Updated 9:24 a.m. PT to clarify difference between Lightroom 6 & CC

Today Adobe unveiled significant updates to its Creative Cloud Photography plan — a $10 per month subscription to Lightroom, Photoshop, and related mobile apps. This release, as you probably guessed, is all about Lightroom.

Headlining the update is the sixth major release of Lightroom, now just called Lightroom CC (unless you buy it separately). The release introduces performance and “GPU enhancements,” facial recognition support, a new filter brush, new HDR and panorama features, and slideshow improvements.

Wait, is this Lightroom 6 or Lightroom CC?

It’s both.

For now, Lightroom CC is also available as Lightroom 6 for $149, but Adobe’s move to more clearly align Lightroom under the CC banner reinforces its commitment to the Creative Cloud subscription model. Adobe likely felt it wasn’t time to kill the standalone (non-subscription) app yet, though history tells us that could happen eventually.

Back to the news

In addition to the updated desktop app, Lightroom for Android received a hefty update today (Android fans cheer), adding support for Android tablets (requirements), the ability to edit and save photos stored on microSD cards (yes, phones still have those), and support for DNG files — a raw file format that preserves more detail than a compressed JPG.

Not to be left out, Lightroom for iOS also received some updates recently, offering a few less enticing features like: copy and paste adjustments, improved crop, a presentation mode, and the ability to sign up within the app.

Across the board, Lightroom now integrates with newly launched media-sharing services Voice and Slate. Adobe tells us it also made it easier for users of Photoshop Elements, Aperture, and iPhoto to import their libraries into Lightroom — and then abandon their old photo manager.

In a call with VentureBeat, Adobe project manager Sharad Mangalick heavily emphasized Lightroom’s performance improvements. “We spent a lot of time thinking about how we could future-proof our rendering. This is the percentage change from Lightroom 5 to this version of Lightroom; at a minimum you’re seeing at least 100 percent improvement,” Mangalick said, while demoing effect adjustments. Dang.

The takeaway

Broadly, we’re looking at a solid update to Lightroom, and photo fans likely won’t be disappointed, even though Photoshop didn’t get an upgrade this time around.

As for Adobe the company, this update reflects a continuing shift in ideology, one which began with the company’s Creative Cloud subscription launch back in 2012. Mangalick tells us: “We’re not just talking about point products. We’re really talking about this as a major update for the Creative Cloud. It’s kind of a shift in how we’re framing this.”

These updates were designed for Creative Cloud subscribers. And regardless of naysayers, that subscription model has served Adobe pretty well so far.