As of right now, the next major iteration of Adobe Lightroom is available for download. If you’re on one of the CC subscription plans, updating should be as simple as visiting your CC control panel. If you prefer to buy a physical disc or a one-time download, (what Adobe refers to as “perpetual license buyers”) then you should be able to visit your favorite software retailer to snag a copy, or check out this post for links to a perpetual ESD version.
So what’s new? Why upgrade?
There are a lot of resources available all over the web to tell you about every single new feature. Personally, I’m a wedding photographer. This means I use Lightroom in a very specific way, and I care a great deal about some features, and not at all about others. Keep this in mind as you read this post, because I’m not going to attempt to be another “me-too” list of all the minutia.
Here are the significant reasons to upgrade:
- GPU acceleration: This only affects tool and slider interactivity in the Develop module, but it’s still the most significant addition to LR6/CC. If you’re on a very high resolution screen (2560×1440 or higher) then you’ll see a marked improvement in the responsiveness of sliders, brushes, and filter tools. If you’re on a 4k screen or one of the 5k iMacs, then this is the answer to your prayers. For more information see my video on Lightroom’s new GPU acceleration.
- Activity Center: More of a nicety than a new tool. Clicking on the ID plate in the upper left Module Picker bar will show a detailed list of background activities and their progress meters.
- Quick Develop: If you shift-click in the Quick Develop panel, Lightroom now applies adjustments in smaller increments of 1/6th stop.
- Import Speed: This is specific for Mac users who noticed that Lightroom took forever to copy files from memory cards vs just using finder. Lightroom CC/6 should now import files from your memory card just as fast as finder would copy them.
- Library Export: Exporting images now takes much better advantage of your computer’s CPU. Lightroom will internally kick off up to 3 simultaneous renders, and in most cases will fully saturate all of your CPU cores. This tuning adjustment has not been applied to DNG conversions within the Library, only to exports such as outputting JPEGs and such. Users on older, less powerful computers, may find it difficult to continue working on other tasks during exports as a result of this tweak.
- Moving Folders & Files: Moving folders or large groups of images from one folder to another is now significantly faster than under Lightroom 5.
- Brushable Gradient & Radial Masks: You can now use a brush to add and subtract from the Gradient and Radial mask tools. Press Shift-T to enable brush editing of the currently selected mask. For more information see my video on Lightroom’s new brushable filters.
- Constrain Brush: You can now hold down Shift while moving the brush to constrain the tool to horizontal or vertical lines. You can also click to set the start point, then Shift-click to set the end point, and Lightroom 6 will draw a straight line between the two points. To see this in action, check out my video on Lightroom’s new brush constraints.
- Reposition Brush Strokes: You can now select and drag pins to move your brush strokes. If you prefer the old behavior where clicking and dragging on the pin would increase or decrease the strength of the pin’s values, simply hold Alt or Option while dragging up or down.
- Photo Merge: This is the universal name for Lightroom’s ability to merge Pano and HDR files into a DNG and maintain the full functionality of a RAW file. Here’s a video about Panorama Photo Merge, and another video about HDR Photo Merge.
- Backup Compression: Lightroom will now compress your backup catalogs with the .zip format. This helps prevent you from accidentally opening and working in a backup catalog, but even more important, it saves an enormous amount of storage space. One of my Lightroom catalogs is 2.48GB, but the compressed backup is 363MB. If you’ve ever discovered 20GB of your drive was lost to Lightroom catalog backups, this will help a lot. Note that you still have to clean up old backups manually.
- Reset Preferences: If you need to do some troubleshooting of Lightroom, one thing you may have done in the past is resetting its preferences. Previously, this required rooting out all the preference files and putting them in the trash manually. Now you can hold Option-Shift (Mac) or Alt-Shift (Win) while launching LR, and it will reset the preferences for you.
- Windows Interface Scaling: If you’re on a high PPI display with a Windows machine, you now have a 250% option for UI scaling.
Face recognition will be huge for some users, and of no interest at all to other users. I’m in the latter camp, but I’d be remiss to completely ignore the feature. I won’t provide a lot of practical how-to usage advice, but if you’re looking forward to Lightroom indexing your years of photographs, anticipate it taking a long time. Some testers have reported hundreds of hours for very large catalogs with hundreds of thousands of images.
If you decide to disable face indexing, be careful not to press the O (oh) key. This will take you to the face tagging screen, and turn face indexing on all in a single move.
Be sure you have the latest video drivers. OSX users cannot update drivers themselves – your updates are baked into your OS updates. Windows users should follow the link relevant to their hardware:
I personally have seen crashes on nVidia drivers as recent as January 2015, that were solved by the March 2015 drivers.