Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lightroom 5 in the Wild

Lightroom 5 was released Monday

The new version of Lightroom was released Monday. This brings Lightroom up to version 5. I use Lightroom for 100% of my photo needs. I use its cataloging database module to maintain my archive, its editing module for all of my post processing needs, its mapping module (along with my iPhone) to keep track of where I was when I made a set of photos. Honestly, Lightroom has changed the way I maintain my digital archive and I can't imagine photo life without it.  

Lightroom 5 has some new tools in the develop module that will improve my workflow, like an automatic straighten function (handy when I have an accidentally crooked horizon photo), improved spot cloning (for removal of those pesky dust specks). For my purposes, those tools alone make it worth the upgrade. It also adds support for some new cameras (not a big deal for me) and improves the book module. I don't use the book making components of LR but I've been toying with the idea of making a book of my photos from Thailand, so I may tinker with the book module. 

There's a fly in the ointment though. Adobe, the company that publishes Lightroom, is changing its business model. Rather than "sell" software in the conventional way, they're moving to a rental model. You join Adobe's Creative Cloud service and pay a monthly fee to use your software. You download the software in the traditional way (so it still sits on your hard drive) but it pings Adobe every month or so to make sure you've paid to use your software. You stop paying and your software stops working. Adobe is taking away the choice of paying for your software outright and using it at your discretion. 

For some users this might make financial sense - if you use a lot of Adobe's high end products (Photoshop, InDesign, Premier) joining the Cloud will cost less than buying those applications outright. But then we go back to the stop paying and your software quits working gotcha. 

You start a project, like a book, in InDesign. You use Photoshop to prep your photos. You pay your monthly Adobe Creative Cloud fee. Everything is fine. But your circumstances change and you can no longer afford the fee (several hundred dollars a year). You stop paying and you can no longer use the software and, more importantly, can no longer access your book project (because it's saved in InDesign's proprietary format). That's a soul crushing option for a lot of creative people.

In the past, you bought and paid for an application. The choice to upgrade when a new version came out was yours. If you don't want to spend the dollars on an upgrade you didn't have to. But you could still access your work in the software you bought and paid for. This money grabbing move by Adobe changes all of that. Adobe's cloud model doesn't even get into privacy concerns, which in light of news that the US government is sucking up just about everything on the internet, may be a big deal for some people. 

I am not a fan of the Creative Cloud. I don't want to get hooked into paying Adobe every month for the "privilege" of using my software. I don't use many Adobe products. I use Lightroom a lot, Photoshop a little. That's it. (I don't plan to join the Creative Cloud. I haven't seen the need to upgrade Photoshop past the version I have and I will not upgrade because I won't pay for software on a rental basis.)

If Adobe had offered the choice of outright purchase, (what they call perpetual license) or the Cloud, I would probably continue to purchase Photoshop upgrades but not join the Cloud. By taking away the choice, Adobe has convinced me to move beyond their products. I'm trying to kick the Photoshop habit completely. I'm using Pixelmator for more and more of my individual photo editing needs. It's not Photoshop but it's also only $15 and doesn't require a monthly use fee. (Pixelmator is a far from perfect alternative to Photoshop but it's a start.)

Because Adobe has positioned Lightroom as both a professional application (so it's in the Creative Cloud) and an amateur or enthusiast's application, is still available for purchase as a stand alone product. I downloaded LR5. But I am concerned that Adobe will move the next version, LR6, into the cloud and make it a Creative Cloud only application. If/when that happens I will move away from Lightroom and onto a competitive application, probably Apple's Aperture

The issue I'm wrestling with now is that Lightroom and Aperture are incompatible. If I move my archive into Aperture, I will lose all of my edits, captions etc. (The same thing happens if you move an archive from Aperture to LR.) That's a pretty unpleasant scenario. What I will probably end doing is maintaining two archives. I will keep the last version of Lightroom that offers a stand alone purchase with my past archive and going forward everything into Aperture. It's not a perfect solution but it's better than paying Adobe a monthly fee to use my software. 

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts. 

I am going to Myanmar for a couple of weeks and will have only very limited internet access while I'm there. I probably won't be updating the blog on a regular basis until I get back to Bangkok. 

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