Lightroom 6 (aka Lightroom CC) was just announced (click here to find out what’s new!). I’ve been eagerly waiting for this release – pretty much from the moment Lightroom 5 was announced. And I have to be honest: I’m disappointed. Here’s what’s up.
From where I stand, it seems like significant development on Lightroom has stalled. Lightroom 6 is a fairly incremental update from Lightroom 5. Yes, there are some new features (like HDR, pano merge, GPU performance boost, facial recognition, etc.), but none of them are particularly innovative. Add to that the fact that Lightroom 5 was also a pretty incremental update from Lightroom 4 and you can see that it’s been a long time since anything really revolutionary has happened with this software. The biggest problem is that there are major areas that have been needing improvement for years, but have been mostly ignored.
So here’s a list of the features I think Lightroom 6 should have had…
1. Better Video Editing
Why does it seem like Adobe is ignoring the fact that almost all cameras and smartphones now shoot HD video and that people are shooting both photos and videos?
It sure would be nice to be able to easily edit short clips together. I’m not talking about making Lightroom into a fully featured video editor – I know there are better programs for that. But right now it’s nearly impossible to do anything with video. This is a huge area for improvement.
What Adobe should do is take a cue from Apple. Apple Aperture wasn’t my program of preference for raw photo editing, but it was awesome at creating a photo and video multimedia experience. What I’m talking about is easily mixing photos, videos, voice, and music. Why can’t you do this in Lightroom yet when you could do it in (the now discontinued) Apple Aperture ages ago?
The process of making a photo-video slideshow in Lightroom 6 is embarrassingly inefficient. Here’s how it looks: First you need to adjust each video clips length in the Library module, then put all the video clips and photos that you want to go into a slideshow into a collection, and the switch over to the Slideshow module to put it together. If you want to re-adjust the length of any clip you have to switch back to the Library module. The Library module is also where you would need to make any adjustments to the exposure, contrast, etc. of your video clips. And there is no way to easily add any voiceover to your photo video slideshow.
Adobe did add a couple new insignificant features to LR6’s Slideshow module. First, you can add multiple songs to a slideshow, and second you can add a pan and zoom effect. Where is the innovation!? You can’t even control where on the photo it zooms in or out of. Think of the number of awkward slideshows that will soon be created where the auto pan/zoom feature decides to zoom in on someone’s crotch for one slide. Don’t want that? Too bad.
(Also, why can’t the Lightroom Slideshow module export at 4K resolution? All those fancy new 4K TVs would be perfect for viewing your 4K photo slideshows. You could also be uploading your 4K slideshows to YouTube…)
2. A Re-designed Import Workflow
I have received countless emails from people who can’t figure out how to simply get their photos into Lightroom. Doesn’t that seem ridiculous? The import dialog in Lightroom is a user interface disaster, and it’s one of the first experiences that a new user has with Lightroom! (I’m talking specifically about the expanded import view where you can see the thumbnails of the photos.)
The thoughtless design of the import dialog is the reason why so many people think that their photos are stored somewhere inside of the Lightroom program. Does Adobe realize that many Lightroom users don’t even know where their photos are stored on their computer? How many photos have been lost because of this inadequate user interface design?
A couple design tips for Adobe:
- Don’t make the important-to-read information the same light-grey-on-dark-grey as everything else! The import workflow bar needs to stand out a lot more so people know what’s happening to their photos.
- For the top import workflow bar in the expanded view, look at the gaps between the arrows (screenshot below) — it’s way too big to instinctively follow or understand as a step-by-step process. The design makes sense for the minimized view, but when you open the expanded view (which is necessary if you want to see the photos you’re importing) the design is no longer helpful. (This is an even bigger problem if you have a large screen since the gaps become enormous!)
The red lines show the large gap between the import workflow arrows. Also notice how difficult light text on a grey background is to read!
3. Photo Backup
Keeping your photos safe should be the number one priority for any photographer. Currently the only related photo backup option that you have with Lightroom is to copy the photos to a secondary location during the import process. This is not nearly enough.
Lightroom users should be able to quickly see from within Lightroom whether a photo is backed up. You should also know how many backup copies you have. And it would also be great if Lightroom helped photographers manage offsite backup. Finally, data verification is also an important part of the process to detect file corruption. Currently Lightroom can verify DNG files, but it should be able to verify raw files, video files, and jpegs.
