Today’s Question: I currently do my photo editing on a desktop iMac and use a RAID hard drive array to store my Lightroom Classic catalog and photos as well as two backups (one of which I remove and store offsite). These drives are now over five years old and I’m starting to be concerned about their future reliability. Rather than spend a considerable amount of money to replace all of the drives I was wondering whether this might be a good time to switch from Lightroom Classic to Lightroom [“cloud” version] and let Adobe take care of storage for me. Other than slower file retrieval, are there any other reasons for not moving in this direction?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I think the decision to switch to the cloud-based version of Lightroom from Lightroom Classic should take more into account than just where your photos will be stored. You’ll also need to consider issues such as folder management and backup strategy, among other considerations.
More Detail: The key difference between the cloud-based version of Lightroom and Lightroom Classic is how photos are stored. At a fundamental level, with the cloud-based version of Lightroom your primary storage is on Adobe’s servers, accessed via the Internet. With Lightroom Classic you manage your own photo storage locally, though you could employ a cloud-based storage option for those photos as well.
Another key difference is that with the cloud-based version of Lightroom you don’t have as much control or flexibility when it comes to folder structure. With Lightroom Classic you can define any folder structure you’d like on your local hard drives. With the cloud-based version of Lightroom you would use collections (albums) in the place of folders.
With the cloud-based version of Lightroom, the primary storage for all of your photos is in the cloud, which means you can access all of your photos from virtually anywhere using the Lightroom desktop app, the Lightroom mobile app, or Lightroom in a web browser. With Lightroom Classic you choose which photos to synchronize to the cloud through the use of synchronized collections.
Some photographers may prefer to let Adobe manage the storage of their photos for them. I would still highly recommend having a local backup copy of your photos in this case.
Personally, I prefer to manage my storage locally, and so I prefer Lightroom Classic. It is also worth noting that the two versions of Lightroom are different in terms of supported features. For example, Lightroom Classic includes more options for sharing your photos in a variety of ways, while the cloud-based Lightroom offers some additional features such as search based on image analysis, which can reduce the need to assign keywords to photos.
Ultimately it is up to each photographer to decide between the two versions of Lightroom based on their specific workflow needs and preferences. In my view, Lightroom Classic is still preferable over the cloud-based version of Lightroom, but with updates and changes to the cloud-based version of Lightroom, that could certainly change in the future.