
Lightroom was first released in February, 2007, and was quite expensive at $299. Over the years, new features were added to the program. The final standalone version, Lightroom 6, was released in 2015. The current version of Lightroom is no longer available as a standalone program. It is only available as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription service.
While some may balk at the idea of an ongoing subscription or computer program, it is becoming the norm. We’ve seen it with former standby programs such as Microsoft Office, and most recently, the venerable financial program Quicken became subscription-based in 2018.
Current subscription price for Adobe Creative Cloud is $9.99 per month. The subscription includes Photoshop CC 2018, Camera RAW CC, and Adobe Bridge CC, as well as Lightroom Classic CC 2018 and Lightroom CC 2018. (I will discuss the latter program a little bit more later in this post.) While a $120 per year subscription can seem significant, it includes tools which in their standalone applications, cost nearly $1000. Additionally, programs available by prescription are regularly updated at no additional cost, something not usually available in standalone program purchases.
For me, the choice became easy once I evaluated the amount of work I do. While I am not as prolific as a professional photographer, nor even as some of my photographer friends are, I take on average about 1200 photographs per month. For me, the subscription cost of this program package is worthwhile to manage and edit that number of photographs.
What Lightroom Does
First and foremost for me, Lightroom manages my photographic collection. I have seen some articles claiming that Lightroom is not a photo manager in the vein of Adobe Bridge. That is true to the extent that photos must be imported into Lightroom to become part of its Library. Adobe Bridge, on the other hand, allows you to categorize photographs directly from your hard drive folders.
However, the significance is that categorizing those photos is all that Adobe Bridge does. Once a photograph has been imported into Lightroom, there is so much more that can be done. Lightroom consists of several modules, which may be used to varying degrees.
The Library is the basic categorization area of Lightroom, its gateway. This module imports and exports images, creates image collections, organizes images by their metadata, and adds ratings to them. Note that photographs must be imported into the Lightroom program before they can be processed in any way. Importing places a link to the original photograph in Lightroom’s catalog. Within the catalog, photographs can be categorized with keywords, stored in folders and/or collections, and edited.
The Develop module sets Lightroom apart from other photo storage programs because it allows extensive editing of photographs. While the editing capabilities of Lightroom are not as extensive as its cousin Photoshop, my personal experience is that I can do everything I want to in Lightroom at least 95% of the time.
Editing operations such as cropping, exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows, saturation and dehazing are readily handled by Lightroom. The program also has the capability to adjust for specific lens and camera aberrations.
An additional benefit is that, unlike Photoshop, energy and Lightroom are nondestructive. Lightroom does not make changes to the original photograph, but rather maintains an edit history of every editing operation taken. The advantage to this is that it is easy to go backwards in history to restore the photo at any given point in the editing process.
In those rare cases where more extensive editing is necessary in Photoshop, Lightroom transfers a copy of the photograph to Photoshop with one click. This is important because it ensures that Lightroom maintains the unedited original version of the photograph.
When you’re finished editing, Lightroom can export a copy of the photograph in several formats and sizes. Additionally, it allows you to automatically add a signature or other watermark to the photo automatically.
The Map module allows you to geo-tag a photograph on a map display. This can be done automatically if the photos metadata includes longitude and latitude information. Location can also be entered manually by selecting a photo and then clicking on a specific map location. When this is done, Lightroom automatically adds the latitude and longitude of the clicked location to the metadata of the selected photo or photos.
The Book module allows you to create a printed book from a selected group of photographs. After the photographs are edited to the extent you wish, they can be collected together and then formatted in the book module. The resulting file can be submitted to any other number of printing services for completion of a bound photo book. Lightroom includes a direct connection to a printer called Blurb. I have ordered one photo book from Blurb and I was pleased with the result.
The Slide Show module does just what it sounds like — it creates a slideshow from a group of photographs which can then be displayed on screen or projected for a larger group.
The Print module formats a photograph for printing on a local printer. I have not used this function because I don’t have a high-quality photo printer. Therefore, I use a commercial service which only requires that I submit a high-resolution copy of the photo itself online. I use the Export function discussed in the Develop module above to obtain a properly sized high-resolution photo for submission to the printer.
Part of the Creative Cloud subscription allows you to develop a website through Adobe to display your photographs on the Internet. In my case, I have my own standalone website. For those photos I want to put on my website, I use the Export function to output a properly sized and formatted photo for my website.
