Are you thinking about moving from Lightroom Classic (i.e. the Lightroom program that has been around for 10 years) to the new cloud-based Lightroom (CC) Desktop program?  It’s great that with this new application we can access all of our photos anywhere (on mobile devices,, and on multiple computers running Lightroom CC), but the application does not have all features that Classic does, so you’ll want to think about what you absolutely need and what you don’t.

My intention is to keep this article up-to-date with what you can and can’t do in Lightroom (CC) Desktop that you can do in Lightroom Classic. Please help me keep this up-to-date – comment below with additions and corrections! (This article is currently updated through January 202.)

What you can do     

What you can’t do     


  • The Import dialog is very simple – select a source folder or device, then select all or a subset of the photos and videos in that source to import. Optionally, choose an album (collection) to assign the photos to as they are imported.

  • There are  functions to migrate your Lightroom Classic catalog and Apple Photos catalog into Lightroom CC.

  • Review photos in Loupe view prior to Import (grid view only)

  • Sort files in the Import dialog by file type or any other criterion except capture date

  • Apply a develop or metadata preset or keywords

  • Convert to DNG

  • Rename files

  • Make a Second Copy to (but files will be backed up to the cloud)

  • Assign a destination folder (The user does not manage files in LR CC. In Preferences you can choose whether to store a copy of all imported files on your computer rather than just in the cloud and specify the location for that.)

  • Import from Elements, iPhoto (though you can export from these programs and then import manually, or use Lightroom Classic to import from these and then migrate your Classic catalog to Lightroom CC.)

  • Tethered capture

  • Auto Import (from watched folder)


  • In Lightroom CC you can assign stars and pick and reject flags. You can work in grid view or in single-photo view (Edit, Information, or Keyword views).

  • Assign color labels

  • Survey view, Compare view

  • Auto advance to the next photo after rating or flagging

File Management

  • There are two grid (thumbnail) views that toggle with the shortcut G – Square and Photo. Square shows no photo information. Photo shows stars, flags and sync status.

  • You can’t change what information displays in the grid.

  • You can sort photos in the grid by capture date, filename, import date, modified date, star rating.

  • You can’t sort manually or by edit count, flag, aspect ratio, file type, or file extension.

  • You can add photos to  albums (known as collections in Lightroom Classic) and nest albums in folders (known as collection sets in Classic).

  • There is no album filter for finding albums in a long list of them.

  • There are no smart (rule-based) collections and no quick collection.

  • You can set an album to be the target album.

  • You can stack photos manually to link them together and so they take up less space in the grid when the stack is collapsed. (Stacking in either program is not visible in mobile or web.)

  • There is no auto-stack by capture time.

  • In the Information (I) panel you can type in the following metadata: Title, Caption, Copyright, and Location. You can view limited metadata: the before-mentioned fields, filename, camera, lens, file size, exposure, ISO, focal length.

  • There are no metadata presets and you can’t sync metadata from one photo to one or more others.

  • Reverse geocoding (population of city, state and country fields) is automatically done on files with GPS coordinates.

  • There’s no way to manually assign GPS coordinates (no Map module) or to define saved locations.

  • You can add keywords to photos, but they are flat.

  • Hierarchical keywords are not supported.

  • There is no available keyword list to manage, no keyword sets, and no synonyms. You can’t specify what keywords will export – all will.

  • There is no painter tool for “spraying” information onto photos.

  • In Lightroom CC you can right-click and Duplicate. While technically these are real-file copies, not virtual copies as Classic has, the functionality is essentially the same. Duplicates do take up cloud storage space.

  • You can change/correct capture date and time.

  • Lightroom CC does detect faces and you can name them

  • You can’t manually identify a face in a photo (i.e. draw a face region) if Lightroom CC doesn’t detect it.

What Else You Can’t Do:

  • File renaming

  • Conversion to or validation of DNG

Searching for Photos (and Videos)

  • You can filter on keywords, stars, flags, photo vs. video, camera, location, sync status and people. You can select two or more in a list – for example, two keywords – and an OR condition will be applied. 

  • AND conditions within one filter criterion (e.g. keyword A AND keyword B)

  • There are no filters for other metadata fields.

  • Searches are otherwise done with a single Search field. This feature requires internet access and requires that syncing of the photos to the cloud first be completed. (You won’t be able to use Search right after import.) Search is driven by Adobe’s “Sensei” technology, which can analyze image content.  You can do a search for “dogs”, for example, and it will find photos with dogs regardless of whether the photos have a “dogs” keyword.  Results can be impressive, but there will be false positives (photos will be returned that don’t have dogs in them) and false negatives (there will be photos in your library that have dogs but aren’t returned). Search facets (e.g. camera:) will give you a dropdown of available fields (like filtering, but requires an internet connection). This document has a list of all facets that are available.

  • AND and OR conditions cannot be explicitly specified with Search. (“dogs,cats”, “dogs and cats”, “dogs or cats” returns roughly the same results.)

  • Use of the Search field for finding images based on metadata for which there aren’t facets is hit and miss.

  • There is no way to do a text search of a particular field, such as title (unless it is on the predefined list of facets, such as camera:). You can search for files based on full filenames, but not partial ones. You cannot save searches.

Other Functions in Lightroom Classic’s Library Module

  • Photomerge HDR, Panorama

  • Impromptu slideshow

  • View and respond to comments, likes in shared collections

  • Zoom beyond 2:1

  • Quick Develop (processing one or more images in Grid view)

  • Histogram in grid view