How to Buy Lightroom in 2021
It used to be so simple to buy Lightroom. Every couple of years, Adobe would release a new version for photographers to buy outright, or to upgrade their existing copy.
Now things are a bit more complicated…
If you’re confused about whether you can still buy Lightroom 6 outright, or whether to buy Lightroom Classic as a subscription, this is the guide for you!
Great features, regular updates, cloud storage, multi-device functionality - the Photography Plan is the most popular way to get Lightroom.
Be warned, though – if you’re looking for one of the last remaining copies of standalone Lightroom, you may be disappointed…
However, all is not lost – keep reading on to see why you may change your mind and end up happily paying for a monthly subscription, just like me.
Table of Contents
Best Way to Buy Lightroom in January 2021
|Photography Plan (1TB)||View Price →|
|Photography Plan (20GB)||View Price →|
|All Apps Plan||View Price →|
|All Apps Plan for Students/Teachers||View Price →|
|Alls Apps Plan for Teams||View Price →|
|All Apps Plan for School/Universities||View Price →|
The Photography Plan (1TB) is the best way to buy Lightroom in 2021.
It’s what I (and thousands of other photographers) use every day to edit, backup, sync and share photos.
Here in January 2021, photographers can only use the latest version of Adobe Lightroom by paying monthly or annually as part of a subscription plan.
These ‘Photography Plans’ include online cloud storage space for your photos to be backed up, shared, and edited remotely on desktop or mobile devices.
Also bundled into the main photography plans is Adobe Photoshop, which can be used on the desktop and more recently via an incredible iPad app.
While there are several other good alternatives to Lightroom, none of them offer the same seamless multi-device integration, and no editing software comes close to the power of Photoshop.
Whether you’re a professional or an amateur photographer, or simply someone who just wants to make your photos look their best in the least amount time, Adobe Lightoom is still the best photo editing software.
Still having trouble deciding how to buy Lightroom? Keep reading…
How to Choose a Lightroom Photography Plan
In this guide, I’ve done my best to simplify the ways you can buy Lightroom, so you can choose the most appropriate Photography Plan for your needs.
I’ve been using the software for over 10 years, and have recently published an in-depth Lightroom review. I’m definitely qualified to recommend to you the best options ;-)
I’ve ignored the ‘Lightroom Only’ and ‘Photoshop Only’ plans since they don’t represent the best value for money.
(I’m actually confused as to why Adobe would even offer them!)
Most photographers should choose the ‘Photography Plan 1TB’ option, which is the exact plan I’ve been paying to use for over 2 years.
With 1TB of online storage space, the excellent Photography Plan 1TB lets you backup and sync approximately 20,000 RAWs or 200,000 JPEGs across your desktop and mobile devices, giving you the ultimate in editing freedom and peace of mind.
If you’re on a tighter budget, the ‘Photography Plan 20GB’ option is great value for money too, and you can always upgrade your storage space to 1TB later on.
(20GB allows you to store and sync approximately 400 RAWs or 2,000 JPEG images.)
Then there’s the ‘All Apps Plan‘, which is popular with photographer-designers, and other creative professionals who need access to the entire suite of Creative Cloud apps.
(This includes Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, Premiere Rush, and a total of over 20 creative apps.)
If you’re a Student or a Teacher, great news! You can get a 70% discount by using this link.
Finally, if you’re part of a team, school or university, there are various other ways you can take advantage of the entire Adobe Creative Suite – more info on that here.
Occasionally Adobe offers discounts on its most popular Creative Cloud products.
Benefits of Buying Lightroom as a Subscription
As of April 2019, Adobe Lightroom is only available as part of the Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom 6 standalone is no longer available to purchase.
Initially, I was annoyed about this, but the more I used the subscription version, the more I understood why Adobe had made this decision.
I’ve been using the Lr Classic CC (and Lr Mobile) for a few years now, and I’m confident to recommend it to all photographers. If you’re still using the standalone copy of Lightroom 6, I strongly recommend you consider upgrading.
There are several significant pros of paying for Lightroom on one of Adobe’s subscription plans.
