Why Some Photographers Choose Lightroom

It works everywhere

Key Takeaways

  • Lightroom is Adobe’s professional photo editing and cataloging app.
  • You can run Lightroom on pretty much any computer or mobile device.
  • Lightroom has all the features of Apple’s Photos app, but is easier to use, and has more tools.
A Charlie Sorrel photo in Adobe Lightroom displayed on a MacBook Pro laptop.
Pexels / Mockup Photos

Adobe’s Lightroom may be sold as a pro-level photo-editing app, but it is also the best photo library software around, even for folks who love Apple’s Photos app. 

Specifically, we’re talking about Lightroom mobile for your phone or iPad, and Lightroom CC for your Mac or Windows computer. Like Apple’s built-in Photos app, Lightroom syncs between all your devices, keeping original photos in the cloud. But it also adds tons more editing options, saved filters, and a killer camera app that can shoot raw images. 

What’s So Great About Lightroom?

Lightroom is the only pro-level editing/catalog app that syncs between mobile and desktop (ON1 also has a mobile version, but it’s not there yet in terms of camera support and features). You can import your images into an iPad when in the field, and edit them there, and all the photos will end up back on your Mac or PC. 

Or you can go in the other direction, importing photos at the computer, then viewing, culling, and editing on the iPad. The default setup uses something called Smart Previews on mobile, which take up far less room than the original raw files, but still let you fully edit them. 

Catalog and Edit

Lightroom does two things. It organizes your photos into a catalog, and it edits those photos. Lightroom’s cataloging lets you create folders and collections that sync to mobile and back, and you can share any of those collections online, creating a kind of private website.

For powerful cataloging and organization features, you’ll need to use Lightroom Classic (LRC) on the desktop, which offers smart collections and more. We’ll get to LRC in a moment. 

The real standout of Lightroom, though, is its picture editing. Apple’s Photos app shares a lot of Lightroom’s adjustment features, but they’re poorly laid out and annoying to use. Plus, the iOS version of Photos is hobbled, compared to the Mac version.

Lightroom, on the other hand, is a dream to use on an iPad. For instance, when you use the “curves” tool to set the brightness and contrast of an image, the curves tool overlays the entire image, making it easy to use. Take a look:

A Charlie Sorrel photograph being edited with the curves tool in Adobe Lightroom on an iPad.
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire 

Once you’re happy with an edit, you can save it as a preset. And you also can find thousands of pre-made presets on the internet, and add them to Lightroom. This is a nice way to get the look of a particular film, for example. 

One other important feature is Lightroom’s raw image support. You can add raws to the Photos app, but it’s a pain to work with them. There’s no easy way to separate the RAW+JPG pairs imported from your camera, and some camera’s raw files just aren’t supported: Fujifilm’s compressed raw format, is one example.

Lightroom has excellent raw support. Load up a raw image, and not only do you get full editing, but you can apply lens corrections tailored to the actual lens on your camera, and also apply the camera manufacturers’ own image presets.

In short, it’s Lightroom, and its everywhere.

What About Lightroom Classic?

Everything above applies to Lightroom CC, Lightroom Cloud Ecosystem, or Lightroom (Cloud Service). This confusion of names refers to the same set of apps: the Lightroom satellite apps that use the cloud for their main storage. But there’s another version: Lightroom Classic (LRC).

Back in 2017, Adobe went all-in on the cloud, and launched Lightroom CC, the app we’ve been talking about so far. This new version had far fewer features than old Lightroom, which has been around since its public beta in 2006.

This was renamed Lightroom Classic, and it's still maintained. It has a lot more features, but it is also much slower and creakier, and offers only limited cloud sync. However, if you plan to keep all your original photos on your computer rather than in the cloud, LRC is the way to go—it still can sync Smart Previews to be edited on iOS. It also lets you create photo books and magazines, and more.

Try It

Lightroom is paid software, but you can download and use the mobile app for free. For advanced features like raw editing, you’ll need a $10-per-month subscription. Check it out. You might love it.

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