I keep trying to move my photo processing and library workflow out of Lightroom, and I keep failing. This post is just me thinking it through (again).
First, why would I want to do that? Good question. It’s popular to hate on Adobe, and some of this is justified, but sometimes it feels like bandwagoning.
For me, the urge to move away from Lightroom is mostly due to Subscription Fatigue. I would love to not have to pay $10/month for the rest of my life just to manage my photo library. It’s not the price, as $10/month for the photography package is a fine deal. It’s just that it weighs on my mind, and wouldn’t it be nice to not think about it?
Here are the things I’ve tried.
This is the quick and easy option. With iCloud Photo Library I can have everything everywhere all the time. The editing features are pretty good and it can use things like Luminar as an external editor. I don’t have to import my iPhone photos separately.
But, a requirement for me is that all of my photos must be kept in a set of folders that I create and maintain. I don’t mind so much if there’s a “Library” for metadata and edits and such, but I can’t abide not having a “Show in Finder” command available. I know I should just get with the program, but I’m a little stuck in my ways here so Apple Photos is not yet the right thing for me.
Photo Mechanic and an editor
Photo Mechanic is by far the best way I’ve found to ingest, caption, and keyword photos. It’s super fast and is made for this. It works directly with the Finder so my precious folder system remains intact. There’s no library at all - it’s just a browser. Select an image, hit “E” and the image opens in whatever editor I have configured. It does the right thing with raw files. It can export/rename/upload to just about any service or format.
Photo Mechanic is the option I want to use. It’s simple, lightweight, fast and flexible. But sometimes I want a library. I want to make collections or do some fancy searching. I also kind of want to edit “in place” without sending files to a separate editor and back. I may end up back here someday, but for now the benefits don’t outweigh the effort.
I love Capture One, and it’s the most likely alternative. Earlier this year I tried going all-in. I’ve done this before, and it almost stuck this time. Capture One does a great job with Fuji Raw files. Although it’s easy to be brainwashed by The Internet into thinking that Capture One is great with Fuji and Lightroom sucks. I don’t find that to be true any more. Lightroom does fine, and Capture One is slightly better.
The UI of Capture One takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s very customizable and quite nice once I got settled in.
It just doesn’t have the export options or plugins or ecosystem of Lightroom. I’ve tweaked my process in Lightroom over the years to the point where I can crank through image processing, filing, exporting, and sharing without thinking much about it. With Capture One it feels like I’m always swimming upstream. That would eventually pass, but why bother? Capture One costs pretty much the same as Lightroom if I pay for the upgrades each year or so.
I really wanted to like the new Lightroom CC, but I didn’t. I’ll keep an eye on it but at this point it feels like an Apple Photos workalike with the overhead of the Adobe subscription. Also, no “Show in Finder” command which I still can’t get past. It’s certainly one to watch.
Luminar is a very cool new photo editor. There’s no library yet, and it’s a bit slow on my machines. We’ll see what happens when they introduce the library features but I’m not ready to throw all my efforts behind it yet.
Lightroom CC Classic
So here I am, back in Classic. For me, right now, the familiarity, ease, flexibility, and power that Classic gives me is unmatched by any of the other options. Even though I’m not always comfortable with Adobe, I’m comfortable with Lightroom. I’m used to it. My fingers are hardwired for using it, and I get the results I want quickly and easily.
There is a fear, probably justified, that Adobe will break their promise to keep Classic around indefinitely the way they did with the downloadable version. I worry about Adobe abandoning Classic, leaving me hanging.
But let’s say they do discontinue Classic in, say, three years. What’s the difference between being forced to move off Classic in three years and deciding to move off it now, other than it would be on my terms if I did it now? I guess I could congratulate myself for ending one more subscription but is it really worth it? Right now, for me, it’s not.
And who knows, the new CC could become just as good or better than Classic. Or one of the alternatives could be even better. Or something new could come along and sweep me off my feet.
Point is, I’m already invested in Lightroom so fighting to move to something else just in case seems like unnecessary effort, and for what? So I can be free of one of the most useful subscriptions I pay for? So that if it goes away someday I’ll be able to say “I told you so!” but only because by that time I’ll have forgotten the pain I’d already suffered through when switching?
Adobe may do things I don’t love, and no, I don’t completely trust them, but right now they offer a darn good photo management and editing solution that I’m comfortable with.
I’ll try to remember all of this next time I get the sudden urge to move to something else for one reason or another that day.