With the extra money generated since Adobe switched to its subscription models, they have invested a lot into making Lightroom much better.
Here are the main benefits:
1) You get the fastest, most optimized version of Lightroom
This is essential for most people. Lightroom Classic CC launches faster, generates previews faster, imports and exports faster, switches between modules faster, and generally feels much snappier than previous versions of Lightroom.
There’s still admittedly room for improvement, but for the average user, it’s plenty fast enough.
2) All of the most recent cameras are supported
If you own any camera released after Dec 2017, you need to buy Lightroom Classic CC to be able to edit your photos.
I bought a Sony a7III earlier this year, and so I had to stop using Lightroom 6 and upgrade to their subscription plan.
Most photographers need their new cameras to be supported by Lightroom.
3) You get all the latest Lightroom features
This is a huge benefit. Creative Profiles, Expanded Tone Curve, Profile Management, Coloured Labeling, Folder Search, Range Masking, Boundary Warp… these are all incredibly useful features that you’ll use every day, and they simply won’t ever be available unless you buy Lightroom Classic CC (see all features here).
For example, the ‘Textures’ slider in the Lightroom Develop panel allows you to smooth or enhance textures in photos without destroying finer details or adding noise.
It’s genuinely a really useful tool which I find myself using to clean up noising high ISO images.
- Controlled adjustments for shadows, midtones and highlights with Color Grading
- Feaster editing with new performance improvements
- Tethered Live View for Canon
- Scan, focus and navigate using Enhanced Zoom
Lightroom Classic V9.2 (February 2020)
- Improved RAW default settings – streamline your edit workflow with custom default import settings for RAW file images.
- PSB file support – Import, catalogue and edit large PSB files.
- Support for new cameras – Fujifilm X-T4, Canon 1Dx Mark III, Leica M10 Monochrom, etc.
- Support for new lenses – Hasselblad, Huawei, LG, Mitakon, etc.
- Other enhancements – choose monitor for secondary window, Auto Sync improvements, Photoshop Elements 2021 support, GPU Accelerated Editing for Lens Correction and Transform, eGPU Empowered Enhanced Details for macOS 10.15.
4) You get Lightroom CC (Lightroom Mobile)
Being able to sync and backup your imported photos to the cloud, then use a mobile device to cull, rate and edit photos is incredibly liberating.
You can also use Photoshop CC to perform more fine-tuning on your images via your iPad, all from the cloud – very impressive.
I love the ability to create an online gallery of images to share in just a few clicks, using the Albums feature of Lightroom CC and the included Adobe cloud storage space.
Also, thanks to Apple iOS13, Lightroom Mobile is finally able to import photos from your camera directly to the Lightroom app, bypassing the camera roll.
This ‘direct import’ feature is a huge time saver to what was once a rather clunky process. Also added to the update are multiple export options, including options for the file type, pixel dimensions, compression and watermarks,
The Lightroom Mobile app is 100% free to download and use whether you’re a paying Creative Cloud subscriber or not.
However, its functionality is limited, meaning some key features are only available to subscribers (see below), and you can’t take advantage of cloud syncing of your images across devices.
5) You get Photoshop CC (Photoshop on iPad)
The latest version of Adobe Photoshop now supports a fully completely mobile workflow, meaning that you can start editing a PSD on your desktop, have it saved to the Adobe cloud automatically, then continue editing on your iPad.
While anyone can download the Photoshop iPad app for free, it’s only with a Creative Cloud subscription that users can take advantage of all the cloud syncing benefits, and this is what makes it so powerful.
(If you’re confused at to why you might need both software, check out Lightroom vs Photoshop.)
Can you Buy Lightroom 6 Outright?
In February 2019, Adobe stopped offering the standalone Lightroom 6.
For a few weeks, it was still possible to grab one of the last remaining copies on Amazon, but they all seem to be sold out now.
Aside from that, there may be the odd copy floating around the Internet, or you might even still be using Lr6 on your computer today.
However, as of May 2019, Adobe Creative Cloud no longer offers customers access to older versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.
Cons of Using Lightroom 6 (i.e Not Upgrading)
I’ll admit it – I held off upgrading from my outdated standalone Lightroom 6 software for almost a year.
