First Look at Lightroom CC (Lightroom 6)

I'm early in the process of migrating my photos from Aperture to Lightroom. Going in, I knew the Develop module is the crown jewel of Lightroom (see Lightroom Is My Slurm). And the asset management is less intuitive and coarser than Aperture in some areas (see Lightroom Through Aperture Eyes - Stacks and Lightroom Metadata Through Aperture Eyes). Although, markedly better in other areas (see Lightroom Through Aperture Eyes - Keywords).

Adobe just released Lightroom CC (aka Lightroom 6) and their timing is great. I'm early enough in my migration that I don't have a major upgrade on my hands. I have had a bit of a poke around the Lightroom CC press coverage and there's two features I'm excited about:

  • Performance: Lightroom CC goes 64-bit only and uses the GPU in your computer more. That's great. Who doesn't want more performance. Even with my older systems (MacBook Pro 2012, Mac Pro 2010) I am seeing improvements. Interestingly, there's an option to turn off GPU usage... and I can't imagine why you'd do that (maybe some Windows systems that might have buggy video drivers).
  • Panorama Merge: I don't do panoramas often. Prior to moving to the Adobe CC, I'd occasionally do a hand merge or use HugIn, which works but is clunky. With panorama support in Lightroom, I don't have to bounce to Photoshop. This also means I might actually go back in my catalog and process images I'd taken as a panorama but never processed because my workflow was too cumbersome.
  • Activity Center: This is a tiny one, but very useful. Where the task bar used to be, there's now a dropdown where background tasks can be monitored, paused or canceled.
  • Graduated Filter Brush: The graduated filter is very cool, but would affect everything in it's path, limiting its usefulness to flat horizons. Imagine darkening a sky in a mountainous landscape scene. The sky & mountain peaks are darkened. Now there's a brush option to brush away the filter away from portions of the scene.

I'm less excited about asset management. There are a couple of tweaks, but they're just that - tweaks:

  • Spray Can & Keyword Sets: The spray can can now access keyword sets, which is a good usability improvement. To date, I haven't use the spray can much. I may play with this more.
  • Collections Filter Bar: There's a search feature in the Collections in the Library. That's nice. Collections can become unwieldy on large catalogs so anything that helps find them faster is good.

Maybe there will be more asset management improvements revealed when I can install Lightroom CC (it's still not showing up in my Adobe CC account as an update). I am hoping for better management of Virtual Copies across folders and collections. Like stacks, virtual copies are disjoint across the folder/collection divide. I'm I'm viewing a collection and create a virtual copy, I want that copy reflected in the collection and the folder.

There's a bunch of other improvements and enhancements. Facial recognition gets a lot of buzz, but that's not personally exciting to me. Aperture had this for a long time and I never used it. Since I keyword my images, I add keywords for people. If you don't use keywords, facial recognition might be for you (although be prepared to spend some time "training" the software).

HDR processing is in Lightroom CC as well. The controls are basic, really all about shadows and highlights. Far shy of the level of control in Photomatix or Nik HDR Efex Pro if you use those tools. For basic HDRs, this can be useful. I can see using Lightroom's HDR merge as a preview for what an HDR might look like. Bonus points to Adobe for offering a "headless" mode to run HDRs in the background.

Lots going on in the mobile space. I have yet to get into Lightroom Mobile, and can't comment intelligently on how much the improvements Lightroom CC brings.