UPDATE JUNE 2018: This article was written in 2015, when the choice was between the non-subscription Lightroom 6 application and the subscription Lightroom CC 2015. Now the choice is among the non-subscription Lightroom 6, the subscription Lightroom Classic 7, and the new simplified cloud-based Lightroom CC application. (Adobe took the old “Lightroom CC’ name and put it on this new application.) Please refer to my article, Which Should I Use, Lightroom Classic 7, Lightroom CC or Lightroom 6” for a comparison of these.
There Are Two Ways You Can Obtain the New (2015) Version of Lightroom
1. Subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription program, and get “Lightroom CC 2015”. The most cost-effective version for photographers is the CC Photography Program, which includes Lightroom, Photoshop, and unlimited syncing of photos from Lightroom to Lightroom mobile for mobile devices, and to Lightroom web. The cost is $9.99 USD/month, and all future updates are included in the price. If you already are a CC subscriber, you can download the new Lightroom CC 2015 for free. I personally think that this plan is a great deal, but I realize that a subscription is not appealing to everyone.
Note that you can also subscribe to the Complete Cloud, which includes all other Creative Suite products (inDesign, Illustrator, Premier Pro, etc) as well as other apps, for $49.99/month. This would be relevant if your interests extend beyond photography to video, graphic design, illustration, etc.)
2. Purchase the stand-alone perpetual license “Lightroom 6”. This is priced at $149 USD for new users, or $79 USD to upgrade from any prior version (Lightroom 1-5.) Here’s the link to purchase the full and upgrade versions of Lightroom 6. For the upgrade, select the full version, click on Buy Now and then once it is in your cart, click on the “Full” drop down to change it to an upgrade.
What You Don’t Get with Lightroom 6
Lightroom 6 owners do not get new features added during the CC 2015 / 6 product cycle. So far CC subscribers have gotten Dehaze, for adding or removing atmospheric haze (locally and globally); local Whites and Blacks in the adjustment brush, graduated filter and radial filter; Boundary Warp, for warping panoramas created with CC/6 so that no cropping of the result is needed; Guided Upright, which allows users to draw lines on photos to tell Lightroom how to correct perspective issues; and Reference View, which allows you to edit one photo while having another photo next to it to use as a reference for your editing of the other.
Note that you will get free 6.x updates with bug fixes, support for new cameras, new lens profiles and some under-the-hood improvements.
You also receive more limited support than CC subscribers get. From what I understand, you have access to chat-support only, for getting the software installed and working within 90 days of registration. CC subscribers get premium support – chat and phone, for assistance beyond just installation, and it isn’t limited to the first 90 days.
In addition, CC subscribers receive access to Lightroom mobile and Lightroom web. With Lightroom mobile, you can easily sync an unlimited number of collections of photos from Lightroom desktop to Lightroom mobile for Apple and Android mobile devices (including Android tablets now), do some basic work on your photos on your mobile devices and and have that work seamlessly sync back to Lightroom desktop. Lightroom mobile on your mobile devices can also send your mobile device camera photos to Lightroom on your desktop. With Lightroom web, you can share collections of photos with people by turning on “sync” for collections you want to share in Lightroom desktop, and giving a web link / URL to your friends and clients that allows them to view and comment on your photos. With Lightroom web you can also import and edit photos when you’re away from home using just a web browser, and photos and editing will sync back to Lightroom desktop.
UPDATE September 2016: If you’re considering CC or 6 at this point, keep in mind that these were released over a year ago (in April 2015). There’s no indication at all from Adobe at this point as to when the next major release will occur, but if you subscribe to CC, you’ll get the next major version at no additional charge. If you purchase Lightroom 6, and if Adobe makes a Lightroom 7 available, you’ll pay the upgrade charge (which has been $79). It’s also possible that Adobe won’t make a Lightroom 7 available, in which case you’d have to subscribe to CC to get the new features.
The Advantage of Lightroom 6
As a stand-alone perpetual-license program, once you purchase it, you own it, and can use it as long as your computer supports it. You will never be locked out of any portion of the program.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Creative Cloud Plan
Will I have to work in the cloud?
No – the software will reside on your computer, just like Lightroom 5 or older versions do today. Your files (photos and catalog) will also continue to reside on your computer. The only ways the “cloud” (which means Adobe servers / computers), and the internet come into play are:
- You download software updates
- When you sync to Lightroom mobile, your files go from Lightroom desktop to the cloud (i.e. Adobe computers), and then to your mobile devices. Work you do on your mobile devices travels in the opposite direction back to your desktop.
- As a Creative Cloud subscriber, you also get 2 GB of cloud storage – which you can optionally use to share files with other people – but this is not where your Lightroom files are stored, and your syncing to mobile devices does not use this 2 GB and is unlimited.
Can I work when I am not connected to the internet?
Yes. The only requirement is that you be connected once every 99 days, so that Adobe can verify that your subscription is still active.
What happens when I stop subscribing – will I lose my photos and work?
No – you will not lose either your photos or your Lightroom work. In fact, you don’t even lose access to Lightroom – you just get locked out of making any additional develop edits to your photos. You can continue, for free, to use Lightroom to import and manage your photos, enjoy your past editing work or undo this work, and to create output and export copies of your photos.
In addition, right now if you try a subscription and decide to revert to the stand-alone version, you can, since the programs and the catalogs are the same. It’s possible that in the future CC subscribers get new features that require a catalog upgrade and are not backwards compatible with Lightroom 6, so moving back at that point may be more difficult.
If In Doubt, Try It Out
You can get a free 30 day trial to Lightroom CC 2015, with the mobile features. If you find that you don’t use the mobile features, and don’t mind that you might not get future new features as soon as CC subscribers, or possibly at all, you could always purchase Lightroom 6 at that point.
Adobe Releases Lightroom CC and Lightroom 6 (Read about new features and watch my Highlights video)
Lightroom CC/6 Free Tutorials – download a free 90 minute “Learn Lightroom CC/6 New Feature” video series with practice files, or watch video tutorials online on this page.