Along with many other photographers, I felt angry at Adobe for forcing users into their subscription model and refusing to keep creating Lightroom standalone products.
If you own any of the previous versions of Lightroom, I understand your annoyance too…
After all, why should you have to pay a monthly subscription on top of the price you’ve paid for the original software?!
Just in case you do find one of the last remaining copies of Lr6, just consider the reasons below why buying Lightroom 6 outright may not be a good idea.
1) You won’t have the fastest, most optimized version of Lightroom
This is a huge con of buying Lightroom 6 in 2021. Why pay for software that’s outdated, and will run slower and slower over time?!
2) You’ll be stuck using older cameras
Lightroom 6 won’t be able to edit any photos taken with cameras released after Nov 2017*. Why limit yourself to old technology – there are so many new and exciting mirrorless cameras being released!
(*You can still use the Adobe DNG Converter, but it’s a rather clunky workaround for every single time you import images from newer cameras into LR6.)
3) You won’t have all the latest features
Perhaps you don’t think you need the latest Lightroom features, but trust me, when you see what more you can do to your photos with the latest updates, you’ll want them eventually!
4) Limited Lightroom CC/Mobile Functionality
The premium features that are missing from the free version of Lightroom CC (Mobile) are numerous and considerable:
- Cloud Storage
- Sync Presets & profiles
- Selective Adjustments
- Sensei Search
- Editing Raw Photos
- Sharing Web Galleries
- Sort your People Photos
These are all are invaluable features for many photographers, and using an older standalone version of Lightroom means you can’t take advantage of any of the,.
Being able to cull, organise and even edit photos on a tablet is incredibly liberating, not to mention a lot of fun. Cloud storage (backup), and ability to create a shareable album within seconds, are both incredible useful features too.
In addition, Sensei Search is Adobe’s AI-powered photo search feature – it’s particularly exciting to see how this will improve over the coming months.
5) No Photoshop/Photoshop for iPad Mobile Workflow
You’ll have to decide for yourself whether these are issues or not, since not everyone needs this software.
However, even if you think you may not need Photoshop, I must admit that for any image edits that simply aren’t possible in Lightroom, it’s still a great piece of software.
Just as there are lots of great Lightroom tutorials all over YouTube, the same is true for Photoshop, so getting up to speed isn’t too hard.
Also, the ability to work seamlessly across desktop computer to iPad with Photoshop CC really is impressive, and a real game-changer for mobile creatives.
How Much does Lightroom Cost?
Obviously, if you still manage somehow to buy Lightroom outright as a standalone product, there’s only one cost to you.
With the various Adobe Photography Plans, however, the actual cost of Lightroom to you the photographer is a little vaguer.
Want the short answer?
Let’s try and put the cost a Lightroom subscription into perspective…
Obviously, you can’t predict how long you plan to use Lightroom, but let’s assume you’ll use it for 1 year (then reassess and see what other options have appeared in that time).
On the Photography Plan with 1TB of Cloud Storage, you’ll have spent a total of about US$232 after a year.
Yes, it’s obviously more than a Lightroom 6 purchase (assuming you even manage to find one!), but how relevant is this to you?
Is the cost of Lightroom Classic CC (as a monthly subscription) justifiable to you?
If you’re a professional, using the latest version of Lightroom is a necessity. You owe it to yourself and to your clients to use the best version of a software, which will also support the latest camera technologies.
In addition, having access to Photoshop for those photos you can’t edit completely in Lightroom is also essential as a working pro.
The premium features of Lightroom CC (‘Mobile’) are also really useful to so many photographers – the ability to import RAW files straight from your camera into an iPad, then make selective adjustments just by tapping the screen and have all edits synced back to your main computer – it’s like magic!
The Adobe Photography Plan is a cost of doing business as a photographer in 2021, and for the huge benefits, I’m happy to deduct is as an expense to my photography business.
But how about if you’re an amateur photographer or even a beginner? Is it still worth paying Adobe each month for the privilege of using their software? Well yes, I think so.