Lightroom CC 2018
Lightroom Classic CC 2018 allows you to create thumbnail photographs which can be edited on companion applications available for iOS and android devices. While I don’t use this feature a great deal, I have found it occasionally useful.
One of the drawbacks is that Lightroom Classic CC 2018 stores photos on a local drive. Therefore, if you wish to edit photos on an iOS or Android device, you must first create the thumbnails for the portable device. An exception is that you can use the Lightroom app for the portable device to edit photos taken by that device, such as a phone camera. In that case, the photos are automatically transferred to the main Lightroom program.
In 2018, Adobe released another version of Lightroom which they call Lightroom CC 2018 — without the ‘Classic’ designation. This program is also included in the Creative Cloud subscription. This version of Lightroom differs in that it stores all of the original photos in a cloud storage. In this way, every photo you have imported into Lightroom is available for editing on any other device which can access your individual cloud storage.
I looked at this version but decided against using it. It is really created for those who do not edit a lot of pictures, because the constant transfer of photographs from a cloud to an individual device can be quite time-consuming.
Additionally, the Lightroom CC 2018 program approaches editing quite differently than Lightroom Classic CC 2018. While the newer program’s editing functions are more a kin to those available on the iOS and Android apps, I find the more difficult to use on a continuing basis. Additionally, at least at this point, the capabilities of the new program are more restrictive than what is found in Lightroom Classic CC 2018.
The new program, however, can be useful for those wishing better editing capabilities that are provided by the native photo applications of a phone or tablet.
Using More Than One Computer
Most of the time, I edit my photographs on my iMac. However, there are occasions such as being away from home for an extended period, when I want to be able to edit on my MacBook.
Lightroom, in its basic form, stores photographs and the catalog that it maintains of edits to those photos on a local hard drive. However, it is not difficult to set up Lightroom so that original photographs and the editing catalog are stored on a portable hard drive. In that case, it is only necessary to have the hard drive available to plug into whichever device you’re using for import and edits.
In my case, I keep all my information on a Western Digital 2 TB portable hard drive. While I do have to remember to take the hard drive whenever I want to use my MacBook, the solution does provide me complete flexibility with using more than one device.
It is also possible with Lightroom Classic CC 2018 to store photographs and catalogs in a cloud storage. When I initially began using a Lightroom, I handled it this way — storing everything on Dropbox. However, this solution actually requires a local copy on each device which is then synchronized with Drop boxes cloud storage. As my collection grew, I found that this synchronization process took longer and longer. There was also a problem in that if you started Lightroom before the synchronization was complete, there will be conflicting copies of the catalog created. For that reason, I moved away from this solution to using the external hard drive because that information is instantly available as soon as the drive is connected to the device.
Of course, no matter what storage solution you use, you should routinely backup your information so that you do not lose your valuable photographs.
While Lightroom is not as complex as its cousin, Photoshop, it has a great number of features. While some of these features are somewhat intuitive to anyone familiar with digital processing of photographs, effectively using Lightroom requires some study.
One of the best resources I found is a book called “The Adobe Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers” by Scott Kelby. This book, while focusing on Lightroom 2017, covers the original Lightroom CC as well as Lightroom 6. It is also valid for the majority of Lightroom operations in Lightroom Classic CC 2018.
Scott Kelby, an expert with Lightroom and Photoshop, also has numerous training videos available on his training site, Kelbyone.com. Access to Kelbyone.com costs $19.95 per month. However, it is available on a month-to-month basis. During that time, you can watch as many videos as you wish. The site not only includes training videos on Lightroom and Photoshop, but dozens of videos on every aspect of photography itself.
Training videos for Lightroom are also available on YouTube. I recommend caution in following this route, however. Pay particular attention to whether the video on YouTube covers the version of Lightroom you are using, or at least one that is close. A video covering Lightroom 4 won’t help you very much with Lightroom Classic CC 2018.
I am completely sold on Lightroom and highly recommend it to anyone with a need to keep track of any reasonably sized photographic portfolio.
 From this point forward, whenever I mention Lightroom, I am talking about Lightroom Classic CC 2018, unless I specifically refer to a different version.
 See the next section for discussion of how I store photographs for use on more than one computer.
 I fully expect Scott Kelby to come out with a book which covers Lightroom Classic CC 2018 — as well as Lightroom CC 2018 — in the near future. However, I have found this current book to be sufficient for the classic version.