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Having established itself as the best photo editing software, Lightroom has now been split in two.
Lightroom Classic is the new name for the old app that we know and love, while Lightroom CC is an all-new cloud-based program that offers seamless connection with your desktop computer and other devices. Both are part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography plan.
The initial release of Lightroom CC has some limitations. There are some very basic features (like printing) and popular editing tools (including the tone curve and split toning) missing. Adobe has said that CC will gain feature parity with Classic in due course.
Despite all of this, Lightroom CC is still very usable. If you routinely work on both a desktop and a laptop, or often find yourself needing to edit on the go with a tablet, the process is now trivial (at least as long as you have decent internet speeds).
Let’s take a look at how to use the brand-new Lightroom CC.
Find Your Way Around
The new Lightroom CC interface is much less cluttered than Lightroom Classic. All the Modules found in Classic (Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web) are gone.
A number of the features found in those Modules have been removed for now, while those that remain are grouped together in a single screen. The immediate benefit to this simplified approach is that the software is now a lot easier to navigate, plus it’s a whole lot faster and more responsive.
The left edge of the screen is where you add photos and sort them into Collections. Along the bottom you can switch between grid and detail views for all your images, as well as pick, reject, and rate them.
The top edge is for searching. This includes a smart search function that identifies the content of images, even where you haven’t added keywords manually. For example, search for “dog” or “green” and photos containing these things will be shown.
You can also filter images based on criteria such as your rating or the camera they were shot with.
Along the right edge are the various editing panels — you no longer need to switch to the Develop mode to use them. You’ll also find panels for adding keywords and viewing technical info about the shot.
To get started, you need to add some photos to Lightroom CC. The app is cloud-based, but once you’ve imported images you can start work on them while they upload in the background. You just won’t have access to them on other devices until syncing is finished.
If you’ve already got a full Lightroom Classic catalog, you can migrate that over to Lightroom CC. This will upload all your photos plus their edits. However, it’s a one-time-only deal and will disable catalog syncing in older versions of Lightroom. If you’re only trialing Lightroom CC, and feel like you may want to roll back to an older version like Lightroom 6 in future, don’t migrate your catalog.
If you want to do it, go to File > Migrate Lightroom Catalog and follow the onscreen instructions.
The other way to get your images into Lightroom CC is to import them manually. Click the Add Photos button in the top left corner and select the folder containing your images. You can choose a generic “Pictures” folder, as subfolders that contain images will also be included.
Now quickly review the images and deselect any you don’t want to upload. Hit Add XX Photos to begin. Click the cloud icon in the top right corner at any time to see how many images have yet to sync.
The editing tools in Lightroom CC work the same way as they do in Lightroom Classic, but they’re grouped together differently. You may need to adjust your workflow to suit the new layout. If you know how to use Lightroom Classic, the transition will be easy.
You can show the histogram by clicking the three-dots menu button below the Edit icons, and selecting the option from the list. Now double-click on an image to get started.
The basic editing tools are found in the Edit panel, which can also be accessed by pressing E on your keyboard.
The first batch of sliders are for the brightness and contrast of your image. Drag the sliders left and right to make your tweaks. Hold down the Alt key while dragging to see the point where your highlights and shadows start clipping. Click the header for each slider to reset it.
You can also click the Auto button to make automatic corrections. Click it again to undo them.
The next group of sliders are for color, including white balance. Set the white balance by selecting the eye dropper icon and then clicking on a neutral gray part of the image.
As always with Lightroom, Vibrance is better than Saturation for improving colors, but don’t overdo it.
Finally, move to the Effects section. This includes Clarity, a great tool for adding punch to an image (but again, don’t go overboard), and Dehaze for fixing hazy skies.
The Sharpening and Noise Reduction sliders are included in this panel, but it’s usually a good idea to keep these until the very end.
Work With Presets
At the bottom of the Edit panel is a Presets button. Click this to open another panel containing the common Lightroom presets, which can be used for making quick, one-click adjustments to the colors, tone, and texture of your images.
Hover your mouse button over a preset for a preview of what it’ll look like, then click to apply it. You can also save or add custom Lightroom presets of your own.
Next, open the Crop & Rotate panel or hit C on your keyboard. Grab the handlebars on the corners and sides of the image, then drag inwards to crop.
To straighten the horizon click Auto, then use the slider to fine tune the adjustment. You can also flip and rotate the image, if you need to.
The retouching tools have been broken out into their own panels.
The Healing Brush (H) is for removing objects. Set the Mode to Heal, then adjust the brush size and paint over the element you want to remove. It should disappear instantly. Hit Enter to accept the results or Backspace to delete and try again.
The Brush tool (B) can be used to apply local color, contrast, noise, and sharpening adjustments. Again, pick a brush size and paint over the area you want to edit. Then dial in some adjustments via the sliders to make your changes. An example might be to paint over a dark area then set the Shadows slider to +40 to reveal some previously hidden detail.
The Linear Gradient tool (L) is great for creating dramatic skies. Click in the image and drag in the direction you want the gradient to run. Now dial in your adjustments using the sliders. For example, drag from the top of the image to the horizon, then set the Exposure slider to -1.5. This replicates the effect of using a neutral density filter on your camera lens.
The Radial Gradient tool (R) applies gradients in a circular manner and is ideal for highlighting and bringing emphasis to specific elements in an image. Again, click and drag, then set the sliders to taste. By default, everything outside the selection is affected by the sliders — click Invert to edit what’s inside the selection instead.
Sharpening and Noise Reduction
Once you’ve made all your adjustments, re-open the Edit panel to take care of sharpening and noise reduction.
Zoom into your image to get a 100% view. Drag the Sharpening slider to the right until you can see the effects begin to take hold. Don’t push it too far.
Then drag the Noise Reduction slider until grain begins to disappear from the image. This will have the effect of softening the photo again. You may need to increase sharpening once more, or decrease the noise reduction. Finding the balance between the two is key.
Saving, Printing, and Sharing
All your edits are saved in real time as you work, so there’s no need to save as you go. When you finish editing and want to share your photos, you have a couple of options. The Share button in the top right of the screen enables you to upload the edited image to Facebook. Alternatively, you can save a copy.
Click Save To then select a File Type and Location. If you choose RAW, the original file will be saved along with an additional .XMP file that contains your edits. This will enable you to use the edited file in another app.
If you choose JPEG, you also get to choose the size: small, full size, or custom. There’s no option to choose quality.
At the time of writing, Lightroom CC doesn’t support printing. Until this feature is added, exporting to a JPEG and printing from another app is the best way to go.
One of the key strengths of Lightroom CC is the way it works seamlessly on all your devices. Open Lightroom CC on your phone or tablet and you’ll have access to all the images you’ve uploaded on your desktop, complete with the edits you’ve made to them. Continue editing in these apps, and the changes will instantly be reflected back on your desktop.
All the same tools are available, and work the same way, in the mobile app. In fact, you even get a tone curve, which is currently absent from the main program.
Better and Worse
Lightroom CC is much simpler than Lightroom Classic, for better and for worse. Long-time users of Classic will undoubtedly lament the (hopefully temporary) loss of some much used features, and the reliance on the cloud won’t always be convenient for everyone.
But with improved responsiveness and cleaner design, CC softens the learning curve and makes photo editing more accessible than ever.
If you’re still not convinced, check out our guide to the best Lightroom CC alternatives.
Ready to try Lightroom CC? Get more information from Adobe here!
Have you started using Lightroom CC? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments.