Today’s Question: I am using Lightroom 5 but think that my next move should be to just buy the cloud version. How do I make the switch and move my photos to that version of Lightroom 6?
Tim’s Quick Answer: When you subscribe to the Creative Cloud (such as via the Creative Cloud Photography Plan), you’ll still be installing the applications (such as Lightroom) directly to your computer. So in effect, you’d simply be upgrading from Lightroom 5 to Lightroom 6, and you can very easily “upgrade” your Lightroom 5 catalog for use with Lightroom 6.
More Detail: You can install Lightroom 6 via the Creative Cloud application, and it will be installed in addition to your existing installation of Lightroom 5. When you launch Lightroom 6 (which is referred to as Lightroom CC when installed as part of a Creative Cloud subscription) you will be asked if you want to upgrade your existing Lightroom 5 catalog for use in Lightroom 6. If you choose to take advantage of this option, a new Lightroom 6 catalog will be created in the process, so you will still have your Lightroom 5 catalog as a backup.
If you don’t take advantage of the option to upgrade your Lightroom 5 catalog for use in Lightroom 6 when you launch Lightroom 6 for the first time, you can always perform this task later. For example, you might want to create a test catalog initially just to test out your installation of Lightroom 6 and perhaps get familiar with some of the new features before taking the step of upgrading your existing catalog.
Later, you can always simply choose File > Open Catalog from the menu in Lightroom 6, and select your existing Lightroom 5 catalog as the catalog you want to open. Lightroom will recognize that the catalog was created with an older version of Lightroom, and will offer to upgrade the catalog. Note that you must upgrade an existing Lightroom 5 (or earlier) catalog if you want to use that catalog with Lightroom 6. The process is very simple, however, and doesn’t require any significant time to complete.
I think one of the most important things to keep in mind in this context, however, is that Lightroom purchased as a standalone product with a perpetual license is the same as Lightroom installed as part of a Creative Cloud subscription, except that the latter provides access to some additional online synchronization features. This includes, for example, the ability to synchronize your Lightroom catalog to Lightroom on a mobile device or Lightroom in a web browser.