Even if you’re not a professional photographer, a subscription to Lightroom is incredibly useful and liberating. Photographers of all standards can benefit enormously from the latest image editing and cloud syncing technologies.
Despite the emergence of this AI-powered image editor I still believe paying for the subscription version of Lightroom is still the number one option.
How to get a Lightroom Discount
Occasionally, Adobe decides to give a discount on Lightroom and its Creative Cloud products.
If you don’t mind waiting, you can keep checking this link to see if there are any good offers.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that you can download Lightroom to trial from here, and have a play around with the other Adobe products too.
How to get an Adobe Student Discount
As mentioned above, if you’re a student or a teacher, you can save a up to 70% on a Creative Cloud All Apps plan using this link.
This can mean a huge reduction of US$52.99 to $19.99 a month! This is a generous offer from Adobe, in an effort to support anyone in full time education and encourage the development of creativity.
(You didn’t hear it from me, but there are ways to take advantage of the Adobe Student Discount… even if you’re not a student or teacher!)
I don’t want to spell it out for you here, but let’s just say it’s easier than you might think – head over and get a little ‘creative’ with your application ;-)
How to get a Creative Cloud All Apps Discount
Adobe is kindly offering all Shotkit newsletter subscribers an exclusive 15% discount on the first year of the Adobe CC All Apps plan.
If you’re a multi-discipline creative, a production agency, or even just someone who requires more than just the Photography Plan, the All Apps Plan is by far the most cost-effective way of getting everything you need.
I’m a huge fan of the cross-device video editing app Adobe Premiere Rush CC, so in order to get the most out of it, I needed to upgrade to the All Apps plan (since I already subscribe to the Photography Plan).
There are 20+ Adobe apps that I’ll be able to take advantage of, including apps that have nothing to do with photography, e.g. Adobe Acrobat and Dreamweaver.
To get the 15% discount for yourself, just sign up to the free Shotkit weekly newsletter here and you’ll gain access to a coupon code in the exclusive member’s area.
How to get Lightroom with Photoshop
A source of some confusion is just how users can get Lightroom with Photoshop – it’s not immediately apparent that when subscribing to the one of the Creative Cloud Photography plans, you also get Photoshop included.
If you opt for the Photography Plan + 1TB of Cloud Storage like me, you get Lightroom with Photoshop, as well as the other features mentioned previously (see the top of the article for more info).
Similarly, if you get the Photography Plan + 20GB of Cloud Storage you get the same benefit, just with 1/50th the online storage capacity.
Finally, with the Creative Cloud All Apps, it’s pretty self-explanatory – you get Lightroom, Photoshop, and all the other Adobe Creative Cloud apps.
(This option is for power-users or agencies which require their employees to have access to everything.)
Free Adobe Lightroom Download Warning
I imagine some people reading this post will be searching for ways to get an Adobe Lightroom crack, or trying to uncover a free Lightroom download. I won’t lie – many moons ago I tried to do the same thing!
You might find success on certain shadier sites, but I’d strongly recommend you steer clear of anything but the genuine Lightroom from the Adobe website, or a reputable dealer.
Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiast, you definitely shouldn’t be entrusting all your most precious memories to a dodgy copy of Lightroom.
Anything could happen, from a corrupted database to images displaying differently – the latest cameras may not even be supported.
In summary, please do the right thing. Do NOT download Lightroom from any source other than Adobe.
I know it’s nice to get software for free, but it’s far better to pay a little money for software that helps you achieve your goals, particularly if that software is frequently updated with useful features.
Adobe Lightroom trial
The one official way to get a ‘free’ version of Lightroom is via the Adobe Lightroom Free Trial, which is only available on the Adobe website here.
The only drawback is that you only get 7 days to have a play around with the software, but at least it’s a fully functional version of Lightroom CC with all the latest updates.
You can convert your free trial to a paid Creative Cloud membership during the 7 day period, or after the trial expires.
The Adobe Lightroom Trial works on both macOS and Windows – I recommend you give it a go if you’re in two minds about whether to upgrade your standalone Lightroom 6 copy to the subscription plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Since writing this post, I’ve had a lot of questions regarding the various options available. Here are some answers to the most common queries:
How much is Adobe Lightroom?
