Digital Darkroom Software Review: Lightroom CC, part 2 – Lightroom CC (2015)

Program:  Lightroom CC (2015)
Platforms Tested Available:  Mac, Windows
Price: $9.99 per month (with Photoshop CC and Lightroom Mobile); Lightroom 6 is also available, without PS & the other CC stuff and without some updates, for $149 or $79 to upgrade from LR5
Installation: Must first download and install the Creative Cloud. From there, you can try or buy Lightroom CC.*

Expect this to be short and sweet…

1) In theory, Lightroom 6/CC are much faster than Lightroom 5, which means that I maybe could shoot more and sit on the computer less. In practice, though, it doesn’t mean much at all.

More on that below.

2) At present, there are few differences between CC and 6: Lightroom Mobile (discussed at some length already); the Dehaze thing and the black & white point adjustment sliders in the local adjustment brush, gradient and circular filters. There are also web galleries and other things that I’m not using presently and foresee no future need for. Reviews I’ve read of these tout them as great ways to share images with clients, and unless I get into shooting for a profession—something I hope to avoid—I doubt I’ll have, for example, wedding or advertising clients. And there is also a hinted-at potential for future updates to the CC tools: I look forward to being proven incorrect, but given Lightroom CC’s update path over the past two years, it seems unlikely that any new features will be released between now and whenever LR7 appears, unless, of course, Adobe moves to a pure subscription model (which seems unlikely).

Below, I’ll touch on and demonstrate the above, and maybe come to some sort of decision… I have precious few days remaining before the trial runs out.

And apologies… it turns out this isn’t quite as short as I first thought…

To get this started, here’s a longish video I made of starting up, navigating the library, and developing a negative in Lightroom 5 and 6/CC. The results may surprise you…

One thing that surprised me… how different my editing is from day to day. Here’s the picture, as developed in Lightroom 5 for the video above:

Lightroom 5 edit

And here’s the recent CC edit. It differs from the one in the video above… I played around with the Camera Calibration a bit and got something a bit better.

Lightroom 6/CC editAnd here’s my original edit, from Allah knows when, probably a couple of weeks ago when I was first playing around with CC, sitting on the sofa one evening or something:

Original editI like this one, it looks a bit old-timey, almost autochrome or something… I’m not sure… What do you think?

Anyway, as far as developing goes, the two main differences are the Dehaze slider and the local adjustment Black & White sliders, those, and the speed in rendering to high dpi screens. On my non-retina macbook pro, and on my 1920 x 1200 Dell 2408WFP, developing speed is virtually identical.

(More on the dehaze slider is below.)

The main speed difference I saw was in Library navigation. In Lightroom 5, I would often wait minutes for Lightroom to open, and more minutes for it to call up pictures in the Library module, populate smart collections, etc. If you watched the video above, though, you’ll notice that LR5 and CC run pretty much neck and neck.

I’m almost positive that this is due to my having turned off the ‘Automatically write changes to xmp’ setting in Lightroom 5. I didn’t want it overwriting anything that I changed in 6, so I turned it off before filming.

So here’s a tip: 1) if the write changes thing is on, turn it off; 2) create a smart collection that looks for pictures where ‘Metadata Status’ “is not” “Up to date;” 3) once a week or so, visit that smart collection, select all, and hit cmd-s (ctrl-s on Windoze). Metadata will be written at your convenience, not while your trying to sift through your library or process new pictures.

But 6/CC is ever so slightly faster with the write changes thing on than 5 is with it off, so speed is one consideration.

So what else is there in 6/CC that might be of interest?

Well, maybe a list is in order.

Lightroom 6

  • HDR and Panorama stitching built in – I tested this, and it’s fine, and getting back a DNG file with all the editing power of the original RAW files is great, but I’ve made maybe 10 panoramas in the past 3 years, and even fewer HDRs. I sometimes shoot pictures for them, but rarely stitch or otherwise mash them together.
  • Faster Performance: on my machine, performance from 5 to CC is almost the same. I recorded the video above with an external monitor plugged in and the discrete graphics card running, and to test what impact that had, if any, I made another video…

Short answer… I see no relevant difference in speed for general use, with the Write changes to xmp setting turned off.

  • Facial Recognition: this is handy for some parts of my use case (pictures of family and friends), but I don’t currently shoot models much, and don’t have huge numbers of family photos. I did play around with and tag hundreds of pictures, and found the process to be rather torturous.

  • Video Slideshows & HTML5 web galleries: I’m lumping these together because I’ve never used them and currently don’t have a use case for them. If I used Adobe’s fancy galleries and slideshows, maybe I’d have more visitors here, or something. Undeniably, they’re likely good for someone, somewhere, and maybe people building portfolios to show to clients would benefit, but at present I fit into neither category.

So I went and did it… I built a Web Gallery. I don’t think I can make it work on the blog, since it outputs a CSS folder, a folder of assets, and an html file… They look ok-ish… Simple, clean, nothing fancy, and probably useful on a traditional website, if anyone makes those any more. (Really, there’s probably a way to do it in WordPress, but I have limited time left before my evaluation period runs out, so I’m not going to go hunting.)

And here’s a video slideshow of some pictures I processed in 6, but haven’t shared yet…

How does that compare to WordPress’s built in slideshow? Well, the 1080p Lightroom one lasting 29 seconds weighs in at almost 35mb, which is why it’s on YouTube and not local; the one from WordPress is all baked into the Jetpack plugin.

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  • Filter Brushes: I forgot about this until I looked up the list of differences on Adobe’s website. I went to play with it and was all like “Wow! This is the tipping point!” and then I realized that I was using the old brush in Lightroom 5, the one that I rarely ever used.