I want to point out that Adobe’s Creative Cloud option is not photo backup. Your full sized photos are not being uploaded to the Adobe servers – only smaller versions!
4. Better Photo Sharing
Why isn’t there just a button to post a photo to Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, or email to a friend? Lightroom has some of those sharing features baked in, or third party plugins are available, but they’re not convenient to use.
Another feature that could be greatly expanded is Lightroom’s Web module. Lightroom 6 does have new gallery sharing features that allow you to get comments on photos – but I believe you need a subscription to Creative Cloud in order to access that feature.
Here’s a list of features that I think the Web Module should have
1. Integration with WordPress. It’s the most popular blogging platform – Adobe should make it easy for anyone with a WordPress blog to easily publish their photos directly from Lightroom. Extra points for compatibility with other blogging platforms like Tumblr and Blogger.
2. Make it easier to publish web galleries. Right now you have to purchase hosting from a 3rd party (like Bluehost) and setup the hosting within the Web Module. Or you can export the gallery files from Lightroom and upload them separately. This is not easy enough for the average Lightroom user.
Why not offer hosting (for a price) to Lightroom customers? Or make it easy for customers to signup for a third party host through Lightroom?
3. Gallery shopping cart option. Why not have a gallery that allows you to easily sell your photos!? Have integration with Paypal / Stripe. Lightroom users want to figure out how to sell their photos, why not collaborate with print houses like WHCC, or ProDPI to figure out a way to enable photographers to easily sell printed products? Keep in mind that Adobe has already collaborated with Blurb for the Book module – this is not new territory. (And where are all the other cool essential products like calendars and notecards? Adobe should be seriously trying to fill the void of Apple Aperture…)
5. Better Organization
Photo organization is a problem for every photographer. For what it’s worth, Lightroom already has some awesome organizational features like collections, ratings, keywords, and great search functionality. But why not assume people don’t use any of those features (or don’t use them well)? The sad fact is that those features don’t get used much because they require work to get set up, and maintain.
The new facial recognition feature in Lightroom 6 is a step in the right direction. And hopefully one day artificial intelligence will keyword, analyze, rate and organize my entire image archive for me.
Until then, why not make it easer to search for your photos by year, month, week, day? Have a separate Date option in the Library filter bar (next to Text, Attribute, and Metadata – instead of having to access date through Metadata). Try to have some organic date search options like holidays, birthdays, or vacations. It might seem like I’m suggesting magic, but this kind of generic classification is possible now (partly based on predictable calendar events, location geotagging, social network integrations, etc.). This is going to make it a lot easier for people to find their photos without having previously applied any metadata to them.
6. Keyboard Shortcuts
Can you believe that Lightroom does not have a shortcut for Exposure, or any of the other basic adjustment sliders!? It might seem like such an insignificant feature, but it’s one that should have been added a long long time ago. Right now you have to click on an adjustment to select it, or you have to cycle through all the adjustment sliders to get the one you want. There should be single keyboard shortcuts that allow you to select Exposure, Contrast, Saturation, Clarity, etc.
Using the keyboard is far more efficient than clicking around with the mouse, and Lightroom already has tons of helpful shortcuts. You can even adjust the amount of the adjustment sliders by using keyboard shortcuts, but it’s essentially useless if you have to first use the mouse to activate the adjustment slider.
For the record, I have (along with many others) requested this supremely basic feature from Adobe since the beta release of Lightroom 3. Entire products and companies have popped up just to try to fill this baffling gap in the software.
I’ve been using Lightroom since the very first version. I’ve taught the program to thousands of photographers, and have spent untold hours digging into every single feature to better understand and explain it. I use it for all of my own photos, and it holds our entire photo library. I know this software inside and out. And I’m worried for it’s future.
It’s clear that Adobe has seen the numbers, and knows that mobile photography is supremely popular right now. They want a piece of that pie, and they’re spending a lot of effort trying to make Lightroom work for smartphone photographers. What I’ve seen so far from these efforts seems simply impractical. Maybe they’ll figure it out eventually, but at what cost?
I confess that I don’t know the market like they do, or the future (of course), but I worry about this direction for Lightroom. This program is fantastic for any hobbyist photographer, and is absolutely essential for any professional photographer. But if Adobe continues to put more of their focus on the smartphone crowd, and keeps neglecting features that would help the core user base that has been using the software from the beginning, it’s hard to see it remaining the best option for the folks who need it most.
I still maintain that nothing beats Lightroom when it comes to raw processing, but I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to be the case…