You can purchase Lightroom on its own or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan, with both plans starting at US$9.99/month. Lightroom Classic is available as part of the Creative Cloud Photography plan, starting at US$9.99/month.
What is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom?
Sometimes Lightroom is referred to rather confusingly as ‘Photoshop Lightroom’. It is the same thing.
Can you Just Buy Lightroom?
No you cannot. Amazon and B&H Photo hasve sold the last remaining copies of Lightroom 6, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find it elsewhere.
Can I get Lightroom Free?
Only for 30 days ;-) Click here to download a free trial of Lightroom Classic.
Is Lightroom only available by subscription?
Lightroom Classic CC is only available by subscription. Lightroom 6 (the previous version) is no longer available to purchase outright.
Which is better Photoshop or Lightroom?
Lightroom is like a ‘lite’ version of Photoshop, but it also offers image organisation features that Photoshop lacks. One is not technically better than the other – they are intended to be used for different purposes, often in unison.
Typically, a Lightroom user will only use Photoshop to edit or manipulate images in a way that Lightroom cannot. Similarly, a Photoshop user will use Lightroom in order to organise, cull and add keywords to a library of images.
What is Adobe Lightroom used for?
Lightroom has two main uses – the first is as an image management software. The second is as an image editing software.
Is Lightroom CC free?
Yes, on mobile it is :-) You can download the app for iOS and Android devices, and use it for free to edit and share your images.
The desktop version of Lightroom CC isn’t available as a free, standalone product – it comes bundled with the Photography Plan, which includes Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop CC.
What’s the difference between Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC?
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC is the renamed version of the original Lightroom application. It is optimised for desktop-focused workflows, including local storage of your photos in files and folders on your computer.
Lightroom CC is the new cloud-based photo service that works across desktop, mobile and web. Lightroom Classic CC is the desktop-focused digital photography product. Slightly confusing, right?! ;-)
Is Adobe Lightroom Mobile free?
Yes, it’s 100% free to download the Lightroom CC mobile app onto your smartphone. However, there are certain features that are missing:
- Cloud Storage
- Sync Presets & profiles
- Selective Adjustments
- Sensei Search
- Editing Raw Photos
- Sharing Web Galleries
- Sort your People Photos
Some of these features are unnecessary for the average photographer, but others are genuinely very useful, e.g. RAW editing, sync presets and cloud storage.
The premium features are only available to users who subscribe to the Creative Cloud.
What happens to my photos if I cancel my Adobe subscription?
Lightroom CC: Adobe stores your original images for an additional year after your membership lapses. During this time, you can continue to launch Lightroom CC to download your original files from the cloud.
Lightroom Classic: You’ll still have access to all your photos on your hard drive through Lightroom Classic CC. You can continue to import and organise photos, as well as export your edited photos through Export, Publish, Print, Web, or Slideshow. However, access to the Develop & Map modules and Lightroom Mobile are not available after your membership ends.
Is there a Lightroom 7?
Nope! Lightroom 6 was the last stand-alone (i.e. non-subscription) version of Lightroom that could be purchased outside of a Creative Cloud membership… but now even that has been phased out.
All the advantages of Lightroom lie in the subscription versions, with regular updates, powerful new features and helpful support.
If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments below so I can consider adding them to this list.
No one likes the idea of paying each month for a subscription… especially when that product or service used to be available as a one-off payment.
However, once you’re committed to buying Lightroom Classic CC, you’ll soon realise just how many huge benefits there are by paying for Lightroom in this way… whether you’re an amateur or a pro photographer.
Many believe that with the massive revenue Adobe has created by encouraging its users into this model, it is now more able to invest heavily into the improvement of Lightroom, Photoshop and every other creative program we all rely on.
As a Lightroom subscriber, I’m happy to keep paying the subscription fee, as I feel the benefits hugely outweigh anything else.
I hope this article has put some things in perspective for you too. Leave me a comment with your thoughts :-)
Great features, regular updates, cloud storage, multi-device functionality - the Photography Plan is the most popular way to use Lightroom.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on actual user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.