I switched to CC and played around with it a bit. If I was retouching loads of photos, I would definitely have a good use for the brush in/out stuff in CC, but I currently don’t use any of that much… I try to get close in camera, and then make small adjustments as needed, but then I’m not a pro shooter of any sort, and so I don’t make much use of the ‘pro’ tools.

So what distinguishes CC from 6? Again, a list will help:

  • Lightroom Mobile, and all the mobiley goodness that comes with it… See my earlier discussion of LM for my thoughts on it. If you look at Adobe’s product comparison page, most of the stuff for CC is all about LM:
    • Use Lightroom on computers and mobile devices
    • Sync across devices
    • Automatically import from mobile devices (not really true… images imported from the phone are stuck in a .lrcat file: to get them into your storage and backup scheme requires a trip to the Import panel and importing directly from the phone, just as in LR5 and LR4)
    • Edit smart previews of RAW files on mobile devices
    • share photos via web galleries with Lightroom Web (not tested)
    • get feedback on shared galleries
    • Photoshop Mix, Adobe Voice, Adobe Slate (not tested)
    • Access Lightroom pictures from partner applications (I only experienced this in LM, and most of that functionality was baked in by Apple and the apps that use its extension protocols)
  • Access to Photoshop CC (not tested, but I own CS6 and have opened it all of maybe 10 times in the past 3 years**)
  • Stay up to date with Adobe innovations: During the lifespan of Lightroom CC, it kept parity with the standalone versions until the introduction of the dehaze slider and local adjustment brushes about 3 months after 6 launched. There were some updates to Camera Raw that only happened in CC (filter brushes, for example), but otherwise they’ve remained the same. I’ll be pleased if Adobe proves me wrong, but 2-3 year upgrade cycles with no real updates in the interim isn’t a very strong selling point.
  • Access to in-depth video tutorials from which I would likely benefit, but haven’t looked into at all.
  • The black and white sliders in the the local adjustments. I didn’t test this much at all, in fact, it took me a long time to find. I think I mentioned something about RTFM in these app tests before. Anyway. Here are screen captures of the slider options in Lightroom 5 and Lightroom CC. (I assume 6 has the same options as 5.) Can you spot the difference?

That could be useful… But again, I don’t use any of that much.

  • and… the Dehaze slider

I tried this out a bunch, and wanted to like it… I even shot some pictures specifically to try and get haze to remove. It works, mostly, sorta. The best use I got out of it was shooting through the office window to the sidewalk below on a rainy day.

I tried the Dehaze slider with dozens of images. It’s a bit hard to work with when processing negatives (as are many sliders: I’m looking at you Vignette), and I didn’t really find a use case for it. I guess if I shot cityscapes, maybe some landscape use, but I don’t shoot much of that, or if I shot more digital, but lately the main use for the D7000 has been playing a major role in the Scan-O-Matic 7000.

If you’d like to see what all it does, here’s a treat:

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Let’s take a closer look at the picture as I would do it without the dehaze slider…

And here’s it with the Dehaze at 25…

So there is something to the Dehaze thing… but blown out areas get a dark line around the edge very quickly. It’s already visible at 25… But it’s useful in certain conditions (like shooting through a tinted window on a rainy day).

So those are the differences… as you might gather, I’m somewhat underwhelmed.

So… Do I jump on the CC bandwagon? Just buy the upgrade? Stick with Lightroom 5 until something more useful/enticing comes along?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I keep vacillating. When I started writing this, I was pretty sure I was going to just upgrade. Then I realized the performance improvement is not quite that great (if you turn off the Write changes to XMP thing in LR5), and was quite sure I would just stick with LR5. But now, after going through and poo-pooing all the differences, I’m not so sure.

$10/month isn’t much, really, but in 3 years it would pay for a Samyang 14mm lens… and in one month it would buy a roll of film; 2.5 months would pay for C41 chemicals; etc. But $10/month is about 1/8th what I drop in the donation box at the masjid; it’s maybe half what I spend on junk food; it’s ~1/10th what I stick in a rainy day fund… I’m tempted more by the things I’m fairly sure I won’t use much— Photoshop; the other Adobe mobile apps; filter brushes and (now that I’ve figured out what they are) the black & white sliders in local adjustments—than by anything I’ve tested or seen this past month.

And after proofreading this (probably poorly, since I added huge swaths instead of tightening up…), I’m less tempted. The speed is the main attractor… I did a few things in LR5, and the small differences in speed in the Library, especially importing and rendering (smart) previews really add up.

I only have 3 days before my CC trial runs out, so maybe I’ll wait a month and see how painful rolling back to 5 is: I’ve done a bunch of work in CC (25 days’ worth) that mostly won’t be picked up by 5… I wonder what will? But I can rebuild: I’ve done it before, and will likely do it again. After all, if I go with the month-to-month CC thing, the longer I go with it, the harder it will be to roll back… If I abandon ship now, the pain is minimized. But Photoshop… the sliders… the possibility of future updates…

In the meantime, I have another LM video planned, so look for that tomorrow or Tuesday.

If you can sway me one way or the other, remind me of something I missed or didn’t consider properly, please let me know. For now, I have 2 or 3 days to decide, and I’m just not sure at all.

*Note that I have no other CC softwares on my computer, but now that this test has ended and I’ve uninstalled Lightroom CC, I can’t seem to uninstall Creative Cloud. Good thing I plan to format my internal drive and start over again once these reviews are done and I’ve decided what I’m going to do.

**does this lack of Photoshop mean that I’m not a serious photographer?***

***this is a semi-serious, non-rhetorical question.

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