Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic: Key Differences You Need to Know

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Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic: Key Differences You Need to Know

Lightroom is a popular photo retouching tool from Adobe. It is arguably one of the best tools to correct the photos you took or adding some effects. Lightroom recognizes nearly all RAW formats from popular camera brands. From Nikon’s NEF, Canon’s CR2, Sony Alpha’s ARW, and so on.

There are two versions of Lightroom: Lightroom and Lightroom Classic. What are the differences? Read on to know the answer.

There are a number of differences between Lightroom and Lightroom Classic. From serious aspects such as features to trivia aspects such as the logo. Some people mention Lightroom as “Lightroom CC”. CC itself stands for Creative Cloud, a set of applications and services from Adobe. To use an application from Adobe’s Creative Cloud — including Lightroom and Lightroom Classic –, you need an Adobe account and subscribe to a certain plan. So, the use of the “Lightroom CC” term that refers to Lightroom is less appropriate since Lightroom Classic is also part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

By the way, here is the difference between the logos of Lightroom and Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic: Features Comparison

Technically, Lightroom Classic emerged first before Lightroom. It was released back in 2007, while Lightroom was just released in 2017 in the Creative Cloud era. Just like Photoshop, users used to be able to own Lightroom with a one-time purchase option instead of a subscription model like today. In general, the features of both Lightroom and Lightroom Classic are not much different, but Lightroom Classic has some more advanced features that are not available in Lightroom.

For instance, when exporting images in Lightroom, you won’t be able to choose a file format. Your images will automatically be exported in a JPG format. Conversely, Lightroom Classic allows you to export images in a wide range of formats such as DNG, TIFF, PNG, and PSD.

In Lightroom, there are also no color space options when exporting images. Images will automatically be exported with sRGB color space. In Lightroom Classic, there are 4 color spaces you can choose from.

Color space is very crucial for professional needs. A proper selection of color space provides high color accuracy. Product photography and photography for an exhibition are examples of photography types that require high color accuracy.

Take a look at the table below to see the differences between Lightroom features and Lightroom Classic features.

FeaturesLightroomLightroom Classic
Organize with foldersNoYes
Organize with collectionsYes (called albums)Yes
Smart collectionsNoYes
Rename photosNo Yes
AI keywordingYesNo
Face recognitionNoYes
Flags and starsYesYes
Color labelsNoYes
Basic panel adjustmentsYesYes
Clarity and dehaze adjustmentsYesYes
Tone curve adjustmentsYesYes
HSL panel adjustmentsYesYes
Split toning adjustmentsYesYes
Sharpening and noise reduction adjustmentsYesYes
Lens correctionsYesYes
Adjustment historyNoYes
Local adjustmentsYesYes
Healing toolYesYes
Merge HDRsNoYes
Merge panoramasNoYes
Plugin supportNoYes
Secondary screenNoYes
Export file typesJPG only JPEG, TIFF, DNG, PSD, Original
Color spacesRGB only sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto

The table above compares the technical features regarding the process of photo retouching and photo management. There are probably some features we missed (don’t be hesitate to let us know the comment section if spot unlisted features).

Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic: Market Segment

Today, the only way to use Lightroom (and other Adobe’s products) is by subscribing to one of the Creative Cloud plans offered by Adobe. Both Lightroom and Lightroom Classic are available in the Photography plan. This plan also includes Photoshop, Bridge and Camera Raw. If you only need to use Lightroom, you can also subscribe to the Single App plan. Adobe has no plan for Lightroom Classic only, though.

As mentioned earlier, an Adobe Account is required to use an Adobe Creative Cloud product. With a single account, you can use both Lightroom and Lightroom on different devices.

There is a fundamental difference between Lightroom and Lightroom Classic in terms of device support. Lightroom Classic is a desktop-only app, meaning that you can only install it on a laptop and desktop PC. Meanwhile, Lightroom is a cross-device app. You can install and use Lightroom on a laptop, desktop PC, Android, iPhone, and iPad. You can even run Lightroom without installing an app first, via a web browser (this can be a great alternative you are Linux user). In Lightroom, your images are automatically backed up to the cloud while in Lightroom Classic, your images are stored locally on your hard drive.

LightroomLightroom Classic
Type of appCross-platform app. Available for desktop (Windows and Mac), smartphone, tablet, and web.Desktop only. Available for Windows and Mac.
Location of originalsCloudHard drive
File backupAutomaticNot included

From the description above, it can be concluded that Lightroom tends to suited for:

  • Professional photographers with an active social media presence as you can edit your images on the go using your smartphone device or tablet.
  • Casual photographers who want an easy-to-learn post-processing app.

While Lightroom Classic tends to ideal for:

  • Professional photographers who need advanced features. Especially photographers who need high color accuracy.

The verdict

Lightroom and Lightroom Classic are parts of Adobe Creative Cloud. They are available in the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan. The Photography plan itself consists of five apps:

  • Photoshop
  • Lightroom
  • Lightroom Classic
  • Bridge
  • Camera Raw

Adobe also offers plans for individual apps in case you only need a single app. However, there is no individual plan for Lightroom Classic. The only way to use Lightroom Classic is by subscribing to a Photography plan. Lightroom is the app you need if you are the type photographer who nurtures social media presence as you can access your files anywhere and anytime using your mobile devices. Conversely, Lightroom Classic is the app you need if you need a photo retouching tool with high color accuracy and the ability to save the edited images into a DNG, TIFF or PSD formats.

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  1. The last two rows (at least) in your first comparison table are backwards. You said lightroom classic can export to jpg, tiff, psd, etc. and use sRGP, Adobe RGB, etc. for export color spaces, but your this table says the exact opposite.


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