What's New in Lightroom (June 2021)

Updated: Jan 24

The latest versions of Lightroom "Cloud" and Lightroom Classic are now available. So what's new?

 

Adobe seems to prefer holding off until the major fall releases to add bigger features to the Lightroom suite of applications but the bumps to Lightroom 4.3 and Lightroom Classic 10.3 are a little more significant this go-round.


If you're more the listening/watching type, feel free to check out my YouTube video where I walk through the major enhancements and improvements, and run through in a bit more detail how, exactly, Super Resolution works; otherwise, read on below for a breakdown of everything you need to know.

 

Lightroom "Cloud" 4.3


Ok, so first things first.. there's not a whole lot to get excited about in terms of what's exclusive to the cloud version but, in this case, it simply means some of the cool stuff has been added to both versions of Lightroom (or all versions, as it may be, since mobile is included in some of what I outline below).


  • Custom Crop Ratios - Yep, you read that right... one of the big new features in Lightroom "Cloud" gives users the ability to finally create custom crop aspect ratios. For some reason, it took Adobe roughly 4 years to add this extremely basic feature. It may not seem like much but, in all honesty, this is pretty exciting as it ticks one of the (many) boxes on my list of "Reasons I can't Use Lightroom Cloud" list.


  • Collaborative Editing - Now this is more like it! The irony here is I'll probably never use this feature but it's way cooler than... custom crop ratios. With v4.3 you can now invite others to not only view your images but also edit images in an album. This is probably most exciting for people that work within a team or group, however, I can see using it as a way to let a friend not only give you feedback on an image you're working on but also show you exactly what they'd tweak or change up if you invite them to collaborate. Pretty cool! It's also available on iOS, Android, and web.

As far as Lightroom Cloud 4.3's exclusive new features go... that's pretty much it.

 

Lightroom Classic 10.3


For those of you that think Lightroom Classic is going away, or being ignored by Adobe: read on! There are a few pretty significant enhancements that hit with this latest version.

  • Native Support for Apple Silicon (M1) - If you follow the news around Apple at all, you know they've started rolling out devices that are powered by their own proprietary chipsets. Specifically, the M1 chip. Now, I'm a Windows guy so I don't have a way to test this but by all accounts the M1 performance is impressive but, until now, Lightroom Classic had to be run in what was essentially a compatibility mode, not taking advantage of the M1 architecture to its fullest. Now that Classic has native support*, Adobe is claiming "most operations... are about twice as fast" on M1 hardware. Early feedback I've seen on social media indicates the performance gains are definitely noticeable.

* Tethering is not yet supported on the M1 chipset so you'll have to stick with that compatibility mode (aka Rosetta) to use it

  • Tethered Live View for Nikon - Speaking of tethering... it may not be available natively for the M1 chipset just yet but Adobe did go ahead and add live tethering for certain Nikon cameras. This was added for Canon cameras with v10.0, if I'm not mistaken, and allows users to view, focus, manage exposure settings, and capture shots all in real-time within Lightroom Classic. This is great for studio photographers or situations where the photographer can't stay tethered (pun intended) to the camera itself while they're shooting.

  • VRAM Utilization Improvements/Fixes - Performance issues have long been a common complaint for Lightroom Classic users (although I contend that many of the issues can be overcome by following the recommendations I outline in this video). One area I have personally run into issues, though, is speed degradation during longer editing sessions. Without getting all into techno mumble jumble, the way Classic was managing virtual memory was problematic, and it would manifest more the longer you worked. Adobe isn't really talking up this enhancement/fix (it's not even listed on their June 2021 release blog) but, hopefully, this finally resolves that issue once and for all... I just haven't yet had enough time to work with v10.3 to give it my seal of approval.

 

New Features in Both Versions


Some nice little updates so far, right? But wait, there's more! In addition to the Cloud or Classic exclusives, there are a couple new features that are available in both versions.

  • Premium Presets - I personally don't use presets as I prefer to work each image independently from scratch, as it were, but there's definitely a huge market for presets that tie in with the Lightroom ecosystem. With v4.3 of Cloud and v10.3 of Classic, Adobe has added a new (large) set of presets for paid subscribers, with 70 news ones added in. Playing around with them, there are some that are kind of nice, and more aligned with my personal style/preferences. Adobe also claims they will continue to add more with future releases, so this is just the beginning. I think I just felt a great disturbance in the universe, as if millions of preset pack pushers cried out in terror...


  • Super Resolution - Last but certainly not least, this is probably the biggest new feature Adobe has added to the desktop Lightroom apps with these releases. As the competition heats up in the AI-powered editing world, Adobe has thrown their hat in the ring with Super Resolution for upscaling images (technically, they threw it in back in March when it was released for Adobe Camera Raw). Using AI machine learning, Super Resolution increases the dimensions of any image by 2x on each edge, resulting in a 4x increase in pixels. This is primarily a feature that will be used for creating larger prints as there's almost no point in upscaling for the sake of sharing to social media.

Regardless, think of it as taking a 10 megapixel image and turning it into a 40 megapixel image. Not bad, right? I've played around with a bit already and, while promising, I'm withholding final judgment for now as I want to create some actual test prints to compare Super Resolution against the pre-existing upscaling option in Lightroom, and against Topaz Labs' Gigapixel AI. One big advantage here is the process is simple, fast, and creates a new Raw DNG file so you don't lose any data in your shadows, highlights, or colors. And, unlike Topaz Labs' offering, there's no added cost to use it.


If you want more technical details, Adobe has a pretty good blog post with a deep-dive breakdown of the technology and process used to train the AI.

Standard bicubic resampling enlargement (left) vs. Super Resolution enlargement (right)

 

So there you have it! Of these updates, I'm most interested in the VRAM enhancements/fixes and Super Resolution, although anyone running Lightroom Classic on an M1 Mac will probably argue the new native support for that chipset is by far the biggest deal. Regardless, this is a pretty nice set of summer updates and, as noted at the top, if you've been worried that Lightroom Classic was going to go away at some point in the near future, I think the enhancements you see here strongly indicate otherwise.


I am definitely looking forward to creating some test prints for the different upscaling options I have available. I just need my new printer to arrive so I can start playing with it!


What do you think? What are you excited about? What do you still wish Adobe would add or fix to Lightroom? Drop a comment below!


Thanks for reading.


